By Jon Leiberman
Joan Collins is uniquely qualified to be the Region One Liaison for the AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance Program (AATTAP). For the 11 states that call on her for guidance—spanning Maine to West Virginia—she provides AMBER Alert Coordinators, Missing Persons Clearinghouse Managers, and members of law enforcement with an experienced insider’s perspective that few can match.
“Joanie,” as many know her, joined the AATTAP a year and a half ago after retiring from the Rhode Island State Police (RISP) after 28 years’ service—25 spent as the RISP’s Law Enforcement Telecommunications Unit Communications Specialist Supervisor. During her RISP career she also helped audit and train all users of the Rhode Island Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (RILETS); was central to increasing the state’s various emergency alerts; managed the state’s sex offender/“Most Wanted” databases; and worked with the state’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force.
What inspired you to work with AATTAP?
All of my experience over the years strengthened my determination to work diligently on missing and exploited children cases. My passion and motivation for this work was energized from hearing and seeing the trauma, raw emotions, and tragedy experienced by families. Their heartache inspired me to work on cases involving missing and exploited children. When the opportunity arose to work in my current role, I knew it would allow me to continue being a part of this important work. I was humbled when asked to consider the position because I had met and worked with many of thebrilliant people involved in the program over the years. Each training I received from AATTAP, and others gave me the chance to review our agency’s procedures to make positive changes. Working with AATTAP would allow our collective experiences, strengths, and skills to enhance the training we provide.
What has prepared you for the position?
A law enforcement career where I had to respond quickly—sometimes with little information to go on—and one in which I had to know what resources were available. Early in my career, a clerk took a call related to a family issue that was characterized as a civil matter. It was entered into our system as a “low priority” case, and only provided “child taken” in the comments field. When I asked for more information, I learned that was all we had. Luckily we had a telephone number, so I called the person who reported the situation. I then learned her child had been taken by her estranged husband or boyfriend, and that someone had possibly been hit by the man’s vehicle during the ordeal. I quickly requested assistance for someone to render aid to the person injured, and one of our units was able to stop the abductor’s vehicle just before it crossed state lines. The child was thankfully recovered, but I’ll never forget the stressors—nor the absolute joy when the case was resolved.
What does your AATTAP work involve?
I connect the northeastern states with AATTAP training and resources. And through communication and problem-solving, I help them review their AMBER Alert issuance criteria, update and strengthen their policies and procedures, and improve response times when issuing an AMBER or Endangered Missing Alert. I suggest training opportunities for law enforcement agencies and those focused on children and families and help states review training materials. I also update AMBER Alert coordinators, missing persons clearinghouse managers, and Child Abduction Response Team (CART) program leaders in Region One on upcoming events and changes on the horizon of AATTAP-NCJTC and AMBER Alert in general. My goal is ensuring everyone involved in the process of finding missing and endangered children can perform effectively.
How would you describe the importance of training?
Providing people with training not only teaches them skills to work effectively, but it also shows them they are valued. This improves their morale and workplace capabilities, which enhance efficiency.
What are your goals for 2023?
To encourage ongoing training initiatives while strengthening Region One’s networking. While with the RISP, I recognized our expansive network was mutually beneficial; we could learn from each other. We should reach out to one another, just to listen or share experiences.
What do you most look forward to accomplishing?
Informing our partners about essential training and resources, while also obtaining valuable input from those dedicated to ensuring the well-being of children. Keeping children safe represents my perfect day.