Archive | law enforcement

Florida Police: Get With The Times!

I’ve spent ridiculous amounts of time researching missing persons, especially in Florida. I’ve probably visited most police department websites in the state. I leave feeling terribly disappointed most of the time. It’s frustrating to visit a police website for info on their missing person cases only to realize they are nowhere to be found. In the digital age, there’s no excuse for police departments NOT to keep their current Amber Alerts, missing person cases and unsolved homicides posted on their websites. You would think something so important would not get overlooked! On that note, I’d like to share a few examples of what I consider good and bad.

The Bad:

  • City of Miami Police Department: their website has a link to their missing person cases. However, they don’t keep in updated. They’ve been displaying the same 2 missing person cases since 2007! 
  • Miami Dade Police: they update their site from time to time but…(and this is a big one) on their missing persons page, they have NO information about their open/unsolved cases! Instead, they have a handful of links to sites that are not part of MDPD and a search engine below that. 

If police departments want to close more cases they’re going to have to be more effective than the examples above.

The Good:

  • This agency is doing an excellent job integrating news, videos, open missing person cases and their unidentified victims. I’m referring to the one and only Broward Sherriff’s Office. The BSO website is user-friendly and includes news, videos, sexual offender search, missing persons, victim services, safety tips, and more. I appreciate that it’s updated frequently with their current missing person cases and “Operation Found and Forgotten“. This effort by Broward Sherriff’s Office to identify their Jane and John Does can be very effective. They have a much better chance of identifing their victims. Follow this link and look at the photos. (You can report your tips to Crime Stoppers of Broward County anonymously at by calling (954)493-TIPS, toll free at (866)493-TIPS or online at

Police should embrace social media wholeheartedly. Using online social networks have many advantages. It’s the most effective way to disseminate information expediently at no cost. You can use the sites to distribute Amber Alerts, missing person alerts, press releases, breaking news, events, crime prevention etc. These social sites allow for people to share information, videos, and photos easily, disseminating information faster than traditional ways. Police departments should be using YouTube as well. 

Take a look at BSO’s site. Follow their lead. Get with times and learn to use social networking sites to communicate and engage!


Thank You New Mexico Lt. Governor Diane Denish!

I am very happy and proud that New Mexico’s Lt. Governor Diane Denish is taking a stand for missing persons and their families. Finally, a politician is doing something positive for the cause. A lot more need to follow her example. But she needs everyone’s support to make important changes happen. Watch the video and read all about it below.

Question: Do you think law enforcement should have a national protocol in handling missing person cases? Why or why not?

Denish calls for missing-person alerts
Mesa graves spur call for action

Reporter: Maria Medina

Web Producer: Bill Diven

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The uncertainty linking dozens of missing women with remains unearthed from Albuquerque’s west mesa shows more needs to be done when someone disappears, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish said Tuesday.

“Let’s be frank about this,” Denish told KRQE News 13. “This is mostly women who go missing and are not found, and that’s really what caught my attention.

“I grieve along with all the other people in New Mexico not just for the families but for New Mexico. I think we can do better.”

She’s called a meeting for Friday to bring law enforcement, the media and other organizations together to talk about solutions.

Liz Pérez said she could’ve used more help when her daughter-in-law went missing. Nearly eight years ago Darlene Trujillo dropped her son off with Perez.

She said she was going on a quick trip to Arizona, but she never returned.

“(The police) said that they would file a missing persons report but that they couldn’t really do nothing on it because Darlene was over 18 years old,” Pérez said.

Trujillo is not one of the four women who investigators have identified so far from the west mesa graves. Forensics experts have said the remains are those of Victoria Chavez, Cinnamon Elks, Julie Nieto and Michelle Valdez.

All four young women disappeared in 2004, and all shared trouble in their lives involving drugs and prostitution. Eight sets of skeletal remains have yet to be identified, and investigators have yet to name any prime suspects in the case.

Denish said she doesn’t want to hear about limitations adding that she thinks a lot more can and should be done to publicize missing persons cases quickly.

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National DataBase for Missing and Unidentified Persons NamUs

Is your missing loved one registered in the The NamUs Database?

The Justice Department has unveiled a computer database that will help families locate the bodies of lost loved ones. Families, law enforcement agencies, medical examiners and coroners, victim advocates, and the general public are encouraged to register their missing loved ones with The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), the first national repository for missing persons and unidentified decedent records. NamUs consists of two databases that anyone can search. The Justice Department hopes that law enforcement officials and the public will use the databases to share information to solve cases.Feb 2009
Let’s just hope law enforcement start to use it. Families deserve closure.

Read more about NamUs
National site helps ID remains, Find the Lost

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President’s DNA Initiative – Free courses in DNA evidence

I started an online course last night entitled “What Every Law Enforcement Officer Should Know About DNA Evidence”. I found it by mistake but am thrilled to be learning more about the topic. Although, I’m not in law enforcement, it’s pretty straight forward and easy to grasp. I started it last night and finished it within the hour. For more info, visit The courses are free and available to law enforcement, family and victim advocates. They also provide booklets and publications like “Identifying Victims Using DNA: A Guide for Families”

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice. The agency is committed to exploring crime control and justice issues. An area of focus is “DNA technology” which has increasingly become a vital tool in the criminal justice system. In order to increase and improve the use of this technology, the President announced a 5 year, billion dollar initiative, (President’s DNA Initiative), which promotes “Advancing Justice through DNA Technology”.

The President’s DNA Initiative targets specific goals:

  • To eliminate the current testing backlog of DNA samples
  • Improve DNA laboratories’ testing capacities
  • Research and Development of DNA technologies
  • Training and Assistance for criminal justice professionals
  • Provide access to post conviction DNA testing
  • The use of DNA for missing persons cases and identifying human remains
  • Protect the innocent

The UNT, Center for Human Identification (UNTCHI), with support by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), has become a recognized national center providing scientific and technical support to law enforcement agencies, medical examiners, and crime labs throughout the country.

UNTCHI in collaboration with law enforcement offers families with missing loved ones the opportunity to submit reference samples for DNA testing. The lab is one of only a few facilities that integrates nuclear and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) for analyses. Once DNA profiles are obtained, they are directly entered into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System plus Mito (CODIS+mito) database.

In addition to testing family and direct reference samples, the DNA lab works in collaboration with the Laboratory of Forensic Anthropology in Denton, Texas to help identify the remains of victims. DNA profiles obtained from remains are also entered into the CODIS+mito database.

Information for Relatives of Missing Persons,
Coroners, Medical Examiners & Law Enforcement Agencies

University of North Texas Center for Human Identification UNTCHI personnel will work with medical examiners, coroners’ offices, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the National Center for Missing Adults, and law enforcement agencies throughout the United States with the submission, collection, and analyses of Missing Persons samples.

A missing person report should be filed with the Law Enforcement Agency having jurisdiction where the individual was last seen or last resided. The Law Enforcement Agency will determine if the missing person meets a “High Risk” criteria. The agency may ask the family to submit personal articles belonging to the missing person (Direct Reference Sample, DRS); in addition, they may need to collect Family Reference Samples (FRS). The collection and submission of FRS can only be collected and submitted by the Law Enforcement Agency. Family reference collection kits (swabs) and the required paperwork are provided by the UNTSCHI. The collection kits and testing are provided free of charge.

After analysis, the profiles will be entered into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System and uploaded to the FBI’s National Missing Persons DNA Database.

Correspondence is mediated through the Law Enforcement Agency. If a match occurs, the Law Enforcement Agency will notify the family.

Law Enforcement Agencies, Medical Examiners, and Coroners may need to submit Unidentified Human Remains, (UHR). Identifying remains through DNA can be a lengthy process. There may be cases where there is no usable DNA or not enough relatives available for testing; however, our professional staff will pursue every avenue to obtain a profile.

Victim Advocates > What You Should Know About DNA Evidence

What You Should Know:

* What is DNA?
* Evidence Collection
* Contamination and Preservation
* DNA Testing and Interpretation
* Uses of DNA Evidence
* Identifying DNA Evidence
* Suggested Resources

DNA evidence is playing a larger role than ever before in criminal cases throughout the country, both to convict the guilty and to exonerate those wrongly accused or convicted. This increased role places greater importance on the ability of victim service providers to understand the potential significance of DNA evidence in their clients’ cases.

DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the building block for the human body; virtually every cell contains DNA. The DNA in people’s blood is the same as the DNA in their saliva, skin tissue, hair, and bone. Importantly, DNA does not change throughout a person’s life.
The Value of DNA Evidence

DNA is a powerful investigative tool because, with the exception of identical twins, no two people have the same DNA. Therefore, DNA evidence collected from a crime scene can be linked to a suspect or can eliminate a suspect from suspicion. During a sexual assault, for example, biological evidence such as hair, skin cells, semen, or blood can be left on the victim’s body or other parts of the crime scene. Properly collected DNA can be compared with known samples to place a suspect at the scene of the crime. In addition, if no suspect exists, a DNA profile from crime scene evidence can be entered into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) to identify a suspect anywhere in the United States or to link serial crimes to each other.

The effective use of DNA as evidence may also require the collection and analysis of elimination samples to determine the exact source of the DNA. Elimination samples may be taken from anyone who had lawful access to the crime scene and may have left biological material. When investigating a rape case, for example, it may be necessary to obtain an elimination sample from everyone who had consensual intercourse with the victim within 72 hours of the alleged assault to account for all of the DNA found on the victim or at the crime scene. Comparing DNA profiles from the evidence with elimination samples may help clarify the results.

Using CODIS To Solve Crime

CODIS uses two indexes to generate investigative leads in crimes that contain biological evidence. The forensic index contains DNA profiles from biological evidence left at crime scenes, and the offender index contains DNA profiles of individuals convicted of violent crime. Each State in the Nation has a DNA database law that defines which convicted offenders must have their profiles entered into CODIS; some States even require that DNA profiles from all felons be entered into the database. CODIS enables Federal, State, and local forensic crime laboratories to work together—between jurisdictions and across State lines—to solve crimes.

From Understanding DNA Evidence: A Guide for Victim Service Providers, May 2001, Brochure, National Institute of Justice and Office for Victims of Crime



By David Van Norman – Civil Servant.


Including, but not limited to, Coroners and Cops

“The Taxpayer Speech:

“Matthew was, and still may be, a taxpayer. His family are taxpayers. YOU are a taxpayer. They (or you, on their behalf) needn’t go begging, hat in hand, for information. He, they, and you, have already paid for that service! You support, by paying taxes and purchasing goods and services in the community (anywhere), the infrastructure of government, which includes law enforcement organizations. You paid for my training and experience (regardless of where you live) for me to learn what I know, and for the investigators in Whatever County to do what they do. You pay for the gas that propels their cars and the computers on which they type their reports. You, as a taxpayer, citizen, victim, loved-one of a victim, or private advocate acting on behalf of the family, have EVERY RIGHT to expect professionalism, and adherence to the rules of professional conduct. If you don’t get that, someone needs to loose their job!

“Law enforcement, like most organizations, has a political side. A deputy investigator, patrolman or detective will not be concerned with the political aspect of failing to do what needed to be done. They are insulated from above by layers of supervision. A sergeant is higher up the supervisory chain, but only a few have aspirations to rise into management. By the time a police officer is promoted to lieutenant, and certainly by captain or chief, politics is about all there is. The weakest link, believe it or not, is the department chief or Sheriff. A chief is generally an appointed position (serving at the pleasure of the county administration), while the sheriff or coroner is generally elected. Either way, scandal will end their careers (and does, on a daily basis) in a heartbeat. No matter how high-and-mighty I think I am, there is always someone higher, and mightier, than me, who understands that he (or she) is held in place by a fickle public.

“Law enforcement, by its very nature, can be intimidating to deal with. But, the fact is that law enforcement has more to fear from you than you from them. Provided you plan your contacts with them, and don’t expect the moon, you should be able to assist the family.

“I appreciate that it is difficult to communicate effectively with law enforcement or other forensic specialists. There are legitimate reasons that some information cannot be released to the public. No one knows who you are – you may be the murderer. But, if your salutation is professional, and includes a concise statement of who you are, and why you are calling – and if it sounds as though you make these calls on behalf of families 20 times a day, your credibility goes up.

“One of the reasons I use email so much, is that it gives the receiver a sense of solidity – having something in hand (or at least in a computer) that verifies the sender’s veracity. My signature block is chock full of junk, but anyone reading it knows they can check me out – I’m inviting them to! My emails are designed to overwhelm. I intentionally front-load everything. It presents in the minds eye a bulldozer that WILL NOT STOP. I want them to see me coming, take me seriously, and comply with my requests. I want them to know that if they don’t comply, I won’t be ignored. Not everybody gets that message… the first time. That’s another advantage of the email format, I just send the same message with SECOND REQUEST at the end of the subject line, with the original message attached (date-time stamped), and CC it to the receiver’s supervisor. That generally gets the job done.

“My standard advice is that during your legitimate inquiries, if anyone refuses to answer your questions, you should “walk up” the chain of command – at each level asking if it is the policy and practice of the subordinate to ignore inquiries from the grieving families of decedents.

“I recommend that you call the agency, and start your inquiry with an investigator – and hook him (or her). Then tell them that you have constructed an email with information about the missing person that you would like to send to him (or her) for ‘forwarding to the most appropriate authority within your department.'”
I’d like to thank Mr. David Van Norman for allowing me to publish his advice. It is my sincere wish that everyone who reads this post benefits from it, like I did.