Jenniffer Price oversees the Wisconsin AMBER Alert Program and serves as the Child Abduction Response Team (CART) commander. She has been in law enforcement since 1997 after starting as a patrol officer with the Wausau Police Department. Price worked briefly with the Madison Police Department at the University of Wisconsin before becoming a narcotics special agent for the Wisconsin Department of Justice in 2005. In 2008, she became a founding member of the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s CART and has been the commander since 2011.
Price was promoted to be the Director of Special Operations in 2013, overseeing several departments including the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, Statewide Intelligence Center, Clearinghouse for Missing and Exploited Children and Adults, and the AMBER Alert Program. In 2017, she led her team to become the only certified team in Wisconsin and the 22nd certified CART in the country.
What is unique to your AMBER Alert/missing persons program, and what do you think makes it successful?
The Wisconsin AMBER Alert Program is embedded in our fusion center along with the Clearinghouse and CART. This integration provides immediate access to criminal intelligence technologies, analytical support, CART resources, as well as family liaison support for any missing child case.
The program is a collaborative effort with our partners at the Wisconsin Broadcaster’s Association, Public Radio, Educational Communications Board, EAS Committee, Department of Transportation, Division of Lottery, and the Dane County Public Safety Communications Center. This collaborative effort makes the program successful by ensuring each and every AMBER Alert activation is as timely and accurate as possible.
What motivates you to find missing and abducted children?
On July 4, 1994, my 14-year-old cousin disappeared from his home and his body was located less than a week later. His killer – Joe Clark - wasn’t identified until 1995 when he attempted to kill another teenage boy. Clark was convicted by a jury of my cousin’s murder and sentenced to life in prison.
When my cousin went missing, I was attending the University of Wisconsin – Madison, studying apparel design. When his body was found, I changed my career path and began studying Behavioral Science and Law and Criminal Justice. I graduated with a BS in Behavioral Science and Law and a minor in Criminal Justice. It has been my drive and passion ever since to be involved in protecting missing and exploited children.
I often wonder if the AMBER Alert Program could have made a difference in my cousin’s disappearance and murder. Having seen the Wisconsin AMBER Alert Program result in the safe recovery of children also motivates me to continue this work.
What emotional toll do you face during an AMBER Alert?
I get so motivated because I have such a personal connection and that drives me to put everything I have into these AMBER Alerts. I never want it to end like it did for my family. That’s what’s driven me all these years. All but one Wisconsin AMBER Alert has resulted in a safe recovery.
Please share details about your most memorable success story in working a missing child case.
It’s hard to identify one story from all of the successful AMBER Alerts in Wisconsin because each one carries a unique memory. Whether it is the safe recovery of ten-month-old twins who were abducted during a car theft; the eight-year-old boy who was safety returned after his abductor saw the AMBER Alert and turned himself in; or Jayme Closs, where a citizen saw Jayme after escaping from her captor and recognized her from the AMBER Alert.
In each case, we learn valuable lessons about our AMBER Alert process, how to continually improve upon our AMBER Alert activations, and how our CART can enhance investigative efforts during an AMBER Alert.
How have your career and life experiences strengthened your commitment to helping endangered, missing and abducted children?
Having a child in the family go missing and never return shapes my commitment to missing and abducted children. My work in the ICAC task force, AMBER Alert program and CART has only strengthened my commitment through various child exploitation and missing child investigations I have worked throughout the years.
Does being a parent make a difference in what you do at work?
Being a parent really does impact me a lot. Even when I see an AMBER Alert in another state, I always worry and hope they find the child. I have a 17-year-old daughter and two stepsons, ages 10 and 12. Having a child of your own hits home, especially when the missing child is the same age and gender.
What would you like to see happen with your AMBER Alert program and other programs in the future?
The AMBER Alert program is robust, with a long history of success in finding missing children, both in Wisconsin and throughout the United States. I think continued funding is needed to support the AMBER Alert programs and Clearinghouses in each state.
How has training helped you in AMBER Alert cases?
AMBER Alert and CART training have helped me, as well as members of our AMBER Alert program and CART. The training has been integral to maintaining proficiencies and remaining abreast of current investigative trends and technologies.
AMBER Alerts and CART activations are low-frequency, high-risk events. Continual training is necessary for our teams to be the best of the best when looking for a missing child. Perhaps my cousin could have been found alive if an AMBER Alert program and trained CART personnel were available to provide the necessary investigative, analytical and family liaison support that we have in place today.
What advice would you give to other AMBER Alert partners?
Always evaluate each and every activation to learn from them and improve or enhance your efforts. Make sure your personnel are trained and receive continued training to evaluate and activate any AMBER Alert. Bringing your AMBER Alert and CART programs together is the most effective way to respond to a missing child. Those efforts are not only critical in the investigation, they are important and meaningful to the family of the missing child.