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Question For Americans

awnlee jawking

My impression, from US crime dramas, is that when a minor goes missing, they're treated by police as a 'missing person' immediately. However when someone over 18 goes missing, unless there's evidence of foul play (eg witnessed being frog-marched away at gunpoint), they're not regarded by the police as a 'missing person' until a certain amount of time has elapsed (24 or 48 hours).

How badly wrong is my understanding?

AJ

Capt. Zapp

@awnlee jawking

You are correct. It used to be that any agencies would require a missing person to be missing for 24 to 48 hours before they would even look into it, saying the person may have gone off willingly and was likely to return within that timeframe. The National Child Search Assistance Act of 1990 made specific requirements in regards to missing or endangered persons.

Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

How badly wrong is my understanding?


Very.

1. I would presume that in the US, this will vary with both state law and local department policy.

2. I checked the policy for the Milwaukee, Wisconsin
http://city.milwaukee.gov/ImageLibrary/Groups/mpdAuthors/SOP/180-MISSINGPERSONS1.pdf

There is no waiting period for filing a missing person report on anyone.

That said, excluding minors and "critical" missing, the police are unlikely to expend any resources investigating a missing persons case.

Critical missing are:

1. Persons with mental, cognitive or other disabilities that create heightened risk for either the missing person or other's with whom the missing person might come in contact.

2. There is evidence of foul play in the disappearance.

3. The missing person has a medical issue that would life threatening if they are separated from medications or other supplies for too long.

4. Missing post natural disaster but not confirmed dead.

5. Under age 11.

6. Older than 11 but under 18 and has their own minor child in their custody.

7. Suicidal.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Luckily, I fit under one or more of those categories, so if any of you ever miss my bitching about something, you should be able to call the police immediately and report me missing. 'D Just tell them "Crumbly's Gone!" or alternately, if I ever lose it, "Crumbly's Gone all Crumbly".

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

so if any of you ever miss my bitching about something, you should be able to call the police immediately and report me missing. 'D Just tell them "Crumbly's Gone!" or alternately, if I ever lose it, "Crumbly's Gone all Crumbly".


a Gone Missin' Party is an optional extra.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

a Gone Missin' Party is an optional extra.

Ayup! There will certainly be a lot of partying when that happens. 'D

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

Ayup! There will certainly be a lot of partying when that happens. 'D


People were asked to donate $2 in advance, but the crowd funding site wants to know what to do with the millions raised for the party to date.

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

However when someone over 18 goes missing, unless there's evidence of foul play (eg witnessed being frog-marched away at gunpoint), they're not regarded by the police as a 'missing person' until a certain amount of time has elapsed (24 or 48 hours).


I researched that recently because it came up in my WIP story. There's no waiting period.

AmigaClone

The effort expended by the police would vary a lot depending on the circumstances of a person's disappearance as well as their age and/or mental and physical health.

For instance, a caller saying that their spouse is thirty minutes late from getting home from work might only get an email inquiry of the type "any unidentified individuals with the description of the individual in question arrive there since...".

The other extreme would be a caller describing what appears to be a kidnapping of multiple individuals.

Also, if an adult has intentionally gone missing then the police might not disclose the person's location without permission.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@AmigaClone

For instance, a caller saying that their spouse is thirty minutes late from getting home from work might only get an email inquiry of the type "any unidentified individuals with the description of the individual in question arrive there since...".


Most PDs in this type of case wouldn't even expend that much in the way of resources.

awnlee jawking

@Ernest Bywater

a Gone Missin' Party is an optional extra


I'm still suffering from the hangover after our 'gone missing' party for Bruce ;)

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play
awnlee jawking

Thank you for your replies. I think, with some minor tweaking, none of the points made will fatally wound the relevant scene in my story.

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

Thank you for your replies. I think, with some minor tweaking, none of the points made will fatally wound the relevant scene in my story.

You can't say that we didn't try, though! 'D

awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

Since you're not reading my WIP and therefore it won't be a spoiler, I have a follow-up question.

When the local uniformed police make enquiries about a missing person, what flavour and rank of police is it likely to be in a small-town America setting? My current place holder is 'deputy', and I've assumed deputies wear name badges.

Burn me!

AJ

AmigaClone

@awnlee jawking

I think deputy is used mostly for a county's sheriff department.

My guess that a detective would be the one leading the investigation. In a real small community, it might be a sergeant or a patrol officer.

Wes Boyd was a newspaperman in a small (population around 15000) city. Looking at the ranks of the police department (here).

awnlee jawking

@AmigaClone

My guess that a detective would be the one leading the investigation. In a real small community, it might be a sergeant or a patrol officer.


Thank you. I'll change 'deputy' to 'officer' unless anyone presents a very strong rationale to the contrary.

AJ

Ernest Bywater

@awnlee jawking

When the local uniformed police make enquiries about a missing person, what flavour and rank of police is it likely to be in a small-town America setting? My current place holder is 'deputy', and I've assumed deputies wear name badges.


A lot will depend on the size of the town / city and if it's incorporated. Many small places have no local police force and law enforcement is done by the county sheriff and his deputies. However, some small communities are incorporated and they have their own police force, but they still interact with the county sheriff's deputies as well.

As some suggested read some of Wes Boyd's stories on Spearfish lake where they have both a town police force and the county sheriff's deputies. If there is a town police force they only have authority within the town borders. Stray Kitten by Wes Boyd does set out the two forces quite well.

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

rank of police is it likely to be in a small-town America setting


Glad you brought this up. My WIP has a very small town with one cop. I called him a sheriff. That's a mistake. Sheriff is at the county level. I'm going to call him "Police Chief."

Replies:   graybyrd  Dominions Son
BlacKnight

@awnlee jawking

When the local uniformed police make enquiries about a missing person, what flavour and rank of police is it likely to be in a small-town America setting? My current place holder is 'deputy', and I've assumed deputies wear name badges.


Depends on how small your small town really is. A really small town is unlikely to have their own police force at all, so local law enforcement duties would typically be handled by the county sheriff's department, in which case "deputy" would be correct.

Where exactly the dividing line is can be highly variable. Cross-referencing a couple of Wikipedia pages shows that, in my own New England state, the smallest town with a municipal police department is population 250, while the largest without is 5300. Under about 2500, municipal police departments are uncommon; the few towns that small that have them are mostly ski towns, which are flush with tourist cash and full of transient outsiders.

If there's reason to believe that the missing person might have left/been taken out of town, the county sheriff and state police might be involved even if there is a municipal police department. If it's suspected inter-state kidnapping, that's FBI jurisdiction.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
graybyrd

@Switch Blayde

Small incorporated towns may have a single officer, usually called a "Marshall" ... informally referred to as a 'town marshall' or 'city marshall' by adults, and in my misspent youth, called the 'town clown' by us teenage kids. Larger towns that can afford a multi-person force will then adopt the multiple rank system, of chief, officers, and perhaps a detective.

In EVERY case, there will be close cooperation between the city officer (marshall or city p.d. officer) and the county sheriff. It is literally unheard of to have jurisdictional limits when it involves a fleeing suspect. Both forces will pursue and converge; there is no such thing as a 'safe zone' for flight, such as escaping into the county from a town crime scene. Officers are cross-deputized to have full authority in either jurisdiction. These jurisdiction agreements will typically extend to state officers, such as highway patrol, fish and game, or park rangers.

In even smaller incorporated villages that choose not to budget for a local marshall, the town council will typically enter into a reimbursement contract with the county sheriff, who will assign town patrol duties to his deputies.

In the western U.S. the federal government, typically the US Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management, will contract and reimburse the county sheriff for patrols and law enforcement services on federal lands, i.e., campgrounds, trailheads, and other heavily-used public areas otherwise under federal ownership and control. In all cases, the federal authorities are extremely sensitive to stay on the "good side" of the public relations situation with local law enforcement entities.

Although the overall sensitivity has decreased significantly in recent decades, Americans have typically regarded any attempt by federal law enforcement officers to exercise police authority on a local level with a _very_ jaundiced eye. However, in northern Idaho we've witnessed hordes of white and green US Border Patrol vehicles literally camped at road and highway intersections, scanning and intercepting anything 'suspicious' coming south from Canada. I've talked with locals in the border county (my wife hails from there), who say they appreciate the border patrol presence as it tends to deter the local no-goodniks, keeping remote break-ins and theft to a minimum. However, that would become white-hot rage in a heartbeat if BP agents began stopping local people for ID checks or shakedowns. Although US border authorities can stop anyone for any reason, perhaps to require an ID check and a vehicle search within 150 miles into the interior US from the borders or coasts (thus 2/3 of the US population fall in that area) they almost never do so... unless 'racial profiles' or other suspicions justify such action. Public rage would force congress to stir and perhaps look harshly at any agency's funding that persists in upsetting the voting public.

That's a quick rundown of the general rural situation, at least in the western half of the US.

awnlee jawking

@BlacKnight

If there's reason to believe that the missing person might have left/been taken out of town


There isn't in this case. The cops are investigating primarily because of pressure from a local bigwig. That requires the question of who is more susceptible to political pressure, a Chief of Police or a County Sheriff?

I've done some finger-in-the air calculations and, to get the size of school I've envisaged in the story, the town population might be around 3500. So, based on your figures, there wouldn't necessarily be a municipal police department.

AJ

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

When the local uniformed police make enquiries about a missing person, what flavour and rank of police is it likely to be in a small-town America setting? My current place holder is 'deputy', and I've assumed deputies wear name badges.


A lot depends on what you consider a small town. I've heard some people call anything under half a million population a "small town".

On the other hand, my mother grew up in a rural town with a population of around 300.

The smallest incorporated municipality in the US, Buford, Wyoming, has a population of 1. No, that's not a typo.

A lot of really small towns don't have their own police department and so any issues would go to the county sherrif, and would be investigated by a deputy.

Then you get into the confusion that some small towns that have their own law enforcement call the town police a "sheriff", and the officer's would be deputies. Those town sherrif's usually only have 2 or 3 deputies.

Dominions Son

@AmigaClone

In a real small community, it might be a sergeant or a patrol officer.


In a really small town, Population < 1000, the entire local police force won't be more than 5 sworn law enforcement officers and their won't be any ranked officers below the chief.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

That's a mistake. Sheriff is at the county level. I'm going to call him "Police Chief."


Not necessarily. There are some small municipalities in the US that call the town Chief LEO a Sheriff, it's unusual, but not unheard of.

Dominions Son
Updated:

@awnlee jawking


I've done some finger-in-the air calculations and, to get the size of school I've envisaged in the story, the town population might be around 3500. So, based on your figures, there wouldn't necessarily be a municipal police department.


http://www.governing.com/gov-data/safety-justice/police-officers-per-capita-rates-employment-for-city-departments.html

The national average (calculated from all incorporated towns with 25K+ population) for police officers per 10K population is 16.8.

From this, any town over 600 population could have a police department and a town of 3500 would be expected to have a department with 5 or 6 officers.

A PD that small would likely not have any ranked or specialized officers other than the chief of police, so no sergeants, patrol officers or detectives.

Switch Blayde

@graybyrd

Larger towns that can afford a multi-person force will then adopt the multiple rank system, of chief


When I read this thread, I googled it. I found that real small towns have a Chief of Police or Police Chief. Some have officers as part of the force; some simply have the one Police Chief and volunteers.

I'm going to change sheriff to police chief. Marshal sounds too much like the old west and this story takes place in current-day Mississippi.

Replies:   graybyrd
PrincelyGuy

Grew up in a California small town of about 5,000. That town had a police chief and around 15 to 20 officers. That included a sergeant for each shift. Night shift when the bars closed they usually had 3-4 officers on duty. That was in the 60's and 70's.

graybyrd
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

There's always been a large cultural divide across the banks of the Mississippi... E vs. W. So it seems reasonable for a southeastern town to have a chief with no indians.

(Add: speaking of cultural divides, out here in the Pac west, the continental mountain range of the Cascades & Sierra pose an immense cultural and political barrier. The three states of Washington, Oregon, and California would best be reformed using the mountain range as a border. There is immense cultural difference between those inland opposed to the populations on the "wet" side of the divide. The hugely simplified "flyover" paradigm of the interior US vs. its coasts is just a larger example. In the east, take the coastal cities vs. the mountain cultures, ie, W. Virginia & Appalachia.

My point? These cultural divides will also be expressed in matters such as law enforcement, social structure, personal attitudes, etc., that should be considered in stories about their respective areas.)

StarFleet Carl

@graybyrd

Small incorporated towns may have a single officer, usually called a "Marshall" ... informally referred to as a 'town marshall' or 'city marshall' by adults, and in my misspent youth, called the 'town clown' by us teenage kids.


That sounds VERY familiar to me. I grew up outside a small town that had a population of 800 on Sunday. We had a (single) Town Marshal and that was it. I think they now actually have a 'police department' with 3 officers. Even today, the entire county is fairly small, with barely 16,000 people in the whole county. The Sheriff is an elected position, he has 9 deputies, 6 reserve deputies, 14 jail staff, and 7 dispatch staff.

If it was a big criminal case - and surprisingly enough, we had a few of those, including a couple of horrific murders while I was still in school - then the State Police would come in. They had the crime lab and investigators that the county just couldn't have.

Wolfman

I live in rural small town america. The set up in our area is:

County Sherrif Office, Local Police Department, State Police.

CSO - Serves warrants, make arrest associated with those warrants, handles prisoner transport, county court security, in some cases federal gov't building security

LPD - handles crime and traffic violations within contracted municipalities.

SP - handles crime and traffic violations not covered by LPD's.

A recent experience:
A B C
Town A has a LPD, Town C contracts to town A LPD. I live in town B. All three towns are on the same road.

I contacted Town A LPD about a possably stolen bicycle. their response was they don't cover this area, contact nearest SP barracks.

same road.

Town A city limits, you can often find a LPD car watching for speeders, 1/2 mile down the road, can often find a SP cruiser watching for speeders.

Funny ( for me ) true story: On my way into town one day I saw red porsche 911 pulled over at city limits by a LPD, went into town, did my business, after leaving town, a red porsche 911 was pulled over by a SP. Now, I don't know for certain it was the same red porsche 911, but due to time frame, it's very probable. Poor bloke got nailed twice within a 2.5 mile stretch.

I can't be bothered wondering who's jurisdiction I'm in, so i just behave myself.

Ernest Bywater

On the subject of the local area police structure I went and ask a county sheriff's office about the set up in Georgia when I started writing Odd Man in College, and the outcome of their response and further replies is put together in the forward of that story, which states:

In most of the USA the head of the local law enforcement in an area is the County Sheriff, usually with a Sheriff's Office employing deputies to do the hands on law enforcement work. However, in some areas they also have city, metropolitan, and special police forces; such as a college police force. There are also differences in the law enforcement structure which varies from State to State. In each case they have authority only in their area of jurisdiction, and they then also have jurisdictional issues with matters that may also fall under the legal authority of the other law enforcement organisations like the relevant State Police Force (usually called state troopers) or federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), US Marshals Service, Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Secret Service, and many others. In general they all get along and work well together, but not all of the people involved get on well with those from the other groups; this is especially true for some of the local - federal people's interactions, due to individual personal attitudes.

In Georgia, USA the Sheriff receives his law enforcement authority from the State Constitution, with approval to give this authority to Deputies. The Sheriff and his Deputies have county wide jurisdiction with some minor limitations, Police Departments receive their law enforcement authority through their elected local governing body which is authorized via a Charter from the State when a new city, county or authority is formed. Local Police Departments, for the most part, are limited to their legal jurisdiction under their authorizing charter. The Sheriff's Office is not a department under their county government, although they are funded through the county government.

The Sheriff is identified by the State Constitution as the county's Chief Law Enforcement Officer, but does not normally have direct authority over police departments who derive their police powers through a State charter. As of 2013 there are 159 counties in the State of Georgia. Only 12 have county police departments, but all are required, by the State Constitution, to have a Sheriff. The counties with police departments are generally in close proximity to large cities. In the remaining 147 counties without police departments the Sheriff's Office performs the police work in addition to their other State Constitutional duties.

The Henry County Police Department (HCPD) is responsible for handling the police activities in Henry County (unincorporated) areas that don't have their own police departments. This includes routine patrol functions, criminal and traffic investigations and enforcement. The Henry County cities of McDonough (the county seat), Hampton, and Locust Grove have their own police departments, and Stockbridge is in the process of forming one in 2013. HCPD does have shift commanders who are Lieutenants, while Captains and Majors are Unit Commanders.

The Henry County Sheriff's Office Deputies do enforce all the laws from serious crimes to traffic tickets, and they make many arrests in their county; so do the other city, county, and state law enforcement agencies within the county. However, the Sheriff's Office Deputies' primary Constitutional duties include: operating the county Detention Centres (jails); serving arrest and fugitive warrants, civil processes; providing security at the county court facilities, as well as the transport and guard of inmates to and from the courts; transporting inmates to prisons (after convictions), also to and from other jails for court appearances there. In addition to his required duties Sheriff McBrayer provides the School Resource Officers for the Henry County Board of Education county public school system, and provides personnel to assist other local and Federal law enforcement agencies (ICE, DEA and US Marshals).

In general, law enforcement agencies in the Atlanta Metro area work well with each other and share information, especially so when jointly working on cases. Deputies and Police Officers get to know each other through training, and by working together; so there is some sense of community. Sharing of the Law Enforcement Intelligence around the Atlanta Metro area is good, with Be on the Lookout alerts being emailed to surrounding areas. Also, many agencies post useful information on the Internet via official websites - like the Henry County Sheriff's Office website. Items like Most Wanted alerts and information about persons being detained in jails, etc. This saves people from driving to places to get basic information. There is also a network of information available to law enforcement agencies through local, state, and federal databases sharing and updating data from agencies anywhere in the country.


My understanding from later research is that this is true for most of the USA as well. While this doesn't give an exact answer for a very small community, I suspect the above is true for any community with a local law enforcement service, and a community without a local LE force will depend on the county sheriff's office and deputies.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

'gone missing' party for Bruce ;)

Sorry, AJ, but those rumours of my death were a bit premature. :-)

And, many thanks to robberhands for his help, and tolerance, during those difficulties I was having.

Replies:   awnlee_jawking
awnlee_jawking

@Ross at Play

was


Does that mean you've got the Vascular Penile Necrosis you wanted?

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@awnlee_jawking

Does that mean you've got the Vascular Penile Necrosis you wanted?

No. My first trial with TunnelBear suggested the usage limit for their free service was too low for my needs.
But I figured out why Hola for Torch had not been working for me. You need to install the Hola exe software first, but also need to go into Torch Extensions and select 'Add to Chrome'.
I'm all set now, fingers crossed, and not paying anything.

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