Tanea Parmenter has been the Idaho AMBER Alert Co-Coordinator since July 2018. She has been the state’s Missing Person Clearinghouse Program Manager since 2012, just one year after she started with the Idaho State Police. Parmenter works closely with Co-Coordinator Leila McNeill on all calls and AMBER Alert requests.
Even before Parmenter began her career in law enforcement, she had always been interested in cases involving missing persons, child abductions and exploitation. Parmenter volunteered to help the clearinghouse manager and learned how to support law enforcement agencies with investigations. She goes on “ride alongs” with officers and attends roundtable events to discuss long-term missing cases.
What is unique to your AMBER Alert/missing persons program, and what do you think makes it successful?
This year we are making major strides by streamlining how we handle AMBER Alert requests. The agency entering a Missing Person record into the state system and NCIC can select a box to request an AMBER Alert. The alert request with photos and information goes to NCIC and to our 24/7 control center. The call center contacts me and I log in to review the request and contact the agency if needed. If approved, I click one button that triggers the distribution of the AMBER Alert to our alerting software, OnSolve’s CodeRed.
This improves the process because an agency doesn’t have to fill out a separate form and we don’t have to manually type in the message. The agency controls what information is disseminated, and it’s done instantly. In the past, most delays for AMBER Alerts involved waiting to receive the needed forms. This is speeding up the process from up to two hours to just 15 minutes.
What motivates you to find missing and abducted children?
I love my career with the Idaho State Police, and helping locate missing or abducted children is my passion. I see the need for local agencies to have more training, but they don’t always have the funding to send officers. I take the knowledge I gain at any training and bring it back to my state.
What emotional toll do you face during an AMBER Alert?
Any type of missing person case can be emotional, especially when dealing with the family. During an AMBER Alert call, no matter how many I have issued in the past, I continue to get that “gut check.” I have thoughts of “Is this a needed tool?” or “If I issue this alert, will the abductor respond negatively to the child?” as well as “If I don’t issue this alert, is there another way to help recover the missing person?”
Each call brings stress and adrenaline. I feel completely wiped out, but my mind won’t shut off. I still want to make sure I did everything correctly and asked the right questions. I don’t think I ever want to change how I feel because I think it helps us have a 100% return success rate. That passion and drive also is felt by everyone at the investigating agency. They know I am there for them 24/7 and I am willing to assist in whatever capacity they need. If I shut off my emotional response, I wouldn’t feel I was doing everything possible to recover a child safely.
What is one of your most memorable successes in working a missing child case?
Recently I had a request for an AMBER Alert for a mentally-challenged and physically handicapped 16-year-old female who had been the victim of online luring. This happened at 2 a.m. in a small town. The on-call officer worked in the narcotics unit and was not a part of the missing persons crime unit. He called my cell phone and said, “This is so new to me. I have never had a case like this and I don’t want to miss anything. Can you please help.” This type of situation is what motivates me to go to training, keep my policies updated and keep on-call 24/7.
We worked together to make sure we didn’t miss a step. The suspect wasn’t known, so I reached out to our cybercrimes unit to see if we could get any information from the victim’s digital tablet. Because the AMBER Alert had a credible tip on Facebook, we contacted the jurisdictions of the possible suspect. Our dispatchers did amazing research and found multiple addresses for the suspect in different states. I worked with the investigator to contact those jurisdictions to do welfare checks. It turned out great. We walked through our steps, stayed on target, worked across jurisdictions and located the child safely.
How have your career and life experiences strengthened your commitment to helping endangered, missing and abducted children?
Every call, every request, continues to strengthen my passion and commitment. Also, having the opportunity to meet with mothers, fathers and family members of those who are missing. My heart goes out to them. I put myself in their place and realize I would never want to feel that pain or loss.
How does being a parent make a difference in what you do at work?
As a single parent, one of my worst fears would be to have my child missing. I think the first time it truly hit me was during CEO training at NCMEC years ago. It was the first time I met Colleen Nick and heard her story. At the time, my daughter was the same age as when Morgan went missing. I couldn’t control the tears as Colleen relived her worst day. I imagined myself in that same desperation, loss and pain. I could truly feel the tightening in my chest. That was the day I dedicated my career to helping prevent these calls from happening. I have focused on training and prevention. I help the local agencies get the standard operating procedures in place and practice them before the actual call. I provide best practices, resources and training and I’m there for the agencies at any time.
What would you like to see happen with your AMBER Alert program and other programs in the future?
I would like to see our program grow. We have very little staff to handle the entire state. If we had additional staff members, we could provide community outreach to get information out to the parents and children. We would have enough time to offer more case analysis, make sure every missing person case has everything needed like fingerprints, DNA, dental, photos, investigator notes, etc. We could offer more training to the local agencies. My next goal is to have a multi-jurisdictional CART team in all six regions of Idaho.
How has training helped you in AMBER Alert cases?
You can’t ever stop training or practicing. No one call is the same. No one situation is like the other and no one circumstance will have the same outcome.
What advice would you give to other AMBER Alert partners?
If you are not working closely with your missing person clearinghouse partner, then you need to start doing it. This should be a great partnership that works hand in hand. Also, get to know the AMBER Alert Coordinators in other states. Go to an out-of-state training or conference and network. Eventually you will need them to issue an AMBER Alert in their state for your missing child. Finally, don’t stop growing, learning and studying these cases. Any information and tools you pick up now will help you in that next call.