(INDIANAPOLIS) - The state will soon have a new alert system to let the public know when a police officer has been injured or killed.
Alec Gray of TheStatehouseFile.com reports that the new Blue Alert program launches July 1 and will be similar to the Amber Alert, which tells the public when a child has been abducted. The state also uses a Silver Alert when a vulnerable senior goes missing.
The new system is meant to give the public information to help themselves and to help police officers find someone who has injured one of their own.
"We're not sending out the call to arms to have everybody run out of their house to stop somebody," said Rep. Jud McMillan, R-Brookville, who authored the new law. "It's more of a time to make sure that you are secure and your family is safe and know what you should be looking for."
The system will be part of a larger program that was founded in 2008 by Tom Berry, a disabled military veteran in Florida, which became the first state to adopt the program. Berry has been trying to push the laws into place in states across the country.
Texas became the second state to implement the program and lawmakers there dubbed the name Blue Alert.
Now, 17 states, including Indiana, have passed the alert into law and another eight states are considering it. Congress is considering a national system.
Berry said a nationwide would let states work together to catch dangerous people.
To activate the alert system, an incident has to meet four distinct criteria:
- 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 or jurisdiction must recommend activation of the Blue Alert to the State Operations Center.
Once a Blue Alert is called, information on the suspect is sent out to law enforcement, media, message boards, and Blue Alert website subscribers.
Berry said it is extremely important to get the information out quickly so that law enforcement can apprehend the person.
"If there's a threat out there and the guy was willing to kill a law enforcement officer, he's willing to kill you or me," Berry said. "So he becomes a threat to the community at large and that's why they want to get him."
McMillan also said the alerts allow the public to help law enforcement catch these dangerous people.
"If you see that person out there, we're not encouraging everybody to go out there and tackle him, but what we are encouraging is that we get in touch with local law enforcement officers and let them know where they are because an entire community working together can only help to ensure that we apprehend these people quickly," he said.
Sen. Ron Grooms, R-Jeffersonville, was the bill's Senate sponsor.
"It has tremendous benefits with almost no cost," he said. "It shows the respect that law enforcement and the community have for each other."
To sign up for Blue Alerts, you can go to www.bluealert.us and click "Alert Sign-up."
Alec Gray is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.
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