Boise & Garden City

Boise attorney Natalie Camacho Mendoza to head office of police oversight

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter said Natalie Camacho Mendoza stuck in his mind after she applied for a job in the city attorney’s office about a year-and-a-half ago.

She didn’t get the job with the city then, but Bieter said he’s always looking to hire good people at the city. So he encouraged Camacho Mendoza to apply for the job of director of Boise’s Office of Police Oversight, Bieter said Friday after a press conference announcing that Camacho Mendoza is his pick for the job.

Besides 26 years of legal experience, Camacho Mendoza brings an extensive background in civil rights and extracurricular work to the Office of Police Oversight, whose name the city recently changed from the Office of the Community Ombudsman. She’ll be in charge of investigating civilian complaints about Boise police officers’ conduct.

She’ll be the first person in two years to fill that role on a permanent basis. Her predecessor, Pierce Murphy, became the city’s first ombudsman in 1999. Murphy left the office in 2013 to take a similar job in Seattle.

After a rash of police-involved shootings in the late 1990s, Murphy helped restore the public’s faith in City Hall and particularly the Boise Police Department. He built a reputation as a fair and independent investigator whose policy recommendations were a big part of making the department more responsive to public concerns.

“I look forward to basically picking up the torch and moving us forward and to ensuring that this great work continues, and that the city continues to be responsive,” Camacho Mendoza said.

Since Murphy left, Bieter has launched two separate hiring processes that came up empty. After the last one unraveled early this year, Bieter announced that the job would be part-time.

He pointed out that since Murphy first took the job, complaints about officers have fallen dramatically.

“I do not believe that the awareness of the office is part of the drop in complaints,” Bieter said. “We want everyone to know about the office, about the opportunity to speak to Natalie and file a complaint if that’s what a citizen wanted to do.”

The part-time gig works well for Camacho Mendoza, who has her own private law firm, Camacho Mendoza Law Office. She said she’ll be able to work her 20-hour-a-week schedule at the Office of Police Oversight around her day job.

A native of Pocatello, Camacho Mendoza holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Idaho State University. She graduated in 1989 from the Washburn School of Law in Topeka, Kansas. Since then, she’s worked as an attorney and partner in law firms in Texas and Idaho. Her areas of expertise include tribal law, immigration, business law and criminal justice.

She said her experience working to bridge gaps between people of different races, socioeconomic status, cultures and religions will serve her well in the Office of Police Oversight.

She’ll make $50,000 a year working for the city. She starts Aug. 3.

Despite the limited work hours, Camacho Mendoza said she’ll make time for community outreach — something Murphy did a lot of and worried would be lost with a part-time office.

“Part of the job is for me to get out into the community,” she said. “I definitely will be educating the community that the position does exist. That will be part of my regular job duties.”

The City Council must confirm Bieter’s nomination of Camacho Mendoza to make it official. The council is scheduled to vote on the matter Tuesday.