The Colorado State Patrol thanked News 5 Investigates for bringing attention to safety concerns regarding a speeding convoy on state highways last week that brought the US Honor Flag to the funeral home of fallen Trooper Cody Donahue.
And Tuesday, the head of CSP went farther, issuing this statement addressing our investigation:
After reviewing video taken on Dec. 1 of Colorado State Patrol members escorting the Honor Flag, we have determined that the behavior of the Troopers escorting the vehicle was unacceptable and outside the scope of our internal policies. There was no reasonable justification for this behavior. The escort of the Honor Flag did not warrant the use of emergency lights and sirens and we are sorry for placing other drivers at risk.
We are in the process of conducting an internal affairs investigation into the incident. Upon completing our investigation we will undertake appropriate corrective measures that may include personnel action as well as the issuance of traffic citations.
The safety of motorists on our roadways is a priority of the Colorado State Patrol, and we hold our members to the highest standards; that includes obeying traffic laws, driving cautiously and courteously, and always putting safety first.
On behalf of the Colorado State Patrol, I want to apologize to anyone who was made to feel unsafe by these individuals’ actions. To the public whose trust may have been affected by this behavior, I want to assure you that the Colorado State Patrol remains faithfully dedicated to keeping you -- and everyone on Colorado’s roads -- safe. We are taking steps to ensure that this issue does not arise in the future and to reiterate to all of our staff the importance of always putting safety first.
Last week was a very difficult week for our Patrol family, but that does not excuse violations of policy or state law. We hold our members to high standards to ensure our core values of Honor, Duty, and Respect are at the forefront of their hearts and minds. Continuing to hold ourselves to these core values is the best way for us to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Chief Scott Hernandez
Colorado State Patrol
Chris Heisler, the founder and driver of the US Honor Flag, broadcast a live video stream of that journey from a dashboard camera. He also shared Global Positioning Satellite information detailing his trek.
That information showed the caravan moving, at times, faster than 100 miles per hour. In the video, surprised motorists can be seen struggling to get out of the way of the fast moving vehicles.
Heisler said the police escorts he travels with often move at high speeds. He says it's an important to show the families of fallen officers a sense of urgency in bringing the flag to accompany their loved one.
"When a police officer or a firefighter is killed, there are two men staying with that person, with that fallen hero, from the incident time through the medical examiners office, to all the processes in the funeral all the way to internment," Heisler said.
He said he has driven or flown with the flag to more than 1,000 events since 2008. In July, when three officers were killed in an ambush in Baton Rouge, Heisler said he took the flag to each of their funerals as well as making a trip to Kansas City all in the span of 48 hours.
"There's only one flag and there's only one Chris and we have to get there as quickly as we possibly can," he said.
News 5 Investigates shared the clip along with photos we took of Heisler's GPS Data with the Colorado State Patrol to ask why they were going so fast. Public Information Officer Josh Lewis thanked us in his reply for bringing it to their attention.
"Public safety is paramount to our agency, so we take these allegations very seriously," Lewis wrote. "Whenever an allegation of misconduct, violation of policy or law, or other complaint regarding a member of the Colorado State Patrol is presented, we complete an in depth review. Based on the information provided, we will be performing an investigation to determine if any violations have occurred, and if so, take action to address the behavior."
We also reached out to Arapahoe Community College where there is a training academy for state troopers. Sgt. Kieth Moreland of the campus police told us he thought the speeds were too fast.
"For a private person to roll that fast, even if he's accompanied by the police, it's just not safe and somebody's not thinking."
Moreland previously served for 30 years with the Los Angeles Police Department. During six of those years he handled funeral detail. He thinks the troopers could have flown the flag to Littleton much quicker and with less risk of an accident.
"They're distracted on the roadways already with their personal devices and when they shut themselves up in that car and they turn their music up and they've got their windows up, they can't hear a siren operating at normal speeds," he said.
Heisler told us he's logged more than 400,000 miles on these trips, all without an accident. In addition to the escorts, he wears a bullet proof vest and travels with a police dog for protection. Heisler said he has been shot at on three different occasions.
"So, we have to keep going from place to place. We don't stop at hotels without security," Heisler said. "This is our society, this is where we're at."