Boise Police Department
News Release

William L. Bones
Chief of Police

Contact: BPD Media Relations Office


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

03-11-08 Code 3 Response Study

03-11-08 Code 3 Response Study

    Boise, Mar. 11, 2008 - The Boise Police Department and the Office of the Ombudsman are beginning a joint pro-active study on policies, protocols and training involved in Code 3, or emergency lights and sirens response by Boise Police patrol officers.

    The goal of the study is to be sure Boise Police policies and practices on Code 3 response reflect the safest, most responsible practices to best protect officers and citizens.

    "The goal, as always, is public and officer safety," said Capt. Bill Bones of the Boise Police Department's Office of Professional Development and Standards, which includes the police training unit. "We'll review everything we can about our Code 3 responses to be sure officers are responding to the highest priority calls, with the right balance of urgency and safety."

    "Every time a police vehicle rolls "Code 3" the risk of collision and injury is increased for both officers and the general public." said Boise Community Ombudsman Pierce Murphy. "By working together, we hope to reduce these risks and increase the probability that our officers will arrive safely at the scene of an emergency where police presence is urgently needed."

     This is the third joint policy study conducted by BPD and the Ombudsman in the past three years. The first study examined the use of Tasers by BPD officers and resulted in valuable changes and updates to Taser policy and training.  Last year's joint effort focused on BPD's enforcement of the City's new Public Intoxication ordinance and confirmed the value of this tool in reducing violence and injuries in the Downtown core.  

    "I'm grateful to the Mayor and the City Council for their support of these efforts, and to Chief Masterson for his willingness to collaborate for the good of our officers and the community," said Murphy.

    The following was presented to the Mayor and City Council Tuesday, March 11th:


2008 BPD/OMB Joint Policy Project

Code Three Police Vehicle Operation

Statement of the Problem


The emergency operation of police vehicles (also known as “Code Three” operation involving the use of emergency lights and/or sirens) increases, by its very nature, the risk that involved police officers, nearby motorists, and pedestrians may be involved in a collision or suffer injury.  Policies, protocols, and training are provided to dispatchers and officers regarding those circumstances in which officers may either be dispatched code three or are authorized to operate a police vehicle in a code three manner.  Guidance provided to those engaged in code three vehicle operations must be based on current best practices and a thoughtful weighing of the anticipate benefits and risks associated with the emergency operation of a police vehicle in different situations and under varied circumstances.  It has been a number of years, certainly more than five, since BPD conducted a systematic review of its code three policies and protocols.  In that time, critical factors have changed, both internal to BPD and externally, that argue in favor of a reassessment of current risk/benefit assumptions and the policies and protocols that flow from them.

Critical Factors


  • The number of vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians on the roads has increased.  Some areas of the city are experiencing traffic congestion, not only at peak commute times, but at other times of the day.


  • BPD has hired over 120 new officers in the past 38 months.  National statistics show that officers with less than five years of patrol experience are at increased risk for on-duty injuries, including those from traffic collisions.


  • In the past three months, police officers in other states have been charged with felonies stemming from traffic collision deaths that were connected with code three driving.


  • BPD officers have raised questions regarding the current protocol that calls for Dispatch to send officers code three to certain medical calls, such as an overdose.


  • Officers are dispatched code three to injury traffic collisions, even though Fire and EMS are also rolling code three.


  • Citizen Complaints regarding code three driving by BPD officers have increased slightly over the past two years.


  • According to Risk Management and the City’s insurance carrier, emergency vehicle operation is among the top three areas of liability exposure for municipalities.

Project Sponsors

Chief Michael Masterson

Boise Police Department


Ombudsman Pierce Murphy

Office of the Community Ombudsman, City of Boise

Project Scope

A cross-functional team will:


  1. Gather and analyze available data relating to the nature and frequency of code three vehicle operations by BPD officers over the past three calendar years (2005 – 2007)


  1. Gather and analyze available data relating to any traffic collisions, property damage, and personal injuries reported in connection with or related to code three vehicle operations by BPD officers over the past three calendar years (2005 – 2007)


  1. Compile a comprehensive catalogue of all policies, procedures, protocols, practices, and training related to dispatching BPD units code three


  1. Compile a comprehensive catalogue of all policies, procedures, protocols, practices, and training related to the code three operation of BPD police vehicles


  1. Consult with subject matter experts within BPD, Dispatch, BFD, and EMS


  1. Benchmark against other police agencies regarding policies, procedures, protocols, practices, and training regarding the code three operation of police vehicles


  1. Seek out and obtain model policies, studies, white papers, etc. regarding the code three operation of police vehicles


  1. Where possible, obtain the insight and advice of experts in this field


  1. Develop recommendations for consideration by the Project Sponsors


  1. Produce a Project Report documenting the research, analysis, conclusions, and recommendations of the Project Team

Anticipated Benefits


  • Reduced risk of injury to officers, motorists, and others resulting from traffic collisions


  • Reduced risk of property damage resulting from traffic collisions


  • Reduced liability exposure for the City and officers


  • Improved efficiency of police services

Project Team


  • BPD Patrol Lieutenant or experienced Patrol Sergeant  [Lt. Dave Adams]


  • BPD Police Officer with ten years or more of recent patrol experience [P.O. Larry Moore]


  • Policy/data analyst [Beth Erickson]


  • Ombudsman Pierce Murphy

Project Timeline


March 11, 2007      Launch project


June 1, 2007         Complete data collection and analysis


July 1, 2007          Complete benchmarking


August 1, 2007     Present preliminary conclusions and recommendations to Sponsors


Sept. 1, 2007       Present final report and recommendations to Sponsors