When you go into some of these high crime areas, is the uniform a good thing or a bad thing? Does it protect you, or is it a target?
One of the things we teach is when you go into a neighborhood, keep your eyes open, observe, and look around for potential dangers. When you walk up to a house to talk to a resident that might have seen something, note how they have the cars parked, whether they have dogs barking loudly, do they look mean, do you want to go into that yard? We can send people higher up the chain as far as that command presence goes, meaning someone with a badge, a bulletproof vest, a gun, people that would have a better opportunity to protect themselves if something went sideways. We train that way.
At the beginning of your book, you list 7 basic questions you indicate a search team has to ask. An old man walks alone along a lonely road. The elderly, especially those that live alone, or have some form of dementia, are especially vulnerable. It might be easier to talk about a scenario unfolding. But dialing in our country is pretty standard protocol. At the end of that phone line, the operator asks a series of questions that are supposed to help make a determination on where to route that call.
Suppose the family knows where the father is, but he is down and hurt, the dispatcher will call Fire and Ambulance.
If a family is trying to contact their father from out of town, their calling will get them through to their local operator, who will then contact their local police department. There are two types of information that we in Law Enforcement and SAR want to know about the missing subject. The first is searching or searcher data. With urban search, more than other searches, because of the sheer population density and rapid environmental changes, the details and data matter.
Planning data. We have to be able to assign people based on the history of the person. Pre-planning actually is different. Part of the pre-planning is whom do we call at BART? They have their own police department, but who is the contact person there to get access to the video feed, and who is that person at 2 a. Part of pre-planning is also to do a search of the residents again, even if Law Enforcement has been through there already. Search and Rescue teams are trained to search a certain way, and have a set of standard operating procedures that other professionals, even those in Law Enforcement not trained in SAR, may not have.
If the person is not in the house, then the local beat cop will go in and get some more information, and get the information out on the streets as soon as possible, then they have to make a call.
They can get their own off duty police officers to come in, civilians who work for the police department to drive around, or a SAR team that is in the area. As someone who is both Law Enforcement and SAR, how much of a difference has that Law Enforcement perspective made to your decision-making in cases like these? In addition, can we expand on the categories of missing persons?
What was going on in their life, minutes, hours, days, weeks, and years up to the point they went missing?
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A missing person, by state and national law, gets filed in a particular category. Under those conditions, Law Enforcement has to act within four hours. Yes, exactly. There are serious ramifications if this is not done.
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Then you have other categories. Runaway, for instance, which is a very broad category. For us, in SAR, we also have other questions: Is the missing individual a hunter, a fisherman, a hiker by activity , is he or she a child between the ages of , , by age , and other questions like these too. How would you classify someone like my daughter, who is 9-years old, but about 4 years old developmentally, and also deaf?
She would be among those definitely placed in the most at-risk and vulnerable category.
These are children or adults with developmental issues, there may be an age issue, there may be autism, or ADHD, there are upward of 40 categories, based on activity, age, preexisting condition, a separate one for dementia, and a bunch of others. Robert Koester, who helped me write a chapter in my book on lost person behavior, has written his own book called Lost Person Behavior, and studied thousands of reported missing persons cases on the attributes of lost person behavior, has defined certain traits in this regard.
For instance, individuals with dementia will generally walk in a straight line till they get stuck, then make a slight turn and walk in a straight line till they get stuck again, and then walk in a straight line again, and so on. We may find him 15 miles out of town, just walking. We use that data. We look for other data too: Is this the anniversary of the death of a loved one that may indicate a possible despondent? Is someone depressed?
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Is a gun missing? We need to let our searchers know. Someone may want to take his own life and take someone with him. Or want death by cop. We look at all that. There have been other incidents where matters got pretty hairy. His wife was yelling for him to put it down. Fortunately, the team had some good talkers who talked him down.
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Law Enforcement Officers have K-9s. You have dogs like bloodhounds that are trained to follow a specific scent, a piece of cloth, or a sweater. They will work on a leash. Then you have dogs trained to find any live human scent in a wilderness space, or in or under water. They usually work off leash. Therapy dogs at work in Slovenia, at a camp for children, adolescents and adults with special needs called Helping Paws.
In the United States and internationally, dogs that work in Search and Rescue are non-aggressive, very different from K-9s used by law enforcement. A few SAR dogs are also multi-trained to offer therapy. Some dogs are trained to find specific evidence, like guns or bullets, while some of our teams are brought in to find evidence after a crime or an incident.
We look for bullets, knives, other crime evidence. Some dogs are cross-trained.
We do a lot of public relations and safety events, and we encourage kids to come up and pet our dogs. But part of our investigation is whether a missing subject is afraid of dogs. Are they going to turn around and run, or sit and play? We may want the dog along but we may have to leave it behind. When the missing person is a child, how do you make the determination on whether to return a child to the environment he or she ran away from, or went missing from? Again, we work hand in hand with Law Enforcement. In some counties, like mine, the Sheriff and the Coroner are the same person.
The same thing will hold through when it comes to the circumstances of why this person went missing. He has an F on his report card. We have to determine a few things.
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