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Boise city official's emails say former OPA director should have 'real time' access to police video, reports

A July 27 email from Chief of Staff Courtney Washburn shows that she told Jesus Jara he had direct access to videos "in real time."

BOISE, Idaho — Boise's Office of Police Accountability Director, Jesus Jara, was fired Dec. 9 for concerns over his office viewing random recorded police body camera videos -- but emails obtained by KTVB through a public records request show it's possible he was doing what he was told he could do.

Jara was fired by a 5-1 vote in a city council meeting. In a statement released from Boise mayor Lauren McLean's office, it accuses Jara of randomly viewing recorded body camera videos without cause, violating the privacy of Boiseans.

Council member Holli Woodings also said in McLean's statement, "The extent of Mr. Jara’s review of police body cam footage, which is not authorized by city policy, is a gross violation of privacy for our residents."

An email

A year and a half before Jara's firing -- on July 27, 2021 -- an email from the mayor's Chief of Staff, Courtney Washburn, was sent to Jesus Jara to outline his position as director of the OPA.

Washburn, in the email, tells Jara "OPA should have direct access to police reports, videos, and OIA (Office of Internal Affairs) investigations in real time. This is rare. Most oversight entities in the country require oversight to issue subpoenas for this information."

In the July 27 email, Washburn also tells Jara he has the ability to "real-time" audit. 

"Rather than reviewing closed reports in an audit months after an event, we wanted an open dialogue between OIA and OPA so that OPA could be notified as investigations are happening so they can real-time audit the process," the email says.

KTVB reached out about the emails, but a city spokesperson said they could not comment due to pending litigation.

Credit: City of Boise

Who investigates what?

Jara sued the City of Boise directly after his firing for the city's alleged role in the investigation into the former Boise Police Chief, Ryan Lee, who was asked to resign at the request of McLean when complaints against him were made public. Jara said in the suit that the city has been retaliating against him since Lee resigned.

Jara was the one that recommended to McLean and Washburn that Lee be placed on leave in April, but it never happened.

According to an interview McLean gave to the Idaho Statesman, she said previously that there was an issue with Jara’s decision to make a recommendation that “waded into personnel matters,” which was “unauthorized by their ordinance," she told the Idaho Statesman.

But, in the July 27 email, Washburn tells Jara, "Oversight is not a one size fits all. OPA will have the flexibility to depart from general processes when the situation warrants." 

So who was to investigate if OPA waded into personnel matters? Typically, Internal Affairs.

But, the emails from Washburn go on to say, "If a critical incident or complaints requires confidentiality even from OIA, then OPA has the option to independently investigate without initially forwarding the complaint to OIA."

So, Jara was told he could independently investigate -- but in his lawsuit, Jara states that Washburn told him “no further action will be taken by the Office of Police Accountability, and the role of the Office will be considered complete unless further action is requested."

A third party was later used to review the complaints against Lee, which McLean previously said resulted in no violations of policy or procedure.

After the complaints were public, discussion was rampant in the city on how to clarify policies for officers to issue complaints against their chief of police.

McLean told KTVB on the matter, "We want to have clarity for accountability, and where officers go, one and done -- with the complaints that they might have."

City Council member Patrick Bageant also told KTVB, "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."

According to Jara's lawsuit, it says Washburn later instructed Jara that all communications regarding the OPA investigation should go through her and to "not accept or investigate complaints from City employees including BPD officers regarding workplace conditions" nearly a month after local reporters caught wind of the complaints.

But, Washburn goes on to say in the emails, "Mandated review of complaints against command-level officers, including the Chief of Police: Since OIA (civilian investigators) reports to a police captain and the chief, it was important to ensure independent review of complaints against command members since they supervise OIA personnel."

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