A bill that passed both houses of Congress last year without any opposition and got signed by President Obama, the ‘Blue Alert’ law has not been put into operation after 15 months of passage which promoted an outrage and has troubled Congress.
Chuck Grassley, the Committee’s Chairman of the Senate Judiciary, called the delay as “bureaucracy at its worst” when he was stunned by a USA TODAY report that the law still hasn’t been implemented. The bipartisan authors of this law demand an answer from the Justice Department as reported by USA Today.
The law has been stalled even after a dangerous summer of ambush-style attacks — including high-profile cases in Dallas and Baton Rouge that were in apparent retaliation for the police shootings of African-American men.
The “Blue Alert” law was created to provide a system that is intended to prevent and alert authorities about threats against the police. It is the Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu National Blue Alert Act of 2015, which is named for the two New York Police Department officers killed in an ambush attack last December. It is a measure that will require instant nationwide “Blue Alerts” to warn about threats to police officers and help track down the suspects who carry them out. It will give police an early warning of threats against police officers, similar to Amber Alerts for missing children.
When the ambush attack happened a few days before Christmas, 2014., authorities in Maryland knew of a threat the suspect posted online — and even knew he was in Brooklyn — but had no way to alert police in New York. They eventually sent a fax of the suspect’s photo, just a minute before the fatal shooting.
If the national Blue Alert system is implemented, it would give police across the country instantaneous alerts about threats to police officers, missing officers, and suspects in the assault or killing of an officer. Twenty-seven states have their own systems, but there’s no clearinghouse to disseminate alerts across state lines.
In a separate letter to the attorney general, Pascrell and other authors of the law expressed their concern about the lack of progress made in implementing it which is especially troubling in the light of the deadly attacks on law enforcement Dallas, Baton Rouge, and across the country.
Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., who’s also troubled by the Justice Department’s explanation that it took until June of this year to determine which office of the Justice Department should administer the program said the following: “I want to know who dropped the ball, and I want to know as soon as possible. The person who’s responsible for this should be fired.”
However, the Justice Department officials note that Congress didn’t pass any additional funding for the new program, expecting the Justice Department would find the estimated $1 million cost in its existing budget.
Pascrell replied, “If we have to come up with the money — $1 million is already in their budget, for crying out loud. Money is not the reason.”
The law also required the Justice Department to report to Congress on the implementation of the law. The first report which was due in May, is now more than three months overdue, prompting the lawmakers to demand information on the status of the program.
Hopefully, the lawmakers and the Department of Justice can finally come up with a better approach and solution and end these delays.
The Blue Alert Law System can save lives of our law enforcement officers but we first have to get the program up and running.