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Filing a missing person report can be harder than you think

All the new technology out there is geared toward keeping in contact with your family and friends.  It doesn’t just stop at cell phones or social media.  There is FaceTime and video cameras that allow us to drop in on each other no matter where we or they are.  Many of us are normally connected to our friends and family unlike we have ever been before, and because of that we would know if something was wrong and particularly if they were missing.   

So, what if one day, you can’t get a hold of your family member?  What if they don’t answer their cell phone, they are not on social media and you can’t locate them on Find a Friend.  You would know something is wrong, and you would likely want to report it to the police, and have them begin to search for them.  But, did you know that in some cities, they won’t take the report.

For those that have not ever had to file a missing person report, you may be naive as to how challenging it is, especially if you are a fan of crime TV shows.  Unlike TV, filing a report ends up a debate, after your inability to prove your loved one is missing.  You trying to convince a police officer that technology and your gut is telling you that something is wrong, and they are stating their policies don’t warrant a search.    

For example, Kansas City’s policy on taking missing persons reports seems archaic to the 21st Century.  If you are missing in KC, it must fall under six criterias before they will even take a report.

(1) The missing person is under the care of a medical doctor for life  threatening physical ailments requiring immediate treatment or medication.

(2) The missing person is under the care of a psychologist/psychiatrist for mental health issues.

(3) The missing person has threatened suicide in the past or is at risk of harming themselves.

(4) The missing person suffers from diminished mental capacity or medical conditions that if left untreated/unattended are potentially life threatening.

(5) The missing person suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

(6) There is a strong indication of foul play being involved in the disappearance (e.g. the missing person has been the subject of past threats, acts of violence or involved in recent domestic disputes).

In another example,  the police in Lufkin, Texas would not take a report from Delinda Ulrich’s daughter, as it did not meet the statutory requirements of a missing person. 

It is hard to believe that a police department can tell you that your family member does not qualify for their help.  But, look at the case of a Kansas City Rapper.

“We begged and pleaded with the police to file a missing person’s report and we were told that he did not meet the criteria,” rapper Mack Jones’ sister, RaShaunda Croffer told Fox KC. Even though the family was able to show threatening text messages that he was getting, that did not help. Police state they didn’t receive that information until later in their investigation. Finally on July 5, 2019 the police took a report. The next day Mack aka Smacc Turner was found deceased. At this writing the family is still waiting for cause of death.

Social Media and Cell Phones

With the rising number of missing people across the United States and the way that we communicate with each other, new procedures need to be realized and implemented across the US.  The days of people not being in contact with each other for days at a time are vanishing.

With social media and phones, it is very rare that we are not in communication with our family constantly.  We don’t even have to text each other anymore to keep tabs on each other with the apps like “Find a Friend” or “Life 360.”  Although, families may not be open to strangers, and in fact, more aware and suspicious, we have certainly become more open to the ones that are in our family group.  We have become close custodians of each others lives and have accepted it without much resistance.  The next generation will probably grow up not knowing what it is like not having someone knowing where you are 24-hours a day. 

It appears that privacy is a thing of the past, but I don’t see too many family’s gripping about it.  It was not long ago when everyone, even children were unaccounted for all day long.  If someone came up missing, it would not be till after school or work before you would even know they never made it to school or work that day.

Now with computers and GPS’ and cell phones, you know where your family is.  In fact, it would actually be a little strange if you didn’t.  It’s become normal to let your phone announce where you are at all times.  I rarely wonder where any of my family is as a quick text or check of an app tells me.  So, if any one of them suddenly went phone silent I would know there was something terribly wrong. 

Some police departments still stuck in the old ways

At this writing, I personally don’t know what would be my breaking point to call the police if my family member did go phone silent.  But without a doubt,  because I know them so well, it wouldn’t be much more than 4 hours.  If I was living in Kansas City, this would be an issue.  According to Kansas City Police and many more departments all over the U.S., that is too soon if all I have to qualify my fears is an unanswered phones.    

Having a police officer tell me that my family members disappearance doesn’t fall under their policy would be confounding. The fact, they would not take my word for it that my loved one was actually missing, based on their phone usage, would in the least be insulting.  But, although to me it is 100 percent proof that there was something wrong, to them it is lacking justification.  In fact, according to the KC policy, I would need to show proof of foul play before they would set in motion a team that would begin to look for them.

But how would you even do that?  How would they expect me to prove there is foul play when heaven forbid, the offender certainly would be doing all they can to cover it up?  

And what if it isn’t even foul play, but an accident.  How does that fit into their policy?  Evidently not at all.   If accident is likely, then it is up to you to search.  

Standard Policy needed

Another common response to why a police report cannot be taken is the person has a right to go missing.  Many times, the authorities will state they are over 18 and can disappear if they want to, but it should not be an excuse for the department to not go looking for them.  And in fact, it has nothing to do with it.  In the cases where police departments do search for a MP and locate them and it turns out to be they did leave on purpose, they advice the family, but do not divulge the whereabouts.   This is what should be done in all departments.  A standard policy, which leaves out a police officers opinion on why they went missing.

So, if the fact that there is no way in hell that your family member would not contact you, and would never turn off their phone, is not enough proof they are missing, I have to ask.  Why not?   Looking over case after case after case, this is exactly the criteria of foul play.   The person is murdered and the murderer destroys or throws away their phone.  

Families need help, not policy’s that make them wait, they need support not criteria that forces them to convince the police they are really missing.  They deserve VIP treatment and not to be looked at like they are crazy, processive, or bothering the police.  It takes time, open-mindness and understanding to listen to family members, that are likely very upset.  Afterwards, it may be apparent they were 100 percent right, and the missing person can be found before they are missing for ever.   

Hopefully, these remaining police departments that are still working with their old department policies, will recognize they need to come into the 21st century and believe the families when they say their loved one is missing without having to prove it.

I did a survey among my readers and asked them what happened when they filed a missing person report.  Click here to read what they said.

Police didn’t take the missing person report — one week later, a KC man was found dead

Tap/click here to read KCPD’s policy.

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