Minor complaints double;
By Jeffrey McKinnie
(BOISE, Idaho)-- Minor complaints against police officers nearly doubled since last year, while serious complaints were cut in half during a nine-month period, according to a Boise Police report.
The report, released Nov. 27 by the department's Office of Internal Affairs, also showed that officers only used force 54 times while responding to more than 100,000 calls in that same period.
During this time, internal affairs conducted investigations into two critical incidents: On June 12, officers shot and killed Brian Allen Poppleton after he pointed a firearm at them; and on Aug. 11, when a police sergeant accidentally shot Jan Gold as a tiger was attacking her at Zoo Boise.
The report reflects data compiled from January to September 2000. The findings were discussed at a City Council meeting Nov. 27.
Boise Police said the increase in minor complaints such as officer rudeness is because of the opening of the Office of the Community Ombudsman.
The ombudsman's office was established in 1999 to investigate citizen complaints against the police department and to perform independent investigations in all officer-involved shootings.
Boise Police Chief Don Pierce said the report revealed mixed results.
"I think the interesting thing is that complaints about less important things are up, and allegations of serious wrongdoings are down," Pierce said.
Pierce said that interaction between officers and the public isn't always perfect.
"Some of our officers don't exercise the best customer service," Pierce said. "But some citizens don't give our officers the benefit of the doubt."
In the first nine months, citizens lodged 100 complaints, but they also filed 272 commendations.
The complaints were categorized according to the seriousness of their allegations: 16 Class I complaints, which include police brutality, and 84 Class II complaints, which include rudeness and reports of erratic driving.
"I encourage people to make complaints," Pierce said. "If nobody ever complained, then we would have to worry."
Most complaints were against sworn police officers. Some officers who were found to have violated policy several times were disciplined.
Boise Police Lt. Mike Worley said before the report, the department had instituted customer service training for all of its officers.
But Worley said officer interaction with the public is typically during unpleasant situations.
"For whatever reason, there is some citizen intolerance to whatever we do."
Contact Jeff at 373-6617 or jmckinnieboise.gannett.com
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