The Supervisory Officer Checklist below guides oversight and decision-making to promote adequate information collection and immediate implementation of investigative resources in response to reports of missing or abducted children. The response by a supervisory officer is critical to the success of the investigation. The supervising officer is the catalyst to enable guidance and overall investigative coordination and oversight. Supervisory officers are encouraged to familiarize themselves with this checklist prior to any reports of missing or abducted children.
DISCLAIMER: Please download these checklists as a PDF to your local device in order to maximize full capability and security. These checklists are a resource to guide the process of a missing child incident and are not meant to replace or supersede any local, state or federal policies or procedures that might exist for your jurisdiction. These checklists are meant to be a tool. Use of this resource does not entail liability on the part of Fox Valley Technical College or affiliated organizations.
1. Obtain briefing and reports from the first responding officer and personnel at the scene.
Ensure the first responder has:
- Secured the scene
- Searched the home
- Gathered descriptive information and photos
- Entered all pertinent info into NCIC files within 2 hours after receipt of the report.
Do not obtain the briefing in the presence of family, friends and/or witnesses.
2. If not already activated, decide if circumstances meet the protocol for activation of an AMBER Alert and/or other immediate community notification systems.
The U.S. Department of Justice recommends the following criteria for AMBER Alert programs:
- There is reasonable belief by law enforcement that an abduction has occurred.
- The law enforcement agency believes that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.
- There is enough descriptive information about the victim and the abduction for law enforcement to issue an AMBER Alert to assist in the recovery of the child.
- The abduction is of a child aged 17 years or younger.
- The child’s name and other critical data elements, including the Child Abduction flag, have been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system.
Activation of an AMBER Alert can be a critically important tool in engaging the public in efforts to locate an abducted child. Be aware of your state’s AMBER Alert plan’s criteria for issuing an alert.
- If an AMBER Alert is issued, confirm that telecommunications personnel update the missing child record with the AA (AMBER Alert Flag).
- Find your state’s AMBER Alert Contact Information
3. Determine if additional personnel are needed to assist in the investigation.
This refers to personnel within your agency. If an AMBER Alert is activated or further investigation is needed, you will certainly need to recruit additional assistance. Consider implementing perimeter patrol to intensify efforts aimed at locating a missing child or obtain information about events surrounding a missing episode. Perimeter patrol is the act of saturating the area where a child was last seen to ask residents, shopkeepers, workers, and passersby if they know, saw, or heard anything that might be associated with the incident. This technique works well when there is a known suspect vehicle.
4. Establish a command post away from the child’s residence.
You should establish a command post if any of the following situations exist:
- The number of people at a scene exceeds the capability of the on-site supervisors ability to exercise control.
- Multiple units are being controlled by various supervisors.
- Multiple activities are taking place at one time.
- An extraordinary incident, such as a child abduction or child homicide have occurred, creating an implied hazard to the community.
Also consider the following actions.
- You will need to establish a dedicated hotline that the general public will be able to contact with information. The individual fielding the calls to the hotline should be based at your command post.
- The command post should be established at a centralized location with respect to the areas of interest such as the child’s home, the location where the abduction occurred, etc.
- Ensure the command post is situated at a sustainable location for long term use during the investigation.
5. Determine if additional assistance is necessary.
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – If you believe the child is in fact missing/abducted, especially if it warrants the activation of an AMBER Alert, the FBI should be contacted as they can provide significant investigative resources.
- State/Local Police or Sheriff – To ensure you can respond fully to any activity that occurred outside of (or has moved across) tribal boundaries, you will need to include law enforcement from surrounding areas.
- State Missing Children Clearinghouse – If you need assistance with case registration, photo dissemination, logistical needs such as transportation of recovered children, etc.
- Specialized Units – Including the following:
- Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces
- Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS)
- National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) – requested through the FBI
- U.S. Marshalls Service
- Victim-Witness Services – Contact local crime victim services or Tribal Crisis Support. If you need assistance with managing the family of the missing child, you can include NCMEC’s Family Advocacy Division as well as their Exploited Children Division. This group/individual essentially serves as a first response social worker who provides updates to the family of the investigation’s progress.
- NCMEC’s Project ALERT®/Team Adam – If you require investigative consultants that can provide a rapid response to a critically missing children’s case, Team Adam should be contacted. If a child has been missing for a long period of time and the trail has gone cold, recruiting the expertise of Project ALERT® team members is recommended.
- CARTs – If the investigation requires a multi-disciplinary approach/various roles need to be filled, the Child Abduction Response Team should be summoned.
6. Confirm all required resources, equipment, and assistance to conduct an efficient investigation have been requested and expedite their availability.
The following factors should be considered:
- Command post and necessary resources have been established. (if this has not happened, see “Establish a command post away from the child’s residence”)
- Assistance from other law enforcement agencies and organizations has already been requested. (if this has not happened, see “Determine if additional assistance is necessary”)
- Confirm the missing child has been entered into NCIC and the record is being updated with all descriptive, suspect, vehicle and persons with information data obtained as the investigation progresses.
- Confirm your telecommunications center is assisting you with the NCIC record entry and management.
- Confirm that all investigative officers and first responders are taking the required steps to proceed with the investigation.
7. Ensure coordination/cooperation among all law enforcement personnel involved in the investigation and search effort.
Before and after the command post is established, ensure responsibilities are clearly outlined to all parties involved, including outside law enforcement and other organization personnel (i.e. who will conduct searches and where, who will monitor the hotline for tips, who will enter the data into the NCIC database, etc.). This also includes ensuring reports are completed by all personnel involved, as well as maintaining a chronological log of all administrative and investigative efforts.
8. Ensure all actions, including notifications, are being conducted in accordance with agency policy and procedures.
Each agency should have a specific protocol for missing child incidents that identifies those persons or other agencies to be notified. If time allows, ensure all actions taken are in compliance with agency policy and procedure. This includes your agency as well as any other agencies and organizations assisting in the investigation.
9. Be available to make any decisions or determinations as they develop.
Have multiple forms of communication available (phone, 2-way radio, email, etc.) and establish a hierarchy of communication (for example, attempt the 2-way radio first, and then elevate to phone calls).
10. Use media including print, radio, television, and the internet/social media to assist in the search throughout the duration of the case.
In the event an AMBER Alert is issued, this step becomes extremely important. The media will need to know the number for your dedicated hotline so that the general public can provide their assistance. This hotline should have been provided upon the issuance of the AMBER Alert, and have designated personnel monitor the hotline at your command post. In some Tribal communities, this may best be done by posting flyers in public places such as schools, shops, and Tribal government buildings. It should be shared on any social media profiles held by the Law Enforcement agency, Tribal government, community serving organizations, etc. If there is a dedicated Tribal radio station or television station, these could be the most effective in ensuring that the information is shared to the largest number of people possible. Also consider posting flyers in high traffic areas such as schools, businesses and government buildings.
11. Ensure support services are provided to the family.
If Victim-Witness Services or any other specialized units meant to work with the family have not already been deployed or connected with the missing child’s family, ensure that it occurs after the investigation concludes. NCMEC’s Family Advocacy Division is highly recommended for this step.