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Mr. SMITH of Texas. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Madam Speaker, in 1962, at the request of Congress, President Kennedy proclaimed today as National Peace Officers Memorial Day. Every May 15 we honor our Nation's law enforcement officers who have been killed in the line of duty. Earlier today, on the west front of the Capitol, we honored those officers who were killed last year while protecting us and enforcing the law.
H.R. 365, the National Blue Alert Act of 2012, establishes a nationwide system for distribution of time-sensitive information to help identify a violent suspect when a law enforcement officer is injured or killed in the line of duty.
Each year, hundreds of law enforcement officers are killed or seriously injured in the line of duty. America's law enforcement officers courageously put their lives on the line every day. They often work long and irregular hours in demanding and dangerous conditions. These officers run a high risk of being injured or killed by the same criminals that prey on Americans.
Just last month, in my home State of Texas, an Austin police officer was shot and killed while responding to a call about a drunk man shoplifting at the local Walmart. What seemed to be a routine call turned out to be a dangerous and deadly situation. We cannot bring Officer Padron back, but we can honor his sacrifice by helping to apprehend and bring to justice criminals who harm our men and women in blue.
In 1789, President George Washington appointed America's first law enforcement officers, 13 United States Marshals. Since then, over 21,000 local, State, and Federal law enforcement officers have been killed in the line of duty.
Despite the fact that national crime rates continue to drop, in 2011, 163 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty, a 14 percent increase over the previous year. Unfortunately, criminals are becoming even more violent, and their contempt for law enforcement and the rule of law is more evident than ever.
This bill encourages expansion of an integrated Blue Alert communications network throughout the United States, much like the well-known AMBER Alert system used to locate missing and abducted children. A Blue Alert broadcasts information and speeds apprehension of violent criminals when a law enforcement officer is seriously injured or killed in the line of duty. Blue Alerts use the same principle as AMBER Alerts for missing children and Silver Alerts for missing seniors.
The Blue Alert system is a cooperative effort among local, State, and Federal authorities, law enforcement agencies, and the general public. A Blue Alert provides a description of an offender who is still at large and may include a description of the offender's vehicle and license plate information. Like AMBER Alerts, Blue Alerts will help hinder the offender's ability to escape and will facilitate their capture.
The bill directs the Department of Justice to designate an existing officer as the Blue Alert national coordinator, who will encourage those States that have not already done so to develop Blue Alert plans and establish voluntary guidelines. As of today, 14 States have Blue Alert networks in place, and Ohio will implement its network in June.
An integrated nationwide Blue Alert system ensures that when tragedy strikes, the public is on notice and suspects can be more quickly apprehended and brought to justice. A nationwide Blue Alert network will be particularly effective when a suspect flees across State lines.
I want to thank the gentleman from New York (Mr. Grimm) and Mr. Reichert of Washington for their work on this issue. This is a bipartisan, bicameral bill. Similar legislation was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last September.
Supporters of this legislation include the National Fraternal Order of Police, the National Sheriffs' Association, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, and the Sergeants Benevolent Association.
Too often, criminals in our society have no respect for authority and the rule of law. The goal of the Blue Alert is to immediately notify the entire community to assist in the location and apprehension of violent criminals who injure or kill police officers. This bill reaffirms our determination to ensure the future safety of our law enforcement men and women and the communities they serve to protect every day.
I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan legislation, and I reserve the balance of my time.
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