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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
Every day, men and women in blue leave their homes and families knowing they may face a tragic encounter that could risk or end their life. The Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu National Blue Alert Act, named in honor of two fallen New York City police officers killed in an ambush attack on December 20, 2014, aims to help protect the lives of the men and women who bravely serve in law enforcement.
The act requires the Attorney General to establish a national Blue Alert communications network within the Department of Justice (DOJ). Because of its unwavering commitment to the health, safety, and welfare of the nation’s law enforcement, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) was asked to implement the act. Establishing a Blue Alert Network complements the significant investment in resources and support the COPS Office provides to support and protect our nation’s law enforcement officers from the physical, mental, and emotional hazards they face each and every day.
The Director of the COPS Office serves as the National Blue Alert coordinator. To assist in implementing the act, the coordinator has designated existing COPS Office personnel with significant law enforcement experience as a Blue Alert team and deputy coordinator. This team consists of federal staff with a broad range of expertise.
The COPS Office has achieved significant milestones towards full implementation of the National Blue Alert Network. Notably, we have secured key stakeholders, many of whom helped support passage of the Act. Drawing on our established relationship with the law enforcement community, the COPS Office has brought these stakeholders into an advisory group to assist states, local governments, and other entities with initiating, facilitating, and promoting Blue Alert plans. Currently, the advisory group members include Fraternal Order of Police, National Association of Police Organizations, Blue Alert Foundation, Inc., International Association of Chiefs of Police, National Sheriffs’ Association, National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, Association of Public Safety Communications Officials, National Association of Broadcasters, and First Responder Network Authority.
To meet its statutory requirements to establish voluntary guidelines, the COPS Office, with valuable individual feedback from advisory group members, developed guidance and recommendations to help states and local law enforcement agencies develop or enhance Blue Alert plans and to ensure those plans are compatible with each other. This guidance identifies eight key elements of a Blue Alert plan: (1) activation criteria, (2) requesting alerts, (3) writing effective alerts, (4) geographic scope of alerts, (5) interstate and intrastate coordination of alerts, (6) duration of alerts, (7) officer privacy protection, and (8) suspect apprehension efforts.
To achieve full implementation of the network, the act requires coordination across federal agencies The COPS Office is working with the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Transportation, the Federal Communications Commission, and other DOJ offices to determine the most effective way to deliver alerts to targeted law enforcement personnel within existing infrastructure. As part of this effort, the COPS Office is also working with FirstNet, an independent authority within the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunication and Information Administration, to explore options to streamline communications interoperability between states.
Currently there are 27 states with Blue Alert plans and the COPS Office stands ready to assistance to any state or law enforcement agency wishing to establish or enhance its Blue Alert plan. Upon request, trained COPS Office Blue Alert Team members will review Blue Alert plans and provide feedback to ensure consistency with guiding principles and protocols. A dedicated webpage at https://cops.usdoj.gov/bluealert serves as a centralized resource center.
The rapid dissemination of actionable information through the National Blue Alert Network can save lives and help ensure our officers safely return home to their families. Honored to lead this effort, the COPS Office will continue to bring together representatives from law enforcement agencies, associations, federal agencies, and the research community with the purpose of addressing critical safety issues that impact the law enforcement community.
“Violent attacks on law enforcement officers constitute an assault on the American way of life and require the swiftest of responses by federal, state, and local governments. Blue Alert plans can provide an important framework for quick response.” Vince Davenport, National Blue Alert Deputy Coordinator
Tracie Johnson Farrell
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