May 19, 2017–FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced today the circulation of a draft notice of proposed rulemaking for consideration at the agency’s June 22 meeting proposing to create a new alert for the Emergency Alert System to help disseminate information when law enforcement officers have been killed or seriously injured, are in imminent danger, or are missing. The Blue Alert “would be used by authorities in states across the country to notify the public through television and radio of threats to law enforcement and to help apprehend dangerous suspects,” the FCC said in a news release.
The NPRM was circulated yesterday. It will be released publicly on June 1, the day other draft items that are “white-copied” for the June 22 meeting are released, according to an FCC spokesman. “As we have learned from the very successful AMBER Alert initiative for recovering missing children, an informed public can play a vital role in assisting law enforcement,” Chairman Pai said in a statement. “By expanding the Emergency Alert System to better support Blue Alerts, we could build on that success – and help protect those in law enforcement who risk their lives each day to protect us.”
“Chairman Pai’s proposal would amend the FCC’s EAS rules by creating a dedicated Blue Alert event code so that state and local authorities have the option to send these warnings to the public through broadcast, cable, satellite, and wireline video providers,” the news release noted.
“We’ll also explore whether a dedicated EAS code can enable the uniform, nationwide delivery of Blue Alerts to the public, as envisioned by the Blue Alert Act,” Mr. Pai said this afternoon at a news conference held to announce the launch of the National Blue Alert Network, which implements legislation signed into law in 2015. “We’ll also ask whether Blue Alerts could be delivered through the complementary, but separate, Wireless Emergency Alert system, which delivers critical warnings and information to your mobile phone. We know that some states have their own Blue Alert programs that use various methods to issue warnings. Our hope is that our rules will spur and support the development of a coordinated nationwide framework that states can adopt.”
“The men and women of law enforcement put their lives on the line to protect and serve the public,” said acting Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio. “The Department of Justice is committed to supporting law enforcement, and the National Blue Alert Network will provide this country with the necessary framework for rapid response to help save lives and apprehend criminals who would attack those who bravely protect public safety.”
“It’s a good day for law enforcement. It’s even a better day for the American communities,” acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas Homan, a 33-year law enforcement veteran, said at today’s news conference.
Twenty-seven states currently have their own Blue Alert plans, Deputy National Blue Alert Coordinator Vince Davenport said at the news conference. “The impetus behind the National Blue Alert Act was to bring some uniformity and some consistency to how these plans operate so that they all would share common guidelines, a common framework, common triggering criteria to actually issue the blue alerts,” said Mr. Davenport, who is based in the Justice Department’s COPS Office.
DoJ has talked with those 27 states “and we’ve made it known to them that through the National Blue Alert Network, we are here to offer recommendations, voluntary recommendations and guidelines, that we think are critical for states to adopt. Again, it’s not mandatory.”
But he stressed that “consistency does matter,” noting that in many situations, “suspects flee from one jurisdiction to the other, and this is where inconsistencies in state plans really create gaps in the overall pursuit of criminals.”
He said DoJ also wants to work with states and tribes that don’t have Bluet Alert plans “to help them develop their own Blue Alert plans that will fit into a national framework.”- Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org