COLUMBUS, OH— To help kick off National Police Week, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined the wife of a Marion County Sherriff’s deputy who was killed on the job and central Ohio law enforcement leaders, to outline legislation that would create a national “Blue Alert” system aimed at apprehending criminals who injure or kill law enforcement officers serving in the line of duty. With Ohio bordering five other states, a national Blue Alert system would help track down even those criminals who attempt to flee to other states.
“Violence against our law enforcement officers is, unfortunately, an all-too-common occurrence. Every year across America, dozens of law enforcement officers—including, sadly, Deputy Winfield—are killed in the line of duty. Thousands more are injured or assaulted while on the job,” Brown said. “A national Blue Alert system would help track down those who assault law enforcement officers—even if they attempt to flee to a neighboring state. In a state like Ohio, that borders five other states, a national Blue Alert system could mean the difference between capturing an assailant and having him escape.
According to the FBI, 56 law enforcement officers were feloniously killed in the line of duty in the United States in 2010. Law enforcement agencies also reported that 53,469 officers were assaulted while performing their duties in 2010. Under Blue Alert, an offender who has assaulted a law enforcement official in the line of duty – thereby posing a serious risk or threat to the public – would be tracked through a “Blue Alert,” enabling the speedier capture of violent fugitives. Brown was joined by Columbus Police Chief Kimberly Jacobs and Sara Winfield—whose husband, Brandy Winfield, a deputy in the Marion County Sheriff's Department, was shot and killed while on the job in October 2004.
Brown first announced his support for the National Blue Act of 2011 during Police Week in May 2011. In March 2012, Gov. Kasich signed a law creating a Blue Alert System in Ohio. However, without a national system, Ohio – which borders five other states – would still be vulnerable to the most dangerous of criminals. A national “Blue Alert” system would be modeled after the “Amber Alert” system currently used to notify the public about a missing child. The nationwide alert system would be used to disseminate critical information about the suspect to law enforcement agencies, the public and the media. According to C.O.P.S. most statewide “Blue Alert” systems require four general criteria for an alert to be issued. These criteria are:
- A law enforcement officer must have been killed or seriously injured by an offender.
- The investigating law enforcement agency must determine that the offender poses a serious risk or threat to the public and other law enforcement personnel.
- A detailed description of the offender’s vehicle, vehicle tag, or partial tag must be available for broadcast to the public.
- The investigating law enforcement agency of jurisdiction must recommend activation of the Blue Alert to the State Operations Center.
When a Blue Alert is activated, media broadcasts and Department of Transportation messaging signs would be utilized to distribute information identifying a detailed description of the offender, the offender’s vehicle, and license plate information. C.O.P.S. notes that such an alert could help hinder the assailants’ ability to flee the state and might also facilitate a speedier capture of the criminal, helping to eliminate the threat they would pose on other communities and law enforcement personnel. The bill has been endorsed by several law enforcement organizations, including C.O.P.S., the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the National Sherriff’s Association, and the Sergeant’s Benevolent Association.