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At Idaho Black History Museum, BPD Chief Bones Talks 'Police Services'


"Policing," at least to Boise Police Chief Bill Bones, isn't what his department does.

"We're here to provide a police service," he said at a small forum at the Idaho Black History Museum on Aug. 22.

The title of his talk, "Chief Bones-Boise Moving Forward," alluded to the future of police services in Boise as the city contests with rapid growth, bloated housing prices and wages not keeping up with the cost of living. His remarks were sprawling, covering Boise's past and police tensions in Portland, Oregon; and Ferguson, Missouri; homelessness; the Office of Police Oversight; and "engineering solutions" to future problems. Pervading it all was the message that protecting Boise's strong sense of community will be crucial to its continued success.

"What's got Boise from what we saw in the '90s to what awe have today, ... it's a community of identity and purpose," he said, adding, "The minute we lose the relationship piece of this, that's the time when we'll start to lose this."

Crime rates across the country are on the decline, but tensions between police and the communities they serve remain high in many cities. The BPD has actively engaged communities and people who have historically been ill-served by law enforcement. During his tenure, Bones has deployed community and mental health liaisons, begun the process of establishing neighborhood precincts (a 25,000-square-foot substation on Federal Way is in the works); hired interpreters to help officers cross the language barrier; and taken his officers out of their cars, putting them on foot and on bikes wherever possible.

"Cars are the worst thing that ever happened to policing," he said.

As a result, Boise is experiencing its lowest crime rate in decades, and Bones said the city's faith in its police is enviable; but also said investment in early childhood education, continued outreach and diversifying the department are the ounces of prevention that will stave off the need for pounds of cure. Such investments, he said, will continue to keep the city's crime rate low and make it easier for officers to respond to crime.

"There are going to be bad things [that happen], and I have to have [a community] that will come forward," he said.