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Keeping Secrets from the Police

March 20, 2015 permalink

Which is more important, protecting confidentiality or find a missing child? In New York, it is confidentiality. When Kenneth White was missing police could not look at his child protection file to help find the child. A legislator wants that changed.



Lawmakers To Consider New Bill Being Pushed For Future Missing Children's Cases

An upstate sheriff and two New York legislators are announcing legislation that would force Child Protective Services to quickly turn over records when a child is missing.

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple, Republican Senator George Amedore and Democratic Assemblymember Pat Fahy are backing a bill to expedite access to CPS records for missing children.

The impetus is one of the Capital Region’s worst crimes in recent memory. In December, 5-year-old Kenneth White was reported missing by his then-19-year-old cousin, Tiffany VanAlstyne, who was watching him at the time. She initially told police White had been kidnapped by masked intruders, who had burst through the door of the family's trailer at 994 Thacher Park Road in East Berne.

Kenneth White
Kenneth White

When the Albany County Sheriff’s Office contacted CPS to request access to Kenneth’s records, they were denied. Tragically, White was found dead later that night and his cousin, who had originally reported him missing, was charged with his murder.

The incident struck a nerve with Sheriff Apple, apparent when he addressed the media day after the boy was found dead. "Certain cases stick with you your entire career, and this is one of those cases."

After a review of the case, it was determined that the records should have been turned over when requested. Apple has been pushing for changes to CPS laws. Assemblywoman Fahy: "When children are missing, minutes matter. And as we found during the tragedy of the Kenneth White murder, law enforcement was hindered in their investigation because of some confusion with current law regarding access to child protective records."

Senator Amedore says everything possible must be done to help law enforcement officials like Apple do their job. "...while at the same time being mindful of privacy issues surrounding CPS records. This legislation clarifies an existing statute and removes the questions of when its appropriate to release records to law enforcement during a criminal investigation."

Fahy adds that the new law would have a fail-safe mechanism. "...that would allow for a third-party administrative review should local government turn down that access to records. That third party administrative review would be by OCFS, the office of children and family services."

OCFS declined to comment on pending legislation. Amedore hopes the new bill can help save children in the future. "Unfortunately, this legislation would not have changed the outcome of this horrible tragedy with Kenneth White. But, it fixes serious flaws and ensures that law enforcement officials have access to the information they need during cases involving missing children, when every second counts."

Both the Senate and Assembly were expected to consider the measure Monday.

Source: WAMC Albany