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Editorial for April 7

Brandon’s law can make a difference

April 7, 2009
Marshall Independent

Brandon's Law has made much needed progress through two key Minnesota State House and Senate committees. The law, named for Brandon Swanson, 19, of Marshall who has been missing since May 14, will speed up the process in which law enforcement gives information to parents in a non-criminal search and provide for a better exchange of resources and information on missing adults.

"It's standing up to what we wanted it to do and what we can do (now) without being a cost to the state," Brian Swanson, Brandon's dad, said.

Yet, "there's more to be done," Brian Swanson said.

There is more to be accomplished with Brandon's Law, but Annette Swanson, Brandon's mom, said what's already been passed by House and Senate committees could have already helped in a missing person reported during the weekend.

The reported story on Dan Zamlen, 18, the University of St. Thomas student who was reported missing after he left a party in anger and lost cell phone contact with a friend, "brought tears to my eyes," Annette Swanson said.

Some of the circumstances of Zamlen's disappearance Sunday are startlingly similar to Brandon Swanson's. Swanson had called his parents to tell them his car went in a ditch and asked for their help. His parents abruptly lost cell phone contact with him while they were searching. They reported him missing a few hours after searching.

Zamlen was talking with a friend, the Star Tribune said, when he said, 'Oh, my gosh, Anna where are you. Help!,'" and cell phone contact was lost.

St. Paul police spokesman Pete Panos said Zamlen is a grown man and his lack of contact doesn't rise to the concern of a missing child, the Star Tribune said. Police did not send anyone to the search area until 4:30 p.m., after friends and families had already been searching.

While Zamlen is not a child of 3 who may have wandered away from his yard, been abducted by a stranger or family member, there certainly appears to plenty of reasons for concern.

Zamlen has Type I diabetes and had been drinking. He had asked for help on a cell phone call which ended and had not called back. He was walking near the Mississippi River. No one has reported to his family seeing him since early Sunday morning after an argument.

"How much more in danger can you get before it rises to a level of concern?" Annette Swanson said.

It would seem in this age of text messages, cell phone calls, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and just the general rumor mill, plenty of people knew Zamlen was missing, and within hours, if he was hiding somewhere, someone would know. Still, even if Zamlen is hiding or is embarrassed to come forward, police response should be based more on what's known, which is that under the circumstances Zamlen could be in danger.

Brandon's Law would consider Zamlen to be in a dangerous situation and heighten the concern and the response.

One important piece of Brandon's Law that has been retained so far is the 11-item evaluation to determine if a missing adult is in danger. Zamlen would have been more quickly determined to be in danger and then the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension would have been called, Annette Swanson said. A plan to search would have been formed, she said.

While law enforcement in Lyon County responded after the Swansons reported their son was missing, it's clear to the Swansons and Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, who helped write and sponsor the bill, that doesn't always happen.

It does cost money for law enforcement to be involved in the search, but isn't that one of the jobs of law enforcement and rescue personnel? If the missing person turns out to be hiding or pulling a prank, law enforcement should consider billing the person or charging the person with a crime.

Zamlen chose to drink alcohol and left of his own free will this weekend, news reports said. But surely an angry 18-year-old, who has been drinking, who has diabetes and is walking in a dark area, apparently near a river, deserves more police attention than he has apparently received.

"I'm sitting here thinking, 'if only, if only,'" Annette Swanson said. "We could do so much better."

Hopefully, Brandon's Law can change that.

 
 

 

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