Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu National Blue Alert Act of 2015.
Every day, more than 900,000 Federal, State and local law enforcement officers put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe. Unfortunately these officers can become targets for criminals and those seeking to evade our justice system, and we must make sure our officers have all the tools they need to protect themselves and each other.
Each year thousands of law enforcement officers are assaulted while performing their duties and many suffer serious injuries or even lose their lives. In December 2014, New York City Police Department officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were assassinated while sitting in their marked police patrol car in Brooklyn. This legislation is named after those officers in honor of the ultimate sacrifice that they made to serve and protect their fellow citizens.
According to preliminary data compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, law enforcement fatalities in the U.S. rose 24 percent in 2014, reversing what had been two years of dramatic declines in line of duty deaths. The report indicates that 126 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officers were killed in the line of duty this year, compared to 102 in 2013. Ambush-style attacks such as those that took the lives of officers Ramos and Liu were the number one cause of felonious officer deaths for the fifth year in a row. Fifteen officers nationwide were killed in ambush assaults in 2014, matching 2012 for the highest total since 1995.
I thank my original co-sponsors who have joined me in introducing this legislation, including my lead co-sponsor Senator Graham.
The rapid dissemination of critical, time-sensitive information about suspected criminals is essential to keeping our communities safe. This legislation would encourage, enhance, and integrate Blue Alert programs through the United States. The Attorney General would establish a national Blue Alert communications network within the Department of Justice. The Blue Alert system could be used when a law enforcement officer is: (1) seriously injured or killed in the line of duty; (2) missing in connection with the officer’s official duties; or (3) an imminent or credible threat that an individual intends to cause the serious injury of death of a law enforcement officer is received.
The Blue Alert system could be used when the suspect has not been apprehended, and where there is sufficient descriptive information of the suspect and any vehicles involved, if applicable. This information can be used by local law enforcement, the public and the media to help facilitate capture of such offenders and ultimately reduce the risk they pose to our communities and law enforcement officers.
Currently there is no national alert system that provides immediate information to other law enforcement agencies, the media or the public at large. Many states have created a state Blue Alert system in an effort to better inform their local communities. The State of Maryland, under the leadership of former Governor Martin O’Malley, created their Blue Alert system in 2008 after the murder of Maryland State Trooper Wesley Brown. Blue Alert programs have been created in 20 states to date, with a growing number of states considering establishing Blue Alert programs.
The purpose of our National Blue Alert legislation is to keep our law enforcement officers and our communities safe. And based on the success of the AMBER Alert and the SILVER Alert, I believe this BLUE Alert will be equally successful in helping to apprehend criminal suspects who have seriously injured or killed our law enforcement officers.
I am also pleased to say this legislation has the endorsement of 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 law enforcement associations. Passing this legislation can help us live up to our commitment to help better protect those who serve us. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.