After 10 Years As Police Chief, Masterson Says Boise And Officers Are Safer
Mike Masterson's office is almost stripped bare as he puts 10 years of papers into boxes on the floor. Boise’s Police Chief is retiring after 38 years on the force.
Masterson came to Boise from Madison, Wis. in 2005. It was a contentious time for the department, with officer-involved shootings and a strained relationship with the police ombudsman. Masterson says he immediately started building partnerships with the ombudsman and members of the community.
Masterson says he's proud of what he's been able to accomplish in 10 years, "I leave this community a little safer, with fewer people that have been victimized by serious crime, and I leave this organization a little safer in that I believe officer safety has improved as well."
Masterson says officer safety and community relations are particularly important in the wake of the shooting of an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Mo.
"Because one doctor in Florida or one in doctor in New York does something to jeopardize patients, does that mean it's an indictment of our whole medical system? That's the way I look at Ferguson," says Masterson. "We have studied Ferguson. There are basically no positives in terms of the handling of that incident."
Masterson says he's learned a lot from the shooting, how it was handled, and the protests that followed. "We can dwell on that or we can move forward. When you have parents of children, whether they're black or white, being concerned about their safety because of the police, whether or not that's a real issue or a perceived issue, I think we have to deal with it," Masterson says, "We've learned from that."
Protests erupted after the shooting in Ferguson and police there were criticized for their use of cast-off military equipment during those protests. BPD has an MRAP or Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle which it has used in some cases.
"I don't make an apology for having armored vehicles. You see the type of society and world we live in today. I want to keep officers safe, I'll defend the use of that vehicle," says Masterson. "Having said that, I would never, ever think about deploying those vehicles in terms of a public protest. To me it was unnecessary and it just lends to that image that police are a military force."
Masterson says he's proud of how the Boise police have handled public protests. "There are ways police can accommodate that expression and that voice and leave the people there feeling that the police protected their constitutional rights, and I'm very proud of that."
Masterson says the first thing he plans to do after her retires this month is wake up the next morning and take the dog for a walk. Then he'll spend some quality time with his wife, and start using his Bogus Basin ski pass. He'll also take a seat on the Ada County Western Idaho Fair Board.
Masterson says he's just another public servant, like the 300 officers and nearly 100 civilians in his department. "We have highly dedicated, professional people that want to help make a difference. When I leave I am convinced I helped make a difference through my work as a police officer."
Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio
Copyright 2015 Boise State Public Radio