Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Amber Alert

So, a 21 month old baby goes missing from a Houston daycare facility. The police show up, but somehow an Amber Alert for this child is not issued. Fortunately, the baby was found about 5 hours later with the daycare worker that took her, but the parents say that was due more to luck than sound police work, or the Amber Alert system. What's the deal? From the Chronicle:

The Houston Police Department failed to issue an Amber Alert for a toddler kidnapped last week from a southwest Houston day care center because of a case of mistaken identity, authorities said Tuesday. Police said a bad lead brought them to a Metro bus station in search of 21-month-old Jakaila Brantley and the day care worker who took her, only to find it was a mother and her daughter who resembled them.

The misstep cost investigators two hours and held up the Amber Alert that would have been broadcast on highway signs, TV and radio stations, police said. In addition to the bus mix-up, police officials said they also wanted to make sure the kidnapping was real.

Ok, that's their story and they're sticking with it but according to the parents, police told them that...

"...they had to make sure she didn't leave under her own will," said Jakaila's mother, Shemika Thacker-Brantley. "She's 21 months old. How is she supposed to leave under her own will?"

And they're not the only one's asking questions.

"It should be activated as quickly as is humanly possible," said Marc Klaas, founder of Beyond Missing, a California nonprofit that gives police an online template to distribute Amber Alert fliers. "It sounds like they followed some protocol or other. It just sounds like there were missteps." Klaas' 12-year-old daughter was kidnapped and killed in 1993. "I lost my child in a situation where an Amber Alert could have helped, so I don't have time for anybody's nonsense."

The Houston police stated that the officers on the case were just following department protocol and Amber Alert policy. And the good citizenry of Houston, as represented in the comments section of the online version of the paper, are of course savaging the family for having the nerve to ask any questions about that policy when they should just be thankful their child is safe. Here's one example from a commenter called Luceth, who wrote:

Some people make it their life's ambition to never be satisfied with anything...... even finding their missing toddler safe. If you need some money, the neglectful day care center is who you need to look at, but oh wait, it would be much more profitable to sue the police dept.

Of course they miss the whole entire point. What is the criteria for issuing an Amber Alert? What happens the next time when the police aren't quite so lucky? It seems to me the parents have a right to question the process, and that the police and public should be willing to listen.

With so little attention paid to most kidnap victims that aren't Caucasian, don't they at least have the right to ask?

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