Article Update (published April 22, 2021):
Legislation creating a statewide Silver Alert program advanced in the House, passing the Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee last week.
House Bill 119 implements a Silver Alert program under the jurisdiction of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to assist in the locating of missing and vulnerable citizens in Tennessee.
The Silver Alert program will benefit persons who are 60 years of age or older, suffer from a documented case of dementia, or are eighteen years of age or older with an intellectual, developmental, or physical disability whose whereabouts are unknown or are believed to be in danger or unable to return to safety without assistance.
Local police or sheriff departments are currently the gatekeepers for Silver Alert in Tennessee, left to make a judgement on when or if a Silver Alert is warranted. Should House Bill 119 become law, the TBI would be required to alert law enforcement agencies and designated media outlets across the state upon receiving notice of a missing citizen fitting the guidelines.
Under New Legislation, Law Enforcement Would Be Asked To Immediately Begin An Investigation, After Receiving The Appropriate Information About The Missing Person’s Physical & Mental Status, And Enter The Missing Person Into The National Crime Information Center Within 4 Hours Of Verifying The Incident.
Published March 23, 2021
The Tennessee Conservative Staff –
A new Tennessee bill is moving even closer to becoming a law. If passed, this legislation would rename the Care Alert program to the Silver Alert program and would change the procedures for when elderly individuals go missing. The bill is being sponsored by Representative Jeremy Faison and Tennessee Senator Becky Massey.
A Silver Alert refers to when an older, or otherwise vulnerable individual goes missing, and an alert is sent out to help locate them.
The current law regarding a Silver Alert “encourages local law enforcement to develop area-specific protocols” in order to find the vulnerable missing person.
Under the new legislation, they would instead be asked to immediately begin an investigation, after receiving the appropriate information about the person’s physical and mental status. They would also be required to enter the missing person into the National Crime Information Center within four hours of verifying the incident.
Advocates across the state have been pushing for these new protocols since 2019. The bill was set to be discussed before the Covid pandemic and has just recently been brought to the table again.
The changes to the bill would also require the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to oversee the protocols used when searching for the missing person. The TBI would take over the authority of the investigation and could ask for assistance from local law enforcement, as well as, A Child Is Missing and the Alzheimer’s Association.
Around sixty percent of people who are cognitively impaired will wander at some point and the purpose of the Silver Alert program is to bring them home safely.
Elder Law of East Tennessee says that “without any warning, someone who has never shown a tendency to wander might leave their home on foot going who-knows-where only to become disoriented and lost in a matter of minutes.”
Even when keeping a close eye on a cognitively impaired individual, it’s still possible they will manage to slip by.
“Modeled after the Amber Alert system for locating missing children, Silver Alert is aimed at mobilizing law enforcement and other community resources to locate missing impaired senior citizens as quickly as possible,” Elder Law explains on their website.
Having a uniform procedure across the state for how to handle missing and vulnerable individuals could strengthen the Silver Alert program. Local agencies would have clear protocols to follow to try and locate the missing person.
While the Silver Alert program is meant to help older individuals who go missing, specifically with dementia or Alzheimers, it can also be beneficial to those over 18 who have an intellectual, developmental, or physical disability.
The bill also “requires the TBI, in coordination with law enforcement agencies, to send the alert to designated media within 12 hours of the notification of the missing citizen. Under this bill, the TBI will cancel the alert upon notification that the missing citizen has been found, rather than a local law enforcement agency.”
On March 17, the bill was passed in the House Criminal Justice Committee and will move on to the Finance, Ways, and Means Committee. It is also set to be heard on March 23 by the Senate Judiciary Committee.