“Outline and Critically Assess the Police use of the Media in Missing Persons Investigations” In this essay, I will analyse what is a missing person, reasons why persons go missing, critically asses the police use of the media, the media’s role, media and search strategies and senior investigative officer’s (SIO) responsibility. A missing person is defined by the Association of Chief Police Officers as “Anyone whose whereabouts is unknown whatever the circumstances of disappearance. They will be considered missing until located and their well-being or otherwise established”. (ACPO, 2005: 8) The main objectives in missing person cases are the safe and well recovery of the missing person. And the majority of missing persons turn up shortly after being reported missing with a genuine reason and not too far from where they had gone missing. However, if they don’t return safe and well, an OIC (officer in case) has to consider possible scenarios (hypothesis) of reasons why that person had gone missing. Potential reasons are: a lost person, person missing voluntary, and person missing under the influence of a third party and missing due to an accident or an illness. If the circumstances are suspicious then the investigative officer uses the phrase: “If in doubt think murder”. The police use this phrase because 1% of all reported missing persons are found dead.
A “lost person” is someone who is confused and wishes to be found. These persons are usually lost in unknown places. Lost persons are relatively easy to locate as they want to be found. Missing persons that are missing voluntarily are missing for a specific reason. Whether they have been abused and run away from home or found a partner and ran off with them. The SIO has to take considerations when dealing with this type of missing person because that person may wish to commit suicide and needs to be found as soon as possible. Potential high risk priority due to danger factors like self-harm. Missing person that is missing due to an illness or an accident are often graded a high risk because they may not be in a reasonable state to help or look after themselves and their awareness levels may be reduced. Especially severe dementia sufferers or injured persons that are unable to operate on their own. These persons could have a number of conditions: stroke, depression, dementia or bipolar disorder. Missing person under influence of third party is a person that likely to have been kidnapped or abducted. There could a number of reasons why they have been detained against their will. Some are abducted for people trafficking and murder victims. These are always a high risk because they are under threat from the third party. An OIC has to risk asses and grade individual missing person case i.e. low, medium and high risk, depending on the circumstances i.e. a person missing after Friday night, will potentially be graded a low risk as there is no actual threat or danger to the missing person or the community. Although, an 8 year old female abducted is a high risk because the victim is vulnerable and may be in serious risk and harm.
The risk assessment can dictate how much, or if any, of police resources can be used. It will also recognise the possible risk to the victim and urgency for the conduction of searches. The high risk category needs rapid deployment of police assets and high risks cases must be assigned an SIO. The SIO has to research the missing person’s profile for any clues which could lead to safe discovery of the person. The SIO’s role is to understand the mind-set of the missing person. Places of significance to the person, any valuable notes which could help locate the missing person, abandoned medication should be reviewed to conclude and assist with the search and media strategy. Evidence must be preserved in suspicious disappearance cases. If the missing person has any mental or physical illnesses or if they are a child, then it will considerably...
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