Rep. Rebecca Petty receives Star of Excellence Award; Kevin Metcalf and Russell White receive Morgan’s Choice Awards
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today hosted the eighth annual Never Forgotten – Arkansas Takes Action event at the Benton Event Center. The daylong event brought together a record 360 law enforcement officials and families of missing persons to raise awareness and recognize Arkansas’s missing children and adults.
“Every year families with missing loved ones come together to receive support from officials and families statewide,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “It was an honor to host Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and to hear his words of inspiration that have helped guide his state in missing persons’ cases. Today is more than an opportunity to train and educate our law enforcement officials. It is a chance for all to gather and remember, give hope and support to those who have experienced the unimaginable.”
Kansas Attorney General Schmidt was the luncheon keynote speaker. Attorney General Schmidt has been a leading advocate in Kansas for missing persons cases, strengthening state laws against human trafficking and launched Kelsey’s Law – a bill that is named for Kansas native, Kelsey Smith, who was abducted and killed in 2007 – requiring wireless companies to disclose cell phone location to law enforcement officials in life-threatening cases. In 2015, Arkansas passed Act 405, known as the “Kelsey Smith Act”.
“I appreciate Attorney General Rutledge's invitation to share in today's important conversations about the efforts to find missing persons and reunite them with their families,” said Attorney General Schmidt. “As attorneys general, we have learned that there is great value in sharing ideas between states and finding ways to collaborate on issues that affect us all.”
Law enforcement officers heard from Washington County Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Metcalf, who discussed cyber response in missing persons cases.
Officers also heard from the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office Special Investigations Department who discussed what the department can do to assist law enforcement officers searching for missing persons when cases involve internet crimes. In the afternoon, law enforcement received training from Arkansas Public Safety Secretary Jami Cook and Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy personnel on best practices for investigating missing and unidentified persons cases. The material covered fulfilled the training requirement for the newly enacted Act 920.
At the same time as the law enforcement session, a panel discussion was held for the families of missing persons on available resources to assist them with locating their loved ones. Participating agencies included Arkansas Crime Information Center, Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy, Arkansas State Crime Lab, Arkansas State Police, FBI, the Morgan Nick Foundation, National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) and others.
A luncheon was hosted by Rutledge to honor the families of the missing and thank law enforcement for assisting in missing persons cases. The event also provided support and networking opportunities for families still searching and for those who have tragically lost loved ones.
During the luncheon, the Morgan’s Choice Award, named after Morgan Nick, who went missing in 1995, was presented to two individuals this year; Washington County Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Metcalf and retired Alma Police Chief Russell White for their continued efforts in missing cases. The Star of Excellence Award was presented to Representative Rebecca Petty for her leadership in the passage of Act 920 which provided better training and resources to law enforcement in missing persons investigations.
In 2018, Rutledge launched #MissingPersonMondays, a social media campaign to highlight one individual listed on the NeverForgotten.ar.gov site every Monday throughout the year. Rutledge also published a resource guide that is available for families of missing persons to provide a list of best practices to help families work through this difficult process.
In 2016, Rutledge was part of a collaborative effort to launch NeverForgotten.ar.gov, a website that enables the public to access information on missing persons cases with an easy-to-use searchable database.
The Attorney General’s office serves as an information clearinghouse for reports on Arkansas’s missing children and acts as the main point of contact for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
To reach the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children CyberTipline, call (800) THE-LOST (843-5678).