Policy

Media, Administration Team on Blue Alerts

Goal is to disseminate info on law enforcement threats ASAP, in mold of Amber Alert 5/19/2017 12:58 PM Eastern

The FCC, Department of Justice and broadcasters are getting together on a new National Blue Alert Network, overseen by the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). The FCC is lending a hand by proposing to adopt a new EAS (Emergency Alert System) code for the alert.

The goal is to disseminate information quickly to the police, media and public about a "violent offender" who has "killed, seriously injured, or poses an imminent threat" to law enforcement. There are currently various state plans, but the goal is to unify those efforts in a national framework.

President Donald Trump has been a long and outspoken supporter of law enforcement.

Broadcasters will be integral to spreading the word, as they have with the DOJ's Amber Alerts, which had helped recover more than 800 missing children as of the beginning of 2016.

On hand for the announcement of the national rollout were acting associate attorney general Jesse Panuccio, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, and ICE Acting Director Thomas D. Homan.

Pai said he had formally proposed that the FCC approve a new EAS blue alert code, which would give states and localities the ability to deliver the alerts via cable, broadast and satellite.

He said that proposal would be voted on at the June meeting. He says the proposal also asks whether they should also be delivered via the wireless alert system for phones.

"We have a collective responsibility to protect and serve those who protect and serve us."

Pannucio said the Trump Administration was committed to protecting those who put their lives on the line every day. In February, the President issued an executive order on finding ways to better protect law enforcement. The alerts can be broadcast on radio and television, and delivered to cell phones. He said any delay in capture could result in the death of other officers or civilians.

It is National Police Week (Monday, May 15, 2017 through Sunday, May 21), a point Pai made at this week's public meeting in praising FCC security staff for helping keep them safe. Pai and Republican Michael O'Rielly have been getting threatening Tweets and comments from opponents of their proposal to roll back Title II, an effort that was launched at that public meeting. Those comments have some staffers on edge.

The Amber Alert program got a shout-out this week on the Hill, where the Communications Subcommittee held a hearing on the future of emergency alerts. Subcommittee Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) opened the hearing by saying that "one data point that we all need to celebrate was that the first abducted child to be rescued by an Amber Alert in 1998 is about to graduate from high school."

(Photo via Michael Gil’s Flickr. Image taken on Nov. 7, 2010 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 4x3 aspect ratio.)

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