DENVER, Colo. - DENVER, Colo. - The Colorado Department of Corrections is making changes after a series of CALL7 Investigations into the state’s parole division.
In May, the CALL7 Investigators exposed officers were issued bullet proof vests that expired five years ago.
A community parole officer told CALL7 Investigator Theresa Marchetta in an exclusive interview officers were often issued non-working radios and lacked appropriate safety gear.
On Monday, June 3, Steve Hager, warden for the Colorado Division of Parole, sent an email out to his staff stating the department would now be purchasing new equipment, but stopped short of promising new bullet proof vests to replace the expired ones.
In the email, obtained by CALL7 Investigator Theresa Marchetta, Hager writes, “I had the opportunity to meet with Karl Kramer, and later with our Assistant Directors to discuss this years [sic] spend down and the safety and security equipment that had been previously identified, and approved for purchase by Mr. Hand, to support our Community Parole Officers in the field.”
Hager told parole officers the DOC would purchase 76 new stun guns, 25 additional radios and 160 holsters. He didn’t say if or when new bullet proof vests would be purchased, writing only, “The discussion surrounding tactical/ballistic vests is and has been at the fore front of our discussions, and there appears to be many moving parts that must be taken into consideration as we move forward in developing a pland [sic] to address this issue.”
The CALL7 Investigators learned about the safety issue though a parole officer, whose identity we are protecting because he said employees have been told they will be fired for talking to reporters.
He told Marchetta officers complained about the expired vests and leaders at the DOC took some of the expired vests to a firing range to test them, shot them and found them to still be effective.
Hager told CALL7 Investigators that he was asked to look into the bullet proof vests by the acting DOC director, Roger Werholtz.
He said the reason the department is surveying employees instead of purchasing new vests comes down to what parole officers want and need.
He explained some officers don’t want to wear a vest, others prefer a vest that they can wear over their clothes and some want a vest that they can wear under their uniform.
Morgan said, “It doesn’t make sense to buy 209 vests, if some don’t want to wear it.”
Hager agreed with Morgan adding he want to spend the money, on the right resources at the right time.” He said by surveying will answer who wants a new vest and who needs a new vest.
When the CALL7 Investigators originally reported on the story, spokeswoman Alison Morgan said in an e-mail, “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.”
When asked in May 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.”
It is unclear if officers will have to pay half the costs of the new vests Hager wrote about in the email.
Hager said he plans to create an electronic survey for all community parole officers, team leaders and managers to answer concerning the purchasing and issuing ballistic vests.
“I would encourage each of you who receive this Survey to take a few minutes to complete and return it as soon as possible. Your input will be critical as we respond to this very important issue,” Hager wrote.
Read the entire email from Steve Hager:
This morning I had the opportunity to meet with Karl Kramer, and later with our Assistant Directors to discuss this years spend down and the safety and security equipment that had been previously identified, and approved for purchase by Mr. Hand, to support our Community Parole Officers in the field.
As a result of this discussion I am happy to share with you the following information:
1) Tasers: Seventy -Six (76) additional Taser's have been purchased putting us in the position to issue all 112 certified operators a personal taser. Karl Kramer will also be offering a new class during the first part of August 2013 for those staff who are not yet certified to carry. This will provide our staff with another valuable tool to ensure for their personal safety while in the office and in the field.
2) Holsters: One hundred and sixty (160) new BlackHawk Level III retention holsters were ordered and have been received. Issuing these holsters will ensure that all Community Parole Officers have the most up to date and approved holsters available on the market.
3) Radios: Twenty-five (25) additional radios along with one-hundred (100) radio batteries were purchased to support the needs in the field. This is only the first step and we will continue to address the challenges that we have (specifically within the Denver Metro Area) with inoperability between agencies and local jurisdictions. We will be seeking volunteers to work with Karl Kramer to develop a plan for the future as we move forward with addressing these challenges.
4) Tactical / Ballistic Vests: The discussion surrounding tactical/ballistic vests is and has been at the fore front of our discussions, and there appears to be many moving parts that must be taken into consideration as we move forward in developing a pland to address this issue. In response the Regional Assistant Directors and I will be working with OPA to develop an electronic Survey Monkey Questionnaire that will be sent out to all Community Parole Officers, Team Leaders, Supervisors, and Managers to ask specific questions regarding the purchasing and issuing of ballistic vests. I would encourage each of you who receive this Survey to take a few minutes to complete and return it as soon as possible. Your input will be critical as we respond to this very important issue.
I appreciate the opportunity to work with each of you and to assist this Division in moving forward with writing our own Story based upon the great work and deep commitment to long term public safety that each of you bring to the team. As such, there is a lot to be learned, as well as a few possible issues and concerns that I may not be aware of. Therefore, I would ask and encourage each of you to bring any issues and/or concerns that you may have to my attention first and to allow me the opportunity to work with the appropriate Regional Director in addressing it. There is no issue to big or to small and I can assure you that they all will be addressed!
Thank you & be safe,