Webinar Notes: Missing Person Legislation

Webinar Notes Missing Persons Legislation

Overview (00:10)

  • Introduction and passage of critical missing persons legislation in the state of Tennessee.
  • May 2, 2017 – Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed the Missing Persons Legislation into law.


    • Successful creation and passage of Missing Persons Legislation


      • Roadblocks encountered
      • Overcoming the obstacles
      • Potential replicating the Tennessee model


Resource Speakers (00:57)

  • Todd Matthews, PhD


    • Director of NamUs Communications and Case Management
    • Coordinated NamUS initiatives with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
    • Volunteers as media directors for the Doe Network and project EDAN


The Justice Clearinghouse (02:11)

  • Peer-to-peer educational program/resource for justice professionals
  • Year-round virtual conference on justice related topics and issues
  • Events are free-to-attend, with subscribers having 24/7 access to recorded webinars and eligible for certifications which may be used for continuing education credits.
  • Interactive webinars with quick polls, Q&A, and survey


NamUs Case Management System (3:36; 27:07; 37:55)

  • Tennessee Model


    • House Bill 44 / Senate Bill 113


      • Introduced in the House and Senate January 2017 by


        • State Representative John Mark Windle (D-Livingston)
        • State Senator Paul Bailey (R-Cookeville)
      • Passed by the Tennessee State House of Representative on April 17, 2017, and passed by the Tennessee State Senate on April 19, 2017.
      • Officially signed by Governor Bill Haslam on May 2, 2017.
      • Signing day at War Memorial Auditorium on June 8, 2017.


        • Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam
        • Tennessee State Sen. Paul Bailey
        • Tennessee State Rep. Darren Jernigan
        • Dr. Mike Tabor
        • NamUS Director Todd Matthews
        • NamUs RSA Amy Dobbs
        • NamUs Communication Coordinator Josh Savage
      • All missing and unidentified adult and children will be entered into NamUs after 30 days, effective July 1, 2017.


        • Local efforts must be exhausted in the first 30 days. Only after which, can the missing report be entered to NamUs.
        • NamUs has been around for 10 years now, but not all cases are reported to NamUs.
        • Decades old cases may be resolved using NamUs as a case management system.
  • Congressman Chris Murphy (CT) proposed “Billy’s Law” to create funding for the NamUs


    • Issues


      • States so different in their processes and terminologies
      • Too complicated for some States
      • No buy-in in the national level


NamUs as a Case Management System (05:55; 13:20; 21:05; 29:22)

  • Previous situation


    • Lack of a comprehensive system in place
    • Lack of access to existing ones
    • Fragmented database


      • Local case management tools
      • Local closed-off database
      • State databases
      • National databases
  • NamUs Statistics


    • Unidentified =103 
    • Missing = 251
  • Raising Awareness


    • 10 years around
    • Advocates spread awareness by word of mouth
    • Media interest
  • Issues encountered


    • Compliance to rules


      • Submission of dental records
    • Waiting period


      • NY – wanted to enter it to the system sooner


        • Can overwhelm the system
        • Drains resources
    • Backlog cases
    • Input into NamUs database OR use of other local/state database
    • Disconnect with the system


      • Lack of awareness with NamUs
      • Unfamiliarity with the NamUs system
    • Resources/Budget


      • Hire an additional manpower to handle the increased volume
    • Lack of incidents to put into NamUs
  • Need for Support from more States and agencies to legislate use of NamUs
  • It is expected that with legislation, NamUs will be maximized and continue growth


NamUs 2.0 (24:03)

  • A total systems’ upgrade
  • Addition of a Critical Incident case management systems for events like


    • 9/11 (Terrorism)
    • Katrina (Hurricane)
    • Earthquake
    • Tornado
  • It is expected that having the NamUs system available for emergencies will draw them to use the system more as lack of incidents is identified as an obstacle to familiarity with the system


Using NamUs (33:17)

  • States expressing interest in having a local portal/state website


    • This capability is activated on NamUs
    • A special link for each State, down to the county level
  • Updates in one local database is reflected on the state and national database
  • Shared with the public for viewing


What to do as a citizen? (07:38; 42;25)

  • Ask your state representative if there’s legislation in place
  • Approach local legislators/state representatives to advance your cause
  • Connect or network to get in touch with the local legislators
  • Educate people through various channels available
  • Present it Bi-partisan issue, it shouldn’t matter the party represented or supported
  • Involve/get support other agencies (e.g., Medical Examiners) who could assist or will benefit from the system
  • Reach out to NamUs if you need help to get things running for your agency, county, etc.


Quick poll

  • Does your State have some form of mandate for reporting missing and/or identified persons at a national level? (11:43)


    • Yes                  27%
    • No                   13%
    • I don’t know    60%
  • Have you ever worked in a Missing Persons Case? (18:38)


    • Yes, and it was resolved                     39%
    • Yes, and the case is still open             4%
    • No                                                       57%
  • Have you ever used the NamUs database? (25:02)


    • Yes                  44%
    • No                   56%
  • How do you manage Missing/Unidentified Persons Case? (34:40)


    • NCIC                           69%
    • NamUs                         41%
    • State Database          31%
    • Agency Database     46%
    • N/A                             5%




For questions and clarifications, contact:



NamUs, Case Management and Communications






When will NamUs begin to accept DNA samples again? (25:29)

We’ve asked for funding to cover DNA processes, once the budget is cleared. The fiscal year starts October 1, and once the Department of Justice responds that we get the grant, then that can move forward.


Will training be made to police departments who are unfamiliar with NamUs? What kind of strategy are you thinking of for the coming year in terms of training agencies that are currently using NamUs? (35:15)

We are already doing that. Regional systems administrators service 6 to 8 states that they handle deployed in the area they serve. Training can be through webinars, go-to-meetings, etc.


At a federal level, is there any way in your opinion that we can restart that? (43:48)

I can keep them in touch with them to provide support to advance the cause towards state legislation on the topic.


Through this process, have you worked with a missing persons clearinghouse manager? (45:11)

Absolutely. I have worked with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the State Medical Examiner, local agencies.


Have you been working extensively with advocates to try to assist and train? (46:00)

We have strong advocates who are invited to learn and share. NamUs is created so data can be shared to the community and collaborate with advocates and the public.


If they are not aware who their representatives and senators are, approaches are suggested (47:41)

  • Text your zipcode to 520-2002223, you’ll get a list of the contact details in the federal and state level
  • Text RESIST to 50409, if you follow the prompts, you can send a message to your representatives


Does the NamUs database have any kind of way of integrating with State-level databases so that any information entered into a state database is automatically pushed over to NamUs? (48:52)

It would require a lot of programming, but a data transfer can be done manually. We can do it, we just need to coordinate with the agency.


Does the Tennessee legislation require that deceased person be fingerprinted, especially in the case when they are unknown? (49:47)

That does happen. Dental, fingerprints, and DNA are entered into the system for unidentified.


If someone wants to get a draft of the bill, what is the best way to get ahold of you? (51:22)

Email me J.Todd.Matthews@unthsc.edu or call 817-408-6723



“I know for a fact total of 251 persons is missing in Tennessee that has been entered into NamUs – that is not all of them. Part of the problem is people are not aware of NamUs. Even law enforcement agencies.”


“They’re very unfamiliar with it when they do need to use the system. That is the scary part. Now, maybe with this State Law, they’re gonna be forced to actually reach out. And we have people in Tennessee that access the regional state administrator for 8 states, right here in Tennessee with me.”


“I request for no money. I request for nothing. All I want is for you to require your people to use what my organization and the National Institute of Justice is trying to give to you… Your taxpayer money actually funds NIJ. If you don’t take it, you’ve actually spent money that you're not getting the benefit for. That's why it's called a no brainer… The reason I get so passionate about this is it's called the Nation's silent mass disaster because it really is, it takes place over time."


"I'm not content to wait because we've waited a long time. I think it is important that we just start boots on the ground, and we start working on this one State at a time, and just grow into this best as possible.”

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