Law enforcement respond to a missing child incident in Kaysville last year.
“Most chiefs will tell you the scariest call for service is a missing child,” said Kaysville Police Chief Sol Oberg. “There are so many components that are so terrifying. Kids are most vulnerable. They are the thing we care most about.”
With that thought in mind, the Kaysville and West Bountiful Police Departments recently completed the requirements to become members of a premier program called the Missing Kids Readiness Project. It was developed by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and promotes best practices for responding to calls of missing, abducted and sexually exploited children.
“It’s tough to protect kids anymore,” said Oberg. “We don’t know who they’re talking to. So many things could go wrong. It’s incredibly important to be prepared. It’s so crucial to take the right action to set up for success and find the child as soon as possible before something terrible happens.”
Oberg said this weighed on his mind even before becoming chief. “Someone approached me about this credential and I had some conversations with the Layton Chief (who already has the designation) and others and we all wanted to move toward this,” he said. “The West Bountiful Chief and I decided to go through this together.”
West Bountiful Police Chief Todd Hixon and Oberg attended training in Alexandria, Va. last November. Then the officers from both departments completed specific training to reach the designation.
“Our officers are behind this,” said Hixon. “They have embraced it and done a fantastic job when we’ve had these types of cases. When I worked in Bountiful, they took an aggressive approach to missing kids so when I came here we wanted to dig in our heels and move in that direction to provide better service for the city. We felt we owed it to the people who trust us to look for their kids to be trained the best we can.”
Hixon said Davis County wide they see missing children quite a bit. “It might be a child just missed the bus and we find them quickly because it’s fairly simple or it could be an abduction,” he said. “We called out the CART (child abduction response) team a couple of times last year for assistance.”
Oberg said the training brings about an added awareness and reminder about how to look at these calls. “It’s easy to get complacent on certain calls,” he said. “For example, maybe the child has run away multiple times. We need to take a look at why. Are there problems at home, societal issues? We have to push to look past the immediate problem and do some preventative things. It’s a reminder of why we do what we do.”
Both chiefs said some of the cases used in the training were heart wrenching. “One speaker was talking about a particular case where a child was abducted,” Oberg said. “Mistakes were made and there were heartbreaking components to it. It was tough to sit and listen to but it makes you become emotionally invested in the topic right off when it is something so compelling.”
Hixon agreed. “Training isn’t always pleasant,” he said. “One case they related about a young girl who was abducted and murdered still haunts me. It was horrible. The training was very serious and to the point of what we need to know and understand.”
With the designation, the two departments become only the 34th and 35th law enforcement agencies in the United States to achieve this status and only the second and third in the state.
“It’s a feather in our cap,” said Hixon. “We want to continue on in forward progression and meet the needs of the city, making sure that what we do has substance. As a parent it would be terrifying to have your child go missing, going through all that sadness and fear. That motivates me to do more.”