Cardin, Graham Introduce Bill to Create a National Blue Alert System to Protect the Public and Help Apprehend Criminals Who Harm or Threaten Law Enforcement Officers
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have introduced legislation (S. 665) that will create a nationwide alert system to apprehend violent criminals who have injured or killed police officers or who have made an imminent or credible threat to the cause serious injury or death of a law enforcement officer. Blue Alerts also could be issued when a suspect is wanted in connection with a law enforcement officer who has gone missing in connection with his or her official duties. Based on the success of the Amber Alerts for missing children, a nationwide Blue Alert system would be used to disseminate critical information to law enforcement agencies, the public and the media.
Each day, more than 900,000 federal, state, and local law enforcement officers put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe. Tragically, sometimes the unthinkable happens and a police officer is seriously injured, killed, or goes missing in the line of duty. In such instances, the rapid dissemination of important critical, time-sensitive information about suspected criminals is essential to keeping our communities safe.
“I want every law enforcement officer in Maryland and across the nation to know that we value their daily courage and sacrifice. If someone is brazen enough to attack one of our law enforcement officers, for the safety of other officers and the community at-large, we need every tool at our disposal to apprehend the individual responsible – even if they cross state lines. Seamless integration across the broadest audiences can reduce the risk of additional victims,” said Senator Cardin. “I am proud that Maryland has been a leader in the use of the Blue Alert System because it works. We should no longer delay putting in place a national alert system that will ensure the speedy apprehension of violent criminals who have injured or killed law enforcement officers.”
“While almost half the states have implemented some form of a Blue Alert system, there is currently no national Blue Alert system to coordinate alerts across multiple states,” said Senator Graham. “There also is not a federal official designated to coordinate the Blue Alert system and share best practices with the states. Our bipartisan legislation enhances and integrates the Blue Alert plan throughout the United States. It will help rapidly disseminate information and notify law enforcement, media, and the public about dangerous criminal suspects. I hope it can soon be passed into law.”
The Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu National Blue Alert Act of 2015 is named in honor of two New York City Police Officers who were assassinated while sitting in their police patrol car in December 2014. U.S. Representatives Dave Reichert (R-Wash.-08) and Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.-06) have introduced companion legislation in the House. Similar legislation has been introduced in previous Congresses, passing the House and the Senate Judiciary Committee, with bipartisan support.
In 2008, Florida was the first state to implement a Blue Alert System and since then a total of 20 states have created similar alerts programs, but there is no national coordination for this voluntary program. In June 2010, Maryland State Trooper Wesley Brown was murdered outside a restaurant in Forestville, MD. Shortly after, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed an executive order creating the Maryland Blue Alert System. South Carolina’s Blue Alert Program was signed into law by Governor Nikki Haley in February 2012.
S. 665, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu National Blue Alert Act of 2015, is strongly supported by the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Association of Police Organizations, the Sergeants Benevolent Association of the New York City Police Department, and many other organizations.
The bipartisan, bicameral legislation being introduced directs the Attorney General to establish a national Blue Alert communications network within the Justice Department to issue Blue Alerts through the initiation, facilitation, and promotion of Blue Alert plans at the federal, state, and local levels.
Blue Alerts can be issued in cases where the suspect is wanted, not yet apprehended, and there is sufficient descriptive information of the suspect involved and any relevant vehicle and tag numbers.
Blue Alerts can be issued in the event of:
- an attack on a law enforcement officers leading to his / her death or serious injury;
- a conclusion a law enforcement office is missing in the line of duty; or
- a confirmation by a law enforcement agency that an imminent and credible threat exists to kill or seriously injure one of its officers.
The legislation would assign an existing DOJ officer to act as the national coordinator of the Blue Alert communications network. This Coordinator will, among other things:
- Provide assistance to State and local governments that are using Blue Alert plans.
- Establish voluntary guidelines for states and local governments to use in developing such plans.
- Develop protocols for efforts to apprehend suspects, including the use of public safety communications and command center operations.
- Work with states to ensure appropriate regional coordination of the network.
- Establish an advisory group to assist all entities involved in the network with the facilitation, promotion, and implementation of Blue Alert plans.
- Act as the nationwide point of contact for the development of the network and the regional coordination of Blue Alerts through the network.
- Determine what procedures and practices are in use for notifying law enforcement and the public of Blue Alerts, and which of the procedures and practices are effective and do not require the expenditure of additional resources to implement.
- Establish guidelines that provide mechanisms to ensure that Blue Alerts comply with all applicable privacy laws and regulations.
- Direct the Coordinator to submit an annual report to Congress on the Coordinator's activities and the effectiveness and status of the Blue Alert plans that are in effect or being developed.
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