H.R. 365: National Blue Alert Act of 2011

H.R. 365

National Blue Alert Act of 2011

Date
May 14, 2012 (112th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Sarah Makin

Floor Situation

On Tuesday, May 15, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 365, the National Blue Alert Act of 2011, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority for approval.  The bill was originally introduced on January 20, 2011, by Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) and was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Bill Summary

H.R. 365 would direct the Attorney General to do the following:

  1. Establish a national Blue Alert communications network within the Department of Justice (DOJ) to disseminate information when a law enforcement officer is seriously injured or killed in the line of duty; and
  2. Would assign a DOJ officer to act as the national coordinator of the Blue Alert communications network.

The bill would outline the duties of the national coordinator, to include encouraging states and local governments to develop additional Blue Alert plans, establish voluntary guidelines for states and local governments to use in developing such plans, develop protocols for efforts to apprehend suspects, and establishan advisory group to assist states, local governments, law enforcement agencies, and other entities in initiating, facilitating, and promoting Blue Alert plans.

The bill would amend the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act to require the use of public safety and community policing grants to assist states in developing and enhancing a Blue Alert plan and communications network.  The bill authorizes the use of existing COPS funding to the states for Blue Alert implementation, and therefore does not increase costs to carry out the program.

Background

According to the Committee on the Judiciary House Report 112-478, the bill would encourage and enhance an integrated Blue Alert communications network throughout the United States in order to disseminate information and speed apprehension of violent criminals when a law enforcement officer is seriously injured or killed in the line of duty.  Blue Alerts would use the same infrastructure as Amber Alerts (missing children) and Silver Alerts (missing seniors).

Each year, hundreds of law enforcement officers are killed or seriously injured in the line of duty.  Despite this, law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day, working long and irregular hours in demanding and dangerous conditions.  These officers run a high risk of being injured or killed by the same criminals that prey on us.  Since 1791, nearly 21,000 law enforcement officers have been killed in the line of duty in the United States.

The Blue Alert system is a cooperative effort among local, state and Federal authorities, law enforcement agencies and the general public. A Blue Alert provides a description of an offender who is still at large and may include a description of the offender's vehicle and license plate information.

The bill would direct the Department of Justice to designate a Blue Alert national coordinator who will encourage states that have not already done so to develop Blue Alert plans and establish voluntary guidelines.

Like Amber Alerts, Blue Alerts help hinder the offender's ability to flee and will facilitate a speedy capture.  However, Blue Alerts further help to eliminate the grave threat which each offender poses to the general public and to law enforcement personnel.

Fourteen states currently have Blue Alert networks in place, and Ohio will implement its network in June.

Cost

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), H.R. 365 would authorize the appropriation of $10 million for each fiscal year for Department of Justice (DOJ) to make grants to states to fund activities that would support participation in the blue alert program.  Grants could be used to develop training and education programs and to improve communications technologies for the new alert program.

Based on the costs of similar activities, CBO estimates that it would cost about $1 million annually for DOJ to establish and administer the new program.