On November 3rd, over 80 police officers from all over Europe attended the Digital Conference: Police Expert Network on Missing Persons (PEN-MP) 2020. The Ministry of the Interior and National Police of Slovenia and AMBER Alert Europe hosted PEN-MP’s annual conference, which was held online this year due to COVID-19. During the event, law enforcement experts were given the unique opportunity to share experiences and exchange best-practices on missing persons cases. The interactive conference also enabled law enforcement from different countries in Europe to connect with each other and strengthen cooperation across regional and national borders.

“We all know that law enforcement cooperation is of the utmost importance when it comes to missing person cases, not only nationally but also across borders”, said Mr. Jože Senica, Deputy Director General of the Slovenian National Police, who opened the event. “The Slovenian National Police is proud to contribute to connecting law enforcement specialists in the field of missing persons with each other by hosting this important event together with AMBER Alert Europe. Let us join forces to accomplish our common goal: saving more missing persons in Europe.”

Common European approach
The importance of joining forces was emphasized again by Mr. Frank Hoen, Founder and Chairman of AMBER Alert Europe. “Despite hundreds of thousands of missing persons annually in Europe, there currently is no EU Strategy on missing persons. Missing is still ‘missing’”, Hoen pointed out. “In Europe, a common space without borders, missing persons cannot be protected only through Member States acting on their own, but by Member States working together. That is exactly why we need a common European approach on missing persons.”

Real-life missing person cases and expert sessions
During the event, real-life missing person cases were introduced by the national police of Poland, while the Slovenian national police spoke about the correlation between online grooming and missing children. Additionally, special guest Dr. Josip Pavliček PhD, criminalist and professor at Zagreb Police College and Expert on the field of investigative interviewing and lie detection, explained the role of the investigative interview and lie detection methods in assessing the truthfulness of a missing person report.

“Missing persons is a very complex area of policing, where one can never gain enough additional knowledge. The fact that so many of you responded and are with us today, shows that the issue of missing persons remains important, and of interest, all across Europe. Today we have with us representatives of national police forces from almost all European countries,” said Mr. Damjan Miklič, PEN-MP President and Senior Criminal Police Inspector Specialist at the Slovenian Police Directorate, while addressing the attendees.

Exponential growth PEN-MP
The past year, the PEN-MP has undergone enormous growth. The group has welcomed several new member countries such as Finland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, and Lithuania, who were given the opportunity to introduce themselves during the digital conference. In 2020, new members from Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Kosovo, Serbia, North-Macedonia, and Hungary also joined the PEN-MP, expanding the network to over 80 members from 30 countries.

Police Expert Network on Missing Persons
The Police Expert Network on Missing Persons (PEN-MP), founded by the AMBER Alert Europe foundation, is officially recognised by the Council of the European Union and all member states. The PEN-MP is the official European missing persons police network consisting of police experts in the field of missing persons from all over Europe. Goal of the PEN-MP is to bring together law enforcement experts in the field of missing persons, specifically children.

In order to save more missing persons across Europe, members can quickly contact and consult each other about missing person cases. The PEN-MP also provides specialist support, advice and training to its members.