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03/13/18
The National Blue Alert Network: What You Need to Know

Blue Alert Network

Up until recently, the only way that a member of the public would know that an officer had been killed or seriously injured was by watching stories on the news – if they even saw it at all.  Meanwhile, involved offenders often had the luxury of time, in a sense, because the only people out looking for them were law enforcement professionals, a smaller group than if the public themselves were involved, of course. 

Now, however, thanks to the efforts of Tom Berry and the Blue Alert Foundation, who have been working on it since 2008, a system is in place which mirrors the functionality of the Amber Alert System when it comes to getting the public’s attention and help when the worst happens.  The national Blue Alert System, signed into law during the last administration and now codified by the FCC into a national standard as part of the Emergency Alert System (EAS), has arrived.  So, what do you need to know, and how can you get the information out to your constituents and others like the local media outlets?

When, How, and Where A Blue Alert Can Happen
There are three circumstances under which a Blue Alert can be sent out, along with a criterion for activation.  All of them require that the suspect involved remains at large.  They are:

  1. A serious injury or death has been sustained by a law enforcement officer in the line of duty, or
  2. An officer is missing in connection with their official duties and there is an indication of serious injury to, or death of the officer, or
  3. An imminent and credible threat has been made by an individual who intends to cause the serious injury or death of a law enforcement officer, and who is wanted by an agency in connection with said threat, and
  4. There is actionable information known about a suspect (name, physical description, vehicle information, etc.)

To send one of these alerts, like how the Amber Alert network is activated, the investigating law enforcement agency of jurisdiction must recommend activation of the Blue Alert to the State Operations Center (the Governors’ Divisions of Emergency Management.)  However, it’s important to understand that the system, while standardized by the FCC, is still subject to state review and legislation for it to be implemented. 

Thus far, 29 states have passed legislation to adopt the Blue Alert system: FL, TX, AL, MD, GA, DE, CA, VA, MS, TN, UT, CO, SC, WA, OH, KY, IN, CT, IL, AZ, KS, ND, ME, MN, MI, OK, NC, and SD. 

Of the remaining states, the following have legislation pending (hint - call your reps): NY, NJ, MA, IA, MT, PA, AK, and NE.  If your state isn’t one of those listed, now would be a really great time to get in touch with your legislature to make them aware of what’s going on.

Making Sure the Program Is Effective in Your Area
If your state has already adopted the program, chances are that an awareness campaign is either planned or already underway when it comes to making the public and news media aware of the nature of the program and its significance. 

Most of the time, however, these campaigns may only run for a specific duration, and may take some time to create and disseminate, and so it’s important to make sure that ongoing awareness is part of your agency’s outreach efforts to the community.  Once the system is active in your area, avoiding confusion and “what is this” reactions by the public could make the difference in apprehending a dangerous suspect quickly, or not at all. 

The good news: there are resources available to help you.  The USDOJ page for the program, located at the link below, has public-facing resources and guidance, including fact sheets, FAQ’s, and more, when it comes to the system – great for putting together an awareness campaign.  More importantly, however there is also law-enforcement-agency-only information repository that you can request access to (through LEEP via the FBI) which compiles pretty much all you would ever need into an easy-to-access dataset.  That link also appears on the page below.  It’s great that we have this system in place now, and while nobody hopes that it ever has to be used, the reality of our society means that when it eventually does come into play, justice and safety will prevail.

USDOJ Blue Alert Page: https://cops.usdoj.gov/bluealert

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About the Blue Alert Foundation
Now that the primary mission of the Blue Alert Foundation is well on its way to completion, and operation of the System has been turned over to federal and state resources, the Foundation has turned its efforts to the ongoing support of law enforcement professionals and their families.  Through raising funds for such programs as a Fallen LEO Memorial Fund, a general fund which helps the families of the fallen, purchasing bullet-resistant vests for K9’s, and more, the Foundation is working to bring support to the families of the fallen, as well as helping to bring critical safety equipment to agencies that would not otherwise be able to afford it.  For more information, please visit their page at http://bluealert.us



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