Here’s what a Boise refugee community wants after meetings with mayor, police chief

Members of Boise’s Bantu refugee community met with Mayor Lauren McLean on Monday to discuss how to move forward after the police shooting of a 33-year-old Black man late last month while investigating the Somali-born resident on suspicion of abducting a child.

Four people representing the Bantu group and Mohamud Hassan Mkoma’s family spent about an hour with McLean on Monday evening. They discussed ways to increase cultural and mental health training for police officers and department liaisons, as well as ways to build upon the relationship between the city and its refugee communities after the high-profile June 27 incident.

“Mayor McLean acknowledged that our refugee community is diverse and reaffirmed our commitment to the Neighbors United Network and support of our refugee community liaison officer,” a city spokesperson said in an emailed statement to the Idaho Statesman.

The four refugee community members who attended also reasserted their request to view the footage from body cameras worn by the officers involved in the shooting. The footage is part of an ongoing Ada County Critical Task Force investigation being led by the Garden City Police Department, and the East African refugees said they’ve been told it could take 6-9 months for its release.

“She mostly came there to listen to us and listen to our demands, which she did,” Mana Mohamed, who attended Monday’s meeting, told the Statesman. “We just suggested that there should be more training done for the policing, and that there should be more programs for the refugees — that is, programs run by refugees for refugees. Hopefully she’ll take that into consideration.”

The meeting with the mayor came a day before members of the Somai Bantu community and supporters planned to protest outside of Boise City Hall on Tuesday night over what they say is the lack of transparency and accountability from police. Mkoma’s family members have claimed that the narrative police issued is false and needs to be publicly corrected.

BPD spokesperson Haley Williams has declined to answer questions from the Statesman or provide more information about the incident, citing the ongoing task force investigation, which is being led by the Garden City Police Department.

The Monday meeting with McLean followed a similar one last week with Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee, and that one included some of Mkoma’s family members. Williams previously declined to address what was discussed at that meeting.

“Our relationships with the refugee community have always been a priority for our department and will continue to be so,” Williams wrote in a brief emailed statement.

During that two-hour meeting, the group said it presented the chief and a department refugee liaison with a list of requests of the city and police department going forward. Those included the release of the 911 call reporting Mkoma and the body-cam footage from the three officers later identified by BPD as being involved in the shooting.

The refugee group also asked for increased visitation with Mkoma for family at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, where family members say he remains in the intensive care unit after a fourth surgery. BPD and the hospital have repeatedly declined to confirm that Mkoma is a patient at Saint Al’s.

“(We’re) still working on the visitation hours as well, so more family members can go see Mohamud,” said Mohamed, the refugee community representative. “The chief had more to say and we heard him, and we had a lot to say to him. I’m not saying the one with the mayor wasn’t productive. It was, but it was just different. We just did the talking, and she just listened to us.”

Boise Police will need to answer these questions about shooting to maintain public trust

Leave a Comment