Lawmakers want to crimininalize 'swatting' in Missouri

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JEFFERSON CITY - A bill that would make "swatting" a felony offense was passed out of committee Tuesday.

Swatting is essentially a prank call to law enforcement, usually hinting that there's an active shooter or bomb threat. That triggers police to send armed officers, even a SWAT team, to a "suspect's" home, which can have serious, even deadly, consequences.

State Representative Kevin Corlew, R-Kansas City, said this is not an issue to be taken lightly.

"There was a tragedy last year in Wichita, where an innocent homeowner was shot during a swatting incident. We seek to prevent anything that would happen or any other danger whether it be to the homeowner or to the law enforcement personnel."

Captain Doug Shoemaker of the Jefferson City Police Department said potential "swat calls" and police pranks in general are usually screened in depth.

"We constantly have to analyze those calls, both the communications operator and the responding officers, to make sure what’s taking place is really reality in this case."

Shoemaker also said the law enforcement agencies in Jefferson City work closely so a SWAT call would pretty much call everyone out to the scene. 

"We respond, and there’s a lot of officers that go to those. It’s not only us, but because of our working relationship with the Cole County Sheriffs Department, with the Capitol police, Lincoln University police, highway patrol, all these different law enforcement agencies can converge on one thing," Shoemaker said. "Since we have such a good working relationship with everybody, we get a lot of cops that show up."

Corlew said both he and Representative Bill Kidd, R-Independence, had separate bills that pretty much had similar language. The bill that was passed out of committee Tuesday is a combination of the two.