BOISE, Idaho — Oct. 14 was the first time a Boise city council member like Patrick Bageant has spoken out after reading the Office of Police Accountability intake of complaints, where nine officers from BPD came forward to share their claims of a hostile work environment allegedly initiated by their police chief Ryan Lee, who later resigned.
The OPA report made its way to Boise Mayor McLean in April. It recommended Lee be placed on leave pending further investigation, which never happened – because McLean wanted him to remain in a leadership position, she previously told KTVB.
24 hours after KTVB published a story on the internal investigation which showed emails alleging Human Resources did not investigate the officers’ complaints, McLean asked Lee to resign as chief on Sept. 23, making former Deputy Chief Ron Winegar the new interim after pulling him from retirement.
Many questions have been raised about what was in the OPA intake of complaints. Bageant said he can’t exactly comment on the personnel matters inside the intake, but said that the solutions are a lot of “gray area.” The council has pored over these complaints, reading through them for the last two weeks trying to decide what changes need to be made, and what to think about the validity of the statements.
“There are policies and procedures for various city departments and various city personnel in various different ways. It gets murkier and more challenging, as you get up to the higher levels of leadership,” Bageant said. "It's been a little confusing, frankly, because we had to do a fair amount of figuring out what's going on. It was a very fast moving situation there for a little bit. But, by the time we got to reading the complaints, I think I had a pretty good grip on the the big story, the big picture."
Boise City Handbook Standards of Conduct 5.01a states that "All city employees are required to conduct themselves in a respectful and courteous manner that is appropriate for the workplace. This regulation applies to all city of Boise employees, elected officials, representatives, and volunteers" and goes on to list actions that are considered unacceptable, like degrading language and unprofessional speech.
But, the city has no ‘precise’ policy to clarify what happens when officers come forward with complaints about a command staff member. That’s what the city is working on, Bageant said, after reading the OPA complaint intake.
“I'm not going to characterize one way or another whether those are true, or whether it was false, both of which would go to confidential personnel information. And I guess it's difficult for me to talk about the specifics of this situation without divulging information that's confidential, both to the complaining officers and to my former police chief,” Bageant said.
Officers turned to OPA after they were handed to Internal Affairs by HR. Lee oversaw IA, so the officers didn’t trust it enough to go there, one officer previously told KTVB.
OPA did exactly what they were supposed to do when taking in the complaints, Bageant said.
“You don't know what color a complaint is until you see what the complaint is. Could we have done a better job at directing or moving different types of complaints to different organs of the city government? That is exactly what the council was looking at and trying to sort out with clear policies and procedures,” Bageant said. "Anybody who works for the city of Boise, not a police officer, anybody who has a concern, a complaint, or even just a question, should be communicating about those things. And that's what these officers did. I don't know that the statements in the complaints are true. I don't know that they're false."
What needs to be changed? Likely establishing clear policies for officers about where to go when filing complaints against their chief, Bageant said, as well as a more formal process for investigating a member of command staff.
"I see a situation that's very challenging, just based on the nature of the people involved. A high level department head is a different story than for somebody else in the city. I don't see any balls being dropped," Bageant said. "That's something I know that people are worried about. I see possibly some ways that the balls could have been passed, or handled, or played to the end-zone more efficiently. That's that's exactly the kind of thing that the council was looking at."
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