The actors have been picked, the scenario is at the ready, and on Wednesday morning, Braintree police will join others from around the region in the search of a missing child.
The mock child abduction is a drill intended to practice Amber Alerts, and members of 42 police departments will join with regional police team Metro Law Enforcement Council (Metro LEC) to practice the response.
“We’re doing this to test our own capabilities and see how we work together as a team,” said Steve Williams, executive director of Metro LEC
The drill isn’t only a practice round for members of the regional group. Efforts will be judged by federal partners with the hopes of gaining certification as a Child Abduction Response Team.
Only 18 police groups in the country are certified, Williams said, and a successful training mission would be a marker of success for the local group.
Certified or not, police departments would have to respond if there's an abduction, and the drill lets local police departments practice the coordination between towns, the FBI, the Amber Alert system, and the media.
“To me, this accreditation process is forcing us to put this whole thing into place, all these different units and divisions within the LEC and task them with an abduction and see how we all work as a team,” said Braintree Police Chief Russell Jenkins.
Braintree is no stranger to Metro LEC. After the Boston Marathon bombings, the five Braintree police officers assigned to the Metro team as well as Jenkins helped search for bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Countless parades, high-profile sporting events, and the Democratic National Convention also required the work of the group.
Though Braintree officers have worked with Metro LEC officers in the past, they have never worked with every subset of the group, including child-abduction response teams.
“It’s incredibly valuable for us,” Jenkins said. “You can only imagine. If this happened for real, it would be a very complex investigation.”
The task, including searches on foot, tip management and follow-ups, computer searches, and perimeter roadblocks would overwhelm any one police department. Putting in place a coordinated effort before problems arise is important in dealing with that.
“You’ve got people trained to do different things. This is going to bring all those inter-disciplines together to work towards a resolution of a common problem,” Jenkins said.
The drill will begin at 7 a.m. on Wednesday at the Norwood Police Department. There, officers will gather to discuss the staged abduction, host a media conference, and conduct follow-up investigations.
Jenkins, who will be part of the mission, didn’t know much of the particulars beyond the time frame.
“It’s designed to test all the components of the law enforcement council,” Jenkins said. “Yes we’ll be exercising the whole, let's put out a search area and search this area for this person. Search for evidence. We may find a shoe or a shallow grave. We’re looking for any number of indicators to find this individual."
Though Braintree dealt with an Amber Alert earlier this year, when the biological father of two children took them out of foster care, Jenkins said an abduction scenario is different and much more rare.
“The family knew where they were. They knew they were with the biological father. I’m talking about a case where you have kids in the backyard playing and you go out to check and they are gone…
"We know from statistical studies that life expectancy diminishes by the hour. It’s a rapidly narrowing time frame. That’s the exercise we’ll put into place on Wednesday,” Jenkins said
As rare as it is to have a missing child case, Jenkins said the public expects police to be proficient in dealing with it. The drill will help in that process.
“They don’t want to say we didn’t expect to deal with this…they want us to say we have this under control and will work on this until a successful resolution,” Jenkins said.