Law enforcement guidelines require that a reporting person must believe that a missing individual is a vulnerable adult or will harm himself or others before a police report can be taken.
Is the individual a vulnerable adult? This could be because of mental capacity, extreme age or life threatening physical illness.
- Is the individual a threat to himself or others? Is there a mental health issue that if not addressed could lead the individual to commit suicide, injure self or injure innocent bystanders?
Some of the reasons that a report shouldn’t be made are:
- A missing individual who has chemical dependency issues and has refused to face up to them does not rise to the level of a danger to himself or others by itself. This is a choice the individual has made and is free to make even if it is ruining his life.
- When there is history of disappearing and returning, no report should be made. If this person is acting on his own free will, it does not rise to the level of a police report. People have the right to direct their own lives in a manner they choose. There may be consequences for their actions but they will have to deal with that.
- Age alone is not a reason to file a police report. If a 70 year old person wants to leave his home and go somewhere, it is his right. If he has serious mental health issues, this may change the situation.
- Did this individual tell you he was going to go somewhere and you disagreed with him? In this case, the individual had a plan and executed it. Example: Father tells his kids he is going to visit a relative in another city/state. The kids tell him he can’t go. He then goes. He is not missing. He is acting on his own free will. What could change this is if he is a threat to himself or others or is a vulnerable adult. In this case, see the information above. This doesn’t mean the kids think he is a vulnerable adult, but there is some medical reason that he is.
- No signs of foul play. Adults are free to roam about as they please.
As a concerned reporting person, it is important to understand what really happens after the missing person report is filed:
- The police department will determine if the individual truly is a threat to himself or others or is a vulnerable adult. If he is, the person’s name can be entered into the national database.
- Our department is not going to actively search for the individual unless there is some extreme circumstance that dictates a search. This usually involves some physical evidence of foul play, etc.
- If a police officer comes upon the missing person in the course of his normal duty, the officer cannot arrest this individual as no crime has been committed. You will receive a call and be told where the individual is and his status. If this individual is having a mental health emergency, he will be placed on a 72 hour police hold at a mental health facility. If he is overly intoxicated, he maybe taken to a detox facility for detoxification. At this time, the individual becomes the reporting person’s responsibility.
If the individual truly is a threat to himself or others or is a vulnerable adult, you should go to your respective precinct to make your report unless there is evidence of foul play. Then call 911. Reports may not be made by phone to your precinct. Missing persons also may not be reported to the Police Department by e-mail.
Last updated Sep. 27, 2011