In a recent post obtaining assistance from local law enforcement with regard to missing persons was referenced. In order to add clarity to the role of the police department Jeremy Bennett, Director of Training and Emergency Management, City of Griffin Police, Griffin, Georgia has assimilated the following information.

The purpose of this procedure governing missing persons and runaway investigations is to outline the protocol and provide guidance for the police departments and investigative entities who are responders to these type of calls.

The responsibility lies with the Chief of Police and the Police Officers with the ultimate authority being the Chief of Police.

Procedure for a missing person considered to be an adult, that is 18 years of age or older, is that the Police shall act as the primary investigating agency in a missing person case only when it has been determined that the missing person was last seen. Officers shall obtain a detailed description of the missing person(s) to include: physical attributes (race, gender, approximate height and weight, etc.) clothing description; and last known location.

Dissemination of related information which has been gathered concerning the missing person(s) shall be provided to the County 911 communications for broadcast to other officers and appropriate outside agencies via telephone, e-mail, or Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) terminal. At the discretion of the Team Leader information may also be entered into the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) and National Crime Information Center (NCIC) data bases.

In accordance with the CJIS Network Policy Manual required documentation for such entries includes, but is not limited to: official police report of a missing person; written statements from a physician or other authoritative source verifying the     missing person’s physical or mental disability (if applicable); written statements from a parent, legal guardian, next of kin or other authoritative source advising that the person is missing under circumstances indicating that his/her physical safety may be in danger; and or written statements from a parent, legal guardian, next of kin or other authoritative source advising that the person’s disappearance was not voluntary.

The Team Leader shall maintain close contact with complainants in missing person’s cases to ensure they know everything the department knows and that all that can be done to find the person in question is being done. If and when the person is located, all personnel involved in the search effort, including those from outside the department, should be contacted.

Depending upon the nature of the case, indoor and outdoor common areas and parking lots may be thoroughly canvassed for the missing person. If the missing person is not located within a reasonable time, the Team Leader shall alert the Chief of Police and Assistant Chief of Police. Flyers and photographs of the individual may be circulated throughout the county in an effort to establish the missing person’s whereabouts. The Team Leader will maintain close contact with the families of missing persons to ensure all available leads are fully exhausted.

Missing Juveniles, persons that are under the age of 17 and are not emancipated, are handled somewhat differently. During searches for missing juveniles, a county wide alert containing updated information shall be broadcast over the radio and via e-mail. If an abduction or a “family abduction” is a possibility, officers are trained to gather as much information on the potential suspects as possible and add this to the alert.

A Levi’s Call is often issued in cases such as these. Georgia’s Amber Alert Program can be issued when the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) verifies that a child has been abducted and is in danger; an alert containing known details of the abduction is transmitted to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), which is then transmitted by the GEMA to broadcasters participating in the program then broadcast or otherwise disseminate the alert to listeners, viewers, or subscribers. Runaway Juveniles reports are enter into the NCIC missing person files immediately. Juvenile courts have jurisdiction over these persons.

Georgia law enforcement agencies that locate these persons may detain them without court orders for involuntary return to parents, guardians or legal custodians within Georgia (OCGA 15-11-17).

Georgia law enforcement agencies that locate such persons, reported as runaways from other states, may detain them under the Interstate Compact on Juveniles (OCGA 39-3-2). Upon being detained, any such person shall be brought before the local Juvenile Court for processing (OCGA 15-11-17).

The information that follows is pertinent with regard to Runaway Juveniles age 17 and are not emancipated.

Enter records in the NCIC missing person files within twelve (12) hours of being reported as runaways by their parents, guardians, or legal custodians (OCGA 35-1-8). Because Georgia Law does not provide for forcible detention and return of
17 year old Georgia runaways, the record entry must include a note in the miscellaneous field stating:” Locate Only- Do Not Detain- Contact Agency via Administrative Terminal Message.”

Neither the Georgia Missing Children Information Center nor GCIC has been able to determine what court(s), if any, have jurisdiction over 17 year old Georgia runaways.

Georgia law enforcement agencies that locate such persons, reported as runaways from other states, may detain them under the Interstate Compact on Juveniles (OCGA 39-3-2). When confirming NCIC hits, determine if appropriate court documents have been obtained for the detention and return of the person. If so, these persons shall be brought before the local Juvenile Court (OCGA 39-3-2). Otherwise, they should not be detained.