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Colonel Mawn Addresses Legislative Briefing Examining Cases of Missing Black Women and Girls

Participants in the briefing, including Colonel Mawn and Detective Lieutenant Robertson, stand with Representative Bud Williams and other leaders after today's event.


Massachusetts State Police Colonel John Mawn Jr. and Detective Lieutenant Ann Marie Robertson, commander of the MSP's Unresolved Cases Unit, today participated in a legislative briefing at the State House titled Missing Black Women & Girls. The event, hosted by State Representatives Bud Williams and Chynah Tyler, examined concerns of and protocols for reporting, publicizing, and investigating missing persons from black families and communities.


Colonel Mawn spoke to the attendees gathered in Nurse's Hall about the resources the MSP brings to these investigations and acknowledged the great pain and uncertainty that such cases inflict on a missing person's loved ones.


An excerpt of his remarks is below:


"Please allow me to begin by emphasizing the most important point. In a moment I will briefly describe to you the units, procedures, and capabilities we deploy to assist in searching for missing persons. But let me make clear, right off the bat, that those assets and capabilities are meaningless if law enforcement agencies do not, at the most foundational level, grasp and embrace the human element present in these cases.

 

"Those of us who respond to a call for missing person must always carry that understanding of the fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and dread that the loved ones of the missing are feeling. We must understand that somewhere, in a home, in a family, in a community, there is an empty place where that missing person should be, at this very moment. And the fact that they are not there, at this moment, brings fear and worry that gnaws at those who love that person every moment of every uncertain day.

 

"It is that understanding that must inform our actions in this cases, that must guide and inform our actions, because the loss of a human being can never be restored.

 

"Therefore we must be dedicated to doing whatever we can to assist in locating missing persons, ideally to return them to their families, or in the most tragic of cases, to at least provide their families with knowledge of what happened to their missing loved one.

 

"The first step for the public to report a missing person is to contact their local city or town police department. Those departments, in turn, may contact the Massachusetts State Police, and we will provide assistance in any way possible.

 

"The MSP has numerous ways to help those local departments search for missing persons. Our Fusion Center maintains an operations Watch Center 24/7/365, where officers and civilian analysts can perform a host of investigative actions, such as record and database checks and cell phone and social media analysis. The Watch Center can also mobilize other MSP units to assist local police in the investigation and search, including patrols, detective units, K9 teams, our Air Wing and drone unit, our Marine Unit and dive team, and our Special Emergency Response Team, which is our ground search and rescue unit.  Members of this unit are rigorously trained in conducting large-scale urban, suburban, rural, and austere environments."


Colonel Mawn also urged local police departments to enter information about missing persons from their jurisdictions into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons Systems Database -- NamUs for short -- an effort that the MSP Unresolved Cases Unit has been spearheading.


He added that the Unresolved Cases Unit, which he recently expanded, and a newly-formed Critical Incident Technical Investigations Team within the MSP also bring important capabilities to bear on missing persons cases.


"(The Unresolved Cases Unit) re-examines old cases, most often homicides, unidentified human remains, and missing persons, to determine if new leads, technological and forensic advancements, and a fresh set of eyes can uncover new evidence that can lead to a resolution," Colonel Mawn said.

 

"Additionally, we recently established the Critical Incident Technical Investigations, or CITI, Team to assist investigators with immediate technological expertise for such actions as tracking phones, vehicles, and electronic communications. These capabilities can be vitally important to finding a missing person, whose lives or safety may be in the balance and whose situation grows more precarious with each passing hour. The CITI Team recently helped locate, and ensure the safe return of, a Chicopee boy who was taken when his parents’ car was stolen while he was in the back seat. Our Watch Center and Media Relations Unit can also help publicize missing persons so that other law enforcement officers and members of the public are aware of, and can be on the lookout, for them."


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