JSO Waits 22 Days To Ask For Help

Why Do Police Wait So Long To Solicit Public's Help In Missing Persons Cases?

Published On: Oct 19 2011 04:33:54 PM EDT   Updated On: Jun 22 2011 03:51:52 AM EDT
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Rosemary Day's mom cries every day as she hopes for the return of her missing daughter.

The 27-year-old was reported missing May 30.

Police did not ask the media and public for help in finding her until June 21.

So why did it take police 22 days to bring Day's story to the public, and what is the missing persons protocol?

"Of the more than 4,000 adult and juvenile missing persons reports we get a year, detectives work hard to make a decision to go public and ask for help when the investigation warrants or all leads have been exhausted," Lauri-Ellen Smith, a spokeswoman for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, wrote in an email.

Detectives do have to weigh each missing person's case, many of which involve repeat runaways or adults who leave willingly, according to Channel 4 crime safety expert Ken Jefferson.

"There are hundreds of missing person reports that come in on a regular basis, on a daily basis, I should say, and you got to weigh them out to be fair," Jefferson said.

Jefferson read Day's missing person report her family filed, and he said there were some major reasons the public should have been alerted sooner.

"It's clear in this case this person depends on medication that she possibly needs," Jefferson said. "It's my understanding, according to the police report, that that medication was found in her home, so she's probably out and about without her medication. She could be disoriented."

Day isn't the only missing persons case in which police recently waited to alert the public.

Michelle McCoy was kidnapped Jan. 10 and was later found killed. Her family reported her missing three days after she disappeared, but it wasn't until Jan. 27 that police asked for the public's help in finding McCoy.

The disappearance of 17-year-old Makia Coney changed how the Sheriff's Office handles missing person cases.

Coney was missing from her school's extended care program in February 2010, and police took several hours to alert the public. She was found killed later that night.

A few months later, Sheriff John Rutherford admitted police waited too long to notify the public.

"Based on these current events, now is the time to really set that priority not on probability, but instead on possibility," Rutherford said in May 2010.

Jefferson believes police should also have been quicker alerting the public about Day.

"There are some mental illness issues there. There are some medication issues there," he said. "It seems as though this information should have been put out to the public a little sooner."