It’s really amazing how rumors and stories develop in times of chaos.
Last Thursday, when the cart theft, and subsequent chase, was taking place in O’Fallon I was getting my hair cut. When I left the Great Clips and checked my phone, I saw that I had missed quite a few calls and text messages. Something was going on and District 90 was locked down.
I began texting with Angela, our Shiloh reporter, who was watching Facebook for updates. That’s where a lot of the various stories started. Folks were posting about all sorts of things, including escaped convicts, as to why the schools were closed off. In times of crisis, misinformation takes hold.
Then I received a call and was told there were reports of a low flying plane near where St. Elizabeth’s Hospital is being built. I was told Shiloh PD and St. Clair County Sheriff’s deputies were chasing it from the ground. I was still in the area after leaving Great Clips so I drove by St. Elizabeth’s keeping an eye on the sky. It was empty and there wasn’t a cop to be seen anywhere.
It was at this time I reached out to a couple of contacts at the police department. Obviously they were very busy and didn’t really have time to causally chat. Captain Jim Cavins informed me that he was already working on a press release about the incident and would be releasing it shortly. I’m a firm believer in letting folks more important than I am do their work without my looking over their shoulder, so I sat back and waited for the release.
Perhaps other media outlets would be a bit firmer and pressing for information. I don’t think that helps a situation that is already very stressful. Mind you, what I didn’t know is that the police were dealing with not one but two car chases in O’Fallon. They were dealing with multiple suspects, which were reportedly armed. This isn’t the time when they need the O’Fallon Weekly pestering them for updates as to what is going on. With that said, it is my firm belief that Captain Cavins and the rest of the O’Fallon PD would have immediately passed along all necessary updates to keep the public safe.
It’s a fine line both the media and the police need to straddle in times of chaos and crisis. Too little information can breed baseless rumor and create even more panic. However, taking time to provide a constant information flow can distract law enforcement and divert possibly needed resources. I’d just advise everyone to try and stay calm as best they can and try to not pass along bad information, as that helps no one.
We’d like to thank the men and women of the O’Fallon Police Department for doing such a good job handling a potentially dangerous situation.