BPD Chief discusses police funding, impacts of development, psychological well being

BOISE, Idaho – It’s no secret that Treasure Valley is growing. The population growth is affecting our streets, our schools, our housing market and our police force.

It’s one of the first things Chief Ryan Lee noticed when he came to 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 in relation to the growth of the city,” said Chief Lee. “We were still operating with the idea that we could have a much smaller police force.”

Chief Lee says the national recommended average is two police officers for every 1,000 people in the city. “The national average is 2.4 and we are 1.26 because of growth,” said Lee.

Chief Lee discusses the impact of growth on the law enforcement agency

DEPARTMENT GROWTH

To keep up with the population, the city of Boise is proposing to add more than a dozen new posts to the police force.

The proposed budget for 2022 outlines the new positions: seven patrol officers helping to respond to the growing number of emergency calls, a motorcycle traffic officer, an additional police officer to be admitted to the narcotics department, two neighborhood contact officers, two police officers looking to improve dedicate intelligence-led police and an evidence analyst to the crime lab.

The police are the city’s biggest cost factor. The 2022 budget increases its funding by more than $ 6 million, an 8.9% increase to a total of $ 77,502,676.

DEFINITION OF THE POLICE?

In Boise, the police are receiving a budget increase, while some cities across the country are responding to “police discovery” calls by reallocating part of their budget to community programs.

“I think it’s a worthwhile conversation about ‘what is the infrastructure to provide services? Are the police really the best point of contact for certain situations? ‘”Said Chief Lee. “But I think a lot of places in the United States really have a false dilemma going on that you have to take money from the police to fund this, and I don’t think that is really the case.”

During Lee’s first month on duty last summer, several protests focused on defusing and defending the police were ignited in Boise, some scenarios even turning violent. Of course, it was Lee’s officers tasked with keeping the peace.

“We’re politically neutral when we’re the police,” said Lee. “We’re here to help ensure everyone’s constitutional right to first change. Whether I agree, disagree, or another official does this is not relevant to the dialogue that is going on out there. ”

Chief Lee discusses the Defund the Police movement amid the proposed budget increase for BPD

A FOCUS ON COMMUNITY POLICY

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 causes of crime before it happens.

“Whether the shop owner or a grandma who has lived in the neighborhood for a long time,” says Lee. “We want to have meaningful connections with the people we serve.”

Lee cited the success of the existing Refugee Liason program as a perfect example. “This is being modeled by departments three or four times the size of us,” Lee said. “We have an incredible amount of work that they have already done, we need to build on that and really double the policing in the community.”

Before moving to the City of Trees, Lee worked in Portland for 20 years. As that city grew, he watched the police prioritize resources to assist patrol officers who responded to emergency calls.

“And we focused on that without realizing that we need to connect with the community, understand how they want to be monitored, what were the main issues? It wasn’t that we stopped doing it, but we weren’t able to do it that often, and in the long run it started to damage that connection with the community, “Lee said. “I don’t want something like this to happen again here in Boise.”

A new move to accommodate officers in a critical area of ​​downtown Boise is a new police station that will allow officers to connect with Boiseans around city parks and homeless shelters who may need help connecting with community resources.

Police station in downtown Boise

The station is primarily used by bicycle officers, who can easily and “much more effectively” drive through the parking system via the green belt than patrol officers would, says Lee.

MENTAL HEALTH

Many of the calls officials respond to each day involve a person in crisis, a trend that Lee says is seen across the country.

At Boise, the responding officers are now trained to deal with a number of scenarios that may come their way.

The department saved money on overtime bills in 2020 by eliminating the need to hire officials for large events or festivals that were canceled due to COVID-19. Instead, they used some of that money to provide 40 hours of crisis intervention training for each sworn officer in the division.

Chief Lee discusses mental health among community members, officials

“I really think the emphasis is on de-escalating and recognizing various mental illnesses,” Lee recalled as one of the most valuable lessons. “As well as understanding that when most people call the police, even if they are temporarily in crisis, they are not having the best moment of their lives, and these skills are an advantage in any interaction.”

But it’s not just civilians who are vulnerable to mental health effects.

Officials routinely respond to seriously troubling situations that can last for days, weeks, or even years.

“I dare say that not only is it more than what the average person would see in his work week, the average civil servant who has been in office for five years has seen more than most people would see in their life,” said Lee.

For this reason, a wellness program is part of the expansion of the Training, Education and Development division.

“In fact, I believe that one of my sergeants is currently teaching a wellness class for the officers that talks about a variety of different things based on a survey of what is bothering them,” Lee said. “Everything from diet to mental health options, the benefits of exercise, and how to manage a proper sleep cycle.”

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