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Kuna man gets $250,000, but no apology, in settlement with Ada County Sheriff's Office

In a still frame from surveillance video at the Kuna Police Station, Ada County Sheriff's deputies are seen restraining Mick Heikkola against a railing near the front door of the building. The image was included in a lawsuit Heikkola filed in federal court accusing deputies of civil rights violations.
Kuna Police Department video/court documents
In a still frame from surveillance video at the Kuna Police Station, Ada County Sheriff's deputies are seen restraining Mick Heikkola against a railing near the front door of the building. The image was included in a lawsuit Heikkola filed in federal court accusing deputies of civil rights violations.

Update: Ada County Sheriff Matt Clifford released a longer statement after this story was originally published.

"Earlier this week, we settled a lawsuit with Mr. Heikkola, stemming from an incident in January 2023. It wasn't our best day. It is the expectation that Ada County deputies perform to the best of their abilities every day --- while keeping people's constitutional rights in the forefront of their minds, while also keeping our community safe.
 
For anyone to claim we are trampling on someone’s constitutional rights simply isn't true.The reality is, we have hundreds of contacts every day with people of all different backgrounds, religions, ethnicities and socioeconomic standings. While the vast majority of those interactions go well, occasionally we fumble and miss the mark.
 
Part of the settlement was to include additional constitutional policing training; fortunately, we had already implemented this training prior to the settlement. We will now  also include a scenario similar to Mr. Heikkola’s in our scenario-based training. We are one of few law enforcement agencies across the country with routine built-in training time. Every patrol deputy receives 9.5 training hours per month. These blocks of training include topics such as firearms training, scenario-based training, legal updates, EVOC, de-escalation techniques, arrest and control techniques, CPR and first aid, and more. 
 
Part of our culture at the Ada County Sheriff's Office is to always strive to be better – and learning from this incident will help us to do just that. " 

Original Story: The Ada County Sheriff’s Office has settled a lawsuit brought by a Kuna man who alleged deputies violated his civil rights during an arrest and interrogation last year.

Michael ‘Mick’ Heikkola said he arrived at the Kuna Police station in January 2023 to utilize its drop box for unwanted prescription drugs. On the way in, Heikkola was looking through windows of unoccupied police vehicles when he said he was confronted by someone in plain clothes. Heikkola walked toward the police station, and uttered an obscenity at the person according to court documents. The person in the parking lot was ACSO deputy Brian Keen, who called other officers to intercept Heikkola.

During the confrontation that followed, six other deputies physically restrained Heikkola, who said he was then interrogated but never read his rights.

Heikkola was eventually taken to the Ada County Jail. His complaint alleged he was not allowed to clean up after soiling himself while being arrested due to factors related to a recent surgery, even after he informed deputies of his condition.

A charge of resisting or obstructing officers was ultimately dismissed by an Ada County judge, who concluded there was no basis to stop, detain or arrest Heikkola, who then sued the county sheriff’s department over the incident.

Ada County sheriffs are contracted to provide police service to the city of Kuna, along with the cities of Eagle and Star.

The settlement includes a $250,000 payout to Heikkola, and an agreement to provide training across the department on respecting and protecting the public’s constitutional rights. Training is required to include the specific situation he sued over.

“I am satisfied with the outcome and I am confident that the changes being made in the Ada County Sheriff’s Office training will deter this from happening to others,” Heikkola said in a news release announcing the settlement.

Ada County Sheriffs were also required to make a public statement regarding the incident. A short post on the sheriff’s blog acknowledged the settlement and the requirement for additional training. A spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office confirmed the statement did satisfy the requirements of the settlement, and confirmed the $250,000 payout amount.

But the Sheriff's Office has refused to apologize, Heikkola’s attorney Ritchie Eppink told Boise State Public Radio by email. Eppink co-founded Wrest Collective, a nonprofit community-based law firm in Boise, which represented Heikkola.

"Taxpayers could have saved a lot of money, and Mick could have gotten some dignity back, if our police would have just apologized for their mistakes here."

Troy Oppie is a reporter and local host of 'All Things Considered' for Boise State Public Radio News.

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