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MERIDIAN — Meridian Mayor Robert Simison is expected to announce his appointment of longtime deputy police chief Tracy Basterrechea as Meridian’s new police chief Wednesday afternoon.

After serving as deputy chief since 2009, Basterrechea began serving as Meridian’s interim chief last month after then-Chief Jeff Lavey stepped down, accepting a position as the executive director of the Idaho Sheriffs Association. Simison will ask Meridian City Council to confirm his appointment next Tuesday, he told the Idaho Press Wednesday morning.

Simison pointed to his appointee’s “long history with the department” and “how much he’s respected by the people that work in the department” in disclosing his pick. “We’ve been succession planning him for this role here at the city. And you throw in the relationships he’s built with other people in the law enforcement community. He’s a natural. He’s a natural leader. The community will be lucky to have him serve in this capacity.”

Basterrechea joined the Meridian Police Department in 1996, serving in a variety of roles before becoming chief deputy, according to his LinkedIn profile. Before that, he earned undergraduate degrees in History and Secondary Education at Boise State University.

In some of Basterrechea’s most recent public comments, he reflected on the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, a use of force that ignited protests and anxiety throughout the United States.

“Every time there’s a national event, and it gives law enforcement a black eye, it literally gives the entire profession a black eye,” Basterrechea told KBOI in an interview. “Yes, those officers will be held accountable … But it’s not going to bring back George Floyd. Nothing we can do will change that. The only thing we can do is be better moving forward.”

Basterrechea in October joined Gov. Brad Little and Lt. Gov Janice McGeachin as one of seven keynote speakers at a “Back the Blue” event at the Ford Idaho Center. Speaking to a few hundred attendees, he told the audience police officers help keep cities in the United States from plunging into anarchy, saying “the thin blue line may be the only thing holding our democracy together,” the Idaho Press reported.

At the event, Basterrechea also recognized that there are some officers who are unfit to serve on the force.

“Are there officers who don’t deserve to wear the badge? Yes,” he said. “It is our duty to weed those who don’t deserve this honor out.”

Last summer, after the Central District Health Board implemented a mask mandate for Ada County, Basterrechea asked Meridian City Council to allow his department to treat violations as infractions, rather than misdemeanors, the Meridian Press reported. Advocating for an educational approach, sans enforcement, Basterrechea warned council members they’d be “inundated” with “hate emails and Facebook posts,” similar to the criticism his department received following multiple protests to the governor’s stay-home order in Meridian, one of which led to an arrest.

Details of the hiring process that preceded Basterrechea’s appointment remain unclear.

“We continue to move forward with the hiring process for our vacant Police and Fire Chief Positions, ensuring we end up with the right person to lead our first responders and public safety efforts in Meridian,” wrote Shandy Lam, Simison’s spokeswoman, in an email last week. “To fill our Police Chief position, the Mayor is looking internally at this time,” she wrote at the time.

When asked to provide a list of candidates being considered, the mayor’s office declined.

After the Idaho Press, under the Freedom of Information Act, requested a list of candidates who had been interviewed for the position, the city clerk’s office yesterday responded that there was “currently no information that would be responsive to this request.”

A formal announcement is expected later Wednesday, which Simison said will include more details on the appointment.

Blake Jones covers Kuna and Meridian for the Idaho Press. You can reach him at bjones@idahopress.com and follow him on Twitter @jonesblakej.

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