With a lot of information, much of it new and perhaps given in ways you are not used to, it’s important to keep a record everything you do, hear and receive. Below are some tips on where to start.
Who you speak to. This should include any titles or personal reference numbers. For example, police officers often have a ‘collar number’ which is a way of identifying each individual officer, especially if they are within a large force and share the same name as colleagues.
When you spoke to them. Make sure your notes are as accurate as possible about the time, day and date you spoke to them.
Reference numbers for your call. When you speak to the police or other emergency services, there is often a reference for the call logged on their system. Ask for this reference number, and make a note of it in your file. This is especially important in the initial hours of the missing report, as it will help you update the police record as quickly as possible.
Notes about your conversation. Keep notes with make sense to you and that will help you to remember what was said. If you have not had to write notes quickly during a conversation before, think about any previous situation when you had to remember something new but quickly – such as getting directions from someone. What did you do to remember it? Some people may draw, some people may write single words, others may write everything out long form. Do whatever works for you.
Things to do next. You may need to make a follow on call a few days later, or meet with someone at an agreed time. There is a lot going on, and a lot to remember at once. Keeping a list of what you need to do next can be helpful. It could also be used to divide tasks with other friends and family members, so you can all review what needs to be done and agree who can help with each step.
Where you have already looked or who you have already contacted. This is important for the early hours, but also as time continues. Keeping a note of who and where you’ve been, will help direct the search for your loved one in the best way. You’ll then be able to focus on where to search next, or pass this information on to the police to help guide them. If you’ve been handing out posters or flyers while you’ve been out in areas, it’s important to keep a note of those places too, in order to get the publicity down as quickly as possible when necessary.
Copies of letters or documents you have sent or received. You’re likely to get lots of letters and emails from different agencies who are involved, including us. Keeping track of everything can feel a bit overwhelming, so keeping copies clearly and neatly filed in a way that works for you, will help to ensure you can access them whenever needed.
News articles or interviews you have done. Remembering what you’ve said previously and to who can be useful, especially if you had a positive experience with a particular journalist or media company, and would considering speaking to them again if needed.
In the majority of situations, these notes will be useful as a way to remember who you have already spoken to, or what has happened so far in the search for your loved one. It can also help you to plan for what to do next.
Legally, you have a right to record your phone calls with police, provided you are doing so for your own use, and do not plan to share or sell them in any way. If you are recording the call to help you remember what was said, you do not legally have to advise the person on the other end that you are doing this. However, if later on, you would like to share it, or try to use it as evidence, it may not be admissible, unless you asked for consent at the time.
Although legally you do not need to tell the person you’re speaking to that you are recording the call, you may want to consider how it would feel if the situation was reversed. This could help you to make the decision as to whether you tell the person that you plan to record the call.
Most people have access to a smart phone or tablet, so it’s becoming more and more common for police officers to expect to be filmed or recorded in some way. If you explain to the officer you are talking to on the phone, or meeting with in person, that you are recording the conversation to help you remember what has been said, they should be happy to be recorded. If you’re able to do so, you could also offer to share the recording with the officer to help them with their notes of your meeting.
In most cases, the emails that you receive will live within your inbox until you delete them. However, if you wanted to print copies of emails sent to you, for your own use and to keep in your file, you are allowed to do so. You can also save them to your computer, or any online cloud service you may have.
The emails sent to you will likely be addressed to you. In many email footers (the information at the bottom of an email) organisations and companies will state that the email is only intended for the recipient. This does not make it illegal for you to share it or publish it. Emails are generally treated in a similar way to letters; you should not open someone else’s post, however it is fine to read a letter that has been given to you by the original recipient. Do remember though, unlike a letter, emails can be forwarded on quickly and easily, so only share them with people you trust.
In general, you will not expect to find yourself in this overwhelming situation. If you feel worried or need support, our team are here for free and in confidence.Talk to us