The House of Representatives today approved a bill to help create a nationwide alert system to identify and apprehend suspects when a law enforcement officer is injured or killed in the line of duty. The National Blue Alert Act of 2012 (H.R. 365) directs the Department of Justice to designate an existing law enforcement officer to serve as the Blue Alert national coordinator to encourage and assist states across the country in establishing Blue Alert plans. The House passed the bill with overwhelming bipartisan support by a vote of 394-1.
Similar to Amber Alerts for missing children, the Blue Alert system is a cooperative effort among local, state, and federal authorities, law enforcement agencies and the general public. A Blue Alert broadcasts information about an offender who is still at large, which may include a description of the offender's vehicle or license plate number, to help speed the suspect's apprehension. So far, 14 states have Blue Alert networks in place, and Ohio will implement its network in June. Texas established a Blue Alert network in 2008.
Congressman Lamar Smith (TX-21), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee which oversees federal law enforcement agencies, managed debate on the House floor and encouraged his colleagues to support the bill.
Chairman Smith: "Each year, hundreds of law enforcement officers are killed or seriously injured in the line of duty. 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.
"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.
"The goal of a 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. A nationwide Blue Alert network will be particularly effective when a suspect flees across state lines. This bill reaffirms our determination to ensure the future safety of our law enforcement men and women and the communities they protect."
Despite the fact that national crime rates continue to drop, 163 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty in 2011, a 14 percent increase over the previous year. Part of Police Week, May 15 is the National Peace Officers Memorial Day.
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.