I offer this for a Missing Person Monday.
Last week, authorities in Canton, GA released an independent report regarding their police department's handling of a missing person investigation conducted in December of 2011.
The case in question was that of seven-year-old Jorelys Rivera.
Jorelys was lured into a vacant apartment (at the complex where she lived) by one of the complex's maintenance workers, Ryan Brunn. She was sexually assaulted and murdered there.
Brunn then dumped the child's body in a nearby trash compactor.
A few days after she was reported missing by her mother, authorities found the girl's body and arrested Brunn.
Brunn pleaded guilty in January, but was found dead last week in his prison cell after committing suicide.
As with other cases, I would rather read the cited reports myself rather than depend on media summaries, and after some digging, I found what is entitled the Rivera Audit Report.
The consultant and author of the report is LaGrange (GA) Police Chief Louis Dekmar.
You can go here to read it (19 pages), but the following are three items that jumped out at me:
1) First Impressions
The responding officer told the consultant that, from the initial information, he believed the girl was a runaway. She had been missing more than once before. Seemed like a runaway. It appeared to be like many of the dozen or so other missing persons cases that the agency had handled previously that year. Those persons had all returned, and why would this one be any different?
In sum, the officers were looking for a what they believed to be a girl who had left by her own choice and not as someone who could be a potential crime victim.
At incident/potential crime scenes, first impressions are important, but keeping an open mind is essential.
As things aren't always as they seem.
When the young child was characterized as someone who had disappeared before, rather than leap to a label like "habitual runaway" (a seven-year-old habitual runaway makes little sense anyway), there is a more reasonable consideration.
A seven-year-old who goes missing regularly is one that likely suffers from lack of supervision. Not having responsible eyes on her regularly would make her a more appealing target for an offender looking for an opportunity to abduct.
The responding officer is fairly criticized for several shortcomings. Those include failing to follow departmental policy on securing the scene, and for not entering the missing girl's information into registries in a timely manner. But, I think the officer's supervisor should have shouldered this burden as well--even more so.
When the call was dispatched, the Canton Police Department was staffed with three officers and a supervisor--this was two officers below their minimum staffing level of five.
Because two of the on-duty units were out on other incidents at the time, the sergeant acted as the back-up officer on the missing girl call. So, the sergeant had to focus on other duties besides supervising the investigation of a missing girl.
In any event, it was the sergeant's job to ensure that the child's room was secured and processed, and that her information was entered into national databases in a timely manner--evidently this was not done.
The need for proper supervision does not vanish just because an agency is short-handed.
3) Location of the Command Post
When officers realized that this was going to be a prolonged incident involving multiple agencies, personnel established a command post to better coordinate activities. They chose the apartment complex's leasing office as their HQ. Unfortunately during the incident, the leasing office was open for business and security at the site was limited/non-existent.
Who was charged and convicted of killing the little girl?
Ryan Brunn was--a maintenance worker at the complex.
This is an individual who had access to the leasing office and in theory, the command post.
Could Brunn have overheard tips and information about the case?
Could he have learned what police actions were going to be and then moved evidence or planted false information to hinder officers?
You can see where this is a serious problem.
NOTE: The little girl was abducted and murdered prior to police arrival, so the issues discussed in the report were related to the investigation and not to actions taken to protect her. Nevertheless, Canton Police Chief Jeff Lance resigned shortly after the report's release--several parts of the review did not make him look professional.
I hope the Canton Police Department and other departments will learn from this agency's mistakes, and where applicable, make changes to investigative practices as well as provide better training to improve services related to missing persons in the future.
My condolences to the family, and my appreciation to Chief Dekmar for his honest insights on what was a horrible crime.
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