More than 900,000 federal, state and local law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day to protect us and to make our communities safer. Tragically, sometimes the unthinkable happens and a police officer is injured or killed in the line of duty by a violent criminal. In such instances, the quick dissemination of important, time-sensitive information about suspected criminals is essential to keeping our communities safe.
Currently, there is no national alert system that provides immediate information about such tragedies. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I have proposed a national Blue Alert system, similar to the successful Amber Alert system that is used every day to quickly locate abducted children.
My bill, the National Blue Alert Act, S. 3972, would create a nationwide alert system to help apprehend violent criminals who have injured or killed police officers by disseminating critical information about the suspect to law enforcement agencies, the public and the media. My proposal has strong bipartisan support and U.S. Congressman Steny Hoyer (MD-5th) has introduced a similar bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In June, Maryland State Troop Wesley Brown was murdered outside an Applebee’s in Forestville, and Gov. Martin O’Malley signed an executive order establishing the Maryland Blue Alert System. In 2008, Florida was the first state to implement a Blue Alert System and since then Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia and Delaware have all approved similar alerts.
S. 3972 would create a national Blue Alert program within the Department of Justice under the COPS Technology Program. Congress currently authorizes funds for the continued development of technologies and automated systems that help tribal, state and local law enforcement agencies prevent, respond to, and investigate crime.
My legislation, which has been endorsed by both the National and Maryland Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), would redirect $10 million from this program for the creation of Blue Alert plans throughout the United States. It also would direct the Department of Justice to designate a Blue Alert national coordinator who would encourage states to develop Blue Alert plans and establish voluntary guidelines.
Technology provides an important tool in law enforcement and we need to take full advantage of it in apprehending dangerous criminals. A nationwide Blue Alert system will provide police officers and other emergency responders with important information they need to quickly apprehend violent offenders and keep our neighborhoods safe.