Bipartisan Bill Would Create National System Modeled on “Amber Alert” System; At Least 11 States—But Not Ohio—Currently Have Statewide “Blue Alert” Systems in Place
CLEVELAND, OH—As National Police Week kicks off—and with nine Cleveland-area police officers killed in the line of duty over the last ten years—U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) held a news conference today to announce a new bill he is cosponsoring 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.
“Every year, dozens of law enforcement officers are killed in the line of duty, with thousands more injured or assaulted while on the job. We can’t prevent every instance of violence against law enforcement officials, but we can do something to track down and apprehend those who engage in these heinous crimes,” Brown said. “We ask so much of our police officers—from investigating violent crimes to patrolling dangerous neighborhoods. It’s time to give back by setting up a means of protecting them and bringing their assailants to justice.”
“This week, during National Police Week, we remember those law enforcement officials whose lives were lost while doing their job—protecting the public. We can and should honor their memory—and perhaps even discourage criminals from committing these crimes in the first place—by establishing a national ‘Blue Alert’ system,” Brown continued.
Brown was joined by Sara Winfield of Marysville, whose husband, Brandy Winfield, a deputy in the Marion County Sheriff's Department, was shot and killed while on the job in October 2004. Retired Sgt. Charles Lane, president of the Greater Cleveland Peace Officers Memorial Society, and members of Cleveland-area police departments also joined Brown to discuss the need for a “Blue Alert” system in Ohio and nationwide. Steve Loomis, president of the Police Patrolmen’s Association, and Brian Betley, acting president of the Cleveland Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 8, attended as well.
According to the FBI, 48 law enforcement officers were feloniously killed in the line of duty in 2009, the last year for which data is available. Law enforcement agencies also reported that 57,268 officers were assaulted while performing their duties.
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 Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), a national nonprofit aimed at assisting surviving families and affected co-workers of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, 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.
At least 11 states— including Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, Maryland, Delaware, Alabama, Florida, California, Georgia, Mississippi, and Virginia—currently have a statewide “Blue Alert” system. Ohio has no such system in place.
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.