FF12: KBI Director plans to fix everything in Amber Alert review

TOPEKA, Kan. (KWCH) FactFinder 12 started asking questions when someone kidnapped a woman and her three children from their home in Wichita. Though there was an Amber Alert issued, cell phones stayed silent.

Investigator Devon Fasbinder found the Kansas Bureau of Investigation made a mistake.

"During the initiation phase, the initial face of the process, our employee missed a procedural step which prevented the wireless emergency alert to be issued," KBI Director Kirk Thompson said.

That prompted the Kansas Attorney General to ask for a top-to-bottom review of the Amber Alert program.

"What we decided to do was not only conduct an internal review of the processes ourselves but we would have a meeting with our technological partners, media outlets, organizations that actually help us to deploy the alerts to make sure we had input from them," Thompson said. "The other thing we thought was important was to have an outside look so we asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is a similarly organized agency but a much larger agency which has many more amber alerts than we do. So we asked their Amber Alert coordinator to come in and give us an outside look."

After receiving the review, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said he wanted to see all eight recommendations laid out in the report to be implemented or seriously considered.

Thompson said he plans to make all eight recommendations come true.

This isn't the first time there has been a review of the system though. Thompson said it's reviewed frequently as well as after any Amber Alert goes out. This review, however, had one thing that surprised Thompson - the time.

"When we look at the amount of time between the report of an abduction to the report to the KBI saying can we talk about an amber alert, that seemed to be quite large. In fact the average time was a little over 7 1/2 hours," he said.

Plus, there's an extra half hour added for communicating with law enforcement and another extra half hour added for going through the steps of the Amber Alert to get it issued. That makes a total of 8 1/2 hours on average to get an Amber Alert out to the public.

Thompson said shortening that is important. as is communicating more effectively with partners about the program.

"It became evident that there was some misconceptions and what we think that we can do better is to speak more frankly with the media, maybe bring some regional groups together and just try to explain what goes on in some detail," Thompson said.

When asked if there was a plan in place to make these recommendations a reality, Thompson said there's a general plan but some changes will be more difficult than others.

"The one recommendation that will be difficult for us to do because it will take additional financial resources and personnel is to actually acquire the capability to issue a WEA (Wireless Emergency Alert) on our own and not go through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children," he said.

Thompson wouldn't say exactly what consequences employees faced after the mistake in December but he did say those who were involved in the mistake are no longer associated with the Amber Alert program.

He wanted to make on thing clear.

"All of the men and women who work here and all of our local partners are very dedicated, very serious about making sure that when a child is abducted, we throw all the resources that we can at it and we make sure that we return that child safely."