A dispute over a Dec. 10 KOAA News5 Investigates story about the dispatch reclassification of emergency calls by the Colorado Springs Police Department spilled over onto Facebook Wednesday when a post on the department’s official Facebook page rebutting a report by Eric Ross, chief investigative reporter at News5, garnered hundreds of comments, most of them critical of the news report and supportive of the police department.
KOAA says it spent months investigating the reclassification of certain types of calls, including DUI drivers and domestic violence reports downwards from the highest priority, and claimed that the police department was slow to respond and uncooperative in releasing information.
The station interviewed Kelly Sifford, whose son Kyle was killed in 2015 by drunk driver Cassandra Griffin, who is now in prison. CSPD changed the priority of DUI drivers to priority 2 that year. Voicing concern that the CSPD isn’t taking drunk driving seriously enough, Sifford told KOAA, “It’s just a matter of time before they hit someone, injure them or kill them so unless we make it a priority to stop it and make it a priority 1, I mean their weapon is a vehicle.”
In the Facebook post, the department responds, “Keep in mind, the assigned priority level of any call can change at any time as circumstances are updated. For example, under current classifications, a DUI call could be initially classified as “Priority 2,” but if the caller notes the suspected DUI driver is going the wrong direction on the road, the priority is immediately raised.”
KOAA also interviewed domestic violence survivor Lisa Jenkins, who founded the domestic violence survivors support non-profit Kingdom Builders Family Life Center.
KOAA quoted Jenkins as saying “I think that getting that call it should be ‘Okay it’s domestic violence and we need to get there and get the family safe.’ It’s all about getting the family safe and determine afterwards what needs to be done. There’s no way to know from a phone call if it’s going to turn into a physical one or not with weapons because it can easily happen to where a person’s life can end when it just starts with verbal and it escalates that fast.”
Detailing and defending its prioritizing in the post, the CSPD concluded with “Your latest story is not just a reflection on one reporter, it’s a reflection on every KOAA reporter, and the managers who decided it was more important to attract viewers than to provide information of substance that could create a meaningful dialogue about the structure of our public safety system. Additionally, the position you put the El Paso County Deputy in your most recent story (response times) is shameful and outrageous! He had no idea that he was going to be used for a CSPD story.”
When Complete Colorado asked for comment from Ross to CSPD’s allegations, Ryan Hazelwood, News Director for KOAA provided instead a link to an on-air response.