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Firm finds no evidence of widespread racism within Boise Police Department

A Washington D.C. firm started investigating in November after a former captain shared racist and discriminatory views.

BOISE, Idaho — During Tuesday's work session, Steptoe & Johnson attorney Michael Bromwich said the Washington D.C. firm found no evidence of widespread racism within the Boise Police Department

The City of Boise hired the firm in November after realizing now-former captain Matthew Bryngelson held "racist" and "white supremacist" views. The city initially approved $500,000 for the investigation. 

City councilmembers approved another $150,000 during Tuesday's City Council meeting, but a city spokesperson said that money is going toward work the firm has already completed. 

The firm primarily investigated whether Bryngelson's racist beliefs "infected" the rest of the police department. During his presentation, Bromwich said many police department employees were surprised to find out about Bryngelson’s beliefs.

After interviewing 18 current and former department members, he said most people did not experience or see evidence of racism or white supremacy within the department. Although "they had experienced racism at the hands of residents in Boise." 

The investigation showed about six former and current employees from a minority group did experience some racism within the department. While that was a concern, Bromwich said they did not get the chance to investigate further. 

The firm was also not able to review the 105,000 related documents. Bromwich said there was insufficient time after the city paused the investigation due to financial concerns. 

Because the firm did not look through those documents, Bromwich said the findings were very much "preliminary" and that he viewed them with "very low confidence." 

Bromwich did make several recommendations to the city about how to better the police department. He said the police department should change how they promote people. 

He said Bryngelson had a "long list of internal affair complaints" and likely should not have been promoted through the ranks. Based on interviews, coworkers found him "rude, lazy and unavailable." 

Bromwich brought up staffing shortages and said BPD should not hire people just because of those shortages. He said nobody has failed out of the Boise Police Academy in the last 10 years, possibly creating a "club-like" culture where everyone succeeds. 

That statistic shocked councilmember Patrick Bageant. 

"That's nuts," he said. "Math says somewhere poor will show up at show point, and it sticks the community with a poor officer." 

Bageant said he is happy with the city's investment in hiring Steptoe & Johnson since its attorneys created a "road map" for issues they can address.

He also expressed frustration over people who complained about the price tag without offering alternative suggestions. Ultimately, Bageant said he was relieved to hear Bromwich's findings. 

"It seems like you found a racist, but not racism within the department aside from a few incidents," Bageant said. 

Councilmember Luci Willits said she supports the investigation but wished the city considered other bids. 

"Now we're being put in a position of being asked for forgiveness in terms of paying these bills instead of permission because it's already gone over," Willits said.

Since the recently-approved $150,000 was already spent on previous work the firm completed, the city's contract with the firm is now over. During the meeting, Mayor Lauren Mclean said she believes the city can address all of Bromwich's recommendations with internal resources.

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