Beyond investigating allegations of officer misconduct, Boise's Office of the Community Ombudsman also analyzes police trends and critical incident reports to create policy recommendations. Of the scores of such recommendations made by former Ombudsman Pierce Murphy during his 14-year tenure, one from a report following the 2004 shooting death of Matthew Jones has born fruit.
The report called on BPD to create a Critical Intervention Team to enhance service to those suffering mental illness, emotional disturbance and substance abuse crises. Almost exactly 10 years later, the department has established a mental health coordinator.
At a Feb. 11 forum on police issues at Boise State Public Radio, incoming BPD Chief Bill Bones unveiled the new position, indicating that a dedicated BPD employee with expertise in mental health issues could better equip officers with information they need to address these issues in the field, connect members of the community with mental health resources, and mobilize community stakeholders around programs and policies that address mental illness.
"There are so many people in our community that suffer from mental health issues, and police officers are running into those people on a daily basis," Bones later told Boise Weekly.
Bones said he expects the position, which will likely pay between $54,000-$81,000 per year, to be filled in March or early April by someone with work experience in the mental health field and familiarity with programs and resources in the Boise area. The job will not require a law enforcement background. The mental health coordinator position is the result of several BPD policies and initiatives designed to help police officers better respond in the field to people suffering from mental illness.
"Instead of being reactive to calls for service, it's trying to be proactive about getting people the services and the health they need," he said. "We're constantly trying to improve the way that the skills, tools and manner in which we deal with those who have mental illness and the service we can provide."