BOISE — Acting Boise Police Chief Ron Winegar said Boise has already implemented nearly all of the reforms proposed by the viral “8 Can’t Wait” campaign to reduce police violence.
Boise City Council had what its members say will be the first of many in-depth conversations about policing in a work session Tuesday. Step by step, Winegar walked the council through the eight proposals being championed by Campaign Zero, an advocacy group seeking to curb police violence by pushing specific changes to police procedure.
The 8 Can’t Wait campaign wants cities to adopt the following policies:
- ban chokeholds and strangleholds
- require de-escalation
- require warning before shooting
- require all options be exhausted before shooting
- ban shooting at moving vehicles
- require comprehensive reporting
- restrict most severe types of force to most extreme situations, with clear policy restrictions on use of police weapons and tactics
- require officers to stop excessive force used by other officers and report incidents to a supervisor
These reforms have been widely touted on social media by some activists, in the wake of George Floyd’s death over Memorial Day weekend, and the protesting of police violence against people of color that followed. However, many others have said the recommendations do not go far enough in reducing violence, and policing in America must be completely reformed instead.
Winegar said Boise Police Department already trains officers to use de-escalation techniques to defuse situations, instead of using force. Officers are also required to give a warning before they fire their weapons and all alternatives must be expended before any force is used; firing at moving vehicles is strictly prohibited, unless there is an extreme circumstance, according to Winegar.
“Our goal is always to maintain distance and try to de-escalate a situation so use of force is not necessary,” he said.
Chokeholds are also already banned by the Boise Police Department, Winegar said. However, trainees filed a tort claim against the city last November alleging they were told they could either resign or be fired after reporting a supervisor’s alleged use of a chokehold on another classmate.
Winegar said the department also requires a mandatory review every time force is used beyond something simple, like an officer using their hands to move persons hands behind their back to handcuff them. Although there is not an explicit policy requiring officers to notify their supervisors or intervene when there is a use of force, officers are required to inform their supervisor anytime a regulation is broken.
“We require people to report to their supervisor if someone has violated a law, regulation or order,” he said.
Reporting regulation violations was at the center of a suit against BPD by Officer Denny Cartner, who alleges he was retaliated against for reporting his supervisor’s unethical behavior. The 2018 whistleblower lawsuit alleges his supervisor, now retired Lt. Greg Oster “openly” sold weapons to other offices and the public through his private business out of City Hall West. A June 2018 Human Resources report found Oster had acted unethically.
The trial is currently set for May 2021, but this could change due to COVID-19.
Neither Mayor Lauren McLean or council members had many questions for Winegar, or alluded to the possibility of defunding the police.
“I think it’s really important we get on the same page about the current state of the BPD and the current state of safety in our city so we can together decide how we want to move forward to ensure the safety of all of our citizens,” City Council President Pro Tem Holli Woodings said.