Parole officer says he and his peers don't have the proper gear to do their job

DENVER - Expired bullet proof vests, lack of gear and safety issues are just some of the concerns for a parole officer, who said, the Colorado Department of Corrections leaders are lying to taxpayers to hide their mistakes. 

The officer, who we are not identifying because he fears retribution from his bosses, decided to come forward after the CALL7 Investigators began asking questions about Even Ebel’s parole officer. 

Ebel is accused of killing DOC chief Tom Clements at his home in Monument. He is also considered a suspect in the murder of Nate Leon, a father of three.

"You got parolees out there doing bad stuff, but after your story aired, what are they doing? They're taking computers out of people's offices to see who's talking to you," he told CALL7 Investigator Theresa Marchetta.

“When you got people out there testing positive for drugs, going out there absconding daily, why aren't they out here using that effort to track these guys down?” he asked.

DOC spokeswoman Alison Morgan said the division prohibits retaliation against employees, but never said whether or not computers were taken from employees to see if they were talking with members of the media.

In March, Morgan said parole officers are overworked and have caseloads with 50 parolees, but this parole officer told Marchetta, that’s a bald-face lie.

“Every parole officer out there is carrying a caseload of both ISP (intense supervised parolee) and regular parole of about 80 to 100 people," he said.

The officer also claimed the DOC-issued equipment is seriously lacking and puts the lives of officers in jeopardy.

”I am wearing an expired vest that has been expired for five years now,” he said.

After others complained, the officer said the state brought the expired vests to a firing range to test them and found them to still be effective, but he still has concerns and asks why the state isn’t putting money into buying new ones.

Morgan responded to questions from the CALL7 Investigators about the allegations made by the parole officer. She never directly answers the question about whether or not the vests were expired, but said in a written response, “The Division maintains an inventory of external bullet proof vests. This equipment is not generally preferred by the staff as it is bulky and difficult to maneuver when wearing. Officers may purchase their own equipment. Officers are issued exterior, US Armor ballistic vests if they do not have their own personal vest that they are more comfortable with. The general industry guideline is a 5-year lifespan for a vest.”

The officer showed us the vest he said was provided by the DOC and it was manufactured in 2003, so according to Morgan’s vague answer, the vest is expired by five years.

When asked if the DOC is purchasing newer vests for officers, she said, “With the hiring of new officers, the Division was allocated, by the General Assembly, for start-up funds for bullet proof vests. The Division will pay for half and the officer will be responsible for the remainder.”

“The day I signed up for the job, they gave me a badge, a cell phone, one pair of handcuffs, one little can of OC spray and two extra magazines and said go do work now,” said the parole officer.

He added that officers aren’t issued a radio and the ones the DOC do issue, rarely work.

“I can’t even call for back-up," the officer said.

Morgan doesn’t deny what the officer told the CALL7 Investigators about equipment or the radios. She said officers can “check out” radios as needed.

When it comes to state-issued cars, the department doesn’t allow parole vehicles to have cages to separate a parolee who has been arrested from the officer. He said this is a major safety issue for the officer.

He also told the CALL7 Investigators that despite what the DOC told the media, officer aren’t allowed to work any overtime and when they do they must work an extra 11 hours before they will start accumulating extra pay.

“If we work anything over 160 hours, we get written up,” said the officer.

Again, Morgan doesn’t dispute the officer’s claims.

She said, “Community parole officers are subject to FLSA 7K exemption, which allows for a public safety worker to work the mandated hours (a minimum of 160 hours to a maximum of 171 hours) over a 28-day work period.  Officers receive straight pay until 171 hours are worked in a 28 day work period and they are then eligible for overtime. Officers may receive compensatory time in lieu of over-time pay.”

In May, the CALL7 investigators looked at the time sheet of Ebel’s parole officer and found he only worked a four hour shift on some days.

The officer we spoke with said there is a reason for the lack of hours on that officer’s timecard. He explained that the state makes officers work on a flex schedule, meaning - if they reach a forty hour limit on Thursday, they can’t work the rest of the week. 

“What do you do if you’re out of hours?” asked Marchetta.

The officer responded,” You panic, because you’re going to be written up. It’s a catch 22.”

He also claimed that supervisors are supposed to pick up the slack, but never do.

“They don't answer their phone on the weekend; I mean they have an on-call supervisor and if you're lucky to get him.”