Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Letter To Members Of Michigan State Government

Due to the profoundly negative response I received from the Southfield Police Department, I was determined to take this situation higher, so I wrote a letter to high ranking members of Michigan State Government, including the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and various senators and representatives that preside over the area where this occurred.  I wrote this letter in late October 2014:

My name is Leslie Rott.  I grew up in Huntington Woods, attended Burton Elementary School, Norup Middle School, and am a 2003 graduate of Berkley High School.  For undergrad, I attended the University of Michigan and majored in sociology and English.  I graduated in 2007.  I then attended the University of Michigan for a graduate degree in sociology, and received my PhD in August 2013.  I made the decision to pursue an additional Masters degree, and am currently a second-year student at Sarah Lawrence College.  I moved to New York from Michigan last August.

On August 11, 2014 (my 29th birthday), as you are well aware, there was terrible flooding in Michigan.  After returning home from celebrating my birthday with my boyfriend, I went on Facebook and saw all of these postings about the flood.  I immediately contacted my mom to see if my family was okay, and she told me that she did not know where my dad, Neal Rott, was.

This was very troubling to hear because it was not like my dad to just disappear.  My dad worked about 45 minutes from home, at Vince & Joes.  Ultimately, my dad was found dead in his car on the afternoon of August 12, 2014.  However, he was not found by the police.  He was found by a man who had noticed the car the night before and was concerned when he still saw it parked on the street the next day. 

The police report states, “Neal was ran on LEIN [Michigan Law Enforcement Information Network], but was not out as a missing person.  I then ran Neal on CLEMIS [Oakland Countys Courts and Law Enforcement Management Information System] which showed Susan Rott made contact with Southfield Police […] to report him missing.”  Its not that my dad hadnt been reported missing.  He had.  Its that he was not entered into the statewide system.  My mom went to every local police department to file a report, and they refused to file it because it had not been 24 to 48 hours that my dad had been missing.

In fact, this 24 to 48 hour waiting period is not enforced in many states.  Why Michigan continues to carry on this almost fictitious requirement is beyond me. 

This blind following of so-called protocol is ridiculous.  Under the circumstances, 1) my dad was never even 15 minutes late, and 2) the severity of the storm, I feel that this warranted an immediate response.

The Southfield Police Department was particularly egregious in this situation.  My mom told me that they lacked compassion or concern.  A Southfield officer came to my parentshouse, knocked on the door, and handed my mom a ripped piece of paper with a phone number on it, and told my mom that she needed to call the Hazel Park Police Department.  The Southfield officer made no effort to stay with my mom or comfort her once the news was delivered.  This is apparently the level of respect that the Southfield Police believe residents of the city deserve.  There is also some concern about why it took nearly five hours between the time my dad was found and the time my mom was notified.

I wrote a letter of complaint to the Southfield Police Department, and Lieutenant Robert Schelide responded to the letter by calling me.  To be honest, I would have rather not received any response at all considering the one I received.

I was told that because my dad was an otherwise healthy 60-something, he did not warrant the departments resources.  To me, it is unconscionable for anyone to tell me that, let alone a law enforcement officer.  And the officer was not referring to the fact that a lot of resources were in use because of the storm, he flat out said that my dad did not warrant the resources because of his age and health status. 

The police are supposed to serve and protect, and on that night they did neither.  We suffered for over 24 hours waiting to hear news about my dad, and ultimately, the news we received was not what we were hoping for.   

Did the lack of response on the part of law enforcement play a role in my dads death?

California has a state law that any missing persons report is filed immediately with no waiting period enforced.  Now tell me, how is it possible that a state as large as California, with 38,332,521 people and 155,779.22 square miles of land, has such a law when Michigan, which has a quarter of the amount of people and a third of land per square mile as California (9,895,622 people and 56,538.90 square miles), does not?

According to the Office of the Attorney General for the State of California, “There is NO waiting period for reporting a person missing. All California police and sheriffs' departments must accept any report, including a report by telephone, of a missing person, including runaways, without delay and will give priority to the handling of the report” ( .

At least five other states, including; Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota, specify that there is no waiting period, delay, or refusal to take a missing persons report on any grounds.  Kansas passed a law in 2013 removing the 24-hour waiting period to enter a person into the missing persons database. 

First, I want justice for my dad.  He deserved so much better.  He was an extremely hard worker and a productive member of society.  To be told that he did not merit the resources of law enforcement is devastating.  Second, I do not want another family in Michigan to have to go through the experience of having to sit idly by or take matters into their own hands because of the failure to act on the part of law enforcement.  

My mom, sister, and my aunt, unbeknownst to me at the time, went out three separate times late on the night of 11th and in the early morning of the 12th, looking for my dad, despite putting their own health and safety at risk.  My dad had reported his last location to my mom as being 14 Mile and Dequindre as of about 7:30 p.m. on the 11th, when he told my mom he was trying to get off the freeway and move to higher ground to wait out the storm.  Ultimately, he did drive further.  My mom believed my dad to be in the parking lot of a school directly off of the main road, but ultimately, he was found several blocks in on a residential area in Hazel Park.   

Along with looking for my dad and attempting to file a report at every local police station, they tracked his credit cards, and they called every local hospital.  They did everything they possibly could, and they received no help in return.

The police also told my mom that between his home in Southfield and his work was too large of a radius to search, and it needed to be narrowed down.  I think 14 Mile Road and Dequindre is rather specific, and law enforcement in those cities know the area better than my mom.   

I am grateful, that despite the fact that my dad died, we did not have to endure additional time of him being missing.  The 24 hours we waited were excruciating, and I cannot imagine how we would have coped with him being missing for a greater length of time or if he had never been found at all. 

It is difficult to put into words what it is like for a family to endure their family member being missing.

This was not a situation where my dad voluntarily went missing. There were extenuating circumstances that made it clear that was not the case.  And it is offensive that the first thought from law enforcement is not how they can help, but that the person is not really missing. 

Some of the states that do not have waiting periods do not discriminate based on whether the person is voluntarily missing or not.  Law enforcement does all they can to locate the missing person.   

I am proposing Neals Law, a law that would remove the 24 to 48 hour waiting period before filing a police report in the state-wide system in Michigan, and that reporting happens immediately. 

Ill never really know if the situation would have turned out differently if the waiting period had not been enforced, but I have to believe that it would have.  And while I will never truly know the exact circumstances surrounding my dads death, one thing is abundantly clear: He deserved better. 

I am counting on you and others with power to please help me speak for my dad now, when no one in any authority would speak for him before. 

To tell a family that their husband, father, son, and brother is not a person who merits finding is really beyond my comprehension.

My parents lived in Huntington Woods for 26 years, then they spent two years in Berkley, and are now living in Southfield.  My grandmother and my aunt live in Oak Park, so I am sending this letter to all of the house and senate representatives from those areas, along with several politicians that I am familiar with and feel would be sympathetic to this cause.  I also lived in Ann Arbor for 10 years, before moving to New York last year, so I am sending it to those representatives, as well. 

So far, State Representative Robert Wittenberg has thrown the most support at this issue, although we have gone backwards and forwards, and I want to make sure that this does not end up dead in the water, which is a really sick phrase when it comes to all of this. 

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