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Ombudsman To Oversee Boise Police Affairs

In the wake of seven fatal shootings by police in a 20-month period, the City Council has opted for an ombudsman to oversee operations.

The Boise City Council on Tuesday unanimously backed addition of the city-paid ombudsman - rather than create a citizens’ review panel - to investigate complaints against officers, subpoena witnesses and recommend law enforcement policies.

The ombudsman will report to the mayor and council.

Council members said that lets them still keep tabs on a department that has been criticized for what some say is excessive use of force.

“I think that’s going to be a really significant mediation position,” Council President Carolyn Terteling said. “At the end of the year, we will know more than we do now.”

Suzanne Burton, an aide to Mayor Brent Coles, quoted Police Chief Larry Paulson as saying he will cooperate with the plan.

The ombudsman was one of 11 changes the council adopted.

Others include a pilot program to put video cameras in 10 police cars to record incidents, hiring a deputy police chief to help with management and requiring drug and alcohol testing for officers involved in shootings and traffic accidents.

The council also will review all lawsuits and grievances filed against police, as well as use-of-force issues.

Jack Van Valkenburgh, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union for Idaho, applauded the council’s decision. But he said the ombudsman plan does not go far enough.

‘It’s an evolving process,” Councilwoman Sara Baker said. “I don’t think the citizens’ review commission would do the job people thought it would.”

The council’s plan comes at a cost. The ombudsman will earn between $36,000 and $55,000 a year, and the video camera program will cost about $100,000.