I’d like to share with you my story of how I became totally committed to trying to find every ‘MisPer’ of who’s report is brought to my attention.
Firstly, if you don’t already know, I am a police officer. We get trained on how to deal with the reporting and investigation of people who go missing. Often no crime is committed; the person is just not where they are expected to be and a concerned family member, friend or a professional carer reports that.
Our reporting process takes account of particular vulnerabilities such as age, mental state, clothing vs weather and physical condition. Clearly anyone who has said they will harm themselves is of great concern or “High Risk”.
On 20th January 1986 I was posted to Greater Manchester Police’s ‘F’ division based at Little Hulton, Salford and my first job was to go to interview three lads who had run away from a local authority Children’s Home at Peelwood with my Tutor PC.
On arrival I was tasked to interview a 14yr old boy who had been missing for two days and had recently returned. Why had he left the home? “Dunno”. Were the other lads his mates? “Dunno”. Where had he been? “Dunno”. And so on until having exhausted my repertoire of trained questions I gave him some earnest advice about how the staff were worried, police officers been looking for him, he was putting himself and his mates in danger. But he looked at me as if he’d heard it all before. And he had. This boy went missing at least once a week and he was not the only one. This particular ‘home’ had boys and girls abscond virtually every day. So often that eventually someone provided a stock of missing persons forms to save time on the reporting process!
And so it went…..
I suppose that even though I was a father I got blasé about missing people; most turned up, didn’t need to tell me where they’d been and didn’t appear to listen to my well-meaning and sincere advice.
Some two years on on a busy Sunday afternoon I was called away from writing reports in the office by Sergeant John (Dangerous) Dawber to go with him to take reports from the parents of two sixteen year old sisters who had gone out on Saturday to a ‘friends’ party. They had been expected back over 12 hours ago. The parents were beside themselves with worry.
The Sarge was rushing me. I had work to do I didn’t want to be distracted from folk who needed reporting for offences. A few minutes wouldn’t matter, would they?
So, frustrated I drove us up Waldken Road towards where frightened parents waited for the police. John, who I knew as a joker although always calm and relaxed appeared really focused as he directed me to the address. Slightly bemused and a bit hacked-off I challenged him with a gauche question, “Sarge, why are we rushing? The girls are 16, been out together at a party – they’ll have met boys. From the call it doesn’t look like mum and dad have tried to find them. It’s a family matter. Why should we care?”
John’s response was calm, professional and unequivocal, “Lad, we should care and do our best because perhaps no one else will. Wouldn’t you want that for your own kids?”
The penny dropped! if I didn’t try, if I didn’t care why should anyone else and if no one else bothered then what if the ‘mis-per’ was someone I knew, in danger, in fear?
Anyhow we got to the house and I was doing the mis-per reports when the girls turned up. They were safe and well. They were embarrassed by our presence, their parents were angry, relieved and embarrassed. The return interview was interesting.
Where had they been? “Dunno”. Why had they not come home last night? “Dunno”. Who were their mates? “Dunno”. And so on until having exhausted my repertoire of questions I gave them some advice about how their parents were worried, police officers been looking for them, and they were putting themselves in danger.
So what had changed? I had and thanks to Dangerous Dawber I would never see a missing person as an unwanted task but as a real person, possibly in trouble who was being reported because someone else cared about them.
@missingpeople – http://www.missingpeople.org.uk
Missing People is the only charity in the UK which specialises in, and is dedicated to, bringing missing children and adults back together with their families. Some missing people you will have heard of, but many more you won’t. For their families, life without them can be a desperate and unbearable struggle. We are there for them 24 hours a day, every day of the year, at the end of a phone, text or email, ready to use every means possible to search for and find their missing loved ones and to provide vital on-going support to families where the agonising wait turns into years, not just days.
My greatful thanks to @missingpeople for TheBigTweet, Simon Cole @CCLeicsPolice (whose tweet I plagiarised – thank you) and @AlanCarr for that BigRetweet.