ACSO applies for MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge grant

It’s been two years since the MacArthur Foundation selected Ada County as a finalist for its Safety and Justice Challenge to reduce our jail population.

Since then we’ve been hard at work to create a sustainable plan to reduce Ada County’s jail population by 15%-to-19% — and to promote social justice.

Our plan to answer the challenge is add 14 people in key areas of Ada County’s justice system – including more inmate case managers, pretrial release experts, and court clerks — to make that happen.

We are also proposing adding a new night court for people with Failure to Appear charges to help them get out of the “miss court and get arrested” cycle along with text-messaging reminder software so people don’t miss upcoming hearings

Late last month we asked MacArthur for a $1.9 million grant to fund these improvements.

You may remember our previous application to the MacArthur Foundation in 2016 asked for $3.9 million, most of which would have gone to the creation of a Community Safety Center to provide services for people in crisis — like those suffering from mental illness or struggling with substance abuse — who now often find themselves in jail for lack of any other options.

We decided that plan duplicated efforts by the State of Idaho to create a similar Behavioral Health Community Crisis Center in Ada County.

We will work closely with the state and our local health and public safety agencies to use that facility once it gets built and staffed.

That allows us to concentrate on structural fixes to the local court system — like options to the traditional cash-based bond system.

If you have access to money, you can pay a bond and be released from jail while a criminal case moves through the court system. That doesn’t really work for people on limited incomes.

So we’ve made some moves already to improve.

One temporary change that went into effect June 1 in Ada County is that anyone arrested on driving without privileges (1st-to-3rd offense) or failure to obtain, maintain, and provide proof of insurance will be released on their own recognizance (ROR) instead of having to post a cash bond. The Idaho Supreme Court approved this as a pilot project. We are hoping success in Ada County will result in this becoming law.

Ada County’s public defenders are now doing “jail sweeps” to identify people stuck in jail with low-level misdemeanor charges who can’t afford bond. They work closely with those inmates to resolve those cases and get them out of jail.

We’ve created new office space and public defender/inmate meeting rooms inside the jail and set up a second video courtroom to make case processing a little more efficient.

A major contributor to jail population is when people who are charged with a misdemeanor and fail to show up for court get arrested on Failure to Appear (FTA) charges. This can create an arrest cycle that is hard to break.

We surveyed people charged with FTA and found that 50% said they just didn’t know or forgot about their scheduled court date; 24% cited transportation issues; 8% said they had work or childcare conflicts.

Our proposal combats this phenomenon with the creation of the text-message notification system that will allow the Ada County Clerk of Court staff to send out alerts about upcoming court dates; a new unit at the Public Defender’s Office to help clients navigate the court system and attend their hearings; increased access to public transportation and travel vouchers; and the creation of a evening court to give people who have missed court dates an opportunity to appear in front of a judge before an FTA warrant is issued.

We’ve also identified a questionnaire/interview/criminal history assessment we can use for inmates eligible for Pretrial release to determine if they can be released from jail while their cases are being resolved.

This will give Ada County’s judges a useful tool to help make a pretrial release decision outside of the recommendation of a prosecutor.

We are also working on reducing current disparities for Native and African American inmates in our jail.

Ada County’s population is 85.3% white, non-Hispanic individuals, with 2.5% African-American and .2% Native-American populations. The jail population for African-Americans is 2.9% and .4% for Native-Americans.

Ada County law enforcement agencies will work to reduce this rate through education, training, and a renewed focus on community policing in our minority communities.

The Ada County Sheriff’s Office is mandating implicit bias training for all employees and has selected three employees to become trainers, who will create specific lesson plans for commissioned and civilian employees.

We are also proposing Idaho’s Peace Officer Standards and Training — which certifies all law enforcement officers in the state — to make implicit bias training part of their curriculum.

Our request would fund a total of 14 new jobs. Those include:

* Four public defender case managers to work closely with inmates to help them understand the court system and help them get to hearings.

* Four new pretrial release case managers (to join the current staff of five) to do risk assessments on everybody arrested in Ada County and provide recommendations for judges – and one pretrial release records technician for clerical support.

* Two court clerks who will oversee the text message notification system and the evening FTA court.

* A civilian mental health coordinator who would assist ACSO deputies on calls for people with mental health or substance abuse issues.

* A research analyst who will continue to work on jail reduction strategies and identify solutions as our plan evolves.

* A Safety and Justice Program manager to make sure all our strategies are implemented and to work with the State of Idaho on the implementation of the Behavioral Health Community Crisis Center.

That’s just an overview of our plan. If you want to read the whole thing, send an email to porr@adaweb.net and we will send you a copy of our latest application.

We will keep you up to date as the year goes on about our progress.

For more information on the Safety and Justice Challenge, visit http://www.safetyandjusticechallenge.org/

“Caller ID spoofing” is on the rise in Ada County

Here’s a tip that’ll help keep Ada County residents from being victimized by the latest phone scam.

Ada County Sheriff’s Office deputies – or any other Ada County employee — will never call you and ask for a credit card number.

You may have noticed lately phone spammers are getting pretty good at using local numbers (208 area code) – or maybe even specific phone numbers of people you know — to get you to pick up.

Then they try to sell you something, or pitch you a service, or claim you owe somebody money. Then ask for a credit card number.

The process is called “caller ID spoofing” and it’s getting more and more prevalent. The calls can appear to come from local businesses, a government agency, or even friends — but it’s really someone else trying to sell something or figure out some other way to get your money.

This type of “spoofing” is similar to the jury duty and IRS scam calls Ada County citizens have been plagued with for the last several years.

People can protect themselves from becoming victims by never giving out any personal information when getting an unsolicited phone call.

Giving out sensitive information over the phone — both personal and financial — can put people at risk for fraud.

If you have received one of these scam phone calls, contact the Ada County Sheriff’s Office at 377-6790 or the Better Business Bureau online at BBB.org.

Deputies arrest 21-year-old Boise man who ran through south Ada neighborhood to try to avoid arrest

A 21-year-old Boise man who ran away during a traffic stop, led deputies on a foot chase, and tried to hide in a south Ada County neighborhood Wednesday afternoon is charged with resisting arrest.

That charge is one of many filed against Cameron Dean Gamel, who also has active arrest warrants for felony grand theft and burglary.

Deputies began their investigation just after 2:30 p.m. when they pulled over a car that did not have a license plate at the Maple Grove Road/Kiowa Drive intersection.

The driver, later identified as Gamel, got out of the car to talk to an ACSO deputy when he suddenly ran away into the neighborhood on the west side of Maple Grove.

A deputy deployed a Taser to try to stop Gamel as he ran away but only one of the probes hit.

Several other deputies arrived moments later and set up a perimeter around the neighborhood. A Meridian Police officer and K9 dog also helped with the search.

Gamel was seen running through backyards of homes in the area and was eventually located in the backyard of a home on S. Silverpine Way.

Gamel gave up at that point and deputies arrested him around 3:30 p.m. without further incident.

Gamel 1

Gamel is being checked out at a local hospital as a precaution and will be booked into the Ada County Jail later Wednesday afternoon.

Gamel is expected to make his initial court appearance Thursday afternoon. He already has a $30,000 bond for the felony grand theft and burglary charges.

Additional charges are possible.

Deputies seek driver who hit jogger on 8th Street Extension late Friday night

A man jogging on the 8th Street Extension was badly injured late Friday night after he was hit by a car and then got into a fight when he confronted the driver.

Deputies began their investigation just before midnight when dispatchers got a 911 call about a man lying on the dirt road. Paramedics arrived and took the man to a local hospital for treatment for what appear to be non life-threatening injuries.

The man told deputies he was running on the northbound lane of 8th Street, about a mile up the road where it turns from pavement to dirt, just after 11:30 p.m. Friday when a small tan car sideswiped  into him.

The jogger told deputies he then got into an argument with the driver, who was out of the car. The jogger said he tried to use pepper spray he was carrying with him on the driver but that didn’t work because  it was too windy. A fight ensued. The jogger said the man choked him, left him on the side of the road, and drove away.

The driver is described as being between 18 and 25 years old, about 5-feet, 7-inches tall, and 175 pounds. He was wearing jeans and a white T-shirt. The car is described as a tan. late ’90s model passenger car, possibly a Honda. The car did not have a rear license plate.

Anyone with information should call Ada County dispatch at 377-6790 or send an email to cau@adaweb.net

20-year-old man who started Table Rock fire last summer with illegal fireworks must pay $391,000 in restitution

 

Taylor Kemp will spend the next two years on probation and at least four days in the Ada County Jail for igniting a wildfire that consumed 2,600 acres of the Foothills in east Boise, destroyed one home, and put hundreds more at risk.

Kemp will likely spend the rest of his life paying for the damage he caused.

When given the opportunity to address a judge — and the owner of the home destroyed in the fire — during a sentencing hearing Friday, Kemp declined.

There was no apology or acknowledgement of responsibility Friday from Kemp, who didn’t show any signs of emotion during the hour-long hearing.

Fourth District Magistrate James Cawthon described what Kemp did the night of June 29 as a “horribly reckless, thoughtless act,” and told Kemp the restitution bill of $391,000 was a bargain.

“There was nothing normal about what happened here,” Cawthon said. “You can’t live in Boise front one summer without knowing the ever present danger of fire … the warnings are everywhere.”

Kemp’s attorney asked Cawthon during Friday’s hearing to not to allow Boise Fire, Boise Police, and the Bureau of Land Management to seek restitution for costs incurred during the fighting of the blaze, saying those agencies were just doing their jobs.

Cawthon dismissed that idea, telling Kemp he was lucky those fire fighters and police responded immediately, in the middle of the night, and put themselves in danger to protect the people in that neighborhood. The damage to life and property would have been catastrophic, Cawthon said, if not for that effort.

Kemp pleaded guilty earlier this year to a misdemeanor count of unlawful use of fireworks in connection with the blaze.

Cawthon sentenced Kemp Friday to 180 days in jail, but suspended 160 days. Kemp must spend four full days in jail before he can ask for an alternative sentencing program, like the sheriff’s labor detail or work release.

Kemp admitted to detectives he was shooting roman candles off the side of the road near the Table Rock gate just before midnight June 29 when the flaming projectiles ignited the side of a nearby hill.

By the time the firefighters contained the blaze the next day, one home and outbuilding were destroyed, dozens of homes in the Harris Ranch subdivision were put at risk, and over 2,600 acres of the Foothills that frame the east end of Boise were burned black.

Ada County Sheriff’s deputies and detectives sorted through over 100 tips from the public and did dozens of interviews — including one with Kemp the morning of June 30 — before he admitted what happened when detectives interviewed him for a second time in late August.

Shortly after he was charged, Kemp went to local media outlets and claimed he did not set the fire and that his confession was coerced.

Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Tamera Kelly pointed out to Cawthon Friday that not only has Kemp has never accepted responsibility for what he did, but went out of this way to misrepresent his interaction with Ada County Sheriff’s detectives.

Van Danielson, the owner of the home lost to the fire, asked Cawthon to sentence Kemp to 160 hours of sorting through the ashes of the home to see if anything remains.

“There is nothing left … the only thing left is my memories, and you can’t take them away,” Danielson said, adding that Kemp’s stupidity could have cost him the lives of his family if they were home at the time. “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.

“I don’t have any hatred for Mr. Kemp. I don’t understand where he was coming from. Maybe he can get things together for the rest of his life.”

Eagle Police arrest Boise man who broke into two homes, stole a car, turfed a lawn, and then tried to attack an officer with a tree branch

Wesley R. Williams is being held in the Ada County Jail on felony counts of burglary, malicious injury to property, and grand theft in connection with a violent crime spree in Eagle early Tuesday morning.

Eagle Police had to use a Taser to take the tree branch-wielding Williams into custody.

Investigators are still trying to figure out why Williams broke into the homes of people he didn’t know and then tried to attack officers.

Eagle Police began their investigation shortly after 2 a.m. Tuesday when dispatchers got a call reporting that a man broke into a home in the 600 block of N. Parkinson Street.

When police were on their way to the home, a neighbor called dispatch and said a man matching the same description was trying to break in to their home.

When officers arrived, they found a man, later identified as Williams, holding an 8-foot-long large tree branch to bang on the door of a third home.

An Eagle Police officer then told Williams to stop what he was doing and drop the branch. Williams began yelling and walked towards the officer, who warned him several times to stop. The officer used his Taser to stop Williams as he was raising the branch over his head.

Once officers had Williams in custody, they were able to put together what happened.

Williams first broke into a home in the 600 block of Parkinson and woke up the person who lived there. That person grabbed their handgun and yelled at Williams to leave.

Williams left that house, ran across the street, kicked in the front door of a home, took some keys from inside, and stole a Jeep. He then went back to the first house, where he tried to get back inside again but the homeowner once again told him to leave.  Williams walked around the home, picked up a railroad tie from the yard, and threw it through a window.

Williams then ran over to the stolen Jeep, got in, and drove to the different house nearby, where he did several donuts in the yard, tearing up the grass, before getting out, grabbing a branch, and trying to get inside that house.

That is when Eagle Police arrived. They were able to take him into custody after using the Taser. Williams continued yell and act erratically after he was restrained. He had to be strapped to a gurney before being taken to a local hospital for a medical exam.

Williams was medically cleared and booked into the Ada County Jail just after 5 a.m. He is also charged with a misdemeanor count of resisting arrest.

Police are still not sure how Williams got to the neighborhood and where he was before that. He does not appear to have any connection to anyone who lives in the three different homes.

Anyone with information should call Ada County dispatch at 377-6790.

 

A message from Sheriff Bartlett

It is not uncommon for people arrested for crimes to make accusations against law enforcement agencies. We have a civil court system to address those concerns. On Tuesday, a federal jury determined an Ada County Sheriff’s Office deputy did not use excessive force when arresting Adam T. Saetrum on a drug delivery charge in 2013.

The trial lasted six days, but it only took the jury 45 minutes to reject Saetrum’s claim. Saetrum claimed he was hit by a patrol car on purpose during his arrest. The jury determined the car never hit Saetrum at all.

While the fact the case went to trial in the first place is a surprise, the speedy verdict was not. We’ve also known since the day of the incident our deputies did everything the right way.

Unfortunately for Sgt. Jake Vogt and the rest of the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, Tuesday’s verdict can’t change the fact that irresponsible reporting, editing, and presentation by the Idaho Statesman has already caused damage that cannot be undone.

For example, using the words “police brutality” in multiple headlines, when no such thing occurred, is bias. Headlines that say mediation “failed” gives the false impression we would have accepted anything other than Saetrum dropping his suit.

Federal courts rejected every claim Saetrum made about his arrest in 2013 except one. The court determined a jury could hear evidence for Saetrum’s claim that he was purposefully hit by a patrol car as he tried to avoid arrest.

Yet the Statesman continued to include unsubstantiated claims made by Saetrum about the arrest in their stories – claims the court dismissed.

Now that the only suit of several to make it to a courtroom is over, and every claim Saetrum made has been dismissed by the courts or rejected by a jury of his peers, where is the relief for Sgt. Vogt, who did his job that day exactly the way we expect?

He and the rest of the deputies involved in Saetrum’s arrest deserve praise. Sgt. Vogt has spent the last two decades working every day to make Ada County a safer place for all of us to live, work, and play. He is an outstanding deputy and fine man.

A civil suit is not a criminal case, where rules like probable cause require strict evidence needed to make a claim of fact. That is why responsible news organizations use caution when writing stories about civil suits. There are repeated instances where Saetrum’s claims are given the weight of fact.

We understand that our employees are subject to public scrutiny. That is part of the job. The public deserves the facts, and I am thankful the verdict supports the truth.

 

 

Concealed Weapon License office moving to Ada County’s Benjamin Lane campus

The ACSO concealed weapon license office is moving from the sheriff’s office at 7200 Barrister Drive to the Ada County campus at 400 N. Benjamin Lane.

Ada County’s Benjamin Campus is the same building where you would go to renew your driver’s license. It is also where the county’s election services and juvenile probation services offices live.

The move is happening over the weekend, so if you need to apply for or to renew a concealed weapons license on Monday, go to the Benjamin Lane campus.

We will dedicate workstations #3 and #4 inside the Drivers License office to concealed weapons licensing. Just make sure to grab a number when you get in, just like you were trying to renew your driver’s license or vehicle registration.

cwl

Moving to the Benjamin Campus allows our driver’s license and concealed weapons license employees to cross-train and support each other. It also allows us to use our office space more efficiently. Check out https://adasheriff.org/Services/Concealed-Weapons-Permits for more info.

Kuna Police investigating fatal car crash on Swan Falls Road

A 22-year-old Kuna man died after his car hit a power pole off the side of Swan Falls Road late Wednesday night.

Kuna Police were sent to the intersection of Swan Falls and Kuna Mora roads when Ada County dispatchers got a 911 call about the crash just after 11:45 p.m. Wednesday.

Officers arrived moments later to find a car smashed into a power pole. The car was on fire. Officers pulled the driver out before the car was engulfed in flames. The man was only person inside.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.

Officers are still trying to determine what caused the man to lose control of the car.

CITF and prosecutor investigations completed in Edgar Hafen shooting case

Three Kuna Police officers correctly followed Ada County Sheriff’s Office policies on use of force when they shot a 72-year-old man who pointed a gun at them from inside his car last fall.

Edgar Hafen is set to begin a jury trial in July for a felony count of assault or battery upon law enforcement in connection with the case.

Blaine County Prosecutor Jim Thomas reviewed the Ada County Critical Incident Task Force report into the shooing of Hafen on Nov. 10 and determined the officers’ decision to fire “was an appropriate use of deadly force in order to protect themselves and other law enforcement officers” nearby.

Our internal investigation drew the same conclusion and determined Kuna Police officers Wes Bunnell, Vishal Sahni, and Nolan Zorn followed all ACSO policies during the incident – which also involved a low-speed car pursuit that ended in the desert south of Kuna.

Thomas reviewed hours of interviews, video recordings from the officers’ on-body video cameras, forensic evidence, photographs, medical records, and a variety of other reports — all generated and collected by the CITF.

The incident began the evening of Nov. 10 when one of Hafen’s family members contacted Canyon County Sheriff’s deputies. They were concerned Hafen may try to hurt himself.

Canyon County deputies found Hafen driving near Melba and attempted to pull him over.

Hafen kept driving, eventually making his way into Ada County, where Kuna Police took over the pursuit around 6:20 p.m. as he drove east on Kuna Road. Hafen refused to pull over and kept going, turning south on Swan Falls Road.

Kuna police followed Hafen until he slowed down enough at Victory Lane for an officer to do a PIT (Pursuit Intervention Technique) maneuver, where the patrol car strikes the side of the other car and causes it to abruptly move sideways and stop.

Three Kuna Police officers — Sahni, Zorn, and Bunnell — got out of their cars and told Hafen to get out. He refused to get out and pointed a handgun at the officers. The officers fired, and Hafen dropped his gun out the window.

None of the three officers were injured.

Paramedics treated Hafen at the scene and then drove him to a local hospital.

It was later discovered that Hafen was holding a replica 1911 Colt-style semi-automatic pistol BB gun. When asked later why he pointed the BB gun at officers, Hafen said he “pulled the gun out so they would shoot away.” He also told investigators he knew it was a BB gun but to officers it would look like a 1911 handgun.

Hafen also told paramedics that night he “didn’t care either way” when they asked if he was trying to complete suicide.

The Ada County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the Boise Police Department for their thorough and comprehensive work leading the CITF investigation and Blaine County Prosecutor Jim Thomas for reviewing the evidence.