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City of Boise not pursuing action against police chief during pending investigation

Ryan Lee is being investigated by ISP for alleged usage of force against an officer during a daily department briefing.
Credit: Brian Myrick
Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee speaks to members of the media during a press conference at Boise City Hall in July 2020

BOISE, Idaho — This article originally appeared in Idaho Press.

The City of Boise has not taken any action to place police chief, Ryan Lee, on administrative leave pending a state criminal investigation against him.

Justin Corr, a spokesman for the city of Boise, told the Idaho Press that the city has not taken any action and sees no reason to.  

The city of Boise’s human resources handbook authorizes any city employee under investigation to be placed on administrative leave with pay.

Corr confirmed that he heard from the Idaho State Police that Lee is being investigated by ISP for alleged usage of force against an officer during a daily department briefing.

A source with knowledge of the incident, who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the investigation, said the investigation is criminal due to the nature of the alleged incident. Allegedly, the source said, Lee non-consensually put his hands on a sergeant who was told by Lee to come up in front of the room to show a non-traditional neck restraint technique in early November, after conversation ensued in the briefing about banning previous neck restraint techniques.

In June of 2020, the Boise Police suspended their neck restraint technique in order to explore "other options" after sending out a press release.

According to the source, the technique that was shown allegedly caused the sergeant injury to his neck. Under Idaho law, this is could be considered aggravated battery due to the nature of the injury, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

The Idaho State Police, the lead agency on the investigation, said they cannot confirm nor deny there is an active investigation into Lee’s conduct. Boise Police have also not responded to the Idaho Press' requests for comment. A public records request sent from the Idaho Press to Idaho State Police determined that ISP could not release records regarding the alleged incident because it is an open investigation.

"The investigation is active and there is a reasonable probability that disclosure of the requested records would interfere with enforcement proceedings and/or deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication," the response letter to the request said.

Lee was named Boise Chief of Police in June of 2020 after serving in Portland, Oregon for nearly 20 years. 

In a recent interview with the Idaho Press, Lee said his goals were to increase the department's work pertaining to mental health and substance abuse awareness in the community over the next year. It is unclear how the investigation will impact his goals.

In 2019, former Boise Police officer Eric Simunich was placed on paid leave after being accused of sexual assault.

In 2021, former Boise Police officer Michael Ziegenhein was placed on leave following an internal investigation.

Officers involved in shootings are also placed on paid leave while an investigation takes place by an outside agency.

"(Paid leave) varies per situation. It depends on the severity of the allegation and who is involved with the concern," said Jesus Jara, director of the Boise Office of Police Accountability.

According to a 2019 investigation by the Idaho Press, paid leave most commonly occurs when there is an investigation into someone that makes it divisive for them to still be at work – and happens frequently in the state of Idaho.

The Idaho Press asked the city why Lee has not been placed on leave pending a criminal investigation.

"If there was a personnel matter, the City would not comment," Corr said.

The Idaho Press reached out to Lee's attorney, Chuck Peterson, and have not received a response, in addition to the attorney representing the sergeant from the briefing.

Jara said that there is no current investigation that is being conducted by his office, a local agency for Boise officers to file related complaints.

Jara envisions they will address the issue with a parallel investigation once the investigation is complete.

"If no one comes forward to our office, we won't investigate it," Jara said, adding that if Internal Affairs — an internal agency designated in the department to investigate incidents — decides to open up their own investigation aside from ISP, his office will have access.

This article originally appeared in Idaho Press. Read more at IdahoPress.com

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