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Boise sets special meeting on personnel action as new records show Jara was watching random police body cams

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It appears the City of Boise may take action tomorrow on the police oversight director the mayor and council members put on leave last week. The action comes as new records show Jara had performed 8,000 random video audits of police activities.

The city posted a notice for a special meeting tomorrow at 11 am at Boise City Hall, but details of precisely who officials will discuss and if they will be fired are unknown. A city spokesperson would not comment on the purpose of the meeting or if it relates to news about Office of Police Accountability Director Jesus Jara that broke last week.

The agenda calls for an executive session with a “discussion regarding personnel matter.” Under Idaho’s open meetings law, certain discussions can happen behind closed doors, including letting the council talk about the hiring, firing, and discipline of employees.

After the executive session, the agenda calls for an “action item” on a personnel matter.

If the city were to move to terminate Jara’s employment, it would have to happen in a public city council meeting, like the one noticed for Friday.

Jara openly watched random police activities

Boise Police Department
A Boise Police Department squad car in Downtown Boise. Courtesy BPD

Public records obtained by BoiseDev indicate the city and Jara met late last month and discussed the random video audits.

A memo from Jara and meeting minutes show city leaders raised questions about the practice but appeared to stop short of telling him to stop. The notes and memo, along with a March city council meeting reviewed by BoiseDev, show Jara was open about the practice of the random checks.

However, Boise City Code does not directly give Jara’s office the authority to watch officers’ activities unless connected to a complaint or formal investigation. It does say the OPA can “gather and analyze data,” in for regular review but does not reference video. In another section of the code, it says BPD is to “remain the custodian of” OBV.

The city told BoiseDev that Jara had a meet-and-greet with Boise Police Captain Jeff Niiya and Deputy Chief Tammany Brooks in October to introduce Jara to Niiya, who had been newly promoted to oversee internal affairs. They said Jara openly told Niiya and Brooks that he had been watching videos and monitoring the computer-aided dispatch system, which allowed live monitoring of police activity.

Brooks informed the mayor’s office of the interaction. Mayor Lauren McLean and Boise City Council President Elaine Clegg met and decided to add two additional council members to the oversight for OPA – Holli Woodings and Jimmy Hallyburton. City officials told BoiseDev the move was to increase supervision of the office. The newly expanded oversight group was formed on November 10th.

They decided to cut off access to the video monitoring system and called for a meeting to discuss the new oversight group. The city ended his access to live auditing on November 15th.

November 22nd meeting

The records show a memo dated November 22nd from Jara to McLean, Washburn, Clegg, and Woodings. Titled “OPA Meeting Handout 11/22/22” it details the structure of the meeting. Items included introductions of OPA staff, a review of critical incident cases, a proposed marketing plan for the department, and other matters.

It also includes a section that reads, “Since the Fall of 2021 – OPA office has reviewed over 8,000 random police OBV,” using an acronym for on-body video. It then lists a series of nine items: “Conduct Unbecoming, Truthfulness, Muting of Microphones, Performance of Duty, OBV during involved party contact, Demeanor & Rudeness, Criminal Conduct, Use of Force, Driving Violations.”

The records also include notes of the meeting, typed by Boise City Council Liason Amanda Brown. The meeting minutes aren’t an exact word-for-word transcript of the events and give an overview. In some cases, the intent of the conversation is not fully clear.

The notes show that Woodings brought up the topic of on-body video, with a lengthy discussion involving Jara, McLean, and Woodings taking place.

Jara told the group he and his staff monitor the computer-aided dispatch system and watch events in the community through officers’ on-body video cams, calling them random.

Woodings and Clegg asked Jara if there was a paper trail or logging of his random video checks, and Jara and staffer Julieann Hagler said the office could do a better job logging their activities.

Ultimately, McLean asked Jara what the ordinance said about watching videos that are not tied to a specific complaint, and he told her the ordinance is “silent,” – meaning it does not address this type of practice.

Jara directly asked McLean if he should stop, and she told him that doing something outside the ordinance language is “where we can get into trouble.”

In response to a question from BoiseDev, city spokesperson Maria Weeg said that McLean didn’t explicitly tell Jara to stop watching the videos on a random basis because the city had already cut his access to the video systems.

Washburn and McLean said during the meeting, Jara needed to work with BPD interim chief Ron Winegar and the city’s legal team to understand if the actions were allowed and if the ordinance should be changed.

Weeg said Washburn asked Jara to work with Winegar on possible policy changes around video viewing “to get a shared understanding of what would constitute appropriate cause for viewing footage.”

BoiseDev asked if McLean and the council members supported the practice of watching random on-body videos. Weeg said she could not speculate on their behalf.

Brian Holland, Public Information Officer for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local 486, issued a statement to BoiseDev.

“This city has notified the union of the allegations against Mr. Jara,” Holland wrote. “We believe everyone is entitled to due process, and we will reserve comment on the matter until both sides have been heard.”

After McLean and the council committee placed Jara on leave, his attorney issued a statement that called doing so and issuing a news release a “calculated political stunt” and said he objected to the “defamatory implication that Mr. Jara somehow undermined the ‘confidence’ of the Office of Police Accountability.”

Jara told council in March

BoiseDev reviewed Jara’s appearance at a March meeting of the Boise City Council and found that he openly announced he was watching body camera video outside of auditing complaints months before the issue was raised internally.

Jara posted a slide during the March 29th meeting that noted his office’s “caseload” in 2021 and 2022, as well as “audits completed” for the same years.

A line on the slide read “2022 – (19) Random On Body Video.” Jara addressed the bullet point.

“The beauty of technology and as it evolves, we have access to now even live auditing,” he said. “We are actually monitoring the CAD system, if you will, this is where all the contacts is happening (sic) through dispatch. We have a live screen where we can see what’s happening in the city. We’re just constantly putting an eye on it to see what it is. When we see something that requires a lot of activity or a lot of police presence, we want to look at it. So the next day, we pull that up and look at it. So again, it creates another round of opportunity to see what’s happening out on the streets.”

Jara paused for a moment. Before he moved on to the next topic, council member Hallyburton asked a question about another matter. The council did not return to the subject during the meeting.

Weeg addressed his March comments to Boise City Council in a statement.

“During his 6-month report to council, Jara discussed the office’s practice of ‘auditing’ police officers’ body-cam footage, indicating 19 occurrences of monitoring tied to either specific types of incidents or in the case of an incident where there was a substantial police presence (cause),” City of Boise spokesperson Maria Weeg said in response to our question on the meeting. “Based on a complaint from BPD, the city restricted his access pending a meeting with OPA, the mayor, and three council members. At that meeting, Jara reported OPA had viewed over 8,000 videos without cause.”

BoiseDev’s Margaret Carmel contributed reporting.

Update: Adds additional clarification on Boise City Code and gathering of video and data.

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Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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