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Boise attorney said Jara was ‘beyond authority’ in watching random videos & live dispatch, causing city to cut access before grievance

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A City of Boise attorney wrote a memo in mid-November that raised questions about the Office of Police Accountability’s use of police activity and video monitoring and outlined “options” for city leaders regarding how to move forward.

The memo came one week before now-former OPA Director Jesus Jara filed a grievance with the City of Boise and about three weeks before he was formally put on leave and later fired.

BoiseDev obtained the memo under Idaho’s Public Records Act. We submitted a series of requests to better understand the timeline surrounding the city’s actions during Jara’s final few weeks on the job.

The records show the city’s legal team had concerns about the Office of Police Accountability’s access to video monitoring and live location tools and that the city cut off access to the tools before a grievance claim by Jara against the city.

‘Going beyond the auditing authority’

On November 15th, attorney Kimberly Smith, the Senior Manager of the Public Safety Division in the Boise Office of the City Attorney, wrote an email to her boss, city attorney Jayme Sullivan.

“It appears that OPA is going beyond the auditing authority they are given in the OPA ordinance,” Smith wrote. She said the ordinance outlined three responsibilities for the office: taking in complaints from the public and sending them to BPD’s office of internal affairs or investigating them internally; taking cases on appeal from internal affairs and reviewing IA cases; audits of completed internal affairs investigations.

Smith said in the memo that the OPA office had access to three internal tools – one for internal affairs investigations, one for BPD officers to write reports, and a third to watch body camera footage.

“The idea is that to do their job, OPA may need to pull a police report or watch a body cam because (internal affairs) doesn’t pull the report or the body cam into (the IA Pro software),” she wrote.

“However, an issue has arisen because it appears that OPA is running the live CAD (CAD stands for computer-aided dispatch; it’s basically how dispatch manages calls) map out of ITS,” Smith wrote, noting that the CAD allows viewers to look at the current location for every agency in the valley “in real-time.” “OPA is then pulling the body cam of “interesting” police activity that they see on the live CAD and viewing it,” Smith wrote.

“This live monitoring goes far beyond the complaint processing and audit function of their office,” Smith wrote. She said that if live monitoring is something the city wants the OPA to do, “that authority needs to be written into the ordinance.”

A redacted sentence follows, and the memo ends with two recommendations: to tell the OPA to “stop doing this” or to “cut their access” to the systems and ask them to request reports and body cam footage from internal affairs.

Jara is not mentioned in the memo.

Sixteen minutes after Sullivan received the email, she forwarded it to Courtney Washburn, Mayor Lauren McLean’s chief of staff, noting, “I understand that both the director and the admin have been reviewing videos.”

Later that afternoon, Washburn responded and instructed Sullivan to cut access to the tools and said, “we can talk with OPA about an approach consistent with the ordinance moving forward.”

Access cut just before grievance

But Jara’s access was not cut immediately.

BoiseDev requested records showing the “audit trail” for the Axon system for Jara. It shows a city staffer “inactivated” his account on November 21st at 3:13 pm – nearly a week after Washburn had asked for the Office of Police Accountability to have its access revoked.

Two hours later, at 5:19 pm, Jara’s attorney Grady Hepworth emailed a notice of grievance to the City of Boise, according to the email obtained by BoiseDev in a public records request.

Screenshot of Axon audit trail showing access cut off for Jesus Jara. Via public record

The timing is key, as Jara’s lawsuit the following month said revoking his access to the system was retaliation for filing the grievance.

“The following day, on Tuesday, November 22nd, 2022, the OPA’s access to the City’s
evidence databases were revoked without warning,” the lawsuit states. “The revocation of Mr. Jara’s and his staff’s access to the systems precluded the OPA from performing their legal duties of reviewing and investigating allegations of police misconduct. The city’s revocation of Mr. Jara’s access to city systems appeared to be retaliation for the grievance filed the day prior.”

According to the timestamped records, his access was cut before the grievance was sent on November 21st, and the action had been set in motion a week earlier. However, Jara did not know his access had been revoked until the next morning when he attempted to log in and could not.

(Story continues below timeline.)

October 31st

Jara meets with McLean, council leadership

According to Jara’s calendar, he participated in a meeting with the mayor and council leadership

November 15th

Smith memo to Sullivan

Deputy city attorney Kimberly Smith wrote a memo to city attorney Jayme Sullivan outlining concerns about OPA’s use of monitoring and body cam tools

November 21st, 3:13pm

Jara’s access to tools revoked

A city staffer removed Jara’s ability to use the Axon system

November 21st, 5:19pm

Jara’s attorney emails grievance complaint

Nov. 22, 8:56am, 8:59am, 10:10am

Jara tries, fails to log in to Axon system

Jara tried and failed to log-in to the internal police monitoring systems three times.

November 22nd, noon

Jara attends meeting with council members, mayor, Washburn

Jara asks in a meeting if he is to stop using the live systems, per meeting notes. Washburn tells Jara they need to meet with the interim chief and “come up with a policy to vet via legal.”

November 22nd, 3:23pm

Jara tries, fails to log in to Axon system

After the meeting, Jara again tried to log in to the monitoring tool

December 2nd

Jara put on administrative leave

December 9th

Jara fired

December 12th

Jara sues City of Boise

2021 memo

The November memo is not the only newly revealed document released in recent days about the behind-the-scenes discussions of OPA’s authority at the city.

In July of 2021, Washburn sent an email addressed to herself, with a CC, to Jara. The email appears to be written to an unknown member or members of the public who were blind-carbon copied. KTVB first reported on the memo last week, and BoiseDev obtained it independently via the Idaho Public Records Act.

The email was sent about two months after Jara was named interim head of the Office of Police Oversight but before Jara was formally elevated to direct the new Office of Police Accountability. It notes the OPA office “should have direct access to police reports, videos and OIA investigations in real-time.”

“This is rare,” Washburn wrote. “Most oversight entities in the country require oversight to issue subpoenas for this information.”

Washburn also notes that the OPA could conduct “real-time auditing,” which was a new aspect of the ordinance.

“Rather than reviewing closed reports in an audit months after an event, we wanted an open dialogue between OIA and OPA so that OPA could be notified as investigations are happening so they can real-time audit the process. This is especially crucial, and mandated in the new ordinance, for critical incidents.”

The memo does not mention the possibility of any so-called “random” audits, which the city later listed as one of the reasons McLean moved to fire Jara. Jara said publicly last March in a council meeting that he was conducting audits, with a slide he prepared calling those checks “random.”

City spokesperson Maria Weeg told BoiseDev last month that the March report indicated 19 occurrences of random auditing of police body cam footage but has said the OPA viewed had “viewed over 8,000 videos without cause.”

The Washburn memo also notes that OPA would be responsible for complaints against the chief of police.

“Since OIA (civilian investigators) reports to a police captain and the chief, it was important to ensure independent review of complaints against command members since they supervise OIA personnel,” Washburn wrote, using the acronym for BPD’s Office of Internal Affairs.

The city contends OPA was to handle complaints against the chief from external parties, not internal parties like the group of eight officers who filed nine complaints against former Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee.

The city declined to comment on the 2021 memo.

More to read

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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