News23ABC In-Depth


Boatman case brings up questions about BPD's missing persons process

Darrin Boatman searched 6 months for his daughter Breanna, finding her last month in L.A. BPD says they do everything they can, but around 100 new missing persons are reported to them every month.
Missing Person (FILE)
Posted at 7:56 PM, Mar 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-10 12:10:16-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — After nearly 6 months, the Bakersfield Police Department has confirmed that 32-year-old Breanna Boatman was reconnected with her family on February 22, 2023.

ABC23 spoke to Breanna's father, Darrin Boatman, back in October, when he expressed his desperation in searching for his daughter.

"I don't think any father could prepare themselves for this, but it gives me anxiety, and I'm out in these streets trying to find her," Boatman had said at the time.

But two weeks ago, at the end of February, the family got the update they were hoping for. Boatman tells 23ABC that his daughter had been located in Los Angeles.

"I got a text message, and once I verified it was her, I called it, and it was her," said Boatman. "I asked her where was she, and she said she was in L.A. and she was lost, and she said she needed me to come get her."

Boatman says his daughter returned to Bakersfield and was able to reunite with her children.

"She spent a lot of time with her kids and with the family, an we had a lot of good times trying to catch up on the old memories before she was lost," said Boatman.

Now, Boatman talks about being relieved to find his daughter alive, but because of her addiction, there is still a long road ahead, telling 23ABC that Breanna thought she was only gone for a week.

"It was like she lost track of time. The stuff that we told her, like, 'Hey, it's been 7 months,' and we were asking her about was she pregnant or if she had a baby, and she didn't really know anything about that," said Boatman.

Another thing Boatman is having mixed feelings about is working with the Bakersfield Police Department while the search for Breanna was still ongoing.

"I don't want to speak down on the police department, but I think that they felt they didn't really have a lot to go on and they really… I'm sure they felt they were doing their job, but we didn't really have a lot of results coming from them," said Boatman. "We were in contact with the police. We did DNA samples and all that stuff, but the main support came from the viewers."

How Bakersfield police handle missing persons cases

Not only did police not have much to go on, they have an average of 100 new missing persons cases to investigate every month, and not every case has the same outcome as Breanna's. According to Robert Pair, Public Information Officer with the Bakersfield Police Department, every missing persons case is different.

"They all start off identically. There's policies and procedures and state law that governs how missing persons cases are handled. Once it is reported to the police department, the determination based upon the fact that are known is made," Pair said.

According to Pair, the department understands that it's a difficult time for the families missing loved ones, and that's why BPD has a team working around the clock to find people.

"We hav three full-time missing person investigators. The case is forwarded to them after initial follow-up by the officers that take the report, and then depending on the facts of the case, whether the person is still local, whether the person has gone outside of our jurisdiction, different things can happen," said Pair.

BPD, along with other local law enforcement agencies, also send missing persons alerts to media outlets to help spread the word. 23ABC reports on a number of missing persons every week. According to Pair, the alerts sent to the media are chosen because those missing people are at higher risk.

"Ultimately it is determined by the perceived risk factor. We receive over 100 missing persons reports a month. It is not feasible to put all of those out into the media," said Pair.

According to Pair, some of the requirements for putting a missing persons report out to the media are if the missing person has a history of being reported missing in the past, factors that may place the missing person in danger, or if the circumstances surrounding their disappearance are suspicious.

BPD classifies missing persons into two groups: Juveniles and adults. According to Pair, the vast majority of reported missing persons are under the age of 18, and of that group, 99 percent of juveniles reported missing are determined to be runaways, adding that the vast majority of those children return home.

For adults, Pair says it depends on the circumstances, but for the most part missing adults also return on their own.

Ultimately, according to Pair, the overwhelming majority of people reported missing are located and do return home, but regardless of the circumstance, family and friends should report it to police right away if a loved one goes missing.

"There continues to be a perception that you have to wait a certain amount of time before reporting a missing person," said Pair. "That is not true. Often, we have the most success in locating someone the quicker that we are informed that they are missing."

As for the Boatman family, Darrin says Breanna is back on the streets, still struggling with addiction.

"Now that she's gone again, we just have to… She fell off the horse, now pick her back up and try it again, because sometimes when people get over drugs, it takes a few times, so we have to just keep being supportive and cut out the negativity and keep showing her a positive way," said Boatman.

Boatman also says he hopes, for his daughter's sake, that when people see someone fighting addiction on the streets around town, that they will try to help and treat them with respect.

"Give someone a conversation, because that's show that they're still human and they still have another day to get over whatever they're dealing with," said Boatman. "If anything, I can share with the community is to be a little more helpful when it comes to people less fortunate than us."

Boatman also tells 23ABC that he credits finding his daughter to our coverage and to your support as a community, calling BPD with leads and tips.

In addition to city police, the Kern County Sheriff's Office also maintains a database of missing persons and conducts investigations. According to KCSO records, in 2022 there were a total of 1,154 missing persons reports made last year. As of January 2023, 960 of those people are listed as located. 7 were referred to other agencies and their status is unknown.

That leaves 177 people still missing from 2022, although KCSO says there's a chance at least some of those people returned home on their own and just never informed law enforcement.

When it comes to records of whether someone was found alive or not, KCSO says they don't have a way to generate that statistic, and just consider the person located.