Sheriff's lieutenant honored as top law enforcement officer - KCTV5 News

Faces of Kansas City: Sheriff's lieutenant honored as top law enforcement officer

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Did you know the nation's top law enforcement officer lives and works right in the metro?

Of all the plaques and awards on the walls of Wyandotte County Sheriff's Department Lieutenant Kelli Bailiff's office one stands above the rest.

"When I got this award I couldn't believe it," she said.

Bailiff was in Washington D.C. earlier this summer being honored as the country's top law enforcement officer for her work with missing children. She's had a hand in solving 428 missing child cases throughout her career.

"And then to have John Walsh stand there and hand me the award and he put together a video about the work I had done. I was almost in tears," Bailiff said.

She considers Walsh, the former host of America's Most Wanted, as her mentor. They share a passion in championing missing children's cases.

She said she remembers solving her first case like it was yesterday.

"That's when I felt that feeling, that each day to find a missing a child and reunite them with their parents was my goal and my passion. And once you do it once, you're hooked," Bailiff said.

In 2001 a national publication featured her work with missing children with this headline: "Nations top child-finder tracks down kids others can't."

Bailiff attributes her pitbull attitude to how she does it.

"I will go to a judge, I will contact Washington D.C., I will get whatever help I can to get that child back and it works, but you must have passion and dedication. You must almost believe these kids are your kids," she said.

But when the unthinkable happens and a missing child is killed, Bailiff allows herself to grieve momentarily.

"Now someone has to be the voice of all the other children who are missing. You couldn't be the voice this time. You did your best, but we couldn't find that child alive and we couldn't be successful, but tomorrow is going to be a different child," she tells herself.

To parents who ask her how to keep their children safe she says having open communication with your child is key.

"For example, if you're watching the news and a story comes on, take an opportunity to sit down and discuss that, be honest with your kids about what happened and explain it. And then ask them, 'if you were in that situation, what would you have done?'" Bailiff said.

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