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Denver Police Revise Policy On Emergency Calls

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DENVER (AP/CBS4) — The Denver Police Department has revised its policies to give officers more authority to decide how to respond to calls in which a person is in imminent danger.

Under the previous policy, police had to follow strict rules that required approval on which calls deserved an emergency response.

Police Cmdr. Matt Murray said Wednesday the nature of calls for help are changing and officers need more discretion on how to respond to situations like erratic behavior that could become life-threatening.

“If we can respond in a better way to prevent injury or death, we want to do that,” said Murray.

This follows a number of incidents, including a case in Denver where a woman was shot to death after spending 12 minutes on a 911 call on April 14 saying her husband was acting strangely.

Murray says the policy changes were already being considered before the latest incident.

The Denver Police Department is working on a complete overhaul of its policies but some of them needed a more urgent change. Using flashing lights and sirens to get to an emergency faster will apply in more cases.

It’s called Code 10 and is unique to the Denver Police Department. In the past only certain situations allowed officers to use that code but a new policy broadens the reasons for its use.

“The world is changing and we have to change with it,” said Murray.

Calls where there is imminent danger are now justified as Code 10 and could include factors like assault with weapons, suicidal parties and other situations that are becoming more common like excited delirium.

“When someone is so high on drugs of a certain kind that they begin to not respond in a typical way, they overheat, they do really strange things,” said Murray.

Kristine Kirk, left, and Richard Kirk, right (credit: CBS)

Kristine Kirk, left, and Richard Kirk, right (credit: CBS)

In the April 14 case, it’s believed Richard Kirk may have ingested a large amount of marijuana edibles before his strange behavior forced his wife to call 911.

“Excited delirium is happening more and more and we’re also starting to see it in marijuana cases. With the legalization of marijuana only a few months old this is something we’re going to have to look at,” said Murray.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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