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If a child goes missing in the District, don’t to look to the Metropolitan Police Department’s Youth Investigative Division for help. That’s the takeaway from a brutal assessment of MPD’s ability to look for missing kids by the Office of Inspector General.

The OIG says that when it randomly chose 25 open cases in early 2010 from the Youth Investigations Division, it found that 12 cases “did not have documentation that YID had conducted any investigative action.” Six of these cases belonged to a single detective. The OIG notes that it spoke with a manager who “expressed concerns with how detectives spent their time but did not elaborate.” (The OIG also quotes a “senior official” who says the the missing children unit has shown improvement since a new manager took over in March 2009.)

The broad conclusion:

The OIG’s case record review of missing persons cases found many cases lacked evidence of investigative actions by YID detectives and evidence that missing juveniles were located. Without consistent, ongoing supervision, YID lacks assurance that detectives conduct investigative activities to locate missing juveniles and produce quality work. YID lacks formal and written systematic supervisory controls and supervisory improvements at YID seem overly reliant upon one manager’s efforts, a situation which may become more problematic if there is management turnover. Most importantly, children who might otherwise be found and/or saved from harm may be left unprotected and exposed to danger.

MPD responded to the OIG’s preliminary report in September, saying it had tasked YID’s commander with reviewing the division’s policies and procedures.

The OIG’s investigation was sparked by a complaint from Fraternal Order of Police President Kris Baumann, who sent a letter to the IG in March 2009 alleging that YID was in disarray and that cases weren’t being assigned in a timely manner. A day after the letter was delivered, seven officers were detailed to the division to help close cases, court records show. A police lieutenant also began an internal MPD audit of YID, separate from the OIG investigation, but Det. Richard Adams, a whistleblower named in Baumann’s letter, says that audit was just a retaliatory measure aimed at him.

According to a recent opinion from a D.C. Superior Court judge, several police officers “confirmed this impression.”  Adams is currently suing the city claiming that he was subject to retaliation by the department for coming forward with the problems at YID. The department says Adams got in trouble in part because he had failed to follow up on hundreds of cases himself.

IG’s case record review of missing persons cases found many cases lacked evidence of investigative actions by YID detectives and evidence that missing juveniles were located. Without consistent, ongoing supervision, YID lacks assurance that detectives conduct investigative activities to locate missing juveniles and produce quality work. YID lacks formal and written systematic supervisory controls and supervisory improvements at YID seem overly reliant upon one manager’s efforts, a situation which may become more problematic if there is management turnover. Most importantly, children who might otherwise be found and/or saved from harm may be left unprotected and exposed to danger.The OIG’s case record review of missing persons cases found many cases lacked evidence of investigative actions by YID detectives and evidence that missing juveniles 

were located. Without consistent, ongoing supervision, YID lacks assurance that detectives conduct investigative activities to locate missing juveniles and produce quality work. YID lacks formal and written systematic supervisory controls and supervisory improvements at YID seem overly reliant upon one manager’s efforts, a situation which may become more problematic if there is management turnover. Most importantly, children who might otherwise be found and/or saved from harm may be left unprotected and exposed to danger.