Denver Auditor's report: Response time to deadly 911 call 'not outside the norm'

DENVER - An investigation into the Denver Police Department's response time to a woman who was shot and killed while killed on the phone with a 911 dispatcher found the response was "not outside the norm."

The Denver Auditor's Office reviewed response times and said in 2013, on average, the time from when a 911 operator picks up a call to when a DPD officer arrives on scene was 14.3 minutes.

In the death of Kristine Kirk, the first officer arrived in approximately 13 minutes.

"Overall, it appears that the Denver Police Department’s (DPD’s) response time of approximately 13 minutes to arrive at 2112 South St. Paul Street in response to the incident on April 14, 2014, is not outside the norm," the auditor's report said.

Auditor Dennis Gallagher said he was "stunned" to find out DPD doesn't use response times as a performance measure.

"Although the law enforcement community has not established standards for response times, timely police response is important to the public," Gallagher wrote in his report.

Gallagher said response times are up significantly since 2008.

"Specifically, from the time a 911 call is answered to the time an officer arrives on scene, for Priority 0-2 calls, response times increased from an average of 11.4 minutes to 14.3 minutes," Gallagher wrote in his report. "For Priority 3-6 calls, response times increased from an average of 20.5 minutes to 23.3 minutes."

Gallagher said the majority of the increase in Denver’s police response times can be explained by the decreasing size of the City’s police force.

Gallagher said the staff shrank by approximately 225 officers between 2008 through 2013.


-- Kirk called 911 for help--

Kirk called 911 on April 14 and said her husband was hallucinating after taking "some marijuana and possibly some prescription medication for back pain" and he was scaring her and the couple's three young children. She mentioned that there was a gun in the house, but it was secured in a safe.

At one point in the call, Kirk told the 911 operator to "please hurry" and send officers, documents state.

She said "her husband was talking like it was the end of the world … he had asked her to get the gun and to shoot him, and she is scared of what he might do because her three children are in the house with her," a detective who reviewed the 911 tape wrote in an arrest affidavit.

Kirk was on the phone for nearly 13 minutes before her husband allegedly shot her in the head. Kirk died.

Richard Kirk now faces one count of first-degree murder in his wife's death.

The dispatcher, who has not been named, resigned earlier this month following a review of their handling of the call.

Denver Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Daelene Mix issued a statement saying, "Although Denver 911 began termination proceedings on Friday, June 6, 2014 relative to how the dispatcher handled the call in the Kirk case, the dispatcher made a request to tender her resignation that same day. After considering the request, the dismissal letter has been withdrawn and her resignation accepted.”


-- Denver Police staffing --

Gallagher's report calls on the Denver Police Department to evaluate its resources.

"We strongly recommend that DPD determine its true resource needs and provide this information and estimated costs to key stakeholders in the City and to the citizens of Denver," Gallagher wrote. "My office estimates that these costs may range from approximately $5.49 million to as high as $70 million annually, depending on the Department’s strategic goals and citizen expectations."

Read the auditor's reports.


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