ICYMI: Reichert, Pascrell, Cardin, Graham Urge Swift Passage of National Blue Alert System

Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Representatives Dave Reichert (R-Wash.-08) and Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.-09) and U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) joined with members of the law enforcement community Tuesday to urge swift passage of Senate and House bills to create a nationwide alert system to apprehend violent criminals who have injured or killed police officers or who have made an imminent or credible threat to the cause serious injury or death of a law enforcement officer. Modeled after the successful Amber Alerts, this legislation, (S. 665/H.R.1269) The Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu National Blue Alert Act of 2015, is strongly supported by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA), the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), the Sergeants Benevolent Association of the New York City Police Department (SBA) and many other organizations.

“By keeping our law enforcement officers safe, we help keep our communities safe,” said Congressman Reichert. “Creating a National Blue Alert system is a critical step towards achieving that goal. When law enforcement officers are harmed, everything in our power should be done to swiftly apprehend those who harmed them and prevent any further injury or loss of life. Quickly disseminating information to citizens and public safety officers will empower communities and add to the tools at the disposal of law enforcement for keeping America safe.”

“Blue Alert is bipartisan, bicameral legislation to protect law enforcement officers and the public. When a credible threat is made, an officer is injured, or worse; we owe it to law enforcement to help however we can,” said Senator Cardin. “A National Blue Alert system would ensure that citizens across the country can work in concert to help protect those who put their lives on the line to protect us. I’m proud to join law enforcement nationwide and colleagues from both the Senate and the House in calling for the passage, finally, of this important public safety legislation.”

“Last year, we mourned the loss of Jersey City Officer Melvin Santiago, who was killed in the line of duty responding to a gang-related robbery,” stated Congressman Pascrell. “Officer Santiago’s death set off a series of targeted threats against New Jersey police officers from the assailant’s fellow gang members. When threats like this occur, the rapid dissemination of critical, time-sensitive information is essential; and the National Blue Alert System would provide that.”

“While almost half the states have implemented some form of a Blue Alert system, there is currently no national Blue Alert system to coordinate alerts across multiple states. There also is not a federal official designated to coordinate the Blue Alert system and share best practices with the states,” Senator Graham said. “Our bipartisan legislation enhances and integrates the Blue Alert plan throughout the United States.  It will help rapidly disseminate information and notify law enforcement, media, and the public about dangerous criminal suspects.  I hope it can soon be passed into law.”

"As one of the prime sponsors and authors of the Blue Alert Act of 2015, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association looks forward to the swift passage of this bill that will help combat the rise of targeted violence against law enforcement officers and those that seek to attack the American way of life,” said Don Mihalek of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA)

“Make no mistake – law enforcement officers in uniform are the targets of those who want to make a headline by killing a cop,” said Chuck Canterbury, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police. “Officers Ramos and Liu were two of nine officers killed from ambush last year and the attempted murder of two police officers in Ferguson is a stark reminder of the danger these brave officers are in on every shift.”

“Our community in Western Maryland is called the ‘Four State Region’ for good reason: Hagerstown is 10 minutes from Pennsylvania, 10 minutes from West Virginia and 30 minutes from Virginia. We anticipate in our community that anyone who would assault a police officer is going to flee the state, so getting information out to other law enforcement and the public as fast as we can is going to make a real difference in getting these individuals off the streets,” said Chief of Police Mark Holtzman of the Hagerstown Police Department. “One unique things about law enforcement is that if someone wants to harm the police, they don’t care what uniform you wear. Use of a National Blue Alert system will get information out to where it needs to be fast, and use the leverage of the public we serve, to help apprehend these individuals. I believe we will have a much safer community.”

“The SBA is grateful to Representatives Reichert and Pascrell, and Senators Cardin and Graham for their unwavering efforts to pass a national ‘Blue Alert’ Act,” said Vice President Robert Ganley of the Sergeants Benevolent Association of the NYPD.  “We are especially grateful for their willingness to rename this legislation after hero officers Ramos and Liu, and to amend the bill to reduce the odds that such vicious, unprovoked, and calculated attacks against police officers will succeed in the future.  Had such a Blue Alert network been in place last December, it would have increased the likelihood that their murderer could have been stopped before he was able to carry out his cowardly attack.”

"NAPO is grateful to Congressmen Reichert and Pascrell and Senators Cardin and Graham for introducing the Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu National Blue Alert Act of 2015. This important legislation honors two heroes and members of NAPO, NYPD Detectives Ramos and Liu, who dedicated their lives to protecting the public,” said Bill Johnson, Executive Director of the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO). “Passing this bill will ensure the wide dissemination of information on suspects connected with the injury or death of a law enforcement officer, as well as information on credible threats to law enforcement, like the threats posted by the individual who killed Detectives Ramos and Liu. Passing this bill will prevent future tragedies during a time when individuals are increasingly willing to attack law enforcement officers. It is our duty to provide this protection to the men and women who work tirelessly to protect us. We are not going to rest until this legislation is passed."

Blue Alerts can be issued in the event of:

·         an attack on a law enforcement officers leading to his / her death or serious injury;

·         a conclusion a law enforcement office is missing in the line of duty; or

·         a confirmation by a law enforcement agency that an imminent and credible threat exists to kill or seriously injure one of its officers.

The legislation would assign an existing DOJ officer to act as the national coordinator of the Blue Alert communications network. This Coordinator will, among other things:

·         Provide assistance to State and local governments that are using Blue Alert plans.

·         Establish voluntary guidelines for states and local governments to use in developing such plans.

·         Develop protocols for efforts to apprehend suspects, including the use of public safety communications and command center operations.

·         Work with states to ensure appropriate regional coordination of the network.

·         Establish an advisory group to assist all entities involved in the network with the facilitation, promotion, and implementation of Blue Alert plans.

·         Act as the nationwide point of contact for the development of the network and the regional coordination of Blue Alerts through the network.

·         Determine what procedures and practices are in use for notifying law enforcement and the public of Blue Alerts, and which of the procedures and practices are effective and do not require the expenditure of additional resources to implement.

·         Establish guidelines that provide mechanisms to ensure that Blue Alerts comply with all applicable privacy laws and regulations.

·         Direct the Coordinator to submit an annual report to Congress on the Coordinator's activities and the effectiveness and status of the Blue Alert plans that are in effect or being developed.