Writings and observations.

Boise’s ombudsman

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The office of the Community Ombudsman that did so much to restore community faith and pride in the police department has been reduced to a part-time position, it was announced today. No official word, but it is probably the only city department to have its staff cut in half in recent years.

The new person in the renamed “office of police oversight” is Natalie Camacho Mendoza, an attorney. Mayor Dave Bieter said the position, which has been without a permanent employee for more than two years, was made part-time because the number of complaints about police misconduct has dropped.

The GUARDIAN sees the position much like that of a fire department. If the city had fewer fires, you wouldn’t see a reduction in the number of firefighters. The ombudsman office served as an insurance policy to promote good law enforcement.

Here is the official announcement:
Mayor David Bieter today named Natalie Camacho Mendoza, a Boise attorney with 26 years of broad legal experience, including civil rights, as director of the City of Boise’s Office of Police Oversight.

In her new role, Camacho Mendoza will take a central place in the City of Boise’s continuing success in building public confidence in the professionalism and accountability of the Boise Police Department and its employees. She will serve as the part-time lead of the city office, which includes a full-time staff member, responsible for investigating critical incidents and complaints of misconduct brought against police and law enforcement officers.

The Office of Police Oversight was formerly known as the Office of the Community Ombudsman. The Boise City Council approved the name change earlier this month to better reflect its purpose and duties. Camacho Mendoza’s appointment will be considered by city council members at their noon meeting on July 28.

“This office has played an important role in improving the transparency of our police operations and building strong community trust between the police department and the public,” said Mayor Bieter. “Natalie’s experience and perspective will help us build on that success by deepening accountability and establishing herself as a robust partner in our law enforcement effort.”

Mayor Bieter pointed to the deep decline in complaints and inquiries into police actions since the office’s creation as evidence of the success of city’s policing strategy. In 2014, the office conducted just six inquiries into complaints about police actions compared to 76 when the office was opened in 2000. In that time, complaints about police actions consistently dropped from year to year.

“Building trust and accountability in the important work of our police officers has never been more important,” said Camacho Mendoza. “I hope to build upon Boise’s progressive and successful community policing efforts and further deepen the strong ties between the department and the community.”

Camacho Mendoza, the founder and owner of Camacho Mendoza Law in Boise, has deep experience as a litigator in the areas of worker’s compensation defense and civil litigation, as well as experience in governmental relations and policy analysis. She also has deep experience as a leader and manager communicating and interacting across different communities of color, ethnic origins, cultures religions and socio-economic status.

Camacho Mendoza earned her law degree in 1989 from the Washburn School of Law in Kansas and has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Idaho State University. She has been an attorney and partner at law firms in Texas and Idaho, including work related to tribal law, migrant farm workers, immigration, insurance defense, business law, employee relations and criminal justice handling criminal defense and Tribal prosecution cases.

Camacho Mendoza’s appointment process included interviews with Mayor Bieter, Boise City Council members, community members and city staff. Because of the position’s law enforcement role, the process also included an extensive background check.

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