“This is a tremendous victory for families across the state,” Sanders said. “Now when one of our loved ones goes missing, we will have the peace of mind that police will investigate.”
The law is especially important to Blacks and Latinos, who represent a significant portion of those reported missing but receive less media coverage. In 2014, the FBI received 635,155 missing persons reports; 37 percent (239,593 cases) were Blacks or Latinos. The two groups make up 29 percent of the country’s population.
“Over the years, we have seen the number of people reported missing in the United States increase immensely, especially in minority communities, yet there’s not a sense of urgency when minorities disappear – often due to their disappearance falsely being associated with some sort of criminal behavior,” Derrica Wilson, president and co-founder of the Black and Missing Foundation, told NewsOne in an interview.
“Oftentimes, the public is misled in believing that victims of abductions and kidnappings are all blonde, blue-eyed and female,” Wilson added.
Barron hopes the new law will help change that.
“You have too many missing persons in the Black and Latino communities that police officers don’t look for because they don’t have to,” said Barron. “We want a break down on the racism in missing persons.”
Shields’ family hopes LaMont Dottin’s Law will become a federal mandate. The law’s namesake was a missing Queens College freshman who left his grandmother’s house on Oct. 18, 1995 to mail a package to his mother Anita Fowler in California. His family was unable to file a police report until almost a month later due to police regulations.
But Dottin’s law came too late to save Shields, whose body was recovered nine months later when it washed up on shore at Rikers Island. Police do not know for sure what happened to Shields and say they may never know.