Wright County, Mo. law enforcement agencies forming a ‘Special Operations Group’

Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 9:50 PM CST
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WRIGHT COUNTY, Mo. (KY3) - A new task force is taking shape to combat rising crime in Wright County.

It’s called the Wright County Special Operations Group. The new group will involve every law enforcement agency in Wright County. Each agency says this is a chance to pull all of their resources together to tackle some of the most complex issues across the county.

Law enforcement across Wright County say violent crime and drug use is rising in the area. Agencies served nearly 50 home search warrants last year. Around 1,100 people were booked into the jail.

”We’re way over what we have ever been in the past,” said Wright County Sheriff Sonny Byerley.

Sheriff Byerley said the Wright County Special Operations Group is the next step towards tackling these issues.

“[We] decided that we were going to start a team to work together to start combating this even further,” Byerley said. “As an elected official, my duty is to make my citizens feel safe. And I believe by doing this, we’re able to combat crime at a greater level.”

This special team will consist of officers from Mountain Grove, Hartville and Mansfield, in addition to Wright County deputies.

”No one department in the county has enough employees or law enforcement officers to form the team by themselves,” said Mansfield Police Chief Tim Stuart. “So we don’t have a choice but to unite together and all take a stand in it.”

The agencies said joining forces also pulls resources together.

”We can start pulling a little bit more funding in for this one organization that has the good of all people,” Sheriff Byerley said.

Byerley said the group will be doing several fundraisers and benefits to raise money. He said it will also apply for grants, but the sheriff said the group aims to not spend any tax dollars.

Byerley said it will be an expensive undertaking, which is another reason collaboration will be very beneficial.

“Their training is going to cost us about $150,000,” he said. “I would say full employment thing of this team is probably going to be somewhere around $300,000 by the time we push forward and actually have a fully active team.”

The team will focus on a variety of tasks, including search warrants, fugitive apprehension and hostage situations.

”What we do as a police officers, we deal with people at one of their worst moments,” Byerley said. “Well, this team is going to deal with people at their very worst moment.”

Search and rescue operations for missing people will be another large focus.

”There’s a large section of land just outside of Mansfield, a conservation area that we’ve had people go missing there in the past,” Chief Stuart said.

The special operations group will require intensive training. Byerly said it will be a bit of a military-style approach.

”We’re not military, but we are kind of a paramilitary organization,” he said.

Byerley said training will consist of multiple phases where the team works its way into preparing for all of the numerous types of situations it aims to cover.

“We do have our own in-house trainer who has 30 years of experience in undercover narcotics search and rescue, high-risk warrant service,” he said. “So it was kind of a delight to him to be able to use all of those years of experience to train our guys. I mean, you don’t want to work your whole life and not be able to give back to your community, especially your law enforcement community.”

The sheriff said the team will consist of officers and deputies who already work for the agencies.

“We have set a criteria to where they had to have at least one year of patrol experience in order to even try out for our team,” Byerley said. “We want somebody that has some basic knowledge of how patrol in the county or patrolling the city works. That way they are first and foremost familiar with what laws we’re dealing with, and how to deal with the public.”

It will take time before the new force is finalized and ready to go. But when it is, the group said it will help curb issues that affect everyone.

”We live in a community that’s pretty close-knit,” Byerley said. “So if someone gets into trouble, it’s not just that person that’s affected. It may be an entire community, an entire county. So I mean, our crime goes well beyond just the person that we take to jail.”

“I think it shows to the community as well that we’re all working together,” Stuart said. “All law enforcement in the county is in this together and trying to make things better.”

Byerley said he made a commitment when he took office to do “everything inside [his] power” to help remove criminal and drugs from the streets at “whatever cost.”

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