Louisiana Amber Alert

Baton Rouge lawmaker wants state’s AMBER Alert system overhauled following criticism

BATON ROUGE — Baton Rouge state representative Dixon McMakin (R-Dist. 68) is calling for a review and overhaul of the state’s AMBER Alert system following criticism of the delay in issuing an alert for two missing Loranger girls.

McMakin’s request comes after a UWK investigation into the June 13 delay.

The alert was released nearly three hours after the girls were reported missing. Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards said they did everything they could to get the alert out and that this delay highlights a systemic issue.

“Something is wrong,” Edwards said. “The system is broken. We need to look to try to fix it.”

Rep. Dixon McMakin sent a letter to Gov. Jeff Landry on Thursday, requesting that Louisiana State Police work with legislators to simplify the process of issuing an AMBER Alert.

“The idea is to look at this process after we just went through one, to see what happens, and I’m even hopeful that maybe the governor will take this opportunity … to modernize that process and make it more efficient,” McMakin told UWK.

The representative criticized the current process, where police must download, print, fill out, scan, and email AMBER Alert request forms to Louisiana State Police. He argued that with technology like Google Forms, there is no reason the state shouldn’t modernize the process.

“As soon as you fill it out, and you have to fill out every single line so you can’t miss anything, it goes directly to the agency,” he said. “And then what I’d like to see is maybe a response that says it’s been received, here’s your confirmation number, and here’s the person that’s looking into it.”

Unfiltered with Kiran obtained the AMBER Alert request forms and proof of calls and texts through a records request related to the delayed AMBER Alert for Erin, 3, and Jalie, 6. The little girls were abducted after their mother was brutally murdered in their home. A Tangipahoa Parish grand jury has indicted Daniel Callihan and Victoria Cox on four charges in connection with the murders and kidnapping.

MORE: Tangipahoa Parish grand jury indicts Callihan, Cox in murder, kidnapping case

The documents showed Lt. Elizabeth Russell filled out and submitted the documentation, emailing it at 10:16 a.m. The email sent to LSP included attachments with photos of the children. The picture of the suspected vehicle came from the license plate reader, according to Edwards.

Every field was filled out except for a suspect description and any landmarks where the kids were last seen. It is unclear if the problem was due to a lack of suspect description. The Louisiana State Police website said that detail is desired.

The statewide alert was not sent until 12:28 p.m. despite call logs and emails showing multiple members of the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office repeatedly following up with state officials in charge of distributing AMBER Alerts.

“It seems like we’re right in line for an evaluation to look and see how to make this more transparent, more efficient, more effective, (because) we know, seconds and minutes in this process are crucial.

“The State Police has let me know that in the last 22 years, there have been 21 Amber Alerts, so we’re averaging about one a year. So unfortunately, it’s probably going to happen again in my lifetime. I just think it’s probably going to happen, and when it does, we need to be prepared so we don’t have these little glitches in the system.”

McMakin says he has spoken with LSP and the governor about his proposals. He believes this is the perfect opportunity for Landry to form a task force to evaluate the state’s AMBER Alert process.

“I still think that Louisiana could be at the forefront to make it more modern, so we can be more efficient, more effective.”

McMakin also acknowledged that LSP is conducting an in-house review of how the AMBER Alert process played out on June 13. LSP said they tried to issue the AMBER Alert as soon as possible.

“In the event of an AMBER Alert, LSP works diligently to gather factual information from the investigating agency in order to disseminate information to the public as quickly as possible,” LSP Trooper First Class William Huggins says.

The AMBER Alert system, developed in 1996, is an early warning system to help find abducted children. It is now used in 50 states, the District of Columbia, Indian country, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and internationally in 31 countries.

Download the Unfiltered with Kiran app from the Apple App Store and Google Play to stay updated on the latest news across the Capital area. 

MORE ON BRUNETT CASE

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