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police procedure following a victim of kidnapping being found
ice cream
adaptation wrote in little_details
Location: Anytown, USA, circa 2010
Searched: tags (various law enforcement, missing persons tags), Google (various arrangements of 'how to take a kidnapping victim's statement' & 'procedure after rescuing kidnapping victims')
Character: 16-year-old boy
Situation: My character was kidnapped from his hometown and taken to a city a few hours away (say 3-5), where he was held by a middle-aged couple who were trying to force him into the role of their dead son. His appearance was slightly altered, and he was given a new name, and his records were falsified and he was sent to school after enough time had passed to be sure he wouldn't tell anyone — this wasn't that long, but they had him pretty convinced that they'd have his whole family killed if he told anybody what had happened. One of his teachers suspects he's being abused, because he's withdrawn and has bad grades, and he's skittish, and shows a lot of other symptoms. When he confronts my character, he asks the boy to come to the police station with him. There's some resistance, but he finally caves and they go to the local police station, still during school hours so the kidnappers don't know anything's wrong.


Question: What sort of questions do the police ask him? How long do they keep him there? I imagine they'd call his parents, and presumably not want to tip off the kidnappers. Would the police be okay with him going home, even though he doesn't live in their jurisdiction? Would they want him to go to the hospital or anything?

While I think that teachers are required now to report suspected abuse, how it's handled would depend on jurisdiction. Also, unless there's a compelling reason like a serious injury, the reporter would go through Social Services first, unless the town is too small to have an office. You might want to narrow your parameters from Anytown, USA to Anytown, Pick a State, and then look at the procedure for reporting suspected abuse.

ETA: If the teacher got the kid to admit he'd been kidnapped, then that would change the game completely. Then it's straight up a criminal matter. Social Services would still get involved until they could get ahold of the real parents and reunite the family, (so the kid would have some place to stay that wasn't jail until that could happen.)

Edited at 2012-12-13 10:21 pm (UTC)

You might consider looking up the kidnapping cases of Elizabeth Smart, Jaycee Lee Dugard and Steven Stayner.

A teacher could get into some serious trouble taking a kid out of school and down to the police building just-like-that. Districts generally have pretty stiff policies on interaction, reporting, etc.

Realistically, what would likely happen is the teacher would talk to the school's counselors about what's been observed and suspected with the student, and then the counselor or principal or both call in the student. Depending upon those results, they might contact Family/Social Services/the police (who could also do the questioning at school, eliminating the need for the "go to the station but make sure it's on the QT"). Many high schools have law enforcement onsite regularly, so a uniformed officer or two chatting with the administrators is not going to raise suspicions. Or simply have them not in uniform.

The student's transcript from previous school would be pulled and reviewed to get an idea of his grades and consistency in the past - he does have some kind of transcript? At the high school transfer-in level they're going to want to see something to show what he's taken already both for placement purposes ("What's his last/highest math class?") and evaluation ("What does he need in order to graduate with the rest of his grade?").




Edited at 2012-12-14 06:45 am (UTC)

This ended up being too long so I split it into two.

It would depend largely on the city where this is set because different states and even different cities will likely have different set ups. For instance, a larger city most likely will have a city-contracted facility where all children are taken in situations of police contact where they can't be allowed back home, also larger police departments are more likely to have various units like Child Abuse, Homicide, etc, whereas small cities or smaller departments tend to just have a couple of investigators who investigate EVERYTHING. Going into this also will determine whether or not there are child protective services, what the rules are for teachers, and so on.

Just as background, the way PDs usually work is the officer writes a report, it gets approved by the supervisor, it goes into the system, it gets automatically routed to the appropriate unit based on the crime, the supervisor of that unit reads all the cases and determines solvability, and if it's solvable (like they have a suspect or evidence to look into, which they would in this case) it's assigned an investigator. The investigator is the one who does the majority of the questioning-- looking into alibis, developing proof that the person did what it's thought they did, and determining if they can be charged.

If you have the two cities crossing a state line it's possible that would automatically make it a federal case. Like someone else said, I'd check the Elizabeth Smart case if I were you.

I would suggest you find two cities that meet the sort of set up you imagine for where he was born/raised, and where he ends up, and look into the size of those departments. Some rural cities don't even have their own PD and are part of a larger PD that is in charge of multiple spread out cities, or there might not even be a PD at all and only the Sheriff's Office is in charge. That will greatly affect what happens in this scene.

However, assuming the city he ends up in is a fairly large city (say, 300,000 or so) then it's likely there will be certain protocols in place. I'm answering this based on particular jurisdictions that might not be applicable to the state or city you choose, so feel free to ignore anything that doesn't seem like it would fit.

Going back to the scene you mentioned. As far as I know, teachers are mandatory reporters. Which means if they suspect child abuse or something else, they are required by law to report it to Child and Family Services, aka Child Protection. CFS would take the initial report and it would be up to them to determine whether or not officers should get involved. tbh, I have no idea what sorts of questions they would ask. If they determine that there is need for the kid to be protected, they would call officers. Depending on the size of the city and type of department, there may be school resource officers. SROs are assigned a school or number of schools for their jurisdiction. If they have one school they are likely on premise. If there have multiple schools they might be called from another school. Also, the SROs might only be assigned public schools or alternative schools and not private schools, depending on the situation, but then the private schools could conceivably hire off duty officers to be there anyway should they choose. So that will also make a difference based on the context of your kid's city/school/etc.

Otherwise most likely CFS or someone would call 911 to generate a squad being called to the scene. (Alternatively, there might be a social worker at the school who handles some of this)

(TBC)


In the case where they believe there is a kidnapping situation or child abuse, it's most likely the kid would be put on a 72 hour health and welfare hold. In that case, he would be transported to a city-contracted facility that is specifically there for officers to bring kids in need/danger. During that 72 hours, no one can take him away, not even the middle-aged couple, or they shouldn't be able to. During that time, other things may be going on in the background-- if the city PD is large enough to have a Child Abuse unit (or even if not) there might be an investigator in the PD assigned the case to look into what is happening.

If they determine that he was kidnapped (if he gives up his real name) they would likely contact the original department to verify this. I imagine his real parents filed a missing persons report when he was taken, and so there should be a police report generated there. Depending on the size of that city and what was seen at the scene of the kidnapping, etc, there may already be an investigator there investigating his disappearance.

While at this protected facility, at the end of the time, the kid can't be released unless he's released into the custody of a parental figure or, if it's the case that no trustworthy parental figure exists, he would likely be released into the foster care system. In this case, he obviously has his real parents somewhere, so likely they would be contacted during the course of the 72 hours to determine whether or not his story is true. (They can extend the hold if they need to)

Meanwhile, it would be up to whatever department is in charge of investigating this to determine whether they're going to go arrest the middle aged couple. Assuming they go to look for the couple and they aren't there, they would likely release a PC Pickup, which is essentially a picture of the couple, their names, dates of birth, expected locations, etc, and all officers in the city could locate the information from roll call or on their intel briefs. If they see the couple, they would have PC to arrest them.

Let's say the middle aged couple is arrested. At the time they are put in jail, the longest they can usually be held in custody without being charged is 72 hours. During this time, whatever investigator (if assigned) would be determining whether they can charge them with whatever crime. Most likely they would contact the original jurisdiction to verify everything again and see if they can piece together enough info to say, yeah, these are the people who took this kid and brainwashed him. Then if they can charge them, they can submit that to the city or county attorney's office (I don't know if kidnapping is a misdemeanor or felony but I certainly hope it would be a felony, particularly of a juvenile and holding the kid against his will, so most likely it would go to county). If the two cities are in different counties I'm not sure how it would be processed--- they might have to charge and prosecute the couple in the hometown.

So most likely the kid WOULD end up back at his original parents' house but I would guess it wouldn't be earlier than 72 hours later for everything to be worked out.