KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department's reinstated Missing Persons Unit will incorporate some changes but some things will still be the same before it was disbanded a year ago.
The unit will have seven dedicated detectives and one sergeant, Sgt. Chris Toigo. Toigo was formerly a part of the department's assault squad.
KCPD hopes to add one more detective and one more sergeant into the unit.
KCPD will put the missing person into the MULES system, which stands for Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System. It's a database where Missouri law enforcement and the criminal justice system can share information. You can also make sure the missing person is put into the NCIC, the National Crime Information Center database. Those two databases are connected.
KSHB 41 asked Major Leslie Foreman of the violent crimes division a few questions at KCPD's news conference on Tuesday, including about the process of reporting someone missing to the reinstated squad.
KSHB I-Team Investigator Sarah Plake: "So, the protocol is that every missing person will be put into NCIC?"
Major Leslie Foreman, Violent Crimes Division: "It will but NCIC is kind of unique. It'll go away after 48 hours unless it's an endangered. What determines 'endangered' determines on a case by case basis. It could be anything about someone's particular days leading up to it where something suspicious or concerning happened, medication they need to survive or stay healthy, it could be some suicidal ideation the past. There are several things that go into that, so it's up to that particular detective to determine 'endangered.' We recognize that if somebody reported a person missing, they would be concerned and feel they are in danger. But we can't inundate with literally every person and a photo of every person and putting that out to the media. We try to pick and choose and use that for ones we feel like we need some immediate assistance, if that makes sense."
Maj. Foreman said in runaway cases, they may work with SVU or other divisions if the runaway juvenile was coerced, forced to leave home, or if there's suspicion of trafficking.
KSHB 41 also asked Foreman if the unit will have specialized training on missing people, since some are coming from other divisions, such as homicide.
Foreman: "Any training opportunity we can give to our folks, we take that, especially depending what unit they're in. We try to send them to trainings for that particular area they're investigating."
Plake: "And will there be people on the weekends so folks don't have to wait until Monday for a detective to get on the case?"
Foreman: "We always have detective on staff through the weekend. This particular squad will be days and PMs and then we have a rotation for the weekends. So the idea is, the reports will be taken, the initial reports are officers in-the-field. And then a detective, if there's something immediate to do right then and there, they'll do that. Otherwise, they'll follow up basically the next day when it's assigned, pretty much like we do most other investigations. So there's always someone to respond and go out and do anything we need to do at that time."
Plake: "Will the unit help do searches? Because to me, what I've noticed, is that it's really on the families to do the searches and police don't get involved in that."
Foreman: "I think it really just depends on the situation. We definitely don't have the resources to go out and assist each family with each search they may want to do. We'll do all the things on our end - looking at reports, arrest systems, hospitals, databases, shelters, social media, trying to contact friends family addresses, reaching out to other states, talking to other agencies. There are times we do large searches but unfortunately, it's not feasible for us to be involved in those. But it's a partnership to some degree; We rely on the reporting party to share and update us. Ideally, I wish we could but I don't think that's realistic."
There are ways families can empower themselves if their loved one goes missing while also working with the police department.
KSHB 41 reached out to a former detective in Arizona who specializes in missing Indigenous people, but says these tips apply to everyone:
1. Make a police report and get the case number
2. Make sure your loved one is in NCIC
3. Reach out to community groups for help
4. Organize a search ASAP
5. Make sure the police are working with other databases such as NCMEC, Missouri Missing, Kansas Missing & Unsolved, and NamUS.