August 5, 2010 – The question has been raised: Did liability issues hinder the search for Susan Cox Powell, the 28-year-old West Valley City mom who has been missing since December, and the search for 2-year-old Emmett Tapp who went missing Monday and whose body was found Wednesday?
Some say yes.
What do you think? Should police departments put liability issues above finding someone who has gone missing? Scroll down and leave your COMMENTS below.
Emmett Tapp, 2
The body of a toddler who went missing Monday night in Arizona’s rugged Yavapai County was found Wednesday, raising complaints from some local residents, including the town’s mayor, that every last volunteer was not included in the search for the little boy.
The search for Emmett Trapp, 2, was intensive, the New York Times reported. They used bloodhounds, a helicopter with an infrared sensor, and scores of rescue workers from a variety of agencies and organizations on foot, horseback and all-terrain vehicles.
But still local residents were complaining.
“They followed the procedures as best they could, but so many people, including me, wanted to put on boots and get out there,” said Len Marinaccio, the mayor of Dewey-Humboldt, who has a son about Emmett’s age. “I could have walked down the center of town and said ‘We’re forming a search party’, and people would have followed me like the Pied Piper. We would have had hundreds.”
Official searchers had undergone training on what to look for and how not to spoil evidence. According to Dwight D’Evelyn, a spokesman for the sheriff’s department, allowing untrained citizens to track Emmett would also have exposed the county to legal liability if anyone had been hurt, he said.
Susan Cox Powell, 28
The same issues have arisen in the search for Susan Cox Powell, the 28-year-old West Valley City mom who went missing last December.
Susan is still missing.
Her husband, Josh Powell, remains the only person of interest in what police call a missing person’s case with suspicious criminal overtones. Within a month of her disappearance he moved with their two young children to his father’s home in Puyallup, Washington, where he still resides.
Citizens have complained that things could have been done differently when Susan first went missing. Those close to the case believe police should have alerted the public and provided a photo of Susan’s husband and their minivan.
Linda Osborne, who has searched for Susan since she went missing, and who has assisted in organizing ground and mine search efforts, questions why police did not hold a press conference, soliciting witnesses to Josh’s whereabouts the days surrounding Susan’s disappearance.
Some questioned why a massive police-supported volunteer ground search was not coordinated with the scores of people who were willing to donate their time, experience, and equipment.
They were disappointed when the public was forbidden from participating in an April 10 search originally planned as a public and professional search for Susan.
Again, safety and liability issues were raised by the police department leading the investigation, West Valley City Police.
Kyron Horman, 7
In the case of Kyron Horman, the 7-year-old boy who went missing from his Portland, Oregon elementary school in early June, search efforts were carried out by professionals and the public.
In Kyron’s case, the public has been well-informed and included in searching for Kyron.
Oregonlive.com reported that the search for Kyron included 42 law enforcement agencies from Oregon, Washington, and California, 213 detectives, and more than 1,300 searchers. Multnomah County Sheriff’s Capt. James Gates said, “That’s how Oregon works. We look out for each other.”
It appears that they were more intent on finding Kyron than worrying about liability issues if someone were injured searching for him.
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