MISSING PERSONS REVIEW AND RECOMMENDATIONS. March. Report of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate. Report of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate - PDF

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1 Report of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate MISSING PERSONS REVIEW AND RECOMMENDATIONS March 09 2 The objective of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate is: To ensure that the resources available to the Garda

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1 Report of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate MISSING PERSONS REVIEW AND RECOMMENDATIONS March 09 2 The objective of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate is: To ensure that the resources available to the Garda Síochána are used so as to achieve and maintain the highest levels of efficiency and effectiveness in its operation and administration, as measured by reference to the best standards of comparable police services. (s. 117 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005) Table of Contents Introduction 4 chapter 01 Structures 7 chapter 02 Policies and Procedures 11 chapter 03 Training and Education 14 chapter 04 Technology 17 chapter 05 Partnerships 20 chapter 06 Amber Alert 25 List of Recommendations 29 Appendix A 32 4 Introduction Overview In introducing the objectives of this report, it may be valuable to establish the context in which any successful missing persons programme will operate in today s globalised world. Unlike the scenes depicted in the media, locating a missing person is much more complicated than assembling a police squad, a team of volunteers, and a few well-trained search and rescue dogs. In fact, the missing persons issue is extraordinarily complicated. An investigation may span an urban or suburban neighbourhood, miles of rural countryside, or stretch across several nations and every possible type of transport. It may involve multiple categories and subcategories of missing persons from children to vulnerable adults, from those who wish to remain missing to those whose lives are endangered until they are found. It requires partnerships between government entities (including other countries and international organisations), voluntary organisations, the public, and the media. It encompasses not only the recovery of the missing person but the support and compassionate treatment of family members during and after the investigation. In short, the expansion of our global universe, coupled with the unique circumstances surrounding each missing person case, make it challenging to develop effective, all-inclusive policies and procedures. Missing Persons Year 2009 (to 17/03/09) Number of Reports of Missing Persons Number of Persons Reported Missing Number of Persons still Missing (17/3/09) 1, * 123* ,980 4, ,992 4, ,811 3, ,997 3, ,060 3, ,987 3, Total Number of Missing Persons as of 17 March, 2009 *Provisional figures 489* Of particular interest is the relationship between missing persons reports and those in Health Service Executive (HSE) care. The chart below indicates that while persons in HSE care represent only 8% of persons reported missing, they account for 43% of all missing persons reports filed with the Garda Síochána. This indicates that many are reported missing on numerous occasions Missing Persons Report HSE Non-HSE The table below shows the number of missing 100% persons reports made to the Garda Síochána each year and the number of missing persons outstanding at year-end. What the table cannot show, however, is the immense cost to the families and communities of those reported missing. 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 4,539 (57%) 3,689 (92%) 40% 30% 20% 3,441 (43%) 10% 0% 332 (8%) Reports (7,980) Individual Persons (4,021) 5 Throughout the course of this review, the Garda Inspectorate was struck by the complexity of the missing persons issue and the significant resources that are required to address cases effectively and compassionately. The Inspectorate reached one stark conclusion early in its review the police cannot address this complex challenge alone. Coordination and communication are essential. Strong partnerships are required, not only within the State but in the international arena as well. The Inspectorate was impressed by the commitment and efforts of the Garda Missing Persons Bureau on this very important issue. They have worked with extraordinary perseverance to develop risk assessment criteria for missing persons. After two years of intense effort, their discussions with the Health Service Executive are close to producing a Joint Protocol that is expected to greatly increase the safety of children in care. It is the Inspectorate s hope that implementation of the recommendations in this report will further enhance the handling of missing persons investigations by the Garda Síochána. Inspection Objectives The Programme for Government includes a specific requirement for the Garda Inspectorate to study and report on the subject of missing persons. Against this backdrop, on July 15, 2008, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform directed the Garda Inspectorate to conduct a review and advise the Government on the need to establish a dedicated missing persons unit within the Garda Síochána and a response network similar to Amber Alert in the USA. 1 In particular, the Minister requested that the Garda Inspectorate s report include an examination of: The current practice in Ireland regarding missing persons; The arrangements needed to deal with missing children or with particular children groups; 1 Press Release, Minister Ahern announces Missing Persons Study, July 15, Alert systems operating in other countries including Amber Alert in the USA and how effective such systems would be in an Irish context; and The use of existing international mechanisms to assist in tracing missing persons, such as Europol, Interpol, the Schengen Information System (SIS) and the European Union proposal currently under consideration. The Inspectorate has concluded that the Garda Síochána has laid a solid foundation in the establishment of its Garda Missing Persons Bureau. The Garda Missing Persons Bureau is currently working to align itself with international best practices in this area. At the same time, there is scope for improvement. The Missing Persons Bureau should receive an expanded mandate and resources to strengthen coordination of missing persons investigations and services across the Garda Síochána. Front-line gardaí and their supervisors must receive clear guidance and expanded training on missing persons procedures. There is also scope for improved communication, support, and collaboration with the families of missing persons, other state agencies, non-governmental organisations and external policing organisations. This report puts forward eighteen recommendations for further development in these areas. Inspection Methods The methods used during this study were similar to that of previous work undertaken by the Garda Inspectorate. Members of the inspection team conducted a desktop review of relevant legislation, data, and literature published by the Garda Síochána, other police organisations, non-governmental organisations and the media. Fieldwork commenced with briefings on current missing persons practices by the Garda Missing Persons Bureau. The inspection team then consulted three Garda districts in Dublin (Tallaght, Coolock and Ballymun) and the Galway West Division. The Garda Professional Standards Unit provided a briefing on its assessment of policies 6 and procedures relating to the subject of missing persons. The inspection team also met with representatives of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda National Immigration Bureau for an understanding of the issues regarding unaccompanied minors arriving in the country. The team consulted with families who have missing loved ones and with Missing in Ireland Support Service (MISS), an Irish non-governmental organisation that provides services and advocates on behalf of missing persons and their families. The team also met with public representatives and a member of the media who have taken particular interest in the issue. The Inspectorate undertook international benchmarking by meeting with and sourcing materials from a number of other police services and agencies. These services included the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), West Yorkshire Police, French National Police, Belgian Federal Police, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Ontario Provincial Police, U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Police Improvement Agency in the United Kingdom. The team consulted with Europol and Interpol. The Inspectorate also reviewed Amber Alert type systems and guidelines in France, Belgium, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada. The Inspectorate thanks all who contributed their knowledge, expertise and suggestions to this important review. chapter 01 Structures 8 Overview An organisation is best placed to carry out its functions effectively when is has appropriate structures in place. The current organisational structure of the Garda Missing Persons Bureau is insufficient to provide the service expected of it. Discussion Established in 1982, the Garda Missing Persons Bureau is currently located under Crime Policy and Administration within the Crime and Security Division at Garda Headquarters. An Assistant Commissioner leads the Crime and Security Division. The Assistant Commissioner, in turn, reports to the Deputy Commissioner Operations. Crime Policy and Administration is headed by a Chief Superintendent, who is responsible for the Missing Persons Bureau and a range of other functions. At present, the Missing Persons Bureau is staffed with one sergeant, one garda and one civilian. These three personnel are fully dedicated to the missing persons function. The chart below depicts the current organisational structure. Garda Síochána Organisational Structure Showing Garda Missing Persons Bureau Commissioner Deputy Commissioner Operations Assistant Commissioner Crime and Security Chief Superintendent Crime Policy and Administration Superintendent Inspector Firearms Policy Missing Persons Bureau Legal Section Extradition Section General Admin Crime Statistics Office Mutual Assistance Sergeant Garda Civilian 9 The Missing Persons Bureau s primary responsibility is to maintain accurate and up-to-date records on missing persons within Ireland. 2 It assists district superintendents in local investigations of missing persons incidents. However, the Missing Persons Bureau has no primary operational role in leading missing persons investigations. Instead, within each district, superintendents have the operational responsibility for missing persons incidents. They are assisted by teams of officers at the local level. The responsibility for liaising with the family of the missing person is held by the locally appointed Family Liaison Officer. In reviewing other countries approaches to missing persons, the Garda Inspectorate observed two best practices in the area of structure. One best practice is the use of a central missing persons unit to oversee organisation-wide policies and procedures, training, and technology. The central unit helps ensure organisational practice is reviewed for improvement in light of emerging best practices. The central unit also helps implement changes in policy and procedure consistently across the organisation. A second best practice is the appointment of a missing persons coordinator in each local jurisdiction within a country. These missing persons officers act as local subject matter experts. They also liaise with the central unit to ensure local practice is consistent with national standards. The Inspectorate points in particular to West Yorkshire and Leicestershire in the U.K., Northern Ireland, and Belgium as examples where these two practices are showing value. The Garda Missing Persons Bureau currently serves as a central hub for missing persons policies, procedures, training, coordination, and technology. It also has responsibility for the identification of human remains. The Inspectorate is in agreement with the Missing Persons Bureau that it should continue its roles in these areas. However, the Missing Persons Bureau currently lacks the resources required to fulfil these responsibilities 2 Garda Síochána webpage, Controller.aspx?Page=85 (accessed February 4, 2009). properly. The Inspectorate recommends that the Garda Síochána resource the Missing Persons Bureau to enable it to more fully discharge its duties as a central coordinating unit. In particular, a limited number of additional personnel would enable the Missing Persons Bureau to fulfil the Inspectorate s recommendations in subsequent chapters in this report. These additional personnel should include both sworn police officers as well as non-sworn administrative and analytical personnel. In these times of economic challenge, resource allocation decisions must be made prudently, taking risk assessments into careful consideration. The risks associated with missing persons, particularly children, are of such significance that they must be accorded priority. While some jurisdictions have centralised both coordination and operational responsibilities, the Inspectorate has concluded that a centralised operational approach would not be consistent with broader Garda Síochána goals of placing operational responsibility at the local level. For this reason, the Inspectorate recommends that the Garda Missing Persons Bureau continue to advise and assist in high-risk missing persons cases leaving direct, day-to-day responsibility to personnel in local Garda districts. The Garda Missing Persons Bureau believes that local superintendents should continue to be responsible for missing persons investigations. The Inspectorate agrees. The Inspectorate is aware, however, that the investigation of missing persons is just one of a vast array of responsibilities held by local superintendents. The Inspectorate recommends that each district superintendent identify a particular individual to assist with day-to-day responsibilities for missing persons. The Garda Síochána is developing a similar approach to strengthen its partnership with the Health Service Executive. Each District will have a sergeant identified as the primary liaison to all children-in-care facilities in that district. This officer will develop rapport with Health Service Executive staff in those facilities. This is intended to improve joint efforts by the Garda Síochána and the Health Service Executive to minimise the risk of children in care going 10 missing. (In Chapter 2, Policies and Procedures and Chapter 5, Partnerships, the joint initiative between the Garda Síochána and the Health Service Executive are discussed in more detail.) The Inspectorate views the appointment of a sergeant with these responsibilities as a positive step. The Inspectorate suggests that Garda management consider expanding this role to include day-to-day responsibility for all missing persons issues. The Inspectorate recognises that, in very busy districts, handling issues relating to children in care may be a full-time job. In such a case, the district superintendent may be required to designate someone else to handle the broader category of missing persons. On the other hand, in quieter districts, the designated responsibility for missing persons may be a part-time job. In conclusion, the district superintendent should be ultimately accountable for missing persons investigations. At the same time, he or she should assign at least one individual, full or part time, as set out above, who will be responsible for day-to-day issues relating to missing persons. Recommendations Recommendation 1 Missing Persons Bureau continue to advise and assist in high risk missing person cases leaving direct, day-to-day responsibility to district superintendents and their personnel in local police districts. Recommendation 2 The Inspectorate recommends that Garda Síochána management supplement the current resources of the Garda Missing Persons Bureau with a limited number of additional personnel, including sworn police officers and non-sworn administrative and analytical staff. Recommendation 3 Síochána designate personnel in each police district who will be responsible for all missing persons cases and coordinate as necessary with the central Garda Missing Persons Bureau and external partners. chapter 02 Policies and Procedures 12 Overview Policies and procedures provide an organisation and its personnel with a shared understanding of how each component and individual will act in a particular circumstance. They are important because they help ensure that the organisation and its members act effectively, appropriately and with due regard for the law. They are also important because they provide a best practice guide for organisational and individual response during stressful and time-constrained situations. Policies and procedures that are well constructed and widely disseminated help minimise delays and maximise the opportunity for a well-orchestrated response consistent with the desired outcome. There is a need for both high-level policy guidance that establishes the overall organisational approach and identifies unit and individual responsibilities and detailed procedural guidance that front-line officers can rely on in real time during a particular incident. Discussion The Garda Síochána currently relies on the Garda Code, the Crime Investigation Techniques (CIT) Manual, and a variety of H.Q. Directives for guidance on its approach to missing persons. The relevant section of the Garda Code provides a definition of a missing person and criteria for assessing the risk associated with a particular missing person. The H.Q. Directives typically add to or amend the Garda Code with additional information. For example, the H.Q. Directive clarifying the Garda Code on the risk assessment criteria adds instructions on how to create a missing person incident on PULSE (Police Using Leading Systems Effectively the Garda Síochána information system). Other directives discuss the Irish Missing Children s webpage, the National Missing Persons Helpline, and the role of juvenile liaison officers. Both the Garda Code and the H.Q. Directives are written as high-level guidance. They do not include a discussion of the specific procedures to be followed by front-line officers during a missing person incident, in the investigation which may follow, or about the continuing services to be provided to families of missing persons. Other police agencies have supplemented police code and directives with specific procedural guidance for front-line officers who are responding to a missing person report. This procedural guidance is simplified into easy-to-read formats, often including checklists that help guide the officer through the process of taking an initial report, applying risk assessment criteria, and developing the appropriate response. In France, the National Police and the Gendarmerie partnered to create a field-ready guide suitable for front-line officers to carry with them in a variety of environments. In Belgium, the Federal Police established a shared checklist for all police services to use when responding to a missing person report. In the United Kingdom, the West Yorkshire Police developed a very detailed set of guidelines that lay out the police responsibilities and specific steps to be taken under a variety of circumstances and categories of missing persons. These guidelines include a risk assessment flow chart that has great value in guiding front-line officers through the initial steps of taking a report and assessing the appropriate response. The Police Service of Northern Ireland is in the final stages of drafting a similar document, which is based in large part on Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) guidelines. The Garda Síochána has indicated it intends to place updated guidelines for risk assessment, developed in a recent pilot programme, on its PULSE information system. This is a step in the right direction and complements other enhancements to PULSE, which will be discussed later in 13 this report (in Chapter 4, Technology). Placing these guidelines on PULSE will help ensure this guidance is available to front-line officers throughout the country. The Inspectorate recomm
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