BOISE - A new study ranks Idaho third in the nation for having the busiest police officers.
The study by Safewise.com found for every police officer in Idaho there is one violent crime, 18 property crimes and 483 people to protect.
"A lot of these small county agencies,” Meridian Deputy Chief of Police Tracy Basterrechea said. “They may have three officers to cover 24 hours seven days a week. So even when that officer goes home, guess what? Something happens in that town, they're getting called out to go deal with that call."
Basterrechea said more officers aren’t always the answer. He’d rather have the right people who will fit the types of calls in the area, which are mostly property crimes and traffic accidents.
"Domestic related incidents, welfare checks, people who are suicidal or maybe have mental health issues," Boise Police Capt. Ron Winegar said.
"We are the first line people that are dealing with the mental illness in this state,” Basterrechea said. “Once the funding was cut, and a lot of those programs went away, that fell back onto law enforcement.”
There’s something else that adds to their workload that sets Idaho aside from other areas.
"We still try to hold on to answering those what other people may call unimportant calls for service. We want to really keep that small town community feel,” Basterrechea said.
For example, checking up on someone’s home when they’re on vacation or a call about a barking dog.
"We do have to prioritize, so some people may have to wait if there's a higher priority need for the officers and resources we have,” Winegar said. “But we eventually try to get to them all.”
"We're really in the service industry and I think that police officers in Idaho focus on that,” Basterrechea said.
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