Murphy named ombudsman

Boise's new citizen-police liaison will study systems of other cities

Idaho StatesmanJune 15, 2013 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article originally ran on March 3, 1999.

Pierce Murphy was picked as Boise's police ombudsman Tuesday, climaxing a fitful search that began more than a year ago.

Murphy, 44, a Boise Cascade Corp. human resources manager, will begin the $65,000-a-year job on April 5.

"I can't wait to dig in," he said, describing himself as "thrilled."

"From the very first day, what I intend to do is to reach out to the community, to various neighborhood groups, different minority groups, as well as law enforcement and listen to what their ideas are," he said.

Murphy won't be ready to take complaints about police actions or make recommendations on policies for at least four to six months, while he sets up the office.

He also will visit other cities with ombudsman programs.

City officials decided to set up the ombudsman office in November 1997 after the deaths of eight people, including officer Mark Stall, that occurred in six police-involved shootings in the preceding 17 months.

The ombudsman needs broad support in the community, including from the police, Councilman Mike Wetherell said.

Without that support, he said, "we could hire Jesus Christ for this position and he could not fill it without help from his father."

The council voted unanimously to approve Murphy.

Mayor Brent Coles picked him over two other finalists from among 26 applicants: Stan Burton, former executive director of the Idaho Real Estate Commission, and Mark Stotik, a legal aid attorney.

Coles said Murphy has a very strong background in human resources, has an ability to listen and communicate and is skilled in investigations.

"Mr. Murphy clearly was the top candidate," he said.

In his 20s, Murphy studied for the Catholic priesthood and was a reserve police officer in two California cities.

He said the police work will help him know what questions to ask and gave him an understanding of police procedures. "I will be fair and unbiased," he said.

Police Chief Larry Paulson said he was impressed with Murphy. "It's up to all of us to make this thing come together," Paulson said.

Murphy said he wanted the public to know: "I am their ombudsman, whether they are citizens or whether they're police officers. I do work for everyone."

Murphy has a master's degree in counseling psychology from Gonzaga University and has been an executive with firms in Atlanta and Pittsburgh.

He is actually the city's second ombudsman.

Kristi McKown was approved last Sept. 1, but served less than a week before resigning. Coles quickly picked Richard Mabbutt, but he withdrew, setting up the second round of selection.

Here's a look at the history of Boise's efforts to hire a police ombudsman:

· Nov. 18, 1997: City Council votes to set up an ombudsman - not a citizens' review committee - following a series of police-involved shootings.

· July 2, 1998: The city announces there are four finalists from among more than 30 applicants.

· Sept. 1, 1998: Council approves Kristi McKown for the job at $45,000 a year after another finalist, Tim Covell, declines the post.

· Sept.9, 1998: Mayor Brent Coles announces McKown has resigned, nominates Richard Mabbutt for the job. The salary is to be $65,000.

· Sept. 14, 1998: Mabbutt withdraws at the City Council's request following citizens' appeals for a more open process.

· Sept. 28, 1998: New search begins for ombudsman.

· Feb. 12: Three finalists (Stan Burton, Pierce Murphy and Mark Stotik) are selected from among 26 applicants.

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