When Pat Peterson was appointed deputy chief of the Boise Police Department in April of this year, it was the first time in history that a civilian woman had been placed in such a high-ranking position in the department.
She is not a sworn officer like the other 289 cops, most of whom are male, but she has been hailed by Police Chief Mike Masterson as someone with a keen knowledge and experience in the business side of running a police department.
Peterson has worked at the Boise Police Department for 22 years, starting pretty much at the bottom of the food chain and working her way up. BW wanted to know what it's like to be the first civilian, and female, deputy chief in the city's history.
What is your background?
I started out as accounting specialist and my primary responsibility was working on payroll, budget and paying bills, accounts receivable. I have a degree in business administration and a minor in accounting.
So you decided, 'I think I'll go work at the police department, that won't be boring?'
Exactly! Sure. Like I said, I did look at being a CPA, and while I enjoyed accounting, I knew that I didn't just want to sit and look at books that people had already done. I knew that wasn't the career choice for me.
Did you ever have an idea you'd end up in this position?
Never at all. It's been a pretty wild ride.
What's it like to be a woman civilian in an agency that tends to be anything but female or civilian?
Day to day, I don't sit back and think, you know, I'm the only female at the command table. I guess because I've been here for so long, I don't think about it in those terms. I guess because of the knowledge and the skill set I have that are needed by the department, I don't feel that separation. I don't sense that. I'm just accepted and respected for what I bring to the management team. So I'm fortunate in that sense.
You have oversight over police officers. Do you get involved in how they do their police work?
No, that's that other deputy chief on the tactical side.
Do you pack a gun?
I do not.
Or a badge?
Can you arrest anybody?
I do not have arrest powers.
What's fun about this job?
Every day, there's something new and diverse. Like I say, everything from the choice of vehicles we drive to the type of handcuffs we carry, or what type of crime-analysis software we're going to use, so every day there's a different decision. We've been looking at facilities, so we've spent a great deal of time looking at different locations, what's the current design on police facilities. What's the current trends in uniforms--over the years, we've gone away from the very formal-type uniform to the more soft uniform that's more applicable to the day-to-day demands of the bike officers. Every day, there's something different. You never know what's going to walk through the door.
Do you ever go out on calls with the officers?
I haven't for a number of years. I used to do ride-alongs, but just because I'm so busy during the day here I haven't. I used to do them when my husband worked here. He retired from Boise PD after 30 years, and now he works for Boise County as a sheriff. His name is Bill Braddock.
Are you a higher rank than him?
(Laughs) Actually, we're equivalent. I'm deputy chief and he's chief deputy.
Oh, so nobody has to salute?
No, we're equal rank.
What does he think about you being deputy chief?
Oh, he is just extremely proud. He thinks it's awesome.
Are you actively diversifying the force by hiring more women or minority officers?
You know, we are. We're interested in hiring officers that are representative of the community that we serve, and we do have more officers today than we did 22 years ago. And as far as targeting our recruiting, we are casting our recruiting net farther and wider than before.
Any thoughts on why Boise's crime rate is going up?
I think any change we're experiencing is because the city's growing, and we're so much larger than we were 20 years ago. When people come into the community, it's not the same homegrown, hometown people that we knew. Still, we're extremely low, if that's consolation to the crime that we are experiencing.
So what's up for the next five or six years?
Get the department positioned in the new facility. That's going to be a huge project. We'll have some rather large decisions at that time as we move into geo-based policing, where we have some precincts where we can deliver services more specific to the particular regions of the neighborhoods. At one time, it was easy to deploy services out of one central location like this one, but the bigger Boise gets, the harder it is to deploy out of this one facility. So we'll move to a headquarters, then we'll also need some districts as Boise continues to expand.
Where's the facility?
It hasn't been identified yet. The city is considering several locations.
Our headquarters will probably be out here in west Boise, because if you think about it, you would need about [70,000 to 90,000] square feet, and to try to find that kind of space downtown, it would be very expensive. But once we get the headquarters, we can look for a smaller precinct facility downtown, because we eventually need a downtown presence.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I ride a Harley when I'm off duty. I've got my own motorcycle. It's a Dyna Low Rider.
Do you wear leather?