A message that some will find unexpected greets Boise’s team of police officers when they walk through doors at the makeshift headquarters for their Downtown “micro-district.”
“Everyone you meet today is struggling with an internal personal or family problem that you know nothing about,” signs on the doors read. “Be kind. Always strive to be tactically empathetic to all that we have a chance to serve during our watch.”
People familiar with Boise’s shift to a community policing philosophy over the past 15 years will recognize the sentiment expressed in those signs and the end goal it’s trying to reach: closer relationships and trust between the police department and businesspeople, tourists, the general public and, yes, criminals in hopes of heading off crime before it takes root.
The department formed a Downtown district two years ago with a team of officers whose emphasis is patrolling and responding to issues there. It is the latest step in the community policing evolution. Officers have been operating out of their temporary headquarters in a city-owned former motel at 1025 S. Capitol Blvd. since July 2015. The building is also home to Life’s Kitchen, which trains young people in the food service industry.
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The space wasn’t designed to be a police station. It’s cramped and meandering. Officers have pieced together expired Kevlar vests and hung them in front of ground-floor windows as an improvised security measure.
City leaders want the Downtown team to have a new, permanent headquarters sometime soon. The City Council approved a contract Tuesday night to pay LCA Architects, a Boise firm, up to $31,000 to help determine how much space the officers will need and how it should be designed
The city hasn’t picked a site yet for the new district’s headquarters, though it is looking for properties in the Downtown area, spokesman Mike Journee said Tuesday.
“We thought it would be a great idea for (LCA) to be on board as we’re looking for properties,” Journee said.
Andy Johnson, the lieutenant who oversees the Downtown team’s operations, said officers’ efforts at building relationships in the district have seen fruit. He said business owners call with seemingly minor complaints and trust the officers to respond appropriately. He said people call because they need help and trust the department to help them get it.
The idea is that those interactions are key to avoiding bigger problems in the future.