Joshua H. Kean is a senior investigator and has been a member of the New York State Police (NYSP) for 15 years. He is the supervisor of the Special Victims Unit and the NYS AMBER Alert Coordinator. Kean has assisted the NYSP Community Narcotics Enforcement Team with undercover operations involving drug sales and human trafficking. He is responsible for law enforcement training in the areas of child abuse and sexual offense investigations, elder abuse and the AMBER Alert. Kean also serves on the NYS Children’s Justice Task Force, Sex Assault Response Team, Committee for Coordination of Police Services to Elderly Persons, Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking, and other advisory groups related to special victims.
WHAT IS UNIQUE TO YOUR AMBER ALERT PROGRAM AND WHAT DO YOU THINK HELPS MAKE IT SUCCESSFUL?
New York State is unique because it is a very large state. We worked with our dedicated partners to split the state into 12 alert activation regions to ensure residents do not become desensitized. We want the people of New York to feel a sense of urgency with every activation. We attribute our success to team work. We work very closely with the NYS Broadcasters Association, Office of Emergency Management, Sheriffs Association, Association of the Chiefs of Police, Missing Persons Clearinghouse, Lottery, Department of Transportation, and Thruway Authority. After every AMBER Alert, we have a review of that case with the investigating agency and our partners to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of our response and operations, and how we can do better. The NYS AMBER Alert program is shaped by and continues to improve because of these after-action reviews. We also have annual meetings with our partners to discuss past and current practices, as well as what we would like to see in the future. A major contributor to the success we’ve experienced in New York is that we have a strong partnership with surrounding states. We have an agreement in place that if AMBER Alerts have been activated in surrounding states and they request us to activate, we activate.
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO FIND MISSING AND ABDUCTED CHILDREN?
My children are my motivation. I am a father of four; ages 18, 12, 11 and 9. I look at each case thinking, “If this was my child how would I want it handled?” I have always had a passion for helping and working with children. One of the first jobs I had as a teenager was a youth counselor. I strived to provide a safe and fun environment for the neighborhood children. I was a varsity high school baseball coach for a local high school and I am currently the head coach for my daughter’s traveling softball team. The children I have worked with know they can come to me with anything without any judgment. When I joined the NYSP I wanted to be the voice for those who didn’t have one. I started working child abuse and child sexual assault cases in 2008 and became a certified child forensic interviewer to better serve child victims.
WHAT CHALLENGES DO YOU FACE IN MAINTAINING THE EFFECTIVENESS AND STRENGTH OF YOUR AMBER ALERT PROGRAM?
I have noticed in my short time as the AMBER Alert Coordinator that there is a need for training regarding the criteria for an AMBER Alert and how to utilize this tool.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN WITH YOUR AMBER ALERT PROGRAM IN THE FUTURE? WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE PROGRAM?
I would like to provide training around the state on New York’s AMBER Alert criteria and how to request an activation. In a child abduction, every second counts. I would like to see all of the state AMBER Alert systems connected. Although we have a great working relationship with each state, activating an alert in another state requires us to contact that AMBER Coordinator and provide information. Then the other coordinator has to import all of the data into their system and send out the alert. If our systems were connected, we could just send the information electronically so they can review it and send the alert. This would cut minutes off of the process, which is so important when every second counts.
PLEASE SHARE DETAILS ABOUT YOUR MOST MEMORABLE SUCCESS STORY IN WORKING A MISSING CHILD CASE. HOW DID THE AMBER ALERT SUPPORT THE OUTCOME? WHAT WERE THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS LEARNED?
We had a case with 16- and 18-year-old suspects who took a 12-year-old child early in the morning, stole a gun, and a vehicle that contained another gun. We activated an AMBER Alert and recovered the child within a few hours. Because of the AMBER Alert, the suspects hid in a vacant house in the woods near one of their homes. When one suspect attempted to go home to get supplies, the police were contacted by his mother and subsequently located the child and suspects.
HOW HAVE YOUR CAREER AND LIFE EXPERIENCES, INCLUDING YOUR WORK AS AN AMBER ALERT COORDINATOR, STRENGTHENED YOUR COMMITMENT TO HELPING ENDANGERED MISSING AND ABDUCTED CHILDREN?
I have more than 15 years of law enforcement experience and more than 11 years dealing directly with children who have been physically and sexually abused and/or neglected and maltreated. There is no greater feeling than being part of a case that brings a child home safe.
HOW HAS TRAINING HELPED YOU IN AMBER ALERT CASES?
Training has helped our unit prepare for cases involving abducted children. We regularly practice weekly by giving each other different scenarios and working through a mock activation. We do this so that in real cases, when the criteria to activate are present, we can execute the AMBER Alert process with ease and accuracy.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER AMBER ALERT PARTNERS?
Get to know your bordering states AMBER Alert Coordinators and Missing Person Clearinghouse Managers. One of the most valuable events since becoming the NYS AMBER Alert Coordinator was attending the National AMBER Alert Symposium. I could put names with faces, develop lasting relationships, and learn from their experiences. I look forward to the next one.