Washington police fare better than most at reporting missing kids

Monday, May 16, 2005

Washington state police agencies failed to report at least 76 missing
children to the FBI from 2000 through 2004, despite a federal law
requiring such reports, according to data from the National Center for
Missing and Exploited Children.

But Washington did better than most states in complying with the law,
according to a Scripps Howard News Service analysis of the data.

And Gerald Nance, a case manager at the missing-children’s center, said
officers in Washington take missing kids more seriously than police in
most states.

“I have cases from all over the U.S. The professionalism that I find with
police departments in Washington is fairly high,” said Nance. “You have a
lot of dedicated people that work missing-children cases.”

In a special report published in 2003, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
found that police investigations of missing-children and missing-adults
cases across Washington — and throughout the nation — continue to be
hampered by widespread failures because of ignorance, indifference, poor
training and systemic flaws in law enforcement technology.

Such failures can leave families of the missing without answers, allow
the dead to remain unidentified, stall investigations and let killers get
away with their crimes.

In the wake of the P-I’s report, then-state Attorney General Christine
Gregoire formed a task force that produced “best practices” protocols and
training videos for police across Washington. The Nation’s Center for
Missing Adults in Phoenix also reformed its national missing-persons
policies in response to the series.

At least four sets of unidentified remains were matched to missing
persons, and police across the state updated hundreds of case and
computer files and cleared dozens of open cases, among other results.

In the latest investigation by the Scripps Howard News Service, police
performance in complying with a federal law for quickly entering
missing-children’s reports into the FBI’s nationwide computer was gauged
by comparing FBI data with data received by the National Center For
Missing and Exploited Children.

Located in Alexandria, Va., the center — the congressionally designated
national clearinghouse for missing-children’s cases — receives reports
of lost kids from family members and others, not just police.

The center received reports of 787 missing children in Washington from
Jan. 1, 2000, to Dec. 31, 2004. Comparing all missing-child reports
received by the center with those reported to the FBI by police, the
Scripps Howard analysis concluded that Washington police appeared to
violate the reporting law 9.7 percent of the time.

That’s better than the 11.9 percent non-reporting rate among all police
nationally, although not as good as in 19 other states including
California (8 percent), Idaho (7.7 percent) and Wyoming (the best, at 2.1
percent), according to the Scripps Howard analysis.


Reporting by cities, 2000-04:
Police departments reporting all missing children to the FBI as required
include: Bellevue, Bothell, Bremerton, Des Moines, Issaquah, Lynnwood,
Olympia, Redmond and Shoreline.

Police departments reporting fewer missing children to the FBI than were
on record with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
include: Seattle (5 fewer); Federal Way (7); Bellingham (5); Kennewick
(4); and Spokane (5).

Source: Scripps Howard News Service
P-I reporters Lewis Kamb and Kathy George contributed to this report.

© 1998-2005 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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