Research on the narratives of returned missing adults and their families has improved police protocols relating to return and family liaison.
In the UK one person goes missing every two minutes on average. In 2019, 99% of the 342,053 UK people reported in ‘missing incidents’ returned. Research found the social and spatial experiences of missing people and their families had previously been ignored in professional operational police practice and not used as learning resources, nor were the complex needs of those who went missing fully recognised or serviced by the police and charity sectors.
The social and spatial experiences of missing people and their families were analysed and represented in the project. The experiences of families of missing people were also analysed to reveal new understandings of their own search strategies and common relationship dynamics that occurred upon the return of a missing person. Based on findings, training was co-developed with the UK College of Policing ‘National Search Centre’.
Agreements with the College of Policing (CoP) and the Police National Search Centre (PNSC) led to the use of ‘missing people’s stories’ and other research findings in training. The CoP online modules have been taken by 138,722 officers between 2014 and 2020. Evaluations by 300+ police officers taking the PNSC training modules show substantial anticipated and actual change in professional practice.
The research directly influenced England and Wales Approved Professional Practice on Missing Persons and Police Scotland’s Standard Operating Procedures for Missing Persons. These changes direct officers across the UK to adopt good practice in providing ‘return interviews’ when adults go missing. Police Scotland also now report that 91.3% of all cases have had a return interview since 2017, critical to future prevention.
The research helped develop the first national Scottish Government policy guidance on missing people: the National Framework for Missing Persons in Scotland.
The charity Missing People directly used the findings to develop new service interventions (eg. the Aftercare Service, Wales) addressing the needs of returned missing people, and to provide new ‘returned discussion’ training for 342 professionals in 85% of Scotland’s local authority areas. 100% of trainees reported being better able to conduct a return discussion.
Institution: University of Glasgow
Researchers: Professor Hester Parr, Dr Olivia Stevenson