Boise Police Department
News Release

William L. Bones
Chief of Police

Contact: BPD Media Relations Office


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Chief Masterson's comments to the Boise City Council regarding proposed Bridge Jumping Ordinance

UPDATE: The Boise City Council will vote May 8th on proposed changes to city code to:
  • Allow bridge jumping at least 50 feet from floaters on the Boise River. 
  • Allow for boogie boarding on designated stretches of the river.
  • Prohibit blocking bridges and pathways.
  • Violations would be an infraction (reduced from the current misdemeanor penalty) with a $56.60 fine. An infraction would allow more consistent enforcement and allow young offenders to avoid a criminal record that would result from a misdemeanor conviction.  
The following are comments from Boise Chief of Police Michael masterson submitted to Boise Mayor David Bieter and the City Council regarding the  REVISED Boise River Use ORDINANCE.
Thank you Mayor and Council for the opportunity to present  recommendations to revise the City's bridge jumping ordinance to provide improved safety on and along the river and to create a more effective and appropriate enforcement strategy.   The proposed changes are in response to increased number of floater complaints we receive annually and a handful of injuries  caused by bridge jumpers during the float season .  We believe these changes will strike the appropriate balance between safety and enjoyment for all users.  Bridge jumping has been prohibited by Boise City ordinance since at least 1990. 

The proposed revision, over  two decades later, would continue to make it  illegal but with a condition of jumping within 50 feet of anyone floating in the river. Violations would be infractions rather than misdemeanors -- an important change that would allow youth offenders to avoid a criminal record while also allowing  police to immediately cite offenders with tickets rather than arrests.  [Just a little background, the Idaho Juvenile Corrections Act, I.C. sec. 20-505, gives the juvenile courts exclusive jurisdiction over juvenile offenders except in a few limited areas, including minor traffic (including watercraft) violations and tobacco and alcohol offenses.  By defining the offenses - bridge jumping within 50 feet of a rafter or tuber, river boarding where prohibited, and bridge blocking - as traffic offenses on the greenbelt, the City will be able to charge the juvenile by uniform citation and have a court trial in front of a magistrate.  This is expected to be much more efficient rather than having to petition the juvenile into juvenile court to be prosecuted by the Ada County Prosecutor's Juvenile Division.] The one exception however, would continue to be any jumper who causes injury to another person by striking that person, whether intentional or not, could be charged with a more serious violation, such as battery.  

Additionally, those blocking bridges or other areas of the Greenbelt would be subject to citation. The new ordinance also would take a new approach to bungee surfing and boogie boarding.  Currently these activities are banned from Barber Park to Ann Morrison Park.  The new rules would also give the parks department authority to designate certain stretches of the river as bungee-surfing- or boogie-board-friendly.

We believe these changes support the Mayor's directive and goal   to encourage people to enjoy the Boise River, one of our community's greatest assets, while respecting everyone else's right to enjoy it as well.
If you approve of the  revised ordinance,  police will emphasize education over enforcement during the early float season to help everyone become acquainted with the new rules through the following:
  • Media release timed to go out just before rafting season begins  (single release from Parks, Police, and Ada County, who runs the Barber Park concession)-the release would emphasize the 50 foot rule and congestion violations, and any other issues we think are appropriate.
  • A warning/education period of around two weeks will be in effect prior to ticketing. Egregious acts jeopardizing the safety of others will be evaluated on a case by case basis to determine if a citation is warranted.
  • Police officers will spend significant time at the most popular spots educating potential jumpers on the inherent dangers invovled as well as the revised ordinance and consequences for violators.While the act of bridge jumping would be decriminalized when other floaters are not nearby, it is still a potentially unsafe act and is not recommended. Anyone who jumps into the river does so at his or her own risk. 
  • We will create a comprehensive sign age strategy in consultation with city legal so notice is placed for  risk as well as illegal to jump within 50' of a floater.
We will evaluate (after 30 days)  our change management processes on the river use ordinances  to determine effectiveness  and develop new strategies if necessary to gain further compliance  throughout the summer.