GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — Hours after Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters was detained while district attorney investigators served a search warrant to seize her iPad, a man called dispatch demanding to speak to a sergeant.
“I want to talk to whoever the hell put those handcuffs on that nice woman,” the man screams at the dispatcher.
“I want to talk to the ‘sergeant at arms’ who made that decision, who sent them over there or I’m going to put your number on the Internet and you’re going to get a thousand calls tonight,” he continues, after he’s transferred to a supervisor in the dispatch center.
His call was one of more than a dozen obtained by 9NEWS in an open records request after the arrest of Peters. That evening, Grand Junction Police posted on their social media accounts asking people to stop calling emergency dispatch to complain about Peters’ arrest.
Peters was detained briefly on Feb. 8 while investigators for the district attorney’s office try to seize her iPad while serving a search warrant related to the day before. Peters had been accused by several people of using the iPad to record a court hearing for her deputy clerk the day before and denying she did when she asked the judge.
VIDEO: Grand Junction officers' body cam video of Peters arrest
Videos of Peters arrest that morning quickly began to circulate online, even making it to former President Donald Trump’s former chief of staff Steve Bannon. Bannon aired the video on his War Room television show, broadcast on the Real America’s Voice network that afternoon while he interviewed Colorado election conspiracy theorist Col. Shawn Smith about Peters arrest.
“For the police to basically chain up a Gold Star Mother is outrageous and this is what it’s come to,” Bannon said that afternoon on his show.
He repeatedly referred to Peters as a Gold Star Mother, a fact repeated by several callers to Grand Junction Police that afternoon. Peters' son died during an airborne demonstration at Liberty State Park for New York Fleet Week, according to Mesa County's website.
Smith refers to the arrest as an act of tyrants, also repeated by a caller to dispatch. And Bannon calls the police who arrested Peters “the Gestapo,” a reference to the secret German police during the Nazi regime.
“Is this the Nazi headquarters,” one man asks after a dispatcher answers the phone back at the Grand Junction Dispatch Center.
“I'm just ashamed that police departments are the arms or tyrants these days, and your department should issue an apology in writing to Ms. Peters and put it out in the media,” another caller says shortly after the Bannon segment aired.
The calls came in from all over the country. One man who called the video embarrassing tells the dispatcher he’s from Chicago. Another talks about his friends in the military and law enforcement in Cape Cod.
The calls also come from people who say they identify as police supporters.
“Just send a message to the sheriff that I used to back the blue and I always thought the sheriff's departments throughout the country were the best and everybody else were crap,” one woman says to a dispatcher. “Well, what they did to Tina Peters today was outrageous. When did they become a communist,” she continues before hanging up the phone.
Another woman, who says she lives in Grand Junction and used to work for the government there, accuses Grand Junction Police of working with the FBI. They weren’t.
“I've got my eyes wide open,” she says to the dispatcher. “And the police...I've gotten a couple of letters asking for donations and I usually do and I haven't turned it in yet and don't know if I will.”
“Well that’s certainly your prerogative,” the dispatcher responds.
Each of the calls came in to the Grand Junction Police Department’s dispatch center, which handles emergency and urgent non-emergency calls for assistance.
“That certainly does provide a strain on our dispatchers,” said Callie Berkson, the public information officer for the Grand Junction Police Department.
“Those people who need those resources, they’re not going to be able to get into our 911 communications center.”
This isn’t the first time the department has dealt with controversial situations which have made people call to comment. Berkson said several years ago the department established a comment line that is monitored where people could call to express frustrations about a situation or offer a compliment for how police handled something. The number for the Grand Junction Comment Line is 970-549-5149.
“It’s not a safe way to make a comment…it’s not an appropriate use of resources,” she said of the people who call the emergency dispatch center.
People are always discouraged from calling 911 or the police dispatch if there isn’t an immediate need, but Berkson said none of the calls to dispatch technically broke the law. Police can only really file charges if someone uses 911 or the non-emergency line to file a false report, she said.
Have a tip about this or any story? Contact 9News reporter Steve Staeger by e-mailing email@example.com.
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