BOISE — Six months on the job, Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee is finding areas of police department policy that don’t “reflect national best practice,” he said.
“There are also gaps in the current policy manual where essential topics are, frankly, completely missing,” he told Boise City Council at Tuesday’s work session.
The department is looking to restructure or possible even rewrite its policy manual, he said, including when it comes to use of force. Lee has already issued a new policy requiring police officers intervene “to prevent use of force that is clearly unreasonable under the circumstances” he said.
“This was the past expectation and practice prior to this order, but it was not an official policy,” Lee said. “And by enshrining it in policy, it internally reinforces this expectation as well as makes it clear to the public … what they can expect from the police department.”
Every officer who hasn’t already had 40 hours of crisis intervention training is scheduled to fulfill that, Lee said, which is the national standard for crisis intervention teams. Additionally, officers in December will undergo an updated implicit bias training, which strives to help them understand their own subconscious bias when interacting with the public.
Along with training officers, the department is also in the final stages of creating another two-member behavioral health response team to respond to calls involving residents in mental health crisis. The two-person teams, made up of one civilian and one officer, would also follow up on residents after officers handle a mental health-related call.
“I think that’s the most important thing we can do,” Boise City Council President Elaine Clegg said of adding the new response team.
Other changes Lee discussed are aimed at increasing transparency and accountability to the public.
The Boise Police Department is considering making the discipline of officers more public — something Clegg said would benefit officers because it would make the process transparent and open.
In other transparency efforts, two dashboards went live Tuesday on the city’s website, one with information about police incidents in specific neighborhoods and another with data on emergency response times. Lee said the department is also working on a way to include information about police use of force and residents stopped.
The city’s website also now has a survey posted in both English and Spanish about public safety and policing, Lee said. Questions on the survey include “what does public safety mean to you” and “how safe do you currently feel as a resident of Boise.” The survey also queries residents about the usefulness of the dashboards and what other information they’d like to see made public, Lee said.
INTERACTIONS WITH THE PUBLIC
Lee said the department is revising its “entire use of force policy” and weighing its decision to suspend the lateral vascular neck restraint — one of the eight policies the police-reform campaign “Eight Can’t Wait” have targeted. The department in June suspended the practice.
Following a summer of pitched protests, the department is working on a crowd management policy, something it currently doesn’t have. The public survey on the city’s website includes questions about what residents want in a crowd management policy, Lee said. The policy will involve a liaison officer reaching out to any group planning protest activity in the city.
Lee also told city council members the department will not use “no-knock warrants,” meaning a warrant allowing police to enter a property without knocking or ringing a doorbell, except for in very specific cases. No-knock warrants became a topic of national conversation after the police shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, during a no-knock warrant raid.
“The only exception is under extreme circumstances that require judicial approval as well as approval from the chief of police prior to any service,” Lee said.