By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports
The Idaho State Police will ask the Legislature to provide funding for additional police to protect the Capitol complex and state-owned buildings.
The additional request for fiscal year 2023, costing roughly $2.6 million, comes from ISP to pay for 12 full-time permanent positions in the capitol protective services unit. The unit would be housed at the Capitol Mall complex and the state-owned Chinden complex.
A copy of the budget request states that the additional funds would pay for one lieutenant, two sergeants, one specialist responsible for investigating threats to elected officials and other investigations, and eight troopers. One of those troopers would be assigned to the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole headquarters and two troopers would be with the K9 unit for bomb detection with Capitol Protective Services.
ISP’s request states that in the last 18 months, the Commission of Pardons and Parole has “received a notable increase in threats, some of which are currently under investigation with ISP.”
That commission is made up of seven members, appointed by the governor, who can grant, deny, or revoke parole for people convicted of a felony. The commission also makes decisions on whether to grant petitions for pardons, commutation, and restoration of firearm rights.
The request states an additional trooper could be assigned to the commission to help it meet at a physical location and still have all employees “be safe from any incoming threats.”
Details on what the threats targeted aren’t listed in the budget request. Idaho Reports filed a record request on Monday for copies of any documented threats.
The budget request also notes that state buildings, such as the Capitol, have no firearms restrictions or other security measures, like restricted door access, and therefore individuals can freely carry a firearm openly or concealed into the buildings.
The Idaho Supreme Court building installed metal detectors at its entrance this summer. The court also prohibits firearms and other weapons from being brought into the building, with the exception of those carried by law enforcement personnel.
ISP said having additional troopers “will provide a visible deterrent and the opportunity to become proactive in detecting criminal malfeasance and providing law enforcement coverage for large crowds and rallies.”
The agency also hopes to better investigate threats made against elective officials, judges, commission members, and the public.
ISP’s Capitol Protective Services unit formed in 1996, originally using one or two troopers, since expanding to five full-time troopers, according to the request. Today, one trooper is at the Capitol Mall, one is at the Idaho Supreme Court, and three are executive protection troopers. During the Legislative Session, ISP works with legislative leadership to determine how many troopers are needed. According to the budget request, in the past few years they’ve had up to eight troopers present during the session.
Lynn Hightower, spokesperson for ISP, told Idaho Reports that the budget request is primarily a continuation of what the Legislature passed in 2021.
The FY 2023 budget request comes after House Bill 371 passed in the 2021 session, providing an additional $30,000 in personnel costs to ISP for FY 2021. It also allocated a total of $1.7 million for fiscal year 2022. Those approvals were all one-time expenses for ISP from the general fund.
The Idaho Legislature will address the budget request for fiscal year 2023 from ISP when it reconvenes in January.