Boise Police Department
News Release

William L. Bones
Chief of Police

Contact: BPD Media Relations Office


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

02-03-09 Code 3 Police Response Changes

02-03-09 Code 3 Police Response Changes

Media Advisory:
Council Briefing on Code 3 Changes

    As noted on the Boise City Council Work Session Agenda, this afternoon at 5:05 p.m., Chief Masterson, Lt. Dave Adams, and City Ombudsman Pierce Murphy brief the Mayor and City Council on changes implemented to the Boise Police Department's Code 3 response. Changes will be implemented by or before March 1, 2009.

Goals of Code 3 Response Review:

  • Increased safety for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.
  • Increased safety for officers and first responders.
  • Continue to insure quick, safe, law enforcement response to emergencies.

    "This is about keeping our citizens, and our officers and first responders safe," said Boise Police Chief Michael Masterson.

    "A Code 3 response from police needs to be reserved for life and death emergency calls. This review insures that, and reassures the public that the Boise Police Department is doing all it can to balance emergencies with the safety of motorists and others on the road." said Chief Masterson.

    What is Code 3? Code 3 is the emergency lights and sirens response. “Default” response codes associated with each call type have not been reviewed for a number of years. While BPD officers have the authority to “downgrade” a code three response based on the circumstances and the officer’s judgment and experience, the code at which an officer is dispatched to a call is based on the specific “call type” that a dispatcher entered into the system for that call. Each call type has an pre-assigned priority level which translates into a response code (one, two, or three) for the officer or officers sent to that call.

    The review of Code 3 police responses began in March, 2008. The review included information on internal BPD policies and procedures, as well as practices of other local and regional police agencies.


  • 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 (7 complaints have been logged by citizens between 2005 & 2007 regarding their perception of unsafe emergency driving by Boise Police officers. None resulted in a sustained finding of unsafe vehicle operation against an officer)
  • According to Risk Management and the City’s insurance carrier, emergency vehicle operation is among the top three areas of liability exposure for municipalities.


Thanks to cooperation from other Ada County law enforcement agencies, the following changes are being implemented on or before March 1, 2009 for POLICE agencies COUNTY-WIDE (not including ISP, who use their own dispatch center):

    1. 1050PI & 1057PI (traffic collisions 10-50, and hit & run 10-57 reported as involving injury): The current protocol is to send two officers code three.

Recommendation: The primary officer responds code three, while the assist officer responds Code two. The vast majority of reported traffic collisions or hit and run calls do NOT involve serious injury or transport to a hospital.

    2. MEDICAL (EMS assist, Overdose, Attempted Suicide, & Suicidal Subject): Currently two officers code three.

Recommendation: The primary and assist officers respond code two with a tone alert. If any one of the three following criteria exist in the call, report of a combative person, weapon involved, or a threat or risk of violence the call will be dispatched as a code three. EMS, Fire, or the primary BPD officer can upgrade to code three if circumstances require it.

    3. Wrong Way Drivers: Currently two officers code three.

Recommendation: Since a wrong way driver is inherently more dangerous on the interstate due to higher speeds and lack of exits, we recommend two officers be dispatched code three to I-84 and I-184 calls, while two officers respond code two to wrong way calls on city streets.

    4. Assist Fire Department: Currently one or two officers code three.

Recommendation: One or two officers Code two. Fire can request a code three response if they consider it necessary.