Why the search for Ebel didn't begin immediately after ankle monitor alert

The Colorado Department of Corrections held a press conference and explained why no one began searching for Evan Ebel the day his ankle monitor was removed.

Report from sister-station FOX21 News

By Abbie Burke

The Colorado Department of Corrections held a press conference Thursday afternoon to discuss their parole policies. They also explained why no one began searching for Evan Ebel the day his ankle monitor was removed.

According to the Colorado DOC the division is on average responsible for around 14,000 people on parole.

There are only 212 parole officers. That's an average of about 65 parolees per officer.

Because of that officials said cases must be prioritized and examined on a case by case basis.

Ebel, a suspect in two homicides, was released from prison January 28.

He was placed on parole and given an ankle monitor.

"There were no indications that has been reported that Evan Ebel was at all noncompliant up until the middle of March," Tim Hand, Director of the Division of Adult Parole Community Corrections and YOS, said.

In fact, Ebel was a model parolee.

Hand said Ebel called in every day, submitted clean urine samples, was attending treatment and had a job and home.

"We will typically know what kind of attitude they're bringing with them to the parole officer on their first day when we meet them," Hand said.

But on March 14, Ebel's monitor sent a "tamper alert."

"You can cut it off. You can take a scissors, a knife, and just cut the strap off if you want," Hand said.

Ebel didn't call in the next day and when officers called him the following day asking him to report, he never showed.

Hand said officers weren't immediately alarmed by the alert because they happen often and aren't always serious.

"You can get an alert, it could simply be in many cases where they bump their ankle on something," Hand said.

The DOC said they receive hundreds of tamper alerts each month. In March they had 377. That number includes service repairs, but officials said those numbers are minimal.

What parole officers do about those tamper alerts is at their discretion.

"I can tell you the officer that was responsible for Evan Ebel's supervision is an outstanding officer. And I will stand here before you and tell you we have found nothing that has brought to my attention any deficiencies in his management of the offender population," Hand said.

It took five days for law enforcement to realize Ebel was gone.

By then Colorado Prisons' Chief Tom Clements was dead.

Two days later Ebel would be killed in a shootout with authorities in Texas.

Hand said despite Ebel's violent history in prison there was no indication of what was going to happen.

"That doesn't mean that the behavior inside a prison setting follows in all cases out to the street when they get released," Hand said.

There is currently no written policy stating how soon a parole officer must contact a parolee after a tamper alert.

"The parole officers are extremely dedicated professionals and they take their job so very seriously. I will not get up here and criticize them for the great work that they do," Hand said.

The National Institute of Corrections is conducting a review of all the department's parole operations.

Governor John Hickenlooper also announced that the DOC will audit records to make sure offenders are serving appropriate sentences.

This is in response to the discovery that Ebel was released four years early due to a clerical error.