Reflecting on Progress in Missing Persons Investigations

Missing and Missed Implementation Team

April 13 marks the third anniversary of the Missing and Missed Report from the Independent Civilian Review into Missing Person Investigations.

Through the collaborative development and design with the Missing and Missed Implementation Team (MMIT)  – Community Representatives, the Toronto Police Service acknowledges and values this partnership, which has significantly influenced organizational changes in handling missing person cases. Most significantly, the transformative changes are continuing to be made in the Missing Persons Unit (MPU) section of the Homicide and Missing Persons Unit (HMPU), and this sparks further improvements across the entire Service.

Since the release of the Missing and Missed Report in 2021, the HMPU has increased the number of resources dedicated to missing person investigations. As well, new positions were added to expand the unit’s operational capacity, including crime analyst and missing person coordinator roles.

The MPU is responsible for developing and maintaining a consistent process and investigative response for all occurrences of persons missing in Toronto, or on the way to/from Toronto. They will deploy when required, provide divisional support and guidance during missing person investigations.

The MPU is available as a resource to all units in the Service, and will ensure accountability, provide direction, guidance, follow-up and support to divisional investigators. The overall responsibility of the investigation remains with the division.

The MPU conducts information sessions for officers to ensure seamless implementation of the changes, as needed. These sessions provide insight into the investigative process and offer direct access to MPU investigators and missing persons coordinators assigned to each division.

Collaborating with the MMIT – Community Representatives to co-develop and co-design a new model for missing person investigations underscores the Service’s commitment to serve the community to the highest standard when missing person occurrences take place.

One key aspect of the new model is the added missing person coordinator function in the MPU. Now staffed by four civilian members, they are the primary points of contact for their designated divisions and actively respond to investigative needs within their assigned districts.

The collaborative aspect of modern policing extends to working with other police services and agencies to improve missing person investigations. MPU members forge relationships with social services, public health organizations, and community agencies to serve the community better. Active participation on numerous working groups and committees demonstrates the Service’s commitment to mutual learning and support in addressing missing person cases.

TPS members dedicated to the MPU reflects the diverse community it serves, which enriches the unit's perspectives and strengthens their ability to support the community when they are impacted by someone going missing.

Recognizing the sensitive nature of missing person cases, all members involved in the investigation apply a trauma-informed approach. TPS officers are trained to conduct interviews with empathy and sensitivity, acknowledging the emotional impact on those affected by a disappearance or the discovery of a deceased person.

The training modules ensure that all members involved in missing person cases are equipped with the necessary skills to handle such situations with care and compassion.

Driven by the report’s recommendations, the progress made is a direct result of the MMIT – Community Representatives’ involvement and dedication to this meaningful work. 

While the Toronto Police Service has made significant strides to improve public safety and build community trust in missing person investigations, there is more work to be done. TPS is committed to supporting and collaborating with the MMIT to complete all 151 recommendations outlined in the report.

Learn more about Missing Person Investigations

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