12/9/05 Taking Action--Part II
This was introduced at the first National Strategy Meeting on Identifying the Missing, which took place in Philadelphia in April. At this conference, the DOJ brought together 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. We reviewed the model and made suggestions as to necessary changes. The model was then finalized, and is now ready for interested citizens to take and obtain sponsorship from their state lawmaker(s). I am asking you to do the latter.
As of yesterday, we have interested persons in TN, FL, and CA. That is a start, but there is no reason why we should not be able to find persons in each state willing to go to bat for the missing.
Today, we’ll begin review of the model. It is lengthy, so I will post highlights and make commentary as needed to aid in understanding.
The complete text can be found here: http://www.ncjrs.org/pdffiles1/nij/210740v2.pdf
The basis of the model:
AN ACT relating to improving the ability of law enforcement (LE) to locate and return missing persons, to improving the identification of human remains, and to improving timely information and notification to family members of missing persons.
PROCEDURES FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS, CORONERS/ MEDICAL EXAMINERS AND OTHER GOVERNMENT PERSONNEL RELATING TO MISSING PERSONS REPORTS AND IDENTIFYING UNIDENTIFIED PERSONS/HUMAN REMAINS
(1) REPORT ACCEPTANCE. All law enforcement agencies within the State shall accept without delay any report of a missing person(s). Acceptance of a missing person(s) report may not be refused on any ground. No law enforcement agency may refuse to accept a missing person report on the basis that—
(A) the missing person(s) is an adult;
(B) the circumstances do not indicate foul play;
(C) the person(s) has been missing for a short period of time;
(D) the person(s) has been missing a long period of time;
(E) there is no indication that the missing person(s) was in the jurisdiction served by the law enforcement agency at the time of the disappearance;
(F) the circumstances suggest that the disappearance may be voluntary;
(G) the person(s) reporting does not have personal knowledge of the facts;
(H) the reporting individual cannot provide all of the information requested by the law enforcement agency;
(I) the reporting person lacks a familial or other relationship with the missing person;
(J) or for any other reason.
I have lost count of the number of family members of missing adults who have written to me, asking for help in getting LE to take a missing person report. If LE refuses to open a case, then families cannot seek assistance from agencies such as ours because of legalities. These families are then forced to search on their own. They often cannot afford to hire a private detective.
(2) MANNER OF REPORTING. All law enforcement agencies shall accept missing person(s) reports in person. Law enforcement agencies are encouraged to accept reports by phone or by electronic or other media to the extent that such reporting is consistent with law enforcement policies or practices.
(3) CONTENTS OF REPORT. In accepting a report of a missing person(s), the law enforcement agency shall attempt to gather relevant information relating to the disappearance. The law enforcement agency shall attempt to gather at the time of the report information that shall include, but not be limited to, the following:
What follows #3 is a comprehensive list of physical and other data. Some items in this list are routinely not included, and can have a bearing on the investigation. This includes items such as information about electronic devices.
(4) NOTIFICATION AND FOLLOW UP ACTION.
(A) NOTIFICATION. The law enforcement agency shall notify the person(s) making the report, a family member, or other person(s) in a position to assist the law enforcement agency in its efforts to locate the missing person(s):
(1) General information about the handling of the missing person(s) case or about intended efforts in the case to the extent that the law enforcement agency determines that disclosure would not adversely affect its ability to locate or protect the missing person(s), to apprehend or prosecute any person(s) criminally involved in the disappearance;
(2) That the person(s) making the report or other necessary person(s) should promptly contact the law enforcement agency if the missing person(s) remains missing to provide additional information and materials that will aid in locating the missing person(s). The law enforcement agency should also notify the person(s) of the specific information or materials needed such credit/debit cards the missing person has access to (and other banking information) and records of cell phone use;
This section would eliminate lack of action scenarios and prompt communication between LE and the families of the missing. I have been told many times by families that their LE has told them there is nothing they can do, and to my horror, this even happens in missing children cases.
(B) FOLLOW UP ACTION. If the person(s) identified in the missing person report remain missing after thirty days, and the additional information and materials specified below have not been received, the law enforcement agency shall attempt to obtain:
(1) DNA samples from family members and/or from the missing person(s) along with any needed documentation, including any consent forms, required for the use of State or Federal DNA databases including but not limited to the Local DNA Database (LDIS), State DNA Database (SDIS), and National DNADatabase (NDIS);
I have run into several instances where LE did not know that DNA typing can be done at no charge to them. We were never told to save something of Jason’s for DNA purposes. By the time we learned this on our own, it was too late, as we no longer had anything suitable for the test.
(2) An authorization to release dental or skeletal x-rays of the missing person(s);
We were also never asked for medical or dental records. Identification through dental records is much faster and less expensive than DNA.
(3) Any additional photographs of the missing person(s) that may aid the investigation or an identification. The law enforcement agency shall not be required to obtain written authorization before it releases publicly any photograph that would aid in the investigation or identification of the missing person(s);
(4) Dental information and x-rays; and
Fingerprint lifting for Jason was never offered. By the time we asked for it to be done, we were told it was too late, as everything was either too dusty or contaminated by other fingerprints.
I will once again make clear that I am not insulting or degrading our LE, or LE in general. My statements are simply the truth about the things that happened to us and that happen to families of the missing all over the country as told to me. We acknowledge and are grateful for the assistance we have had and the lenghty investigation. There are thankfully, many good and compassionate LE in agencies around the country.
We must place the necessary importance upon this national tragedy. We must be willing to pay more taxes or take any other action to ensure that our local LE agencies are properly trained and staffed.
Getting this model legislation passed as law in each state is one step of many that needs to be taken, but it is a very big step indeed.
Will you help us, please?
We will continue our review of the model on Monday.