By DAVID R. FRAZIER, editor
Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee was relieved of his duties Friday by Mayor Lauren McLean amid unrest from the police union, investigative news reports from several legacy media agencies, a potential lawsuit from an injured officer, which included a criminal investigation into his personal actions.
According to reports, Lee will be on “paid leave” until October 14, but former Assistant Chief Ron Winegar has already been named acting chief.
Lee hired several “command staff” from Portland–his former place of employment. He also brought in commanders from the Bay Area of California. Put bluntly, the department is in disarray and veteran captains and officers have retired early, quit to work for lower wages at other agencies, and even spent huge sums to qualify for the state PERSI retirement program.
Rather than list the litany of complaints and incidents alleged against Lee, the GUARDIAN will once again renew our plea for a citizen advisory police commission and offer insight and opinions garnered over more than 50 years of intense contact and scrutiny with Boise PD. We have met frequently over the years with officers and the chiefs to share views on behalf of the citizens of Boise.
Here are some points that should be followed in any future hiring decisions.
–The citizens of Boise need to be represented with a police commission comprised along the same organizational lines as the airport, park, P&Z, Library, Public Works, commissions. BPD is the single biggest consumer of tax dollars and citizens have no formal voice in the operation or budget decisions. We deserve better. Even the U.S. Department of Defense is managed by civilians with a staff of military experts.
–The mayor and council have forgotten the citizens when it comes to policing. They talk with the union (including Friday prior to firing the chief), but they seem to forget the citizens. The union deserves to be in the equation, but it appears they are driving the decision process.
–Today’s police executive needs to be capable of managing a budget in excess of nearly $80 million. Duties include fleet management, personnel and legal issues, training, site selection, politics, community relations, etc. In short: there are not many coppers who are qualified to run an $80 million corporation.
–A new police chief needs to reflect the values of the community, so we are not enthusiastic about a “nationwide search” for a new chief. Likewise, there are many pitfalls in promoting from within because friendships and biases can interfere.
–An executive with Boise or Idaho ties would be ideal. In short: a police chief can be a civilian manager with a staff of expert coppers in the command staff. Former U.S. Senator Frank Church who was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee once told me, “About anyone can decide most foreign policy, BUT it takes an expert to implement it.” We have similar views on a new police chief. We need someone who understands the needs of the officers AND the public, not necessarily a gun toting copper who is at the end of his career.
Frazier is a 54 year resident of Boise. He was the police beat reporter for the Statesman, a police officer, and state of Idaho Law Enforcement Planning Commissioner.
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Sep 25, 2022, 4:31 pm
I will again propose that the city police jurisdiction be a division of the County Sheriff’s department. The best candidate for administrator/sheriff can be the best manager with expert staff. They would be close to the public by standing for election rather than being even further removed by adding another layer of commissioners to the already over insulated system.
Sep 26, 2022, 11:27 am
I’ll suspect there is a large cadre within BPD that is opposed to any chief from outside Boise, any chief from Portland, and any chief ‘not like them’. I’ll suspect that group targeted Chief Lee. Albeit a chief that can’t get his team to be cohesive makes it tough for any kind of leadership. Seeing the “litany of complaints and incidents alleged against Lee” would be helpful to decide the competency of the decision. Until then, commentary is speculating.
Sep 26, 2022, 12:06 pm
BPD should be disbanded and the elected County Sheriff expand into a metro police force.
The biggest problem that Portland Lee had – besides his claim to fame was backstabbing fellow officers and coming from a failed city – was that he followed the orders of Marxist McLean. Once he became too big of an embarrassment then she cast him aside… but she’s still here, and will likely hire someone worse to work another year or two destroying our safety before the cycle repeats.
The last good chief we had was Masterson.
Sep 26, 2022, 2:51 pm
Several observations/questions about the former Chief of Police:
There were allegations of ‘use of force’ issues when Ryan Lee was in portland. Were those allegations ever researched during the interview and vetting of him?
If those allegations were valid, why was he hired?
Why did it take 2 years for the Mayor/Council to figure out this wasn’t a good fit? Didn’t they know of the multiple outside hires? Don’t the City folks talk to the union folks?
Doesn’t hte Mayor talk to Dept heads on a regular basis?
Why the mystery and vagueness of the City’s investigation, third-party review of the investigation, etc.?
Finally, regarding Dept heads, where is the Boise Fire Chief? Has he been put in time out? Did he ever earn a BA degree like was a minimum requirment for the posted job? Did he move into the city limits?
How did his hire come to happen?
Sep 27, 2022, 6:19 pm
“The witness accounts vary in many aspects”
For some folks that are supposed to be really good at providing witness statements it appears they are not good at all.
Full report for the assault case is at BD not BG.
Sep 28, 2022, 11:25 pm
It is rather interesting that the Mayor appoints Ron Winegar as temporary Chief to replace her hand picked first choice of two years ago. She had the opportunity to select Winegar at that time but for reasons the public will never know selected Lee. I wonder if she will go on another national search for a “yes mayor” Chief, or ask the City Council to offer Winegar the job permanently?
Oct 2, 2022, 1:25 pm
It would be worth noting if the Boise police department follows protocol set by our elected public servants or the policeman’s union.