An average of 3 parolees cut off their ankle monitors every day, DOC says

DOC blames protocol, not technology in Ebel escape

The DOC says an average of three ankle monitors, like the one suspected killer Evan Ebel wore, are cut off every day in Colorado.

According to a document released by the DOC Tuesday, the department’s monitors triggered 89,000 alerts in just the past six months.

“I want you to think about the scope of information that comes in on a daily basis,” Alison Morgan, a spokeswoman from the DOC.

The 89,000 alerts include every type of incident, from a simple power loss to tampering.

"If we responded to all 89,000 of these, you see our officers would be working 24/7,” said Shaun McGuire, Community Parole Manager for the state.

7NEWS analyzed the data and found that 45 percent of these alerts fall into 3 categories:

- A "did not enter" alert is triggered if the parolee does not arrive at home on time.

- An "unauthorized leave" alert is triggered if a parolee leaves an area when he or she is not supposed to. This alert might be triggered if a parolee left her home after curfew.

- An "inclusion zone leave" alert is an alert for parolees whose ankle monitors have GPS tracking. The alert is triggered if a parolee leaves the area he or she is allowed to be in.

The largest portion of monitor alerts are "inclusion zone leave" alerts.

The data 7NEWS received did not include information that showed the offender correcting his or her behavior.

For example, if a parolee was late returning home for a curfew, the monitor would trigger a "did not enter" alert. The alert would be counted in the data provided.

However, if that parolee arrived home five minutes later, the data provided would not reflect the change.

Morgan explained that the DOC logs data for both good and bad behavior, but the information her office provided only included infractions.

 

--Evan Ebel's ankle monitor--

The DOC says the first time Evan Ebel tampered with this ankle monitor was the same day he cut it off.

The monitor triggered a “proximity tamper” alert at 3:21 p.m. March 14th. Two seconds later, it gave off a “strap tamper” alert.

Police believe Ebel later killed Nathan Leon, who was delivering pizzas on the night of his death, and Colorado prison director Tom Clements.

The DOC says the monitor Ebel was wearing alerted his parole officer within seconds of him cutting it off on March 14.

Despite the tamper alert notification, the parole officer didn’t request a warrant for Ebel’s arrest until March 19.

"A tamper alert doesn't necessarily mean they were successful in taking it off, it means it was somehow tampered with,” Waldo told 7NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger.

Waldo said the ankle monitors are designed to be relatively simple to remove so police or paramedics can take them off if necessary.

"We could design a device that would be virtually impossible to remove, but it's not practical to do that,” Waldo said.

The DOC defended the monitoring technology Tuesday, saying Ebel’s monitor did exactly what it was designed to do.

“The officer made a determination that he was not going to immediately respond to that case,” said Alison Morgan, a spokeswoman from the DOC. “There were other cases of greater importance that he was working on at that point.”

The DOC says that the current system protocol is inadequate. Currently, it is up to a parole officer to take action within two hours of an ankle monitor being cut off.

“Just putting someone on a device and expecting that device to do everything, it doesn't work that way,” Morgan said.

Ebel’s monitor also signaled an alert on Feb. 1, triggering an Unauthorized Leave alert.

In just the week Ebel removed his monitor, there were 99 “strap tamper” alerts documented on the DOC’s list. The DOC did not know whether those 99 alerts were malfunctions or parolees cutting their monitors off.