A new law named after two New York Police Department officers killed in the line of duty will create a nationwide alert system to warn police about threats to law enforcement.
The Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu National Blue Alert Act of 2015 requires the U.S. Department of Justice to set up a notification system about assaults on police officers, officers who are missing in the line of duty and credible threats against law enforcement.
President Barack Obama signed the legislation into law in May during an Oval Office ceremony attended by Ramos’ widow and two sons, and Liu’s parents. The bill received widespread support in Congress, and was passed in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives by voice vote.
Obama said it was important to honor the two officers and “to make sure that we do everything we can to help ensure the safety of our police officers when they’re in the line of duty.”
Investigators say Ramos and Liu were ambushed and shot in December 2014 by a man who had wounded his girlfriend in Delaware earlier that day and then threatened on social media to kill police officers in retaliation for recent officer-involved shootings.
Officials hope the Blue Alerts will prevent other officers from being caught by surprise and, ultimately, save lives. The system will be modeled after the well-known AMBER Alerts for abducted children and Silver Alerts for missing seniors. AMBER Alerts have been credited with helping save the lives of more than 750 children nationwide, according to the Justice Department, which runs the program.
Enactment of the National Blue Alert Act came just days after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released preliminary data on the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in 2014.
Of the 51 officers killed by offenders last year, 11 died from injuries sustained while answering disturbance calls. Ten were conducting traffic pursuits or stops, eight were killed during ambushes and six were investigating suspicious people or circumstances. Five officers were fatally injured while investigating calls, four were engaged in tactical situations and three were handling people with mental illnesses. Three were slain while attempting arrests and one was killed during a drug-related crime.
The offenders used firearms in 90% of the deaths, the FBI reported.
The number of officers killed feloniously jumped significantly over the 27 deaths reported in 2013, although that was the lowest total in more than three decades. Between 1980 and 2014, an average of 64 law enforcement officers were killed each year.
In addition to the 51 officers killed in felonies last year, 44 law enforcement were killed in automobile wrecks or other accidents.