BOISE – The Boise police chief is under investigation and the city is facing a tort claim from a high-ranking officer who said his neck was broken when the chief tried to demonstrate an unconventional hold during a meeting.
The tort claim, first reported by the Idaho Press, was filed April 5 against the city and Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee alleging Lee “caused serious and significant injuries” to Sgt. Kirk Rush.
Under Idaho law, a person who wishes to sue a government agency must first file a tort claim and give the agency a chance to respond.
In the claim, Rush said he was running a briefing meeting on Oct. 12, 2021, when Lee grabbed him by the neck without warning to demonstrate an unconventional neck restraint. Rush said that Lee broke parts of his neck which required surgery to repair.
Chuck Peterson, Lee’s attorney, told the Idaho Statesman that Rush’s claims were “completely untrue” and that he didn’t expect his client to pay any damages as a result. The city declined to comment on the tort claim.
The Clearwater County Prosecutor’s Office in north-central Idaho is working with the Idaho State Police to investigate. Ada County Prosecutor spokeswoman Emily Lowe said her agency sent the matter to Clearwater County because Ada County had a conflict of interest.
In his tort claim, Rush said he and his attorney tried to get the city to address the issue for five months to no avail.
“Sgt. Rush does not serve this notice of tort claim lightly,” Rush’s attorney T. Guy Hallam wrote in the claim. “Indeed, he has given the city every opportunity to address this issue short of this legal path.”
Rush contends Lee singled him out at the meeting because he disagreed with the way Rush was running the department’s K-9 unit.
Rush, who has run the police dog unit for nine years, said dogs are trained to use a “bite and hold” approach – biting a suspect and hanging on until the animal’s handler arrives. Lee prefers a “bark and hold” approach where dogs bite suspects only if they don’t surrender, Rush said. Switching to the bark and hold technique would require retraining or new dogs, Rush said.
The city of Boise had not put Lee on any type of leave in connection with the investigation.