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Boise continues its search for a new police chief

“I’ll be looking for a chief that continues to build on our focus on community policing,” Mayor Lauren McLean said.
Credit: Boise Police Department
Boise's interim police chief, Mike Masterson, center, stands with his family, left and Boise's then-Mayor Dave Bieter following Masteron's November swearing-in.

BOISE, Idaho — The city of Boise is scheduled to continue accepting applications for its open police chief position through the end of the month, Mayor Lauren McLean confirmed to the Idaho Press Wednesday.

The city has contracted with Ralph Andersen & Associates, a public-sector executive search firm based in Rocklin, California, to help find candidates from across the country who might lead a department with about 300 sworn officers, about 100 support staff and a fiscal year 2020 budget of $70 million.

The search follows the retirement of Boise Police Chief Bill Bones, whose last day as chief was Oct. 24. Bones had served as chief of the department since 2015, but he’d been an employee of the police department for 27 years.

The starting annual salary range is $160,000 to $180,000, plus benefits and relocation assistance, according to the job posting on the Ralph Andersen & Associates website.

McLean said she couldn’t say how many applications the city has received so far, saying it was a personnel matter. She said the city could extend the time period allotted to accept applications if necessary.

“I’ll be looking for a chief that continues to build on our focus on community policing,” McLean said.

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She added she would be looking for someone who could “grow and improve upon the record of the department.”

This early on, she said, the process is guided by the firm, which signed a $28,500 contract with the city on Nov. 1.

McLean expects developments — initial interviews with candidates, then input from a citizen advisory committee — to come later this spring.

“As we move deeper into the process I’ll be working with the interim chief, and staff, and the community to come up with a list of things we really want to see in the next chief,” she said.

During that interim, former Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson, who served as police chief from January 2005 until retiring in February 2015, is filling the role of police chief. He was sworn in on Nov. 25.

“I think my role is to prepare the organization for the smoothest transition that I can to the next chief of police, that the mayor-elect and her staff will be involved in a process very shortly,” Masterson told the Idaho Press in December.

“So inside the organization, my primary personal goal is to do more employee engagement," he added. "So I have a staff that’s engaged on a divisional level, but they also want to see the chief involved in the organization — sharing news about what’s going on in the organization and why. They want to know why we make decisions and stuff, so I’ve got that going.”

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Coming back, he said, wasn’t an easy decision — he retired at 60 years old, and police work, he acknowledged, is a young person's world. Plus, he’d enjoyed retirement — he had time to volunteer as a writer and editor for a state-sponsored veterans’ newspaper, and time to spend with his grandchildren, too.

“But I guess it was the draw,” he said about his decision to return temporarily. “I spent 10 years here, of my life. I got to know the people. I got to appreciate what the organization does. It’s one of the finest police departments in the country.”

In returning, Masterson said he realized he’d have to get to know about 125 new people who were hired since he’d retired. While he called it “still the same old department,” he acknowledged much of the department’s command staff is young. Both of the department’s former deputy police chiefs — Scott Mulcahy and Eugene Smith — retired in 2019, months before Bones did.

“And so I can tell you, is that, inside the organization, we are very young in terms of our command staff,” Masterson said. “Maybe it was my fault we didn’t do better succession-planning, but our deputy chief just assumed his role three months ago. He was a captain before that — he was a captain when I was here.”

Of the six people on the command staff, Masterson said, only one person had been there when he was. He estimated there were about 12 or 14 lieutenants in the department, and said he believed a majority of them were new to their positions within the last four years.

MORE: Boise's overall crime rate is dropping but drug violations are increasing, police say

The department has also, since Masteron’s departure, faced a 2018 whistleblower lawsuit filed by one of its officers, Norman “Denny” Carter, after the officer claimed his supervisor, Lt. Greg Oster, retaliated against him when Carter reported Oster was selling guns for his private business in the department while on the clock. While a subsequent investigation by the city found that Oster, who retired in May 2018, had acted unethically, the report did not substantiate Carter’s claims of retaliation. The case is set for a trial in 2021.

Then, in November, three former employees of the Boise Police Department filed tort claims against the organization, claiming their superiors had changed their training records and gave them the option of quitting or being fired after they’d reported what they claimed was an assault on a trainee by a training officer. One of the officers, Sierrna Berg, also claimed her supervisors sexually harassed her as well.

McLean said she couldn’t comment on the lawsuit and the tort claims, saying they were personnel and legal matters.

Asked if media coverage of the suit and the tort claims had affected officer morale, Masterson said he didn’t think it had.

On the Saturday before he spoke with the Idaho Press in December, he said, he attended an event where officers could volunteer to take children Christmas shopping at a thrift store. He said 20 officers volunteered their time to do so. After that, he said, he went to a Boise State University football game and spoke to the officers who were working there. The mood was the same as it was when he left five years ago, he said.

“The officers enjoy working those (games), and they look forward to them,” Masterson said. “We were talking about all sorts of issues. They’re concerned about who their next chief is going to be. They’re concerned about some decisions that need to be made in the organization. But they did it with a great deal of optimism and they had plenty of suggestions for me.”

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