City of Boise works to change police oversight to new model of police accountability

Posted at 12:35 AM, Jun 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-03 10:18:54-04

BOISE, Idaho — The city of Boise created the first version of its Office of Police Oversight more than 20 years ago. While it's changed over time, it's always been a place where the community can report a complaint against the police department and its officers.

But now it's changing again, focusing on more transparency and maintaining trust.

“The way the office is set up today is complaint-driven, and the reports we get are based on those,” said Elaine Clegg, Boise City Council President. “We're adjusting it so complaints will still come in, but in addition, the office will do some regularly auditing internal affairs at the police department where they do their own internal investigations.”

The proposed new model will be known as the Office of Police Accountability (OPA), and it will still be independent of the police department.

“We’ll be increasing the amount of reporting that will happen from the office to the city council, and again, we hope that will increase the transparency with our residents so that they know what’s happening in the police department and what kind of complaints we are getting,” Clegg said.

The city is still looking for feedback through a survey that includes questions about familiarity with the Office of Police Oversight and what they think is important.

On Tuesday, Mayor Lauren McLean named an interim director for the current office after the former director stepped down Monday. McLean appointed Jesus Jara, who currently works as a Senior Human Resource Analyst in Benton County, Oregon.

Clegg said she and the mayor will be conducting interviews in the next week or two to fill the new full-time director position.

The city council has reviewed the ordinance twice to revamp the office, but there's no timeline yet for a third reading or a vote.

The ordinance needs a majority vote to pass.

“The council will vote on the ordinance and then the director will be brought to the council for confirmation,” Clegg said.

In a press release issued by the city, the new model would focus on resolving the complaints and audit investigations by:

  • Staffing the office with a full-time director
  • Setting clear processes and timelines for OPA review
  • Providing consistent investigative policies and procedures
  • Requiring civilian oversight for complaints against command-level officers, including the Chief of Police
  • Allowing for auditing of large numbers of complaints to ensure the investigation is complete, thorough, and fair
  • Mandating real-time auditing of critical incidents
  • Using data to analyze trends and patterns from investigations and resident complaints
  • Promoting long-term systemic changes in policing
  • Increasing community awareness and communication