VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Before an Ashanti Alert was issued for missing 33-year-old Brian Jackson, Virginia Beach Police had already posted his picture on their Facebook page and in their Facebook story.
“One of the things we discovered in the process improvement team is getting the social media presence out,” said VBPD Lt. Rachel Wigand, “and right now we’re kind of tinkering on trying to find the best way.”
The process improvement team Wigand is referring to was developed by VBPD to assess their missing person investigation process. It was prompted by failures found during an internal review of the department’s investigation into the disappearance of Marie Covington, who was found murdered two days after she was reported missing.
“Some of the officers didn’t follow what our current policies and procedures are,” Wigand said. “There was a delay in that, so we wanted to go back and ensure that our officers have proper training.”
VBPD worked with departments across the country, as well as Emergency Management and CPS, to make sure their process is in line with best practices and that families looking for missing loved ones have access to helpful resources.
“Although running way isn’t a criminal offense, we discussed it with our court system to see, is there something better that we can do, proactive, and put some of the onus on the juveniles,” Wigand said. “Not as a punishment, but to prevent this behavior and keep them safe.”
In 2022, VBPD investigated more than 1,000 missing persons and runaway cases.
“One of the conclusions from the process improvement team was to do a public service announcement,” Wigand said. “I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding from the public. In some of the cases, families believe that they have to wait 24 hours to report someone missing, and you don’t. The second you see or suspect foul play or that somebody has gone missing, you should report it to the police right away.”