After two years without one, Boise will soon have its next ombudsman in place.
Mayor David Bieter announced Friday that attorney Natalie Camacho Mendoza will assume the role on August 3, pending city council approval. Council members are expected to approve the selection at their meeting Tuesday.
Camacho Mendoza is originally from Pocatello. She’s been in Boise for 20 years and has practiced law for 26. Her experience includes work as a defense attorney and prosecutor.
She says she thinks the office has been effective in improving police-community relations since it opened in 2000. That year, city officials say the office received 76 complaints about police activity. Last year, the city says that figure was six.
“I look forward to picking up the torch and moving this forward and to ensure this great work continues and that the city continues to be responsive” she says.
The role of a police watchdog has been vacant in Boise since former ombudsman Pierce Murphy left for a similar position in Seattle in 2013. Since his departure, the city has renamed the office. It’s now called The Office of Police Oversight.
The search took longer than initially planned. But Bieter, who called the process “fairly lengthy,” says he has no regrets because he believes the city picked the right person. He told reporters Camacho Mendoza had applied for another city position but wasn’t the right fit, though he says she impressed him during that interview process.
“I was hoping she’d be interested,” Bieter says. “Then, over the course of several months, found that, indeed, she was and the fit is such a good one. I just couldn’t be any more pleased that she has agreed to serve.”
“Camacho Mendoza earned her law degree in 1989 from the Washburn School of Law in Kansas and has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Idaho State University. She has been an attorney and partner at law firms in Texas and Idaho, including work related to tribal law, migrant farm workers, immigration, insurance defense, business law, employee relations and criminal justice handling criminal defense and Tribal prosecution cases.” - City of Boise
Police Chief Bill Bones welcomed the hire. Both he and Camacho Mendoza say they are familiar with one another through past cases. Bones told Camacho Mendoza he expects the two to have disagreements from time to time, but that if they didn’t, neither would be the right person for their respective job.
“Independent review is key to successful departments and providing transparency to the citizens we serve,” Bones says. “And transparency is trust because we don’t have one without the other. I really look forward to Natalie asking some of those hard questions. That outside review of our policies and our procedures – many of the ideas for improvements come from that.”
Camacho Mendoza will make $50,000. The part-time status of the position means she’ll work between 20 and 30 hours per week. Bieter says by changing the position from full time, he thinks more local applicants were interested in applying. Camacho Mendoza says she’ll continue practicing law in addition to her official role with the city.
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