- Associated Press - Thursday, May 1, 2014

DENVER (AP) - 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 that 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.

This follows a number of high-profile incidents, including a case in Denver where a woman was shot to death after spending 12 minutes on a 911 call April 14 saying her husband was hallucinating and asking her to shoot him.

Kristine Kirk, 44, begged dispatchers to hurry and send officers and told them he was getting a gun from a safe, according to police reports. Dispatchers then heard a gunshot, and the line went quiet.

Kirk told dispatchers her husband, Richard Kirk, 47, had eaten marijuana-infused candy before the attack. He has been charged with first-degree murder.

Richard Kirk’s public defender has declined to comment on the case.

Murray said the policy changes already were being considered before the latest incident. The department has pledged a review of the delay but so far has refused to release its findings.

“That call played a part in this policy, but it was not the driving factor,” Murray said. “Times are changing. The kinds of calls are changing.”

Under the new policy, emailed throughout the department Wednesday, officers will be able to respond with lights and sirens to calls in which they deem there is “imminent danger.” That includes calls for assaults with weapons, suicidal people and cases in which a 911 caller clearly indicates there is an imminent threat to his or her life.

Denver police have struggled with slowing response times in recent months, though disagreement exists about the cause of the delays.

Lt. Vincent Gavito, who sits on the board of Denver’s police union, said the policy change is a “move in the right direction.”

“It gives the dispatchers and officers and supervisors on the street a little more discretion, which, in my opinion, is where it should be in the first place,” he said.

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