Amber Alert meeting 3/17

I’ll bet you’re wondering what happened at the meeting today.  It was a very informative meeting and we all seemed to agree that this is a 3-fold issue:  Technology, Training, Community Involvement.

What can YOU the community do?  Quite a lot!  You can learn about how the Amber Alert, Endangered Person Alert, and Silver Alert systems work.  You can raise awareness in your neighborhoods and reach out to your neighbors to get to know them.  You can create safe-places in your neighborhoods so children know which houses can be trusted if they are approached by a stranger.  You can even get with groups like the Springfield Guardians and participate in meetings and seminars when they are available.

Let’s hit the Role Call.

Missouri Senate x 1 + 3 aides (Springfield) – I’m curious why he needed 3 aides when none of the other legislators needed them.
Missouri House of Representatives x 3 (2 Springfield, 1 Lawrence County)
Missouri State Highway Patrol x 2  (Troop F)
Department of Public Safety x 1
Citizen x 1 (Springfield)
Springfield Police Department – ABSENT
Greene County Sheriff – ABSENT

Automation seemed to be the focus, but with that focus the real issue was quickly being ignored.  I took note that when I started asking the hard questions, the Aides shifted towards attacking Hailey’s Law, which was NOT supposed to be discussed at this meeting.  It wasn’t long for a Springfield legislator to pounce since I was trying to let them show how much they were on the defensive and trying to illustrate some ways that things could be achieved.

Automation occurs for the MSHP in the form of a fillable electronic form that links several systems together by way of autofill, taking the 30-45 minutes of final paperwork confirmation and potential Amber Alert roll-out down to 10-20 minutes.  However, this never addresses the issue at the level of the line-officer, contact to the MSHP from that level, or contact to the local media, which is where the bulk of the problem has been all along.  Remember, this is a BIG step forward, even if it’s on the back of the timeline, but it isn’t even close to enough.  Keep in mind that participation in Alert Missouri is voluntary.

MSHP clearly stated that they would want to talk to that line-officer regardless of who filled out the form.  Which raises the question of why they seem to want to create layers for this process instead of taking it to a direct line officer training and working the NCIC / MULES input at the MSHP level since they want to clear the process anyway.  There are so many steps that could be cut out here if they would just quit micromanaging this issue.  So how does this one get expedited so the MSHP can get the information that much faster rather than going to MULES operator, then back to the line-officer?

What is the MSHP doing?  The MSHP has started incorporating a fillable form that links multiple systems in a single click to autofill the needed documents for those systems. Wow, that’s great!  But, MSHP has claimed to have been working on this for about 4 months,  on a fillable electronic form that will autofill MULES and the NCIC in one-click.  Why now instead of 6 months ago or 2-3 years ago?  A copy of this fillable electronic autofill form was not made available for viewing to verify its existence and I’ve been unable to locate it online, though the claim was made that it is there.  I think the MSHP Captain misunderstood what was asked by the Senator on this point as the fillable form would be a MULES operator-only item.  The standard PDF form is certainly there and will remain for jursdictions that don’t participate.  I think we need to see this at the desk of a MULES operator and verify that it exists in this format and see it actually work (simulation).

Who will receive training on this form?  MULES and NCIC operators, dispatchers.  So the line officer will not be receiving the training?  Nope!  It does absolutely nothing to resolve the issue down to the line officer, which is where the bulk of the procedural delay is occurring.

It is in line with the National portal tested against all 50 states.   I didn’t get to ask this, so I’ll ask it here because we all know the answer.  What is the fail-safe when the technology fails in one or more aspects at any level or when a compatibility issue arises?  The standard response from the MSHP for such a question has been this: a phone call.

We can resolve the line officer issue with training.   Ok, how exactly?  Is this training going to be mandatory or voluntary?  Voluntary, but it will be P.O.S.T. certified so they can get the 2 hours of continuing education (CE) from it.  Who will host it?  The MSHP troops.  Why take it to such a wide level when it needs to be broken down even farther to encourage smaller departments to participate?  What about police academies, college programs for criminal justice, or hosting it on several college campuses throughout the state?  Has anything been put in motion as of yet?  No.  A portion of P.O.S.T. coursework covers missing persons, but that’s a one-time training during their academy.

Are there going to be form-simulations available that can be run at the department level from time to time or some means of hands-on training in a simulated scenario?  No.  When line officers learn best in hands-on fashion, simply giving them a seminar on the subject isn’t going to be enough.  This begs the question of how do we achieve “train the trainer”.

Perhaps the Committee needs to review this process once a year.  YES, but according to RSMO 210.1014 they are already supposed to be doing that.  RSMO 210.1014.1 (second sentence) The committee shall regularly review the function of the Amber alert system and revise its criteria and procedures in cooperation with the department of public safety to provide for efficient and effective public notification.

Although the Committee does not have any valid members, those members that have expired continue to sit on the Committee until their replacement has been appointed and qualified.  The language in RSMO 210.1014 is confusing as to if that “serve until a successor has been appointed and qualified” applies to all Committee members or just the first few since they had staggered starts.  If it applies beyond then those currently without replacements are shirking their duties, which brings us to the next important item.

The reason the Committee has not met in over 2 years is because no one wanted to drive from all over the state to meet for just 30 minutes and do nothing, only to drive right back home.  Ummm…….it’s an appointed duty on a State committee.  Shirking that duty is not acceptable in any manner and in this specific issue it endangers life.  It should be noted that at least one name on the list that could be shirking this duty (if the “shall serve until..” is applied) is pushing for technology upgrades.  That should get you thinking about why and whether or not the Committee members have known for some time that the Amber Alert procedure was not working within the mission statement of being minutes instead of hours.

Perhaps the Committee should send an annual report reviewing all Amber Alert, Endangered Person Alert, and Silver Alerts to the Missouri Legislature.  Yes, but make it publicly available rather than sending a paper version to the Legislature.  We all shook our heads in agreement with this, but this needs said: Absolutely!  If we can track the information we can address any redress that is necessary each year and we can focus in on areas within each region that are facing challenges with this.

What about St. Louis and Kansas City?  They have their own internal system called St. Louis Area Regional Abduction Alert (SARAA).  What is the timeline for issuing a SARAA in those areas?  Information unavailable at the time it was asked.

But what about rearranging the procedure?  Well, it seems that each time this is brought up I hear that the procedure works fine.  If it worked fine it wouldn’t result in 2-4 hour delays and 2 deaths in the past 6 months.  And this isn’t factoring in the downgraded cases that should have been amber alerts.

One thought on “Amber Alert meeting 3/17”

  1. I commend your efforts and your obviously needed patience. Sometimes bureaucracy drives me batty.

    My next question would be this: If St. Louis has a local alert system like SARAA, what would it take to be able to develop such a system within our own city / region?

    Excellent job!

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