The Healey-Driscoll Administration today announced a statewide training for 300 members of law enforcement focused on missing persons and unidentified human remains investigations. The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS), in coordination with the Municipal Police Training Committee (MPTC) and the Massachusetts State Police (MSP), hosted a virtual training on March 7, 2023, to offer municipal police agencies advanced education on best practices, digital evidence techniques, and a review of forensic services to bolster investigations and support improved outcomes.
In addition, the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) Budget proposes $300,000 to establish a Missing and Unidentified Persons Coordination Unit that will support municipal law enforcement and strengthen statewide coordination on the handling of missing and unidentified persons cases. The new unit will designate several full-time positions at the state level to enhance stakeholder collaboration, advance continued policy development, participate in the development of training curriculum, and lead the standardization of data collection and uniform reporting.
“Our first budget proposes funding to establish a statewide resource to enhance coordination and underscores our commitment to strong state and local partnership,” said Governor Maura Healey. “Trainings will offer vital insights into the technology, forensic services, and investigative supports that help to improve investigations, resolve cases, and provide families and communities with the answers they desperately need.”
“This initiative is important for local law enforcement and the communities they serve as it provides the resources needed to assist these complex investigations and help reunite missing people with their loved ones,” said Lieutenant Governor Kimberley Driscoll. “This collaborative partnership is an important step toward providing the knowledge and tools required to enhance investigative standards and keep our communities safe.”
The training included a presentation on the investigative application of digital evidence to locate missing persons, including how to acquire forensic data, analyze geolocation records, and articulate results in real-time. Participants also received an overview of the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), a national information clearinghouse and resource center for missing, unidentified, and unclaimed person cases across the United States.
Funded and administered by the National Institute of Justice, NamUs provides forensic and analytical services at no cost to law enforcement, medical examiners, coroners, and allied professionals, to assist family members of missing persons. Training participants learned how to maximize the use of NamUs as an investigative resource and access the available forensic services.
“A missing loved one has a devastating impact on family, friends, and entire communities. EOPSS remains committed to supporting law enforcement’s investigatory efforts to locate missing people and provide answers to despairing loved ones,” said Public Safety and Security Secretary Terrence Reidy. “We will continue to offer local police agencies enhanced education and look forward to establishing a statewide Missing and Unidentified Persons Coordination Unit as part of our shared commitment to improve systems, resolve cases, and support the families of missing loved ones. I commend MPTC, the State Police, NamUs, and our many participating municipal police agencies for their steadfast dedication to supporting this vital effort.”
Over 300 police officers participated in the training that took place on March 7, 2023. The MPTC hosted the forum online to maximize statewide outreach and offer convenient, accessible training for law enforcement across the Commonwealth. The course curriculum provided participants with model policies and procedures, investigative tactics, and a comprehensive review of digital evidence techniques and available forensic services.
Training topics included:
- Digital forensics data collection
- Cell site location evaluation and Google location history review
- Cloud and social media analysis
- Video and mobile device forensics
- NamUs overview and available services (Odontology, fingerprints, and forensic genetic genealogy)
- Case Study Analysis
“The MPTC supported the development of this specialized training initiative with our state and advocacy partners to provide local law enforcement with the expertise and skills needed to advance missing and unidentified person cases, enhance investigative strategies, and strengthen the existing framework. We remain committed to ensuring officers are equipped with the latest techniques and proven practices to achieve the strongest possible outcomes,” said MPTC Executive Director Robert Ferullo (Ret. Police Chief).
“As investigators, we know all too well the agony that families endure when someone they love has gone missing. Many of us in the MSP have had to tell relatives that our best efforts did not locate their loved one, and we see the devastation in their faces,” said Massachusetts State Police Interim Colonel John Mawn Jr. “The State Police fully support this specialized training for police officers across the state and stand ready to assist any local department that needs our help to search for a missing person.”
“The resolution of these cases relies on applying multiple investigative techniques, strong coordination, and enhanced data collection. Multiple shareholders, including families of the missing and murdered as well as non-profits, such as the Molly Bish Center for the Protection of Children and the Elderly, have been tireless advocates for advanced law enforcement training and the use of the latest technology. We commend this collaboration and look forward to the continued advancement of this effort,” said Dr. Ann Marie Mires, director of Forensic Criminology at Anna Maria College and a Forensic Science Oversight Board member.
As of March 1, 2023, Massachusetts law enforcement had reported to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) a total of 1927 active cases, including 1908 missing persons and 19 unidentified human remains.
The March 7 forum marks the third training convened by EOPSS in response to recommendations put forth by the state’s 2020 Missing Persons Task Force Report. EOPSS held training in 2021 and 2022 to equip local law enforcement agencies with best practices and investigative techniques while strongly urging agencies to submit missing person data to the NamUs central repository. As part of an ongoing statewide effort to enhance missing and unidentified person investigations, over 200 police personnel have participated in these training sessions at no cost.
With a network of nearly 20 operated and authorized police academies, a dynamic virtual learning platform, and a commitment to use shared spaces to deliver training across the Commonwealth, MPTC will continue developing additional specialized training on missing persons and unidentified human remains, designed to provide a comprehensive understanding of model policies and procedures for handling these complex cases.