WASHINGTON – By a vote of 15 to 3, the Senate Judiciary Committee today passed the National Blue Alert Act, S. 357, which would create a nationwide alert system to apprehend violent criminals who have injured or killed police officers. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), author of the bill, and cosponsor Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), called the vote an important pledge of support for America’s law enforcement officers. Similar to the successful Amber Alert system, the program would allow for seamless dissemination of critical information about relevant suspects to law enforcement agencies, the public and the media. The measure now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
“The brave men and women who put their lives on the line to protect the public safety deserve every resource available to catch the most dangerous of suspects. I am proud that Maryland has been a leader in the use of the Blue Alert System because it works,” said Senator Cardin. “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. I thank Chairman Leahy for making it a priority to protect those who make sacrifices to protect all of us.”
“The terrible tragedy at the Navy Yard in Washington was a good reminder to all of us of the importance of coordination among police officers and other agencies,” said Senator Leahy. “Because of good communication, law enforcement acted quickly to respond. We should support every state in their efforts to promote the safety of the public and law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day. The National Blue Alert Act will do just that.”
On average, one law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty somewhere in the United States every 53 hours. In 2012, 127 federal, state and local officers killed in the line of duty. Thousands of other law enforcement officers were assaulted while performing their duties – some of whom now live with serious injuries.
The National Blue Alert Act of 2013 (S. 357) has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Association of Police Organizations, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the Concerns of Police Survivors, and the Sergeants Benevolent Association of the New York City Police Department.
The House of Representatives passed identical legislation in May 2013 by a vote of 406 to 2. During the 112th Congress, similar legislation passed the House of Representatives 394-1 and also was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Introduced by Senator Cardin in February, the National Blue Alert Act of 2013 currently has 17 cosponsors including Senator Leahy and Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).
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. In 2008, Florida was the first state to implement a Blue Alert System and since then a total of 18 states have created similar alerts programs (Ala., Calif., Colo., Del., Fla., Ga., Ky., Md., Miss., Mont., Ohio, Okla., SC, Tenn., Tex., Utah, Va., Wash.)