EDITORIAL: Lessons learned from a crisis situation

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Need for better information distribution is evident after weekend manhunt

The Tri-State was on edge over the weekend, as a murder suspect, fleeing Ironton, went on the run through two other states, stealing vehicles, abducting people and his spree culminated in a hostage situation, where he was ultimately taken down by police.

Law enforcement in all of these areas had a task before them, tracking him, while trying to keep the public appraised of the situation. For instance, the city of Ceredo, West Virginia went into shelter-in-place, after the suspect was spotted and reported to police.

Email newsletter signup

We thank all who worked through this situation and did the job under pressure, all while making sure those held by the suspect were safely released.

However, the situation did reveal one area where things could use improvement in our area: the dissemination of information.

As the suspect moved from one location to another, statements were made on the situation by some local law enforcement agencies, whether through Facebook or those sent to media.

However, in such a developing situation, there was no universal way to get info out in the Tri-State. Had one not been following the page of one of the local agencies across the border, it was easy to miss updates on the case.

This same issue impacted journalists covering the matter, and news outlets across the region were in varying states of being up-to-date as a result.

As the matter happened over the weekend, most police departments were not keeping regular office hours and, if a reporter did not have a personal contact at a particular department (many of which were outside their coverage area), getting updates to pass to the public was difficult.

Similarly, it was easy for outlets to miss updates on social media, for departments they typically did not follow or had no reason to know would be drawn into the story.

While police departments were working together and in touch, it was easy for the populace to remain in the dark on developments.

Having to search around Facebook is not an ideal situation for the public, whether it is citizens or journalists.

Perhaps the lesson to be learned from this is for departments across the Tri-State region to partner with media to discuss the need for a system of disseminating information in real time, whether a website, subscription service or an on-call office for the region.

With three states connected here, many times, situations begin in one state and end in another. It is the nature of things.

Better connectedness will not only aid journalism in keeping the public informed and safe, but it is something that can benefit departments in being better prepared for developing situations like we had this weekend.