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Justice Department Recognized Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Employees with Missing Children's Child Protection Award

      WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice today honored two members of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation in Nashville for their involvement in the recovery of 150 missing children in the state.  Assistant Special Agent in Charge Shelly Smitherman and Intelligence Analyst Emily Keifer received the Missing Children’s Child Protection Award as part of the 39th annual National Missing Children’s Day commemoration.  The award recognizes the extraordinary efforts of law enforcement officers who made a significant investigative or program contribution on behalf of missing, abused or victimized children.

      “Agent Smitherman and Intelligence Analyst Keifer helped lead a major state and federal investigation that brought home scores of missing children, many of them human trafficking survivors, and that has since become a blueprint for cooperative enforcement action across levels of government,” said Amy L. Solomon, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of OJP.  “These two outstanding law enforcement professionals have established a new standard of response to children in danger and have made Tennessee a safer place for its young people.”

      In early 2021, the TBI, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Tennessee Department of Children's Services spearheaded a bold joint effort to identify and locate missing children in Tennessee.  Under the banner Operation Volunteer Strong—a nod to the state’s nickname, the “Volunteer State,”—the collaborative effort resulted in the recovery of 150 children and solidified partnerships that will serve as a model for future efforts to protect children.  In some cases, the recovered children were identified as human trafficking victims, which led to investigations of other crimes and additional arrests of individuals on outstanding warrants.  In one case, the operation's efforts thwarted an active kidnapping and resulted in the suspect’s arrest.  Investigative leads continue to pour in, as do plans to duplicate the effort.

      “Through their diligence and dedication, these two outstanding professionals are sending a powerful message across Tennessee that actions that place a child in danger will be met with a swift and effective response,” said Liz Ryan, Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.  “It is an honor to acknowledge these remarkable individuals for their exceptional investigative work and for their steadfast commitment to the safety of children.”

The Department also recognized four members of the Wisconsin Internet Crimes Against Children task force and an Assistant U.S. Attorney of the Western District of Wisconsin, and five special agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service headquarters and field offices for their efforts to prevent child sexual exploitation and bring missing children home.  The Department declared Sue Lee from St. James Episcopal Elementary School in Los Angeles, California, winner of the 2022 National Missing Children’s Day poster contest.

Every year on May 25, the Office of Justice Programs’ Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention leads the nation in observing National Missing Children’s Day, first proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1983.  This day shines a spotlight on child safety and honors the professionals dedicated to protecting children around the country.

In lieu of an in-person ceremony, OJJDP is launching a website today featuring information about the awardees and statements from OJP Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Solomon, OJJDP Administrator Ryan and President and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Michelle DeLaune.

The Office of Justice Programs provides federal leadership, grants, training, technical assistance and other resources to improve the nation’s capacity to prevent and reduce crime, advance racial equity in the administration of justice, assist victims and strengthen the criminal and juvenile justice systems.  More information about OJP and its components can be found at www.ojp.gov.


OFFICE:  ojjdp.ojp.gov
CONTACT:  Sheila Jerusalem at 202-598-0793 or [email protected]

Date Published: May 26, 2022