BRIGHTON, Colo. (CBS4)– Adams County police and fire agencies have voted to change a key facet of their “First Call” emergency alert system after a CBS4 Investigation revealed one agency was regularly using the system to notify residents about non- emergency community meetings.
“I think it’s the right thing to do,” said Commerce City Police Chief Troy Smith of the change, at a June 19 meeting of Adams County law enforcement and fire departments.
Smith advocated that citizens should only be called about neighborhood meetings and other non- emergency events if they opt in to do so.
Previously, Adams County residents were receiving the meeting notifications from the Adams County Sheriff whether they wanted them or not.
A CBS4 Investigation revealed that 17 times in the last year the Adams County Sheriff’s Office launched the equivalent of a reverse 911 call to thousands of residents to notify them of standard community meetings to discuss crime issues and trends.
The sheriff’s office defended the unusual practice saying it boosted attendance at neighborhood meetings and provided residents with important information.
But industry experts interviewed in the CBS4 Investigation said the practice of using a reverse 911 system for community meetings was highly unusual and risky, as it could desensitize people to real emergency calls.
At the June 19 meeting, Adams County Undersheriff Roger Englesman railed against making any changes to the system.
“Once again I will submit that changing policy and changing our procedure for the sake of making a media outlet feel good about themselves is probably not the way we should approach this,” Englesman continued, “This is no longer a story and will not be a story in the future. I think we got bigger fish to fry.”
He immediately introduced a motion to keep the system the way it was and not make any changes. In an awkward silence, not a single one of his colleagues would second his motion to maintain the status quo and it died.
Instead the safety officials sided with Smith who introduced a motion to introduce an opt-in system for non- emergency notifications.
The measure would call for citizens to actively opt in to receive notification of non-emergency events like community meetings.
“Allowing them to have some choice,” said Smith. “I think it’s a step in the right direction. So I would be in favor of creating an opt-in for community alerts. I think it’s a community enhancement to do that and I don’t see any downside at all.”
Of the 11 safety officials at the meeting, 10 voted in favor of the dual option system. Englesman, the Adams County Undersheriff, was the only person to vote against it.
Adams County communications officials said the change will likely take place sometime after the first of August.