BLM Boise calls to 'defund the police,' mayor and police chief respond

Posted at 9:41 PM, Jun 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-17 01:11:54-04

BOISE, Idaho — “Black lives are under attack! What do we do? Stand up fight back!” This was just one of several rally-cries bellowing outside Boise City Hall Tuesday evening.

Black Lives Matter Boise organized the demonstration to call for police accountability and urge city officials to defund the Boise Police Department (BPD). Prior to the start of the rally, Boise Mayor Lauren McLean hosted a thirty-minute presentation during her council meeting, led by Interim Police Chief Ron Winegar on BPD's guidelines for use of force.

“If the mayor wants to be seen as an ally or accomplice in solidarity with black lives, she must understand the importance of defunding the police," said one demonstrator.

Another demonstrator said, to her, defunding the police means re-allocating city funds.

“I feel like we should be removing a large portion of their budget that is unnecessary, and putting it towards other things in our community," said Samantha Hager, who carried a sign reading, "Say their names."

According to the City of Boise's website, police make up for most of the city's 2020 Fiscal Year budget, with 28 percent or $70 million dollars.

Hager says arts and history, for example, should get more, as a prevention technique for racism-fueled police brutality as seen in other parts of the country.

“Why are we proposing this, when we are one of the lowest in education in the entire nation?” said Hager.

Another demonstrator, Joel Hager, said he wants more transparency in local government.

“The chief of police, which here, isn’t even voted in -- it’s voted by people that you elect. So the community doesn’t even really have a say, ya know, one to one, as far as who gets in there to represent the people," said Hager.

Mayor McLean made a quick appearance at the rally. As we mentioned, previously in the afternoon, she hosted a talk about policing.

“We acknowledge that there are many good reasons for people to be upset and angry and expressing these strong opinions," said Chief Winegar.

Chief Winegar presented the BPD's guidelines on use of force — including a ban of chokeholds.

"We absolutely do not allow chokeholds."

He said they require that officers give a verbal warning before shooting, and,

"We never employ unnecessary force or violence, and shall only use such force in the discharge of our duties as is objectively reasonable in all circumstances.”

The mayor said future presentations will be given on the topic of bias training within BPD, among other topics -- but did not open up Tuesday’s meeting to reporters' questions.

“There are absolutely things we can do to be better, and we acknowledge that," said Chief Winegar.

We will continue following this for you.