OLATHE, Kan. -- A thorough Kansas Bureau of Investigation review of Kansas’ Amber Alert program calls for several changes. Attorney General Derek Schmidt ordered KBI to investigate after he was unhappy with the way the system worked in several recent abductions. He gave KBI a January 31st deadline to complete its report.
The tipping point was in December, 2016 when a mom was three children were kidnapped in Wichita, and by the time the Amber Alert went out, it didn’t even say where the abduction happened. Most people never received notifications on their cell phones.
KBI reviewed all 15 times an Amber Alert and issued in Kansas the past six years. Only eight of those cases originated in Kansas.
One of those was in December, 2015 when an SUV with children inside was stolen from an Olathe business.
The 196 page report points out it took the state nearly two hours to issue an Amber Alert from the time Olathe Police and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office first contacted them.
Olathe police tweeted out they’d issued an Amber Alert at 6:41 p.m., but it wasn’t until 8:20 p.m. the real statewide Amber Alert was issued. Thankfully the missing children were found 18 minutes later, just as emergency messages were going out.
Jasmine Barnett says it's an issue she's noticed with the alerts
“By the time you actually get it, they are like, 'oh we found the guy' or 'oh we have no idea where he is,' and it’s been a long time,” she said.
The report blames police thinking they could issue their own Amber Alerts for the delay in the Olathe abduction and creating a sense of confusion. Olathe police and Johnson County Sheriff's Office have yet to comment on KBI’s criticism of their handling of the case.
But the problem is not isolated to Johnson County. According to the report, the average time it takes departments to contact the KBI after an abduction is 459 minutes, that’s nearly eight hours. It then takes another 77 minutes to deploy the Amber Alert.
“As long as the information is accurate, I think that time is of the issue,” Olathe resident Greg Harris said.
“They shouldn’t wait they should send them right out, that way everyone is looking for this kid,” Barnett said
The report lists eight recommendations, two dealing with delays. KBI wants police to train more on how and when to issue Amber Alerts, and to give more authority to police on the scene to act quickly without needing multiple levels of approval.
Other recommendations include technical improvements and creating a review board.