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HomeMy WebLinkAbout0046 - Missing PersonsRed Wing Police Department Policy SUBJECT: POLICY NUMBER • MISSING CHILDREN (NOTENDANGERED) AND ADULTS 46 EFFECTIVE DATE November 28, 2008 REFERENCE(S): APPROVED BY: CHIEF ROGER D. POHLMAN PURPOSE: To establish guidelines and responsibilities for the consistent response to, and investigation of all reports of missing children, who are not considered endangered, and adults. IF AT ANY TIME DURING THE INVESTIGATION IT IS BELIEVED THAT A CHILD IS BELIEVED TO BE ENDANGERED, OFFICERS MUST RESPOND ACCORDINGLY TO RED WING POLICE DEPARTMENT POLICY #26, "RESPONSE TO REPORTS OF MISSING AND ENDANGERED CHILDREN." OBJECTIVES: The Red Wing Police Department recognizes that there is a critical need for immediate response to reports of missing children, who are not considered endangered, and adults. The decisions made and actions taken during the preliminary stages can have a profound effect on the outcome of the case. Therefore, the Red Wing Police Department has established the following responsibilities and guidelines for the investigation of missing children, who are not considered endangered, and adults. All peace officers employed by the Red Wing Police Department will be informed of, and comply with, the following required procedures. A. It shall be the policy of the Red Wing Police Department to thoroughly investigate all reports of missing children, not considered to be endangered, and adults. Additionally, this agency holds that every person reported as missing will be considered at risk until significant information to the contrary is confirmed. B. Jurisdictional conflicts are to be avoided when a person is reported missing. If a missing person either resides in, or was last seen in the City of Red Wing, the Red Wing Police Department will immediately initiate the required reporting process. C. Questions concerning parental custody occasionally arise in relation to missing child reports. It shall be the policy of the Red Wing Police Department to accept the report of a missing child even if custody has not been formally established. Reporting parties shall be encouraged to Page 1 of 13 MISSING CHILDREN (NOTENDANGERED)AND ADULTS -POLICY 46 obtain legal custody as soon as possible; however, since the safety of the missing child(ren) is paramount, members of this agency will open a case when it can be shown that the child is missing, without explanation, from his or her usual place of residence. 1. DEFINITIONS: When responding to a report of a missing child, not considered endangered, officers should be aware that they might encounter several types of missing -child cases, each with their own unique response requirements. They include: A. The non -family abduction in which a child is taken by an unknown individual, through force or persuasion, usually in furtherance of additional victimization. (Endangered child) B. The family abduction in which a non-custodial family member flees with a child, usually in direct violation of a court-ordered custody arrangement. (Possibly an endangered child) C. The runaway child, most often a teenager, who leaves home voluntarily for a variety of reasons. D. The lost or otherwise missing child who becomes separated from parents or caretakers under circumstances not indicating the likelihood of an abduction or voluntary absence. E The thrown -away child, whose caretaker makes no effort to recover the child who has run away or who has been abandoned or deserted. While not necessarily reported to authorities as missing, children in this category frequently come to the attention of law enforcement. F. The term missing adult refers to a person who is: 1. 18 years of age or older and 2. Whose absence is contrary to his or her normal patterns of behavior and may be due to one or more of the unusual circumstances listed in Paragraph I of this section G. The term missing child, not considered to be endangered, refers to a child that is: 1. Yet reached the age of 18 and 2. Whose whereabouts are unknown to his or her parent(s), guardian, or responsible party and; 3. Does not qualify as endangered according to Minnesota Statutes, Page 2 of 13 MISSING CHILDREN (NOTENDANGERED)AND ADULTS -POLICY 46 Chapter 299C.52, subd.1, (e), endangered means that "a law enforcement official has received sufficient evidence that the child is with a person who presents a threat of immediate physical injury to the child or physical or sexual abuse of the child." H. A missing child, not considered endangered, or an adult will be considered "at - risk" when one or more of the unusual circumstances noted in paragraph I are present. The term unusual circumstances refers to: A missing child 13 years of age or younger. This age was established by the Federal Missing Children Assistance Act because children of this age group have not established independence from parental control and do not have the survival skills necessary to protect themselves from exploitation on the streets. 2. A child not considered endangered, or an adult who is missing and believed to be one or more of the items noted below. Out of the zone of safety for his or her age and physical and mental condition. The zone of safety will vary depending on age. In the case of an infant, for example, the zone of safety will include the immediate presence of an adult custodian or the crib, stroller, or carriage in which the infant was placed. For a school -aged child the zone of safety might be the immediate neighborhood or route taken between home and school. In the case of an elderly person of diminished physical and/or mental health, the zone of safety might include the close proximity and availability of a caregiver familiar with that individual's condition and needs. a) Mentally diminished. If the person is developmentally disabled or emotionally disturbed, or the victim of disease, he or she may have difficulty communicating with others about needs, identity, or address. The disability places the person in danger of exploitation or other harm. b) Drug dependent. In the case of a child, the term "drug dependent" shall refer to dependence on either prescription or illicit substances, since any drug dependency puts a child at substantially increased risk. In the case of an adult, the term "drug dependent" shall refer to a dependence on legally prescribed medicines vital to the adult's continued physical well-being. This in no way limits an officer's discretion in determining exigent circumstances regarding an adult's use of illicit drugs. c) In a life-threatening situation. The environment in which the person is missing may be particularly hazardous. Examples of a dangerous environment could be a busy highway for a toddler, an all-night truck stop for a teenager, or an outdoor environment in inclement weather Page 3of13 MISSING CHILDREN (NOTENDANGERED)AND ADULTS -POLICY 46 for a child of any age or elderly missing person. d) Absent from home for more than 24 hours before being reported to law enforcement as missing. While some persons may incorrectly assume that 24 hours must pass before law enforcement will accept a missing -person case, a delay in reporting might also indicate the existence of neglect or abuse within the family. e) Believed to be with persons who could endanger his or her welfare. A missing person in such circumstances is in danger not only of sexual exploitation, but of involvement in criminal activity such as burglary, shoplifting, and robbery. f) Is absent under circumstances inconsistent with established patterns of behavior. Most children and adults to some degree have established routines that are reasonably predictable. Significant, unexplained deviations from those routines increase the probability that the person may be at risk. A child or adult whose disappearance involves circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to conclude that the missing person should be considered at risk. J. Actions upon determination of unusual circumstances. 1. If it is determined that unusual circumstances are involved in the report of a missing child, not endangered, or adult, the person will be considered at -risk and an expanded investigation, including the use of all appropriate resources will immediately commence. While all missing - person incidents should be thoroughly investigated, those involving unusual circumstances indicate a heightened likelihood of risk to the person and, therefore, require an intensive response. 2. If appropriate, existing interagency response protocols — including the AMBER Alert system and/or other immediate community notification methods, if available — should be activated. Pre -planned strategies for responding to missing -person reports are essential for successful case resolution. 2. PROCEDURES: There is no required waiting period for reporting a missing person. A person may be declared "missing" when his or her whereabouts are unknown and unexplainable for a period of time that is regarded by knowledgeable persons as highly unusual or suspicious in consideration of the subject's behavior patterns, plans, or routines. A. The initial officer or first responder assigned to the report of a missing person shall: 1. Officers shall respond promptly to the scene to take a missing persons Page 4 of 13 MISSING CHILDREN (NOTENDANGERED)AND ADULTS -POLICY 46 report and not take the report over the phone. Even if the assigned officer has been provided with initial information such as the missing person's description and other facts about the incident, it would be inappropriate to delay response to conduct a random search or stop suspicious individuals. Unless in immediate response to the missing person's safety, these activities can be handled by other patrol units. a. Officers shall use Red Wing Police Department form titled, "Missing Persons"; appendix A, as well as other forms deemed necessary. 2. Interview the person(s) who made the initial report. The purpose of this interview is to gain insight into the circumstances surrounding the disappearance and other information needed to conduct an initial assessment of the case. a. Officers shall use Red Wing Police Department form titled, "Missing Persons Interview Questions for Parents/Family Members"; appendix B, as well as other forms deemed necessary. b. Officers shall use Red Wing Police Department form titled, "Missing Persons Interview Questions for Friends and Associates"; appendix C, as well as other forms deemed necessary. 3. Obtain a description of the missing person. The collection of information about the missing person, including race, height, weight, hair and eye color, clothing, and other noteworthy features, should be done promptly and relayed to other officers who may be assisting in the investigation. Recent photographs and/or videotape should be secured if available. 4. Verify that the person is in fact missing. In the case of children, first responders should never assume that searches conducted by distraught parents or others have been performed in a thorough manner. Another check of the house and grounds should be made that includes places where children could be trapped, asleep, or hiding. Special attention should be paid to enclosures like refrigerators, freezers, and the interior of parked vehicles where limited breathing air may place the child at even greater risk. In the case of older children, first responders should ask if parents have checked with the child's friends or perhaps overlooked or forgotten something the child may have said that would explain the absence. Note: A search of the home should be conducted even if the missing person was last seen elsewhere. 5. Confirm custody status. First responders should ascertain whether a dispute over the child's custody might have played a role in the disappearance. Questions regarding whether the reporting party has full Page 5 of 13 MISSING CHILDREN (NOTENDANGERED)AND ADULTS -POLICY 46 legal custody, if the non-custodial parent has been contesting custody, or if the missing child expressed a wish to live with the other parent, may help an officer gain important insight into the case. 6. Identify the circumstances of the disappearance. First responders need to ascertain whether the circumstances surrounding a person's disappearance are such that a heightened level of response is warranted. If "unusual circumstances" exist, as defined in Paragraph I of Section 1, then the decision to employ additional response methods is clear. In other situations where the circumstances are not clear, officers should keep the missing person's safety in mind and act accordingly. 7. Determine when, where, and by whom the missing person was last seen. This information is needed to determine factors such as abduction time frame, window of opportunity, and verification of previously received information. 8. Interview the individual(s) who last had contact with the missing person. Effective questioning of those individuals who last saw or spoke with a missing person is crucial in the case -assessment process. While seeking information about the person's appearance, demeanor, and actions, officers should also be alert to contradictions or evasiveness by the witness, especially if these statements cannot be readily substantiated. a. Officers shall use Red Wing Police Department form titled, "Missing Persons Interview Questions for Parents/Family Members"; appendix B, as well as other forms deemed necessary. b. Officers shall use Red Wing Police Department form titled, "Missing Persons Interview Questions for Friends and Associates", appendix C; as well as other forms deemed necessary. 9. Identify the missing person's zone of safety for his or her age and physical and mental state. Responding officers should attempt to determine how far the missing person could travel from the location where last seen before he or she would most likely be at risk of injury or exploitation. This perimeter should, under many circumstances, define the first search zone. 10. Make an initial determination of the type of incident. By employing all available assessment tools (i.e., completion of standardized forms,- interviews orms,interviews with parents, other family members, and friends, statements of witnesses, and search of scene) an officer should be able to reach a preliminary determination regarding the type of case and need for additional resources. Note: Officers must be cautious in "labeling" or Page 6 of 13 MISSING CHILDREN (NOTENDANGERED)AND ADULTS -POLICY 46 classifying a missing -person case, since the classification process shall affect the way in which initial information or evidence is gathered. Even if first indications suggest a "less urgent" incident, officers should consider all possibilities until the case category is clearly determined. 11. Obtain a description of the suspected abductor(s) and other pertinent information. Officers need to immediately record witness information, not only for general investigative use but also before witnesses forget or speak to others who may confuse or make suggestions about what was actually observed. If the abduction scene involves a business or other public place, officers may be able to supplement witness information with video from security cameras that might provide crucial information about the suspect, vehicles, and circumstances. In the case of a suspected family abduction, the reporting party may have photographs of the abductor or other valuable information. 12. Evaluate whether circumstances of the child's disappearance meet existing AMBER Alert and/or other immediate community notification protocols. Discuss plan activation with supervisor. In most cases the decision to activate an AMBER Alert rests with supervisory staff; however, input from first responders may be instrumental in the supervisor's decision-making process. 13. Determine the correct NCIC Missing Person File category and ensure that a notification is promptly transmitted. There are 6 categories within the Missing Person File. They are disability, endangered, involuntary, juvenile, catastrophe, and other. Quickly entering this information into NCIC will increase the possibility of identifying a missing person coincidentally stopped or observed by law-enforcement personnel not yet aware of the incident at hand. In the case of a missing child, simply because the child is younger than 18 does not require that the juvenile category must be used. The circumstances of the disappearance should govern category selection. 14. Provide detailed descriptive information to Goodhue County dispatch for broadcast updates. As information becomes available regarding the missing person's physical appearance, circumstances of the case, or description of the potential abductor, the initial officer should ensure that other officers and agencies are provided with up-to-date facts. 15. Identify and interview everyone at the scene. The name, address, home and work telephone numbers of everyone present at the scene, along with his or her relationship to the missing person, should be recorded. If possible, include them in photographs and/or videotapes of the incident scene. By interviewing each person privately, officers may be able to uncover information that shall be instrumental in resolution of the case. 16. Conduct a thorough search of the scene. With the assistance of additional personnel, a systematic, thorough search of the incident scene Page 7 of 13 MISSING CHILDREN (NOTENDANGERED)AND ADULTS -POLICY 46 should be conducted. If appropriate, officers should obtain written permission to search houses, apartments, outbuildings, vehicles, and other property that might hold information about the person's disappearance. Officers are again reminded to conduct a thorough, immediate search of the person's home and property — even if the disappearance supposedly took place elsewhere. When possible officers should also search a missing child's school locker as well as any computer or electronic messaging systems to which a child has access. Searchers should also be alert for any surveillance or security cameras in the vicinity that may have captured information about the person's disappearance. 17. Secure and safeguard the area as a potential crime scene. If unusual circumstances exist, officers must take control of the immediate area where the incident occurred and establish an appropriate perimeter to avoid destruction of vital evidence. 18. Prepare necessary reports and complete appropriate forms. Information gathered by the first responding officer(s) may be instrumental in the eventual case resolution. To record this important information, officers should prepare a chronological account of their involvement and actions in the case from time of assignment to the point of dismissal. Reports should include everything, not just those events that seem to have a direct bearing on the case. B. The supervisor assigned to the report of a missing person shall: 1. Obtain a briefing from the first responder officer(s) and personnel at the scene. This briefing allows the supervisor to determine the scope and complexity of the case and develop an appropriate response. The briefing should be conducted away from family, friends, or any other individuals who may be present. Doing so shall allow officers to speak freely about the events that have transpired and pass along initial impressions and opinions that might be misconstrued by others. 2. Determine if additional personnel and resources are needed to assist in the investigation. Depending on the situation, a supervisor may determine that additional personnel, including administrative and investigative staff, should be called to the scene or otherwise assist in the investigation. 3. Consider activation of the AMBER Alert system and/or other immediate community notification methods if appropriate. If circumstances indicate the chances for the child's safe recovery would be increased by immediate public awareness, a supervisor should contact administrative staff prior to any notification being requested. 4. Establish a command post if needed. A command post is a field headquarters for scene management. Itis used as a center for organizing Page 8of13 MISSING CHILDREN (NOTENDANGERED)AND ADULTS -POLICY 46 personnel and directing investigative efforts as well as a focal point for inquiries, intelligence gathering, and media contacts. As a general rule the command post should be close enough to the center of activity to facilitate control and coordination, but sufficiently apart to allow a free exchange of ideas among responders. Using the victim's home as a command post is not recommended. 5. Organize and coordinate search efforts. A supervisor should appoint a search operation coordinator who can oversee the search effort while the supervisor remains available to manage the entire investigation. 6. Ensure that all required notifications have been made. Because dissemination of information is an integral part of the search for a missing person, the supervisor should ensure that all officers, other departments and agencies, and all investigative networks are supplied with accurate details. 7. Establish a liaison with the victim family. Families of a missing person will experience extreme stress. Supervisors should establish a liaison with the victim family who can explain what investigative actions are being employed and what they can do to assist in the search. 8. Confirm that all agency policies and procedures are observed. In addition to providing the direction required during a missing -person investigation, a supervisor must also ensure that the rules and regulations of a professional law enforcement organization are adhered to. 9. Manage media relations. Many missing person investigations, especially those involving large scale search efforts, are likely to draw media attention. Supervisors should manage media presence in a way that complements, rather than conflicts with the investigation. C. The investigator assigned to the report of a missing person shall: 1. Obtain a briefing from agency personnel at the scene. This briefing should be conducted prior to interviews with family members of the missing person or witnesses who may have been identified during the initial stage of the case. Its objective is to assist the investigator in formulating an effective interview strategy. 2. Verify the accuracy of all descriptive information. The verification process should include all details developed during the preliminary investigation. During the interview process the investigator should be alert to facts or statements that conflict with those gathered by the first responder. 3. Initiate a neighborhood investigation if appropriate. A thorough canvass of the neighborhood should be conducted without delay. The objective is to identify and interview all persons within the abduction zone who may Page 9of13 MISSING CHILDREN (NOTENDANGERED)AND ADULTS -POLICY 46 be able to provide information related to the incident. Investigators should use a standardized set of questions to ensure completeness and uniformity of information and facilitate establishment of a database to track leads. A record should also be made of all vehicles parked within the neighborhood and any other conditions that may have future investigative value. Access should also be made to the Sex Offender Registration list to determine if individuals designated as sexual predators reside, work, or might otherwise be associated with the area. a. Officers shall use Red Wing Police Department form titled, "Neighborhood Canvas Log and Questions", appendix D, as well as other forms deemed necessary. 4. Obtain a brief history of recent family dynamics. Information about family dynamics, obtained from family members, neighbors, teachers, classmates, employers, coworkers, friends, and witnesses, can offer valuable insights into what may have happened to the missing person and where he or she may be found. Records of family contact maintained by law-enforcement agencies, social -service departments, schools, and other organizations should also be obtained and evaluated. 5. Explore the basis for conflicting information. When preliminary investigative steps have been taken, investigators should "compare notes" with the first responder, fellow investigators, and other agency personnel to identify and work through conflicting information. This collaborative evaluation will provide the investigative staff with a solid foundation upon which to structure future case directions. 6. Implement effective case management. Depending on the resources available, information may either be computerized or incorporated in a simple card system. Both methods are used to record, index, cross- reference, and retrieve the facts amassed during an investigation. The method doesn't matter as long as the system works for the investigator in charge of solving the case. Note: NCMEC can provide computer software designed for effective case management. 7. Evaluate the need for additional resources and specialized services. The complexity of many missing -person incidents may necessitate the use of resources and services both from within the agency and from other organizations as well. Investigators should be aware of the input that can be obtained from resources such as the FBI, NCIC; and the NCMEC—in particular Team Adam, which is a rapid -response team of experienced law-enforcement investigators. 8. Update descriptive information. If it appears that the case will not be promptly resolved, investigators should ensure that the descriptive record, especially that entered into the NCIC Missing Person File, is updated to include dental characteristics, scars, marks, tattoos, and Page 10 of 13 MISSING CHILDREN (NOTENDANGERED)AND ADULTS -POLICY 46 fingerprints along with additional articles of clothing, jewelry, or unique possessions. Note: The National Child Search Assistance Act — enacted in 1990 and amended by the PROTECT Act in 2003 — mandates the entry of descriptive information for all persons, birth through 20 years of age. These entries are required to be made no more than 60 days after the report is taken. 9. Monitor media relations. While information gained through effective media relations is often of significant value in a missing -person case, investigators should review all notices prior to release to ensure that investigative objectives are not unintentionally compromised. D. An officer assigned to the report of an unidentified person, whether living or deceased, shall 1. Obtain a complete description. Officers who are assigned to this task should utilize standardized information -gathering forms. a. Officers shall use Red Wing Police Department form titled, "Missing Persons"; appendix A, as well as other forms deemed necessary. 2. Enter the unidentified person's description into the NCIC Unidentified Person File. This file is compared daily with the contents of the NCIC Missing Person File. Entries with common characteristics are flagged and both agencies are informed. 3. Utilize all available resources to aid in identification of the person. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and state medical examiners may be of assistance in the identification. 4. Cancel all notifications after identification is confirmed. E. An officer assigned to the recovery or return of a missing person shall 1. Verify that the located person is, in fact, the reported missing person. An officer should personally verify all returns. The benefits of this practice include assessing the person's safety, gaining intelligence about possible predators, and helping to prevent future episodes. 2. Inform, in the case of a missing adult who has been located, the located person that he or she is the subject of a missing -person investigation. If the located person is a competent adult, the officer shall determine the person's willingness for law enforcement to reveal his or her whereabouts. To the extent possible, a person's desire to remain hidden shall be honored. Pagel 1 of 13 MISSING CHILDREN (NOTENDANGERED)AND ADULTS -POLICY 46 3. Notify the initial reporting person(s) of the well-being and, if permissible, the whereabouts and contact information of the person who has been located. 4. Secure, in the case of a missing child, not endangered, or abducted person who has been located, intervention services, if indicated. During the verification process, officers should be alert for indications that additional services may be needed before a located person can be safely reunited with his or her family. These services may include mental and/or physical health examinations and arrangements for family counseling. 5. Arrange, in the case of a runaway or missing child from within department jurisdiction who has been located and who is not wanted on a warrant or other law violation, the return of the child to his or her legal guardian or to an appropriate children's shelter. Prior to a child being returned home, officers shall if at all possible, question the child as to the circumstances surrounding being missing or running away. If the child has already been returned home, this questioning should be conducted regardless with parental permission, and ideally without the parent(s) present. There may be circumstances that exist where it is unsafe for the child to remain in the environment that they left from. a. Officers shall use Red Wing Police Department form titled, "Missing Child/Runaway Questions"; appendix E, as well as other forms deemed necessary. 6. Place, in the case of a runaway from another jurisdiction or from out-of- state who has been located and for whom a warrant exists or for whom an NCIC missing person "hit" is verified, the child in custody and transport him or her to the appropriate facility for admission. 7. Complete the appropriate supplemental reports and cancel all outstanding notifications. Along with cancellation of the NCIC Missing Person File entry and other notifications regarding the case, a supplemental report should be completed that describes the person's activities while missing and circumstances of the recovery/return. Page 12 of 13 MISSING CHILDREN (NOTENDANGERED)AND ADULTS -POLICY 46 Page 13 of 13 MISSING CHILDREN (NOTENDANGERED)AND ADULTS -POLICY 46