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Ex-Boise cop who espoused racism says city discriminated against him over age, disability

Dec. 7, 2022 Updated Wed., Dec. 7, 2022 at 9:07 p.m.

By Ian Max Stevenson Idaho Statesman

A retired Boise police captain who has espoused white supremacist views and prompted an in-depth investigation of potential racism at the Boise Police Department filed a complaint against the city with the Idaho Human Rights Commission in November.

Matthew Bryngelson, a nearly 24-year veteran of the department who oversaw the patrol division and retired in August, alleges age and disability discrimination in a complaint filed with Idaho’s Human Rights Commission and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The complaint was filed Nov. 8, less than two weeks before Bryngelson’s racist views became public. An attorney who filed the complaint, J. Grady Hepworth, said his firm no longer represents Bryngelson, but declined to comment further. Bryngelson could not be reached for comment.

Hepworth Law Offices has represented a number of former Boise police employees with grievances against the department and the city, including Jesus Jara, the Office of Police Accountability director who was put on administrative leave on Dec. 2, and retired captain Tom Fleming, who filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the city in November as well as alleging age and disability discrimination.

The Bryngelson complaint alleges he had been “diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety,” and that in September 2021 he became “despondent and suicidal as a result of the harassment and workplace hostility from Chief Ryan Lee.”

Lee resigned at Mayor Lauren McLean’s request in September after complaints from a number of officers became public. Bryngelson was one of those officers who complained publicly, in a televised interview with KTVB. Emails obtained by the Statesman that were sent from a Boise police employee to the city’s Human Resources department note that Bryngelson had a breakdown in September, was “manic” and “suicidal.”

Two months later, observers tied posts and an interview on a white supremacist website back to him. Bryngelson’s pseudonym appeared to have been taken from a neo-Nazi character from a 1990s film, according to previous Statesman reporting. In the posts, he indicated that he moved to Boise from California because of Boise’s large white population, and accused Black people of having a predilection toward violent crime.

In a tweet, McLean called Bryngelson’s stated views “racist, dehumanizing propaganda.”

On Tuesday, the Boise City Council approved a contract with prominent attorney Michael Bromwich to lead an investigation into Bryngelson’s tenure at the Police Department and to examine whether racism penetrates any other parts of the department.

The contract, with Bromwich’s Washington, D.C.-based firm, Steptoe & Johnson, could cost as much as $500,000.

Lee is not a named party in either complaint. He could not be reached for comment. Fleming, when contacted previously by the Statesman about Bryngelson’s racist statements, said “I will tell you flat out I was not involved in that.” Fleming worked for Boise police for 17 years before his retirement.

Bryngelson alleges hostility, mental health discrimination

Bryngelson was born in 1972 and is about 50 years old.

In September 2021, Bryngelson’s claim said his wife helped him enroll in mental health treatment at a Boise hospital, after which he was transferred to an “intensive in-patient program” in Layton, Utah.

He was on medical leave from the Police Department during his treatment, and was cleared to return to work in November 2021, the claim said.

Following his return, Bryngelson said he “encountered objective and outrageous hostility” from Lee, including that Lee spoke about Bryngelson’s mental health with co-workers.

Police Department leadership asked Bryngelson multiple times when he planned to retire, the complaint said. An internal complaint Bryngelson made against Lee with the Office of Police Accountability was shared with the chief, the complaint said. Bryngelson also filed a complaint with the city’s Human Resources Department, which recommended he go to Internal Affairs, overseen by Lee.

Bryngelson’s complaint said the deputy chief, Tammany Brooks, also asked him when he would be leaving the department and later “ordered” him to give a resignation date by the end of the day.

The captain left the department on Aug. 15, according to the complaint.

A City Hall spokesperson, Maria Weeg, declined to comment on the pending legal matters.

Fleming complaint

In November, Fleming filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Boise, alleging discrimination and retaliation by Lee for Fleming’s investigations of officer misconduct.

The Human Rights Commission claim, which was also filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, accused Lee of harassing him after he returned from knee surgery and pressured him to retire. He also said Lee intervened in his work to discipline officers as the captain of the Professional Standards Division.

Hepworth told the Statesman by phone that the Human Rights Commission allowed the discrimination claim to go to court, after which Hepworth combined the whistleblower and discrimination allegations into one case. The case is now pending in Ada County District Court, and has a trial date scheduled for June 2024.

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