Attorney general releases report on Kansas Amber Alert program

TOPEKA, Kan. – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has released the results of a review of the Kansas Amber Alert program. Schmidt requested the review, conducted by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, on Dec. 7, 2016, in response to concerns about the execution of recent Amber Alerts.

“The Amber Alert program is a vitally important tool to help law enforcement recover abducted children in certain situations,” Schmidt said. “Ensuring ongoing public confidence in the system’s reliability must remain a top priority, and this review should be reassuring to all Kansans who expect the Amber Alert system to operate as intended.”

KBI Director Kirk Thompson presented the report to Schmidt late in the day Jan. 31, 2017.

“The recommendations from this review are solid and specific,” Schmidt said. “I expect they will be implemented or at least seriously considered, and the Kansas Amber Alert system will be stronger as a result.”

Schmidt ordered the review of Kansas Amber Alert operations following a Wichita Amber Alert on Dec. 6, 2016, during which cellphone alerts failed.

The report makes eight recommendations in five areas:

Identified delays

It is recommended that the KBI improve efforts to educate and train local law enforcement agencies. Training will continue to focus on the rapid and thorough response to suspected child abductions and on appropriate practices for Amber Alert issuance. Ongoing training of Kansas law enforcement should help minimize impactful delays when issuing an alert.

It is recommended that local law enforcement agencies establish procedures that shorten their Amber Alert request process during the initial response to an abduction. Local agencies are encouraged to give the authority to request an Amber Alert to officers on the scene to avoid multiple levels of command approval.

Policies and procedures

It is recommended that the procedural checklist be created and integrated into the operational procedure utilized when activating an Amber Alert.

Program misperceptions

It is recommended that an opportunity be extended to Kansas media partners to meet directly with KBI personnel to review Amber Alert processes and seek their input on program improvements. This effort will help establish greater understanding of the program’s complexities and may help alleviate misperceptions held by the media and public.

Amber Alert advisory board

It is recommended that an Amber Alert advisory board be established consisting of seven members who meet annually to review all Amber Alerts and to address programmatic concerns. This seven member board will consist of the Kansas Attorney General, the KBI director, a designee appointed by the attorney general, a designee appointed by the KBI director, two local law enforcement representatives, and a member of the broadcast media. The board would review the documents and circumstances associated with any issued alert or consultation. The board’s findings and recommendations would be documented and provided to the KBI for consideration.

Reliability of systems

Efforts must be focused on continually addressing technological advances that affect the program.

It is recommended that the program seeks to implement the Technical Working Group recommendations for currently available technological improvements to the Emergency Alert System.

It is recommended that the TWG continue to meet and collaborate in solving technological issues. A meeting of the group will be called at least annually.

A copy of the Kansas Amber Alert program review is available on the attorney general’s website at http://bit.ly/2kWQSer.

The national Amber Alert program, begun in 1996, provides immediate multi-media notice to the public when a child has been abducted and certain criteria are met to obtain timely information from the public that can help safely recover the child. Osage County News serves as a media partner in the Kansas Amber Alert program.

See related: Attorney general orders review after Kansas Amber Alert failure

Information thanks to Kansas Attorney General’s Office.


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