Saturday, June 17, 2006

Amber Alert: When To Sound The Alarm

One the best things to come out of government in recent years is the formation of the Amber Alert System, designed to find missing children immediately after abduction. More often than not, the system has been successful in finding kids before tragedy happens.

Many times desperate parents are the guilty parties, many times the children are found unharmed. Most of the parents mean no harm, but allow their emotions to supercede their common sense and make a decision based on emotion. Many times, what they are doing may be due to a sense of hopelessness and an attitude of selfishness, but there are times when it is done solely for the purpose of getting even with the custodial parent. There are also times when a parent abducts a child, the outcome is not so happy.

Meet Katron Walker, the Terre Haute (Indiana) man that (allegedly) abducted and killed his four-year old son and tried to kill his two year old, because of a dispute with his wife.

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- A man faces murder and attempted-murder charges on accusations he took his two sons at knifepoint, fatally stabbed one of them and injured the other Tuesday following a dispute between him and his wife, police said.

The Indy News Channel article tells the story, but here is the interesting thing to note in all of this:

Family members were thankful for help from police, but
wondered why it took hours after the abduction before an Amber Alert was issued. The alert was issued shortly before 5:30 p.m. -- about seven hours after the boys were taken

I just spent some good money on an alarm system for my house. What sense does it make to have such a system, if I do not turn it on? The same goes for an Amber Alert. Why have this tool, if you are going to be shy about hitting the switch? Seven hours is a long time to have waited for this particular alert, to have been issued. At least it is, in my estimation.

Do not get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for the hard-working people in law enforcement that put their lives on the line, daily. Overall, they do a damned good job with what little resources they receive. They just do not get paid enough for what they face. It truly is a thankless and tireless job that has to be done. And while there are some bad apples that exist simply for the power that comes with it, the majority are not so. Today, some of them must look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves, what took so long on this one? They are the ones must look at the process and see where it broke down.

Each state is a little different, but here is some criteria created by the U.S Justice System for issuing an Amber Alert:

1. Law enforcement must confirm that an
abduction has taken place.

2. The child is at risk of serious injury or death.

3. There is sufficient descriptive information of child, captor, or captor's vehicle to issue an alert .

4. The child must be 17 years old or younger.

Now, there is no guarantee that if the alarm had been sounded earlier, things would have turned out differently/better. Nothing is foolproof, nothing is a panacea. Systems fail and people that run them fail. That is an immutable truth.

But when something like this happens, there needs to be some serious reflection on: What happened, why it happened, and can it happen again? If the answer to latter is yes, then, some troubleshooters must look some things over and see where the deficiencies lie. If there was negligence, it must determined: Who was negligent and why? Those persons must be counseled, educated, and/or disciplined. If it is gross negligence, the same questions apply, but the difference is, they need to be terminated.

It does no good to spend millions of dollars to implement a tool for the greater good of society and not be willing to use it, or not know when to use it. The law enforcement community in Terre Haute needs to find out what went wrong, they owe it to the people of that community and that young boy.

But sadly, when they do, it will be too late for Collin Walker, aged 4. He is dead. His brother Monte, aged 2, will be traumatized (probably) for life. His relatives that loved him dearly, will grieve for life. His father gets a trial, he may get life or lose his life. The people responsible for not issuing the alert get counseling/discipline and the people of Terre Haute get the bill.

Little Collin gets a funeral.

UPDATE: 6/17/06 11:45PM

The Amber Alert Timeline


Always On Watch said...

I clicked on the link to the article and saw those photos. Those two beautiful little boys! And now one is dead. God!

Why the delay in the alert? Walker should immediately have been identified as most dangerous. Just look at his history!

This type of horrific tragedy plays out all across our nation, with too much frequency.

LASunsett said...


Why the delay in the alert?

I do not know for sure, I can only theorize at this point. The timeline article I added to the post (at the bottom) says that this was the city's first amber alert, since its creation. But it has been used in other areas of the state. So, I am guessing it could be incompetence.