Opinion » Guest Opinions

Boise Police Chief: Cyclist Death Investigations Take Time

City to look at roadway safety


The deaths of three cyclists in one month is a tragedy, that understandably has captured the attention of our community. Boise Police Officers were the first arriving emergency responders to each of these cases. As the agency entrusted with leading this community in traffic safety, investigating the circumstances surrounding each death is the highest priority for this department.

Each case is ongoing and active, and includes investigations by Boise PD’s expert team of crash reconstructionists and violent crimes detectives. Those officers have gathered evidence that’s currently being tested in labs run by our partners, the Ada County Coroner and the Idaho State Police.

Because each case involves a death, it requires the highest, most thorough and complex level of police investigation. Death investigations are much different than routine traffic collisions. In a routine crash, where injuries are non-life threatening and involve only vehicle damage, an officer may issue a citation to the offender right away, often before those involved have left the scene.

Investigations of traffic crashes involving a death are more complex, and as serious as the potential criminal consequences. Where a traffic infraction is a $75 fine for the offender and an insurance claim for the victim, a vehicular manslaughter charge may mean jail or prison time, and all involved suffer life changing consequences.

Any criminal charge will be scrutinized by investigators, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, juries, and the public. If criminal charges are to be filed, the charges must be carefully weighed against only the most solid of evidence that will stand up to the scrutiny of public inspection and a court of law.

From the beginning, investigating officers set out to hold those responsible accountable as the law allows. Officers want to provide answers to the families involved and the community as to what happened. To provide these answers with the highest level of professional and legal integrity, the investigations become complex, and evidence from vehicle damage to human blood and tissue samples must be tested, and sometimes retested. This doesn’t happen in moments like it does on TV cop shows. Conclusive results often involve far away labs and analysis of several experts. It’s this complexity, which a death investigation demands, that extends the time needed to investigate a fatal collision from minutes to weeks.

When tests are done, the investigation complete, and charges reviewed, the findings will be made public, along with the legal basis for those findings. The community will know that the death of a fellow citizen will have been thoroughly and methodically examined, and the community will be left with any lessons learned.

In addition to completing the investigations, Boise Police have been directed by Mayor Bieter to lead a review of what we can learn from these tragedies. A team of city staff and community partners are looking at what steps we can take as a city to improve the safety of all motorists, particularly our growing community of cyclists. The review will consider areas including education, engineering and enforcement.

We’ll identify, for example, specific areas where increased traffic enforcement may lessen collisions or near-collisions. We’ll review the City’s comprehensive plan for future bicycle related improvements to see if it’s still based on current needs. We’ll look at what education programs can spread the word that we all need to share the road. And the team plans several “listening sessions” to gather citizen’s ideas for improvements.

Roadway safety is not related to your zip code, age, gender, or preferred mode of travel. Only by working together can we make a difference in improving safety for all users.