Cardin touts national Blue Alert legislation -- Gazette.Net


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U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin wants a nationwide alert system to help catch violent criminals who injure or kill police officers and is urging Congress to pass a bill that would put such a system in place.

Cardin introduced legislation establishing a national Blue Alert system in February, and the bill has picked up 13 cosponsors, including Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democratic Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Barbara Boxer of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

“People in law enforcement will tell you they have a certain amount of resources out there, but they need the help of the public in order to act quickly when a crime is committed,” Cardin said Monday. “We need to do a better job in keeping our law enforcement safe.”

Eighteen states, including Maryland, already have Blue Alert systems, which are modeled after the Amber Alert system for missing children and Silver Alert system for missing seniors. The alerts quickly disseminate information about the missing individuals or suspects being sought to law enforcement, the public and media outlets.

Cardin, joined by County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), Rockville Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio and several area law enforcement leaders, urged passage of the bill while visiting Rockville’s police headquarters Monday.

Even if an attack on a police officer is a local incident, a national Blue Alert system would give police an important tool in case a suspect flees across state lines or if someone out of state has information about a suspect, Cardin said.

A person who injures or kills a police officer “is saying that they’re prepared to kill anybody,” Leggett said. “That person needs to be taken off the street as quickly as possible.”

Florida was the first state to establish a Blue Alert system in 2008, and Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) created Maryland’s Blue Alert system by executive order in 2010 after the murder of Maryland State Trooper Wesley Brown outside a restaurant in Forestville.

Officials estimate that a law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty somewhere in the country every 53 hours, and 72 law enforcement officers were feloniously killed while on duty in 2011.

The U.S. House of Representatives could vote on its version of the bill — sponsored by Michael G. Grimm (R) of New York — as early as Tuesday, Cardin said.

dleaderman@gazette.net