PHOENIX – A system to alert the public when a law enforcement officer has been attacked would make communities safer for both residents and officers, according to one lawmaker.
“Someone willing to turn a deadly weapon on a law enforcement officer is willing to turn it on anyone,” said Rep. Justin Pierce, R-Mesa.
Pierce authored HB 2323, which would require the Arizona Department of Public Safety to create a system to issue alerts following an attack in which an officer has been killed, seriously injured or assaulted with a deadly weapon.
The bill cleared the House without opposition and won an endorsement Feb. 25 from the Senate Public Safety Committee.
Pierce said he worked with the Arizona Highway Patrol Association to create a bill that is tailored to ensure the alerts are effective but overwhelming.
Law enforcement agencies could request that DPS issue a Blue Alert if the suspect poses an imminent threat, if a vehicle description or license plate number is available and if public distribution would help prevent further harm or help apprehend the suspect.
Pierce said he isn’t sure whether the alerts would be broadcast or sent to phones like Amber Alerts.
“There are still some technical things to work out,” he said.
Kelsey Lundy, a lobbyist for the Arizona Highway Patrol Association, said during the hearing that the intent is to not oversaturate the public with alerts.
Jan Upchurch, president of the group Arizona Concerns of Police Survivors, which brought the bill to the Arizona Highway Patrol Association, said the change would complement procedures already in place for when officers are harmed.
“We need to have this extra protection to protect our officers so that they know that the citizens of our state can be the extra eyes and ears to help capture those individuals that have harmed them or have killed our officers,” she said during the hearing.
Seventeen other states have such systems, Upchurch said.
Pierce said he hopes that this kind of alert might cause an individual considering attacking a law enforcement officer to think twice.
He also said the alerts would offer protection to all community members by notifying people when there is someone dangerous in their area.
“I would want to know if it was my community,” he said.
When Blue Alerts would apply:
• A law enforcement officer has been killed, seriously injured or assaulted with a deadly weapon.
• The suspect poses an imminent threat.
• The suspect’s vehicle description or license plate number is available.
• Public distribution would help prevent further harm or help apprehend the suspect.