A Northamptonshire Police worker has been given a final written warning and demoted, following an investigation into the force’s response to reports of a missing 15-year-old girl.
The police worker was a deputy team leader in the force control room when a care home in the county called to report the missing girl.
The member of staff was found to have downgraded the call from an emergency to a prompt response, a decision which has been described as “flawed” by investigators.
The commissioner of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), Amerdeep Somal, said: “Our investigation found the member of staff displayed a casual attitude towards the report of the missing girl and wrongly assessed the risk.
“Officers were not dispatched promptly to find her as they should have been.
“We also found some evidence of poor communication within the force control room.”
On the evening of November 24, 2011, staff at the care home reported the girl missing and gave information relating to her vulnerability and possible location.
The police incident log stated officers were to be deployed when they became available and the area sergeant was to be informed.
But when the girl was found several hours later, at the location suggested, she was under the influence of alcohol and made an allegation of sexual assault against a man who was subsequently arrested and later released without charge.
The IPCC investigation found the area sergeant had not been informed and, according to the force’s own policy, a young missing person should never classed as low risk.
Detective Superintendent Jan Meagher from Northamptonshire Police said the force regretted the way the call had been handled, but insisted lessons had now been learned.
She said: “We regret that the correct procedure was not followed on this occasion, and that, as a result of human error there was a delay in safely locating the missing girl.
“Since this time we have made significant improvements in the control room, including working hard to improve our call handling efficiency, ensuring operatives take part in scenario based training at the highest level and improving how we assess threat and risk.”