Earlier lessons help Monett's manhunt

Friday, March 15, 2013
MURRAY BISHOFF news editor

The manhunt in Monett on Wednesday confirmed the value of teamwork between law enforcement agencies.

At the news conference held shortly before 3 p.m. on March 13 at the Monett Justice Center, Sheriff Mick Epperly said his staff responded "all hands on deck" when an officer was in danger.

Monett Police Chief Tim Schweder and Lieutenant Greg Brandsma joined the other officers on duty in the field. Schweder said there was no need to call in any off-duty Monett officers, though some came in anyway, because of the other departments that came to help.

Teamwork like this shows how small towns get by in potentially critical situations.

Schweder said Monett officers haven't had specific training for an open area incident like the Thursday scenario. Epperly talked about training for different scenarios, like the active shooter drill held at the Wheaton schools.

Experience responding to situations in enclosed locations may not directly apply. However, officers from different departments working together pays dividends. Those old rivalries for territory that we used to hear about don't apply any more.

This also may have been the first time a multi-campus lockdown has been ordered in the Monett R-1 School District. It may be the first time such a lockdown was technically possible. The experience illustrated how to handle a lockdown and will make the next time, which may represent a real threat to the schools, go much easier.

Schweder said while things were a bit chaotic initially, officers quickly fell into familiar roles and did their job. The speed and smoothness with which officers moved from one side of town to the other was impressive to follow.

Technology also changes the way pursuits work. Readers saw the subject's photo posted on The Times' website and provided tips to police. In an age when the newspaper is more than a once-a-day experience, The Times was there with breaking news and continues to serve as Monett's real news source.

The manhunt generated a notable degree of anxiety around Monett, breaking the normal humdrum. The pursuit took longer than a TV episode, leaving some less than pleased with the speed of the resolution. Nonetheless, the professionalism shown by officers in the search provides a model for another day. The public will remember.