If San Diego is forced by the courts to be more liberal in releasing its police-review information, one town it might consider looking to for guidance is Boise, Idaho.
Boise, which averages only one or two officer-involved shootings each year, has an ombudsman, Pierce Murphy, who's charged with independently investigating all citizen complaints against law enforcement as well as shootings.
Murphy told CityBeat that law-enforcement reaction to the thorough reports his office puts out is mixed even though neither officers nor victims/complainants are identified by name.
"While there have been minor policy violations surrounding the incidents, the actual use of deadly force, as regrettable as it has been, I've found that it's been a reasonable and necessary use of force," Murphy said. "It befuddles me a little bit that law enforcement isn't more enthusiastic that this provides them with the ability to point to an independent agency and say, "Well if you don't trust us, look at what the ombudsman finds."
Notable about the reports out of Boise is that they contain transcripts of what went on in the seconds leading up to, and right after, shots are fired. Boise cops, Murphy said, are required to wear recording devices and activate them whenever they're involved in an enforcement action, especially one that might get contentious. To not activate the recorder or to shut it off mid incident is against policy.
Of the audio recordings "the vast, vast majority helps to clear the officer," he said.
San Diego Citizens Review Board Executive Director Scott Fulkerson said the board has recommended for awhile now that police be required to carry audio recorders as well as have video cameras mounted on patrol cars. The idea, he said, "is just starting to be met with some measure of acceptance."San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne said cost is the issue with both video cameras and audio recorders-some officers carry audio recorders, he said, that they've bought on their own dime. "We need [new] vehicles before we need recorders," he noted.