12/13/05 Campaign for the Missing 2006
It has a name now: Campaign for the Missing 2006.
When I first began my recent series about UID’s and the lost missing, I hadn’t planned on making this a formal campaign. I was merely going to remind people of the existence of the state model legislation again. Somewhere along the way as I was writing this, the idea picked up steam, and then solidified in my mind. It became more than just another gentle reminder as I had done before. Even though I already knew the stories I was presenting, something new sprang forth in putting them in writing.
Today, I present Campaign for the Missing 2006 to you. It really is no coincidence that a quick look at today’s calendar shows the number 13. That is the stark reality of loss staring me in the face. This day marks four and one half years since Jason disappeared. It is proper in every way that I launch this campaign now. He would want this, I am sure.
What is Campaign for the Missing 2006?
Campaign for the Missing 2006 is a grassroots effort to pass legislation in each state that will serve to improve the law enforcement community's ability to locate and ensure a safe return of missing persons. It will address the national problems of missing persons and the identification of human remains and provide the framework for improving law enforcement's response. It will also improve the collection of critical information about missing persons, prioritize high-risk missing persons cases, and ensure prompt dissemination of critical information to other law enforcement agencies and the public that can improve the likelihood of a safe return.
The Department of Justice, working with Federal, State, and local law enforcement; coroners and medical examiners; victim advocates; forensic scientists; key policymakers; and family members who have lived through this tragic experience, developed the model to be presented in each state’s legislature.
What do I need to do?
The campaign seeks persons in each state who are willing to write to their own district’s elected official to ask for sponsorship. This is more than a letter writing campaign. Please read all of the information presented before making your committment.
These are the basic steps involved:
1) If you are interested in helping make a difference in the lives of thousands of missing persons and their families, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org Give us your name and the state in which you live.
2) Look up the name and contact information for your state senator. This is the official who works with state law rather than federal. You may look up your representative here http://www.ncsl.org/public/leglinks.cfm
3) Send either via email or US mail the prepared letter you will find at the end of this posting to that representative. You are asking them to sponsor this bill and to present it to the senate.
4) If you get a negative response, write to other senators until sponsorship is obtained. (My hope is that there will be more than one person in each state working on this, so that no one person is working on it.)
The following is a simplified version of how the process flows in Nebraska. This may vary slightly state to state. The senator’s aides in your state will be very willing to explain the process to you.
When a senator agrees to sponsor the bill, they will need to have their legislative aides research to ensure that nothing in the model will supersede current state law. If there are sections of the model already in place, those sections can be removed. A determination of fiscal (financial) impact may be prepared by the aides or other state employees.
When we find multiple senators to sponsor the bill in a single state, we can inform them who the original sponsor is, so that their offices can work together to research before the model goes to the writers. Any changes made are then presented to the campaign helpers in each state for approval. We will also help with this.
The model and additions/corrections/deletions is forwarded to the state’s bill writers. Each state has certain language/formats that bills are written in. After the bill is written, another check should take place to ensure there are no errors.
The bill is now scheduled to be introduced to the legislature. It is assigned a number. After presentation, the bill is forwarded to a committee. After that point, a public hearing is scheduled.
At the hearing, interested citizens are invited to testify before the committee members. In NE, you can speak for up to 5 minutes. There may be persons or groups present who are testifying against the bill. The committee can opt to ask the citizens who testify questions about the bill. If you volunteer to assist with the campaign, you are not required to testify. We will be able to assist in locating families of the missing and representatives of organizations who are willing to do this.
After the hearing, the committee can “kill” the bill, take no action, or pass it out of committee to be debated upon by all of the senators at a later date.
Once passed out of the committee, the bill is debated twice, and if passed, will go to the governor. He/She can either sign it or veto it.
Assuming success, you now have a law! (The law does not take effect upon signing.)
There are two additions I wish to see in this bill. I will be working on the exact wording while those who are helping are securing a sponsor. The slightly altered bill should be forwarded to the sponsor at that time to submit for research. I will have this available in PDF file format.
The additions I wish to add include:
The law enforcement agency, upon acceptance of a missing persons report, shall inform the reporting citizen of one of two resources, based upon the age of the missing person. If the missing person is age 17 or under, contact information for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children shall be given. If the missing person is age 18 or older, contact information for the National Center for Missing Adults shall be given.
I cannot begin to tell you how often this does not occur, leaving families not knowing where to turn to receive much needed assistance. Utilizing LE is only one piece of the puzzle. Families need the resources, support, and awareness these agencies provide.
In respect to missing persons who are deceased and then identified:
Agencies handling the remains of a missing person who is now deceased must notify the LE agency handling the missing person’s case. Documented efforts must be made to locate family members of the deceased person to inform them of the death and location of the remains of their family member.
This is a sample letter you may use to send to your state senator to ask for sponsorship of the model legislation:
Dear Senator _________,
It has come to my attention that there is a very real and growing problem here in the state of ____________.
Each year, families in __________ struggle with the agony of having to report a missing loved one. Far too often missing persons investigations grow cold, leaving many to cope with this loss. Historically, the law enforcement community's ability to locate and ensure a safe return of those missing has been hampered by an inability to share resources and information when conducting investigations and identifying remains.
In collaboration with experts representing State and local law enforcement, policymakers, forensic scientists, medical examiners and coroners, and crime victims, the U.S. Department of Justice has developed model State legislation. This model legislation seeks to address the national problems of missing persons and the identification of human remains. For cases involving missing persons, law enforcement's ability to locate and ensure a safe return must be improved. Law enforcement must be granted additional tools to identify high-risk missing persons cases and promptly disseminate critical information to other law enforcement agencies and the public. This model legislation provides framework for improving law enforcement's response.
It suggests ways States can improve the collection of critical information about missing persons, prioritize high-risk missing persons cases, and ensure prompt dissemination of critical information to other law enforcement agencies and the public that can improve the likelihood of a safe return. At the same time, this model legislation suggests an approach for collecting information during the missing persons reporting process that can later be used to help identify human remains.
The model legislation will also ensure that information that could help identify human remains is promptly collected and reported to national databases. Specifically, the model legislation suggests a mechanism for improving death scene investigations, centralizing within the State the reporting of unidentified remains, ensuring the delivery of human remains to an entity that can conduct an appropriate examination, ensuring the timely reporting of identifying information to national databases, and maximizing available resources that can reduce the cost of identifications.
There are an estimated 40,000-50,000 unidentified deceased persons in the US. Many of these persons may be reported missing, but without the model legislation in place as law, this number will continue to grow. This leaves families of the missing without answers, sometimes for years, and unfortunately, sometimes forever.
With more than 100,000+ missing persons cases open in the US, it is clear that we must place more importance upon actions taken that will decrease this number. We are, after all, not talking about numbers, but about human beings. These missing persons are loved and missed by their families. We need to take swift and firm action to put into place laws which will give these families hope and increase the number who come back home.
As my state representative, I ask you to strongly consider sponsoring this bill in the next legislative session. Thank you.
Link to text of model legislation:
So, the question now remains: Are you willing to take action to help the families you read about on this blog and the countless thousands of other families who live in the “not knowing”? What if it was your son, daughter, mother, father, brother, or sister?
What if you were me and you did not know if your own son was a body lying in a morgue somewhere? What if you were me and you wondered if you would ever see your child again?
I am but one voice for the missing, crying out not just for myself and my son, but for all of those who are not among us, and are close to our hearts.
While it may seem an insurmountable task to get the model legislation passed in all 50 states, that doesn’t matter to me. If we do not try, then we will never succeed. If we do try, then we have a chance.
There is always hope.
For new readers who did not follow the series that inspired this campaign, these are the direct links to those stories.
Stories which explain and review the model legislation:
The story of a mother and a missing daughter and the mother's efforts to change national law:
A Love Story is the tale of one woman's fight to find the man she loves and the system which hid him from her:
Todd's story is a sad example of the attitude towards the dead based upon their lifestyle:
Seeking the Missing Among the Dead is the introduction to the series: