Blue Alerts will alert public when officer is injured, killed
Under a law signed Thursday by Gov. Chris Gregoire, the Washington State Patrol will develop the Blue Alert system that will use radio, television and highway information signs to publicize when a search is under way.
It's intended to operate in the same fashion as the Amber Alert system. which spreads the word when a possible kidnapping of a child has occurred.
"As a trooper on the road, if something happens to me, I would want something broadcast to the public," Washington State Patrol trooper Keith Leary said. "When it comes down to it, with limited officers on the road, hundreds of more sets of eyes are better than a few law enforcement officers."
A series of tragedies provided the momentum to pass the law. It was first introduced in 2011 following murders of four Lakewood police officers and Seattle police officer Timothy Brenton but did not pass.
Efforts to pass it this year stalled until the Feb. 23 slaying of state trooper Tony Radulescu. At that point it sailed through.
"We're very pleased but we're very sad at the same time," said Rep. Mike Hope, R-Lake Stevens, a Seattle police officer who sponsored the bill. "It is truly needed. It's sad it took the deaths of a trooper and the police officers for the Legislature to see this bill was necessary."
The State Patrol and Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs are tasked with setting it up. Lawmakers included $132,000 in the State Patrol budget for its deployment.
What's envisioned is in the event of an attack on an officer, information identifying the offender, the offender's vehicle, and license plate could be broadcast in hopes of impeding a suspect's ability to flee the state.
Washington State Patrol spokesman Robert Calkins said it will be up to each law enforcement agency to decide whether and when to use the Blue Alert system.
"There could be a situation where we wouldn't issue a Blue Alert because we don't want to alert the suspect that we know their identity," Calkins said. "We want to make clear it's a resource and not an expectation."
There could be times it would be an important tool, but making the decision to publicly announce an alert is a matter of timing, he said.
"You get the most benefit if you issue them quickly," he said. "However, that's usually the point in the investigation when you have the least reliable information."
Blue Alert systems now exist in several states including Florida, Texas, Oklahoma and California.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; email@example.com.
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