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Finding Boise's next police chief may take a while

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City of Boise
Boise Mayor Lauren McLean

The first item on Boise Mayor Lauren McLean’s checklist in the effort to recruit a new police chief for the City of Trees was to secure stability in the department.

So, her first order of business was making Acting Police Chief Ron Winegar the interim police chief. Simply put, the person McLean asked to come out of retirement in order to temporarily replace the recently ousted Chief Ryan Lee will now be sticking around for a while … possibly up to a year or more.

“Finding that right person deserves some time and attention," said McLean. “And so I really appreciate that. Interim Chief Winegar has committed to serving as long as we need him.”

And as for the task of finding the right person for the full-time job, McLean said it’s a unique combination of experience and intangibles.

“We need a leader that shares our values … that comes from a department with a similar culture that's proven that they can provide the support that officers need to do the job they aspire to do.”

McLean visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about the hiring process, and she also comments on the importance of keeping Boise’s public spaces – places that she says many may consider “sacred,” – safe.

“It’s really grounded in what makes Boise … Boise, which is the connection we have to each other in our neighborhoods”

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. The City of Boise has what it calls a recruitment plan to find its next chief of police. This, just a bit more than a month after Mayor Lauren McLean asked for and received the resignation of ex-chief Ryan Lee. So, let's invite Lauren McLean back to our program. Mayor McClean, good morning.

LAUREN MCLEAN: Good morning, George. Thanks for having me.

PRENTICE: One of the most important steps, of course, is stability. So, we see that Acting Chief Ron Winegar is now interim police chief. So, my first question to you is, do you have a commitment from him to stay in place until however long it takes to find and hire a new chief?

MCLEAN: Well, I got to say that I so appreciate Ron Winegar. Our community knows them. I worked with them in the past and he has a deep sense of duty to our great city and to this police department. And he is committed to serving both together alongside me and in partnership with the Council as long as we need them. And I just can't thank them enough.

PRENTICE: And that said, a good search could take a year or possibly more.

MCLEAN: Right. I mean, that's what we have often seen. In fact, the last search was about nine months, I believe. And so, we want to be realistic about the time that it'll take to find, recruit and find and then hire, of course, the right leader for our department, for our community to help us as our city grows, keep policing the Boise way, keep our city and Boise the Boise way. And so, finding that right person deserves some time and attention. And so, I really appreciate that. Interim Chief Winegar has committed to serving as long as we need him.

PRENTICE: So let's talk a little bit about that. Is it a matter of redoing a job description? Or is it more of the intangibles? Is it more about someone’s management style?

MCLEAN: Let's take that back to what we need in a leader for this department. And we need a leader that shares our values…that comes from a department with a similar culture that's proven that they can provide the support that officers need to do the job they aspire to do. But that also has shown that they can lead a department or understand what a department needs as a city is going through growth as our community is, and they've got to work with city council. That's a lot. But what I will seek is someone who's proven that they can do those things, but also understand some of these intangibles that you that you mentioned. I mean, think about like when we talk about what it is we love about Boise so often it's the intangibles. It's those things that you can't even give voice to or put into words that we love about this place. And as we grow, we want to make sure Boise remains, Boise As we grow, we need to make sure that we can continue policing the Boise way. And it will require a leader who shares the deep belief that the connections that our officers have with community are key to preventing crime, and we'll be able to support a department as we grow and ensure that we can keep those connections.

PRENTICE: Management 101 tells us that 80% of a good manager's time is about identifying good people and keeping good people. But how do you fine tune your radar to look for red flags… even in a recruitment process?

MCLEAN: I'm going to be having conversations with the candidates about policing the Boise way, which requires a strong emphasis on prevention for community safety because it's what's kept Boise safe for so long. But it's both building relationships proactively to prevent crime and holding those who do commit crime accountable. But for our officers to do this as they want to do this, we need to make sure that they have the support, the training, the increased investment and the time necessary to maintain first to grow and then to build on the relationships they have within the community, the understanding of the importance of connections that we and Boise have to each other and to our police, to our neighborhoods. And the connection that that has to our safety here as a city will be key in effectively leading the department into the future.

PRENTICE: I want to make sure I'm hearing you right. Does that mean a strengthening or continuing to strengthen our neighborhood policing and things like our bicycle patrols… the things that we as citizens see and touch more often?

MCLEAN: It is It’s really grounded in what makes Boise…Boise, which is the connection we have to each other in our neighborhoods. And our officers love that connection and they deserve the time and support needed to maintain the connections they have, but really to strengthen those connections. We want residents to feel as connected to our officers as our officers feel to them. And I want to be clear on this. It means an emphasis on neighborhood engagement, relationship building, knowing folks in our neighborhoods in good times so you can prevent crime and you can help them when they need help. But of course, it also has to expect there has to be an expectation that we're also holding people accountable when they commit crimes because prevention can get you all the way there.

PRENTICE: Do you see this as something new or do you see it as something refined?

MCLEAN: I'd say it's refined in the sense think about our community over the years and the history of our city. We have throughlines and that is the connection we have to each other, the connection that we have to this place that we love, and what that means in terms of engagement to chart the future of the community that we love. We've seen this for the last 150 years in policing. I'd say it's really similar. Our Boise police officers are committed to these connections and relationships. They want to be able to serve in this way. But there are so many added pressures. As our city grows, we've got to ensure that we're investing in them so they can continue to build these connections, prevent crime that we invest in them so they can do their job and hold those who commit crimes accountable. But find a leader that's committed to this Boise way of living, this Boise way of protecting and serving as we see in the Boise Police department.

PRENTICE: I know that you want the best of the best, but can I also assume that you look forward to seeing if there are the appropriate candidates that come from within the department?

MCLEAN: Oh, it's not even a “but,” right? It is. We are looking for the best candidate. It is my deep desire that we create a Boise police department with a career ladder that develops leaders, that creates paths for our current officers because they're wonderful. And together with council, the community and the department, we will be looking for the best leader to guide us into the next steps.

PRENTICE: Before we go, I'd like to ask you about something different, but also regarding public safety. Yesterday on this broadcast, I had a conversation with a city employee. She works at the Downtown Public Library and she was quite open about her experience regarding how she was, in her words, a target of a transphobic attack. The good news is that she was not seriously injured. The good news is that Boise police had a full investigation. They connected a lot of dots and arrest was made. But I also think it might be appropriate to talk a little bit about security, the importance of knowing that our public spaces, whether it be a library or another public space, need to be safe and welcome.

MCLEAN:  And first I want to say thanks for having our employee on. I am so grateful that they are safe that our police responded as they were as they did, and that we were able to track down and hold accountable this perpetrator. Our civic spaces are key to who we are as a community in a country and to have civic space that is safe so that all of our residents can engage, whether it be to check out a book, to jump on a computer or here at City Hall, to have your voice heard is of utmost importance. And so, our council has made investments in ensuring that our civic spaces remain safe so that our public can do what we all want to do, and that is engage in our community. The Boise Police Department responded quickly. They did great investigation. They've hold this held this person accountable, as they will always. Our community is a safe community, and we will continue to make the investments that we must, to protect these very important special, if not sacred in many ways, civic spaces that we have.

PRENTICE: Mayor Lauren McClean, as always, we're grateful for any time that we can spend with you and for today. Thank you so much. Have a good rest of your morning.

MCLEAN: Thank you. Talk to you soon. Bye bye.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio

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