DENVER (KDVR) — The director of Colorado’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management admitted on Wednesday to violating law to protect lives.
Director Kevin R. Klein’s candid statements came during testimony before the Colorado House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday afternoon. His testimony comes as lawmakers consider Senate Bill 81 that would reform Safe2Tell Colorado.
Safe2Tell Colorado was created following the Columbine High School tragedy as an outlet for people to anonymously report threats or evidence of violence—specifically chatter concerning potential school shootings.
“When is it appropriate for the attorney general to pierce the veil of anonymity because there is an imminent threat?” asked State Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet during Wednesday’s committee hearing.
In recent years, state law enforcement agencies have expressed concern over false reports to the system and the inability to identify anonymous callers when there is an imminent threat. Law enforcement representatives told lawmakers that a caller’s identification can be crucial to averting potential attacks.
“It would be incredibly ironic to have the anonymity of this bill get in the way of making an exigent circumstance that could actually protect children in schools,” Colorado Public Safety Director Stan Hilkey told lawmakers.
However, critics are concerned that a breach of trust to the promise anonymity will dissuade people from reporting anything at all. Niwot High School senior Benjamin Goff, who testified before the committee, does not share that concern.
“[The] people that are actually going to be getting your identity in these situations is going to be very, very limited,” Goff told FOX31.
Goff told lawmakers about the false Safe2Tell reports that have plagued his school.
“You have the boy who cried wolf … and kids will take it less seriously over time,” he said.
During the hearing, Klein spoke about an incident where he decided to risk a criminal charge. Klein said he made the call to identify a phone number after someone threatened to shoot someone with great specificity.
“I was willing to take the risk of being charged with a misdemeanor in order to break that so we could get law enforcement to the home,” Klein told the committee of lawmakers. “The kid ended up being hospitalized for a mental health issue that evening … We can’t take the risk of somebody killing somebody because we’re afraid to commit a misdemeanor.”
Klein and his colleagues are now seeking the legal authority to continue operating in this fashion.
“We’ve been operating like this for so many years that it’s just how we’ve done business,” Klein said.
If SB-81 becomes law as currently written, officials would no longer be risking misdemeanors. Officials said these future Safe2Tell reports would not be public record. While future reports might not always anonymous, the reports would still confidential under the current legislation.