'51%' investigating missing person did not read guidelines

Just over half of the police responsible for assessing risk in missing persons cases have never read the national guidelines on how to handle them, research has shown.

Sergeants accused of 'lack of faith' in senior leaders

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:

The report raises the question that if officers aren't taking responsibility for reading key documentation, what else are they missing?

And if their training is said to be ineffective, what other skills are they not being taught?

We need to understand what lies at the heart of an apparent lack of faith in senior leaders in relation to management of missing person investigations, and how to ensure guidance and best practice from the Home Office and College of Policing penetrates the organisation and reaches those on the 'shop floor'.

– Dr Shalev Greene

Sergeants should be given 'ownership' of missing cases

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.

The report, which found 51% of police officers responsible for the early stages of the case had not read the guidelines on missing persons' inquiries, recommended:

  • "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.

Read more: Missing persons training inadequate, say 49% of officers

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Missing persons training inadequate, say 49% of officers

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.

Read more: UK police formally request Portuguese help over Madeline

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Police need more training in order to properly deal with missing persons' inquiry, research has shown. Credit: PA

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."

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