BPD chief discusses funding for police, impacts of growth and mental health


BOISE, Idaho – It’s no secret the Treasure Valley is growing. The increase in population has an impact on our roads, schools, housing market and police force.

This is one of the first things Chief Ryan Lee noticed when he joined the Boise Police Department from Portland last July.

“I think one of the first things that was very obvious was the size of the department relative to the growth of the city,” Chief Lee said. “We always operated with the idea that we could have a much smaller police force.”

Chief Lee says the recommended national average is to have two police officers per 1,000 citizens in the city. “The national average is 2.4, and we’re at 1.26 because of the growth,” Lee said.

Chief Lee discusses impacts of growth on policing

GROWTH OF THE DEPARTMENT

To keep pace with the population, the Town of Boise is proposing to add more than a dozen new positions to the police department.

the proposed budget for 2022 describes the new jobs: seven patrol officers to help respond to the growing number of 911 calls, a motorcycle traffic cop, an additional officer to be added to the narcotics division, two neighborhood contact officers, two officers dedicated to improving intelligence-based policing, and an evidence analyst for the crime lab.

The police department is the city’s biggest expense. Budget 2022 increases funding by more than $ 6 million, an increase of 8.9%, for a total of $ 77,502,676.

FINANCING THE POLICE?

Police in Boise are getting a budget boost as some cities across the country are responding to calls to “spend the police” by reallocating some of their budgets to community programs.

“I think it’s worth having a conversation about ‘what is the infrastructure to be able to provide services? Are the police really the best service to go online for certain types of situations? ‘ Said Chief Lee. “But I think in a lot of places in the US what’s going on is really kind of a false dilemma that you have to take money from the police to fund this, and I don’t think it’s really the case.”

During Lee’s first month on the job last summer, several protests sparked in Boise focused on funding and advocating for the police, with some scenarios even turning violent. Of course, it is Lee’s officers responsible for keeping the peace.

“We are politically neutral when we are the police,” Lee said. “We’re here to help ensure everyone’s constitutionally protected First Amendment rights. Whether I agree, disagree, or any other officer does, is irrelevant in whatever dialogue takes place. “

Chief Lee discusses ‘fund the police’ movement as part of BPD budget increase proposal

A FOCUS ON COMMUNITY POLICE

Going forward, one of Lee’s priorities for the department is to continue to focus on “community policing” by interacting with citizens and learning more about the root causes of crime before it happens.

“Whether it’s the shopkeeper or a grandmother who’s lived in the neighborhood for a long time,” Lee said. “We want to have a meaningful connection with the people we serve. “

Lee touted the success of the already existing refugee liaison program as a prime example. “It’s modeled by departments three to four times our size,” Lee said. “We’ve done an incredible amount of work already, we need to build on that and really double down on community policing.”

Before moving to the City of Trees, Lee worked in Portland for 20 years. As this city grew, he saw the police department prioritize resources for patrol officers responding to emergency calls.

“And we focused on that without recognizing the need to connect with the community, to understand how they wanted to be monitored, what were the main issues? It’s not that we stopped doing it, but we couldn’t do it as much, and in the long run it started to damage that connection with the community, ”said Lee. “I don’t want to see something like that happen again here in Boise.”

A recent initiative to place officers in a critical area of ​​downtown Boise is a new police station, allowing officers to engage with the Boiseans surrounding city parks and homeless shelters who may be in need of assistance. help to connect to community resources.

Boise Town Center Police Station

The station is primarily used by cycling officers who can easily navigate the park system through the greenbelt in a “much more efficient” manner than patrol officers, Lee says.

MENTAL HEALTH

Many of the calls officers answer each day include someone in crisis, a trend Lee says is seen nationwide.

At Boise, the agents who respond are now trained to handle a number of scenarios that may arise.

The ministry saved money on overtime costs in 2020 since it did not have to recruit agents for major events or festivals that were canceled due to COVID-19. Instead, they used some of that money to deliver 40 hours of crisis intervention training to every sworn officer in the department.

Chief Lee discusses mental health among community members, workers

“I really think the focus is on de-escalating and recognizing various mental health issues,” Lee recalled among the most valuable lessons. “As well as understanding that most people when they call the police are – even if momentarily in some form of crisis – they’re not having the best time of their lives, and these skills are beneficial in any interaction.”

But it’s not just civilians who can impact their mental health.

Agents regularly react to extremely disturbing situations that can linger for days, weeks or even years.

“I would venture to say that it’s not just more than what the average person would see in their work week, the average five-year-old officer on the job has seen more than most people would see in the course of their work week. of their lives, ”said Lee.

This is why part of the expansion of the Training, Education and Development Division is a wellness program.

“Actually, I believe one of my sergeants is right now, as we speak, giving a wellness course to officers by talking about various things based on an investigation of what concerned them, ”Lee said. “Everything from nutrition to mental health opportunities, the benefits of exercise, how to manage a good sleep cycle.”


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