Boise community ombudsman leaves after 14 years

Credit: Mike di Donato/ KTVB

Boise community ombudsman leaves after 14 years

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by Stephanie Zepelin

Bio | Email | Follow: @ktvbstephanie

KTVB.COM

Posted on July 9, 2013 at 10:54 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 9 at 6:52 PM

BOISE -- If you lived in Boise in the 1990s, you might remember the string of officer-involved shootings.

One of them involved a 16-year-old Boise boy who was shot in front of his home by an officer, a case that had many debating the safety of the Boise Police Department.

In 1997, another shooting resulted in the death of Officer Mark Stahl, the Boise Police Department's only line of duty death.

A lot has changed since the 1990s when Pierce Murphy took the job as Boise's first ever community ombudsman.

After holding the position for 14 years, Tuesday was the last day on the job for  Murphy.

Twelve years ago, his office received an all-time high of complaints of 1,114, and last year that number dropped to 190.    

"The late '90s were a turbulent time in terms of the relationship between the police here in Boise and the community that it served," said Murphy.

Since starting in 1999, Murphy said he has seen things evolve, and that one thing stands out to him as the most important change.

"I believe that with some exceptions, and there always will be, the community by in large has a high confidence in the police department here, trusts them, supports them in their law enforcement mission," said Murphy. "And the police that serve them trust and support the community that they're serving, and to one extent or another that really wasn't the case back in the late '90s."

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter says Murphy had a big part in the changes, and pointed to his background in human resources as part of his success in the position.

"I think he's done a fine job, and it's reflected all across the city," said Bieter.

In addition to working in human resources at the Boise Cascade Company, Murphy said he was also well-served by his experience as a police officer in California and his master's degree in counseling psychology.

Murphy said one area that police will continue to work on is dealing with mental health crises.

"It's going to be an ongoing, and I think increasingly difficult situation," Murphy said. "Police are the, they're the ones that get called when people are out of other options, when the crisis has hit."

During his last afternoon on his last day in his office, Murphy reflects on nearly a decade and a half of work.

"This has been the greatest job I've ever had," he said. "It's been a wonderful opportunity to serve the public, to make our community a better one, to make our police department a better police department and ensure that we've got a safe community to live in. I will be forever grateful for the chance to do this."

Murphy is heading to Seattle to serve a similar role for their city and police department.

Back in 2011, the Seattle Police Department was investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice for a pattern of excessive force.

An investigator from the Boise Community Ombudsman's office will be filling in as the interim ombudsman, and the city will start a national search for a new ombudsman in the next 30 days.

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