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CSPD officer disciplined for social media comments made during protest on I-25

Posted at 4:43 PM, Aug 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-10 19:07:09-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — A Colorado Springs Police officer has been officially disciplined for social media comments made under a pseudonym regarding a protest that occurred on I-25.

CSPD Chief Vince Niski released a statement Monday addressing the situation.

On June 30, 2020, a group of protesters blocked traffic on I-25, just north of the Bijou St. bridge. Multiple local news crews responded to the scene and began live-streaming what was happening.

During a live-stream on one station's Facebook page, the comments, "kill them all," and "kill em all" were made by an individual named Steven Eric, according to CSPD. That station reported to CSPD that they received a tip that the name Steven Eric was a pseudonym and the account actually belonged to a member of CSPD.

Chief Niski said an Internal Affairs investigation was immediately initiated to determine if that information was true.

The Internal Affairs investigation determined that the comments were made by CSPD Sergeant Keith Wrede. CSPD said the results of the investigation were submitted to Wrede's Chain of Command.

The Chain Command made the decision to issue discipline of a 40-hour suspension (which results in approximately $2,044 in lost wages), the removal from his specialized unit, and reassignment to a different position within the department. It was determined that the comments were made off-duty out of frustration and there was no indication of any physical action or intent to cause harm, Chief Niski said.

Niskin added that he in no way wants to minimize Wrede’s words, saying his comments were unacceptable, have damaged the department's relationship with members of the community, and fell short of CSPD standards.

More information on the Internal Affairs investigation can be found here.

CSPD Chief Vince Niski's full statement can be found below:

To Our Community—

As your Chief of Police, I will always be transparent and honest with our community— during both good and bad times. As many of you are aware, one of our officers was accused of writing inappropriate comments on social media using a pseudonym. The investigation and review process into that incident is now complete. It has been found that the Facebook profile used to make those comments did in fact belong to Colorado Springs Police Department Sergeant Keith Wrede. We offer our organizational humility and a heartfelt apology to our entire community. Please make no mistake that I do not condone his actions, or attempt to minimize the severity of harm it has done in a time of rebuilding between law enforcement and the community. We do however, want to provide full context of the events that occurred.

On June 30, 2020, a small group of protestors blocked traffic on I-25, causing serious potential danger to themselves and drivers. The incident was being covered by multiple local news crews, one of which was live-streaming the demonstration. During that live-stream on KRDO’s Facebook, the comments “KILL THEM ALL” and “KILL EM ALL” were made by someone named “Steven Eric.” A few days later, on July 3, 2020, the CSPD Public Affairs Office was contacted by KRDO, who brought these comments to our attention and stated they received a tip that “Steven Eric” was a pseudonym, and the account actually belonged to CSPD Sergeant Keith Wrede. Due to the inappropriate, unprofessional, and unacceptable nature of the comments, we immediately began an Internal Affairs investigation to determine if the comments were in fact made by Sergeant Wrede. Based on preliminary information in the early stages of the investigation, we believed Sergeant Wrede was the individual who made the comments.

Although we were able to quickly determine Sergeant Wrede’s involvement, he was still afforded due process as required by law. At the end of the investigation, Internal Affairs submitted their findings, which included previous personnel history, interviews, etc., to Sergeant Wrede’s Chain of Command. His chain of command made the decision to issue a discipline of a 40 hour suspension (which results in approximately $2,044 in lost wages), the removal from his specialized unit, and reassignment to a different position within the department. It was determined that the comments were made off-duty out of frustration and there was no indication of any physical action or intent to cause harm. I am in no way minimizing Sergeant Wrede’s words. His comments were unacceptable, have damaged our relationship with members of our community, and fell short of our standards.

We have heard concerns from many community members and are also aware of misinformation or misconceptions regarding our role and response to this investigation. I would like to first start by addressing the demand for termination. These requests were for immediate termination before our investigation was even completed. While I understand frustrations, Sergeant Wrede, just like our community members, are afforded due process whenever any type of investigation takes place. I have also heard from many that I did not address these comments or refused to provide information during the internal investigation. From day one, I have taken the stance that the comments made on the live-stream were unprofessional, distasteful, and not reflective of our department. As mentioned earlier, public employees are entitled to due process under the law, and in any investigation, we do not release details as it is on-going. We owe it to our community and our employees to make sure a thorough and fair investigation is completed without any undue influence.

I fully recognize that it will take time to rebuild relationships that have been broken. The only thing I would ask of our community, is to not condemn every officer that wears our badge because of one individual’s action. Please remember officers are human too and make mistakes. Throughout his 20-year career, Sergeant Wrede has professionally served this community. While his statements were harmful and reprehensible, I cannot deprive the community of a good police officer and his services because of an isolated incident of an error in judgment. I also want to reaffirm that the regrettable comments made are not reflective of our department’s character or expectations of how we serve, or talk about, our community. We hope that you can accept our apology and be assured that the CSPD and Sgt. Wrede will continue to faithfully serve the public. We will always aspire to be worthy of your trust in all we say and do.

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CSPD arrests 4 protesters who blocked traffic on northbound I-25 Tuesday night