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There is an "apparent lack of faith" in the senior leadership of the police, as 51% of sergeants in charge of missing persons' inquiries have failed to read the guidelines, experts have said.
Dr Shalev Greene said more needed to be done to understand officers' disillusionment with senior management:
Police sergeants in charge of the initial stages of a missing persons inquiry should be given "ownership" of the case, said a report into the police tactics used after a person has vanished.
- "Ownership" should be given in the first 48 hours with officers passing the case onto other duty inspectors between shifts.
- This would allow for a genuinely critical risk assessment at handovers.
- The report argues for police officers to adhere to a formal framework, such as the National Decision Model, when calculating risk.
Almost half of officers in charge of the initial stages of a missing persons' inquiry said the training they had received to deal with such investigations was not up to scratch.
A further 51% admitted they had not read the guidelines on how to handle missing persons cases, according to the findings of a report published by the Centre for the Study of Missing Persons at the University of Portsmouth.
Researchers surveyed 215 police sergeants in a large police force in England. All had been in a senior role for at least five years.
Dr Shalev Greene, one of the authors of the report, said: "Decision-making is all too often subjective and inconsistent. One police sergeant might judge the risk of a set of circumstances as high and another might judge the same circumstances as medium.
"The challenge for policing is to remove such subjective measures, or at least place them within a more objective framework that ensures when the power of hindsight is being applied, the decision still stands up to scrutiny."