PANAMA CITY, Pan. –
The Missouri National Guard (MONG) recently traveled to Panama City, Panama, to participate in a State Partnership Program (SPP) Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE), with representatives from several of Panama’s law enforcement and protection agencies. MONG’s 35th Military Police (MP) Brigade sent an MP Subject Matter Expert team led by 1st Sgt. Jason Copley of the 3175th (MP Co.). The group included Sgt. 1st Class Joel Combs (also 3175th), Staff Sgt. Jaymes Dooley (1139th MP Co.), and Staff Sgt. William Rudd (1175th MP Co.). Their mission at the exchange was to lead discussions and presentations on several topics, including Responding to and Securing a Crime Scene, Crime Scene Photography, DNA Evidence, Physical Evidence, Evidence Collection and Packaging, Residential Search Warrant Procedures, and Crime Scene Documentation. In addition, the exchange included practical exercises in evidence logging, macro photography, DNA collection, and describing evidence.
There were twelve participants from Panama attending the exchange. Representation included National Aeronaval Service (SENAN), also known as AeroNaval, Institutional Protection Service (SPI), National Border Service (SenaFront), and the Panamanian National Police (PNP). Partners from Panama presented several case studies and best practices for their governmental agencies. In addition, they compared methodology and evidence gathering practices with MONG’s Military Police.
The Missouri National Guard has enjoyed a formal partnership with Panama since 1996. The partnership strengthens relationships by sharing best practices across a diverse number of topics.
The COVID-19 pandemic created many barriers impacting the effectiveness and execution of the State Partnership Program. Even travel restrictions created challenges, innovation played a critical role in keeping the partnership with Panama active. Missouri participated in eight SMEEs virtually throughout the pandemic, which enabled collaboration between the two organizations to continue until travel was possible.
Cpt. Anna Gutierrez, Director of the Missouri National Guard's State Partnership Program, is excited to be back to normal operations. "We have missed these opportunities to meet face-to-face. Something is lost when we are not together. We develop stronger relationships and better collaboration within these exchanges when we can physically be together. And this partnership is very important to Missouri, so we are glad to be back at it.”
1st Sgt. Jason Copley, a military policeman, and a civilian police officer with the Springfield Police Department, has a great appreciation and respect for the teamwork and collaboration he experienced in Panama. “These partnerships are beneficial to everybody involved…It helps us address the trends that each country is seeing and how we combat that trend. This program encourages that exchange of information to allow us to change our TTPs (Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures), or simply adjust our TTPs…to change our training and be better prepared.”
The SMEE was well received and significantly impacted all that participated. A 2nd Lieutenant working in search and rescue for the Servicio Nacional Aeronavel or SENAN, Diego Chiru, was glad to be a part of the exchange. "The communication that we had…the exchanges, and also our participation helps us to make it (the SMEE) complete. It has been very relevant for me and my colleagues because there were many things that we didn't know. Especially when we were sharing about collecting evidence."
Missouri will participate in two more exchanges in the next couple of months. The next event will focus on Civil Disturbances, and later in the year, there will be a Cyber Security-focused exchange.