Boise Police Chief reflects on year, future challenges
BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) —
In many parts of the country, police are viewed with suspicion and even hatred. All too many cops have found themselves in the cross hairs this year.
As a tumultuous 2017 comes to a close, Boise Police Chief Bill Bones sat down with KBOI 2 to talk about the state of his department and our community. He talked about some of the milestones of this year, as he looks forward to the year to come:
“It's been a year of coming through that, but really a year of growth in our relationship with the community. So, recognizing the partnership and the support that the community gave us coming out of that has really turned into growth out of the partnerships we have in everything we do. That's kind of a nice thing to have as a department ... a great thing to have as a police chief.”
20th ANNIVERSARY OF THE SHOOTING DEATH OF BPD OFFICER MARK STALL
“It was heartwarming to see the amount of people that showed up for that, the response from the community for a loss that is obviously, deeply imbedded in our hearts here at BPD but to recognize that the community still feels that way 20 years later and to recognize that they're never going to let Mark be forgotten, that's one of those moments that I'm going to take with me forever. I had the advantage of being on the stand and able to look out over all of those faces and see those candles being lit and think, 'There's a reason I'm here in Boise, and this is it.”
THE LEGACY OF OFFICER STALL
“90 percent of our department is already gone – that was here in those years – there’s really just a handful. But, that memory has been adopted by every employee of the Boise Police Department. And that was another of those encouraging moments. It's one of those things that worries me, right? -- As we make that turnover to the next generation. We've got a lot of people retiring in these next few years. Our peer leaders and our promoted leaders are leaving in these next few years, but that's what encourages me when I see that we're leaving the department in very good hands.”
“The recruit class always going for that run and they end the run (at the grave site of Stall) and Ron Winegar who was also shot and is a captain on our police department is the one who gives them the talk at the grave site while they're standing next to Mark. And I think that embeds that into their memories and really makes that an indelible part of their training of becoming a police officer, of becoming a member of the Boise Police Department.
“Becoming a Boise police officer isn't getting hired and having a box checked and all of a sudden getting a badge pinned on your chest. Those are all big moments, but becoming a Boise police officer is really a process of becoming part of the identity and culture of this department and becoming part of the relationship with our citizens. It's something we're extremely proud of, it's something that we stand on the past shoulders, but we want to leave that legacy with the next generation of officers.”
RECRUITMENT BUCKS NATIONAL TREND
“We had 375 applicants for the Boise Police Department last month. That's a record -- at least for the 25 years that I've been here. That's a great message to me that we've got people who want to take on that service.
“It's a proud moment for me to see those 375 applicants because that's really a reflection of how our community views our police department. And the fact that we've got all this happening nationally and other agencies are struggling ... to see that many applicants that want to be a Boise police officer, it tells me we must be doing something right.
“Obviously, we're going to be picky with that many applicants. We're never going to lower our standards because we believe it is incumbent upon us … Once you become a Boise police officer you've got to be able to rise to that challenge.”
COMMUNITY ADVISORY PANEL
“We're in the final selection phase of the chief's community advisory panel -- really moving forward that concept of giving the community a voice in the police department and helping give us some direction and insight into where we should be focusing for the next decade.
“As Boise grows it's really going to take a partnership and involvement in the community we serve with the police department. It helps reinforce to us that service to meet the community's needs. And I think they need to have a voice. So that helps me make a lot better decisions. Gives us a lot better insight.
“I'll be honest. I think it's going to lead to some great partnerships that's going to take us down some avenues that we never thought ... to solve those problems that haven't yet come to our doorstep. When you spend 25 years in policing you're around people who are thinking in terms of law enforcement and the judiciary system and sometimes you miss that outside perspective.
“Well, I think that getting that diverse group of people in that room that there are going to be some ideas that spark that I'm going to go... 'Oh, wait a minute. Light bulb moment.' That I never would have thought of taking that approach or realized that's an issue that we can make a difference on. So, really, really looking forward to that opportunity to maybe take it to another step -- another level -- and us making Boise a little better place to live.”
COP ON THE BEAT
“So that's our biggest return. You know, looking back, I was thinking about this interview ... And looking back I was thinking of 2017 and what our biggest wins are ... The biggest wins are all those calls that we'll never know about because they went right. It's where an officer interacted with somebody and they changed a life. It's the shooting that didn't occur. It's the crash that didn't occur. The people who went home to their families and never knew that their life was changed because of that interaction with a police officer. And that's the officers on the street. That's every year, day in and day out, those are the people making the biggest difference for the Boise Police Department and I believe for the city of Boise.
“I've got almost 400 people working on the Boise Police Department. And they're people who want to make a difference. They're intelligent. They're sharp. They're creative. One of the best lessons I've learned as a police chief, is give the reigns to the people in this department and they'll find the solutions. And they find partnerships in this community that I didn't even know existed. Groups that they bring to the table. So, all I really have to do open up a pathway for those people, those officers and civilians to find a solution and get us to the other side.”
“You know, how do we approach individual problems in non-traditional ways, become a more agile police department -- because I'm telling you, the criminal element, they're agile at seeing an opportunity. And if there is something occurring or coming up, we need to adjust to how we address that problem. So, whether it's changing our direction mid-stride or moving resources, coming up with new approaches to problems, creating new partnerships, I think we need to be more agile as a police department and ready to attack those problems in the early onset.”
OPIOID CRISIS DEMANDS AGILITY
“We have to be actively moving forward to address that crisis in Boise. The one thing that we have an advantage … Is trends tend to hit us late. We've got the rest of the country experiences extreme tragedies and we've see tragedy in Boise, but we've had a chance to see what's working, what's not working in other agencies, other cities and adopting the best of those programs to fit Boise and address those emerging trends, that emerging crisis before ... before we end up trying to recover from something that's already lost.
“One of the approaches that we really believe in with Opioids as well as other problems is diversion. Instead of being locked into the criminal justice program for people who are having those types of problems … And I'm not talking about big dealers, those people need to be in prison … But somebody that's addicted, how can we get that person into services that are likely to change the course of their lives. Rather than what is very expensive, putting people in jail and taking somebody away from their families. How can we approach that, to get people on the right path? And I think we've got to be creative and we've got to look at this from the heart and the mind at how we approach this problem. This really is an epidemic across the country and there's very few cities and agencies that are doing well in dealing with it. We want to be one of those few.
“There's an advantage to being one of the most isolated, midsize city in the country. And that is that it forces everybody in the Treasure Valley to work together."
“We've got to work together; we've got to lean on each other. And for us to make those kinds of solutions it really is ... it's looking at our hospitals, at our educational system, at those non-profits that are providing the services. It's looking at our fellow agencies across the valley, and then taking the non-traditional … whether it's the churches or the community. There are groups all across this Valley that are making differences in people's lives and sometimes we've just got to get the pieces together, and then we can take that one off or two off and really turn that into a full solution.
“You know, police officers are always in that position that we run into the person at that moment of crisis. We're at that front line. So, if we can recognize the problem and get them on the right path, but whoever it is and for whatever the problem is, you've got to have everything down the road for that. Whether that's housing or education or substance abuse treatment, whether it's getting people to feel like they're part of something rather than an individual outside of society ... We've got to look at what the root issues are and let them provide solutions and that's … usually a multi-year process.
“I know what some of the problems are that we're going to see in 2018. I don't know all of those problems are, but I do know that we're going to see them. And if we're not successful, then the safety of our city fails and we're not going to let that happen.”