Statement on Michelle Knight and the NCIC Database

The suggestion that Cleveland Police did not follow missing persons protocol is false. The portion of the policy referenced by the Plain Dealer refers to actions that must be taken once a missing person has returned and does not relate to verifying a person is still missing.

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Cleveland Police General Police Order (GPO) regarding missing persons are designed to work with the guidelines for NCIC and LEADS and conform with Ohio law. The LEADS guidelines put in effect in October 2002 for validating missing persons states the following:

Missing persons:

1.    Check with the parent, guardian or other reporting person on a missing person, as the subject may have returned without you being notified. Document the response on your record. (Ohio causes you to validate this file more frequently because NCIC/Ohio audit results indicate the need to do so).

2.    If unable to obtain a definite, positive response, cancel the entry.

Based on this, the Cleveland Police removed Michelle Knight from the NCIC in November, 2003 after failing to locate a parent, guardian or other reporting person to confirm that Ms. Knight was still missing.  Despite this, Cleveland Police kept Michelle Knight’s missing person’s case open and checked on the case numerous times. Records indicated Cleveland Police checked on the case as recently as November 2012. The case was open until Monday, May 6 when she was visibly verified by Cleveland Police, as required by the GPO.

The Plain Dealer’s characterization of a discrepancy between the GPO and the actions taken by the CPD is incorrect. The provision of the policy referenced by the Plain Dealer refers to actions that must be taken once a missing person has returned and does not relate to verifying a person is still missing.

From the Plain Dealer report:  

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland police removed Michelle Knight’s missing person entry from an FBI database 15 months after she was reported missing in 2002 — and nearly a decade before she was rescued from her captor’s home on Cleveland’s West Side.

City spokeswoman Maureen Harper said Thursday that police followed proper procedures by removing Knight’s name from the database in November 2003 because they were unable to contact Knight’s mother by telephone to verify that her then-22-year-old daughter still was missing.

However, the police department’s written policy on investigating missing adults, at the time of Knight’s disappearance on Aug. 23, 2002, describes a different verification process. It states that an officer must go and see that a missing person has been found, then inform the FBI within two hours for removal from the National Crime Information Center database.

About Daniel Williams

City of Cleveland, Ohio, Director of Media Relations

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