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The 192nd General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Section 71: AMBER alert plan; activation

Section 71. (a) The department shall establish and maintain an AMBER alert plan to assist in the recovery of abducted children under the age of 18 through notification to the general public and law enforcement agencies. The department shall establish protocols and procedures necessary for the operation of the plan and shall educate and inform law enforcement agencies and the public of its availability.

(b) If a law enforcement agency determines that a child has been abducted and that the circumstances of the abduction indicate that the child is in serious danger of bodily harm or death, the agency shall obtain descriptive information for the AMBER alert plan and provide the descriptive information to the department. Thereafter, the law enforcement agency shall identify a point of contact within the agency capable of providing regular updates to the department about the abduction.

(c) The law enforcement agency reporting the abducted child shall obtain a picture of the child.

(d) The department may activate an AMBER alert plan, upon a determination that the following criteria have been met: (i) a child has been abducted; (ii) the child is in danger of serious bodily harm or death; and (iii) sufficient information exists to believe that activation of an AMBER alert plan may help locate the child.

(e) The department may notify appropriate state agencies and authorities, including, but not limited to, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, Massachusetts emergency management agency, the state lottery commission, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and the Massachusetts Port Authority of the activation of the AMBER alert plan.

(f) The department shall notify the broadcast media serving the commonwealth of the establishment of a statewide AMBER alert plan and invite their voluntary participation. The department shall arrange for participating broadcast media to voluntarily agree, upon notice from the department, to transmit emergency alerts to inform the public of a child abduction that has occurred within their broadcast service regions. Information, material and records transmitted or maintained pursuant to an emergency alert under this section shall not, as a result of any such alert or transmission, be a public record in the custody of the department or other state agencies and authorities and such information, material and records shall not be disclosed except as provided by this section.

(g) The department shall enter all information required by the United States Department of Justice on said child into the National Crime Information Center of the United States Department of Justice.

(h) The AMBER alert plan shall remain activated until terminated upon the direction of the colonel.

(i) The AMBER alert plan shall not be activated for children considered to be runaways or incidents involving child custody disputes, except in cases of abduction if a threat of serious bodily harm or death exists against the child.

(j) The department may coordinate with the law enforcement agencies in jurisdictions outside the commonwealth, including the federal government, who are responsible for the recovery of abducted children.

(k) The department, in consultation with the state 911 department, shall establish training guidelines for 911 call takers and dispatchers on the AMBER alert plan.

(l) The colonel, in consultation with the secretary of public safety and security, shall adopt rules and regulations necessary to implement this section.

(m) The department shall prepare and publish information for law enforcement agencies relative to best practices for a report of a missing person. The department shall recommend procedures for law enforcement in responding to a report of a missing person, a report of a missing person who is under 18 and a person under 18 who has been abducted. The department may identify publications and training opportunities that may be available to law enforcement agencies concerning investigations of missing persons.

(n) The department shall prepare and publish information for law enforcement agencies relative to best practices for handling death scene investigations. The department shall recommend procedures for law enforcement in processing, preserving, storing and testing DNA samples from human remains and the processing of DNA samples in missing person cases. The department may identify publications and training opportunities that may be available to law enforcement agencies concerning the handling of death scene investigations.

(o) The colonel, the department and all department employees shall be immune from suit and liability, either personally or in their official capacity, for any claim for damage to or loss of property or personal injury or other civil liability caused or arising out of or relating to any actual or alleged act, error or omission occurring or alleged to occur in connection with or pursuant to an AMBER alert plan under this section.