“No One Is Above Accountability.” Boise Revisits Full-Time Department Of Police Oversight
As the nation’s attention is fixed on the trial of Derek Chauvin, there’s a growing conversation on reform and oversight of law enforcement in America. In the City of Boise, local lawmakers are considering a redesign of a new Office of Police Accountability. In fact, the first reading of an ordinance to create a new full-time oversight department is on this week’s agenda of the Boise City Council.
Council President Pro Tem Lisa Sanchez visits with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about the need for full-time police oversight in Boise and how the public’s input will be a critical element to the department’s foundation.
“No one is above accountability. And the police hold such an important role in our community. It is important that they be above reproach.”
Read the full transcript below:
GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. Policing in America continues to be a main topic of conversation. We're going to do just that…we're going to talk about it this morning. City of Boise Council President Pro Tem Lisa Sanchez is here. She is very much a part of the conversation, formal and informal on this issue. Lisa Sanchez, good morning.
LISA SANCHEZ: Good morning, George. Thank you for having me.
PRENTICE: Up top, the ‘City of Boise…we see that the council is moving forward with the creation of an Office of Police Accountability. In fact, we see it on the agenda - a first reading of an ordinance - for this evening's meeting. Is this a matter of being overdue? Or is there a particular urgency to do this as soon as possible?
SANCHEZ: We know that there is a high level of confidence in Boise in our police department for many folks in our community. But at the same time, our community has asked for increased accountability and transparency in policing, specifically around oversight and discipline, and a clear understanding of how to file a complaint, and the process by which complaints will be handled. So that is a big part of this restructuring.
PRENTICE: It wasn't too long ago that the city had an independent ombudsman, full-time: Pierce Murphy. But then the city started to roll back some of that and turned that department into part-time. Can I assume that you do agree that this needs to be full time?
SANCHEZ: Absolutely. I remember when Pierce Murphy was here and we did have a lot of visibility of his work. And perhaps it was because it was done so well that the need and the urgency didn't seem to be there as much anymore. But it's always important for us to respond to the needs and desires of our residents. George, the reality is the restructuring of this office, I believe is, in great part, due to our response to the public's desires to see our community hold in a positive light our police department. And the best way to do that is to make sure that they are living out the values of our community. No one is above accountability. And the police hold such an important role in our community. It is important that they be above reproach.
PRENTICE: You have members of the public reach out to you regularly. And I've heard you say that some of their stories concerning law enforcement are troubling. And at a public workshop session last week, you mentioned a video had been sent from a constituent… possibly regarding law enforcement. I'm less interested in amplifying an accusation. I am more interested in process. Where would you send that, to look into this? Where does the public turn to… today or tomorrow?
SANCHEZ: Well, the Office of Police Oversight is still running and in fact, on Mondays and Tuesdays, from 8 to 5, the office is open to the public. But folks are welcome to call. We do have a number, if you'd like, for me to state that now, You can call 208-972-8380.
PRENTICE: So, can I assume that's where you forwarded this particular complaint?
SANCHEZ: Actually, I forwarded it to our immediate staff person that supports council members, asking that she direct it to the appropriate location within our department.
PRENTICE: What would be different between what you just described today, and something in the near future?
SANCHEZ: Probably one of the biggest changes would be that we would like to have a full-time director. What we want moving forward…we want to have clear oversight of our police chief and the command staff at BP. We want to allow for a review of a large number of cases resulting in the ability to analyze trends and patterns. We want robust reporting practices. We want to promote long term system changes in policy, if that's what this analysis brings out. We want to have this office specialized in reviewing investigations conducted by the internal affairs folks. Most importantly, we want to set clear processes and timelines for Office of Police Accountability review.
PRENTICE: So, let's talk about process and the public. Indeed, this is a first reading of an ordinance. Where will the public's input come on this?
SANCHEZ: It's my understanding that the public is welcome to give their input now. They're welcome to email us any ideas and concerns that they have. We welcome the input ongoing, but I believe a more formal request for public involvement will come later.
PRENTICE: Are you confident that the public's fingerprints will be on those policies? In other words, will they be crafted with a healthy amount of public input?
SANCHEZ: Absolutely. It is something that my fellow council members and myself have really emphasized in our discussions, in that we recognize that the public has wanted to have more, as you put, a fingerprint on these processes that are so important. And so, that is utmost on the list of having those opportunities for the public.
PRENTICE: She is City of Boise Council President Pro Tem Lisa Sanchez. Best of luck through this process in this evening's meeting, and everything going forward. And thanks so much for giving us some time today.
SANCHEZ: Thank you so much, George.
Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren
Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio