ST. MARY PARISH, La. (KLFY) When Quawan Charles’ family still didn’t have any answers about the teen’s disappearance from Baldwin police three days after they reported him missing, they went to the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Their officers pinged his phone and found his body within hours.
A national police organization called ‘The Caution Group’ says Baldwin Police should have reached out for help when he didn’t return home the first night.
“If the other sheriff’s department could ping his phone, and narrow it down to where they found the young man’s body, why couldn’t that have been done 48 hours sooner?” Group founder and former police chief Kevin Walters said.
Baldwin Police say they didn’t have the technology or capability to ping Charles’ cell phone, but Walters says that’s not true.
“Especially after a couple days and he was probably endangered, they all can do phone pings as that other parish did when they actually found him.”
Walters says all Baldwin Police would’ve had to do is contact Charles’ service provider, and they would have pinged it for them.
“Missing from Friday to Sunday or Monday, I would have thought Saturday morning they probably would have been pinging his phone,” Walters told News Ten.
Charles’ cell phone wasn’t pinged until three days after Baldwin Police started their search.
Iberia Parish Sheriff’s deputies pinged his phone Monday after the teen’s parents came to them for help, but by that time Charles was dead.
“Here’s the problem. If they didn’t find the young man dead in the other county, and he was still missing today, would the department be doing anything different looking for him? Or would they still be saying, ‘We’re keeping an eye out for him?”
Walters says smaller police departments like the Baldwin PD often don’t have enough funding to specialize in training for their officers, which may be why police officers didn’t know they could ping Charles’ cell phone.
He says that’s not the problem though.
“The problem is that when a smaller department just doesn’t know how to handle that, but continues to keep it to themselves, and therefore nothing gets done.”
Walters says Baldwin Police should have contacted the sheriff’s office or State Police for help when Charles didn’t come home the night he was reported missing, instead of trying to handle the investigation themselves.
“That’s one of the shortcoming of every town having their own police department. If you don’t have the proper financing to do it properly, you really endanger the community,” he said.
“Yet I wonder how many other departments in Louisiana and across the country and even here in Michigan, small departments do the same thing. They put a person in a computer and then they go home, and nobody works that case until they go back on duty. This is probably happening around the country more than we’d like to admit,” Walters said.
Walters also runs an organization called The Caution Group, a group of former police chiefs and investigators who review critical investigations for smaller police departments across the country.
Their goal is to help small departments learn what more they could have done in an investigation.
Walters says they reached out to Baldwin Mayor Phil Prejean and offered to review the police department’s investigation into Charles’ missing person case, but Mayor Prejean has not gotten back to them.