Law enforcement in Wright County, Missouri form ‘Special Ops Group’


WRIGHT COUNTY, Mo. (KY3) – A new task force is taking shape to combat growing crime in Wright County.

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

Wright County law enforcement says violent crime and drug use are increasing in the area. Agencies served nearly 50 home search warrants last year. About 1,100 people have been booked into the prison.

“We’re way above where we’ve ever been in the past,” Wright County Sheriff Sonny Byerley said.

Sheriff Byerley said the Wright County Special Operations Group is the next step toward addressing these issues.

“[We] decided that we were going to create a team to work together to start fighting even further,” said Byerley. “As an elected official, my duty is to make my fellow citizens feel safe. And I believe that by doing that, we are able to tackle crime on a higher level.

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

“No county department has enough employees or law enforcement officers to put together the team on their own,” Mansfield Police Chief Tim Stuart said. “So we have no choice but to unite and all take a stand.”

The agencies said joining forces also brings together resources.

“We can start pulling in a little more funding for this one organization that benefits everyone,” Sheriff Byerley said.

Byerley said the group will hold several fundraisers and benefits to raise money. He said he would also apply for grants, but the sheriff said the group was aiming not to spend taxpayers’ money.

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

“Training them is going to cost us about $150,000,” he said. “I would say full employment for this team will probably be around $300,000 by the time we move forward and actually have a fully active team.”

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

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

Search and rescue operations for missing persons will be another high priority.

“There’s a big chunk of land just outside of Mansfield, a conservation area where people have gone missing in the past,” Chief Stuart said.

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

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

Byerley said the training will consist of several phases in which the team will prepare for all the many types of situations they aim to cover.

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

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

“We set a criteria that they had to have at least a year of patrol experience in order to even try out for our team,” Byerley said. “We want someone who has basic knowledge of how patrols work in the county or city. This way they know first and foremost the laws we deal 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 does, the group said it will help reduce the problems that affect everyone.

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

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

Byerley said he pledged when he took office to do “everything inside [his] power” to help get criminals and drugs off the streets at “no matter the cost”.

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