FCC Announces National Roll Out Of Amber Alerts But For Cops

from the how-much-more-do-Blue-Lives-Matter? dept

The FCC has done away with Net Neutrality. In its place, we get videos of Ajit Pai mocking his opponents, served up in a melange of mishandled memes. We also, apparently, get this: a future where our lives are interrupted by push notifications that treat grown-ass police officers like kidnapped children. (h/t That Anonymous Coward)

The Federal Communications Commission today added a new alert option—called a “Blue Alert”—to the nation’s emergency alerting systems. Blue Alerts can be used by state and local authorities to notify the public of threats to law enforcement and to help apprehend dangerous suspects.

Blue Alerts warn the public when there is actionable information related to a law enforcement officer who is missing, seriously injured or killed in the line of duty, or when there is an imminent credible threat to an officer. A Blue Alert could quickly warn you if a violent suspect may be in your community, along with providing instructions on what to do if you spot the suspect and how to stay safe.

Warning people about violent suspects in their area is somewhat useful — a severe weather alert but for crime. But there’s no reason for a system like this to prioritize crimes against police officers. Adding mere threats to the mix just adds a bunch of junk info of nearly no use to the citizens on the receiving end of these alerts. At best, people will clear them from their screen as quickly as they do interloping Amber Alerts. At worst, they’ll decide to play Batman and put themselves and officers at risk by attempting to Do Something.

This is being rolled out nationally, following two years of prep that commenced after the passage of the Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu National Blue Alert Act, named after two NYPD officers who died in an ambush attack. It’s a DOJ initiative, but one that requires the assistance of the FCC to utilize the national Emergency Alert System. The FCC is also there to nudge wireless providers towards compliance with “voluntary” guidelines for pushing these alerts to cell phone users.

At this point, 28 states have already implemented some form of “Blue Alert” system. The national roll out will encompass the remaining states and US territories. That’s what the FCC is announcing: the use of two alert networks to tell people cops are in danger.

Today’s Order provides a 12-month implementation period for Blue Alerts to be delivered over the Emergency Alert System and 18 months for delivery over the Wireless Emergency Alert system.

This bill should never have been made law. There’s nothing out there that suggests distributing this information outside of law enforcement networks will have any net safety benefit for the public. Taking it nationwide only adds to “Alert” market saturation. Cops have strong support systems and plenty of firepower on their side, unlike missing seniors (Silver Alert) or kidnapped children (Amber Alert). And, unlike targeted weather alerts, a Blue Alert offers up almost no information usable by the general public. If a suspect is still on the loose, the most beneficial information is only implicit: cops are searching for a suspect who hurt/killed one of theirs. For citizens in the area, the best option is to shelter in place. That way they (and their vehicles) won’t be mistaken for suspects’ and filled with bullet holes.

In all seriousness, the Blue Alert system only serves one purpose: to elevate law enforcement officers above the people they serve, granting their victimhood a higher status than that granted to their fellow citizens.

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Comments on “FCC Announces National Roll Out Of Amber Alerts But For Cops”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

No, no, the siren says get out of the way. Police used to carry a device for alerting the public to their need for assistance, it was called a whistle. It had the advantage that it alerted those close enough to help, and did not annoy those on the other side of town. Its second advantage,, to make sure it was useful, the police had to be on friendly terms with the majority of the people that they policed, because it was the only way they could summon aid.

McGyver (profile) says:

I thought we buy them guns and radios and other fun stuff so they can take care of that on their own..?
I find this funny, because when you genuinely try to help, most treat you like you are a peasant asshole… In all the times I’ve done my civic duty, I’ve yet to have gotten a simple “thanks”…
I’m filing this one in my “Whatever” folder…

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Blue Alert Syndrome

Why is it that for me the only scenarios that I can imagine where a Blue Alert might be necessary all relate to some misbehavior by the cop(s) involved? (I have relatives and friends in law enforcement that I do care about, so this not about hating all cops).

If they were up to something good, then other cops would be right on top of whatever they were doing. Or, so one would think.

For those cop friendly folks who will object to this post, just how many police assassinations without other cops present have taken place…ever? How about cop kidnappings (as apposed to being taken hostage which is different and would not need any Blue Alerts)?

Also, how much did the city wide alerts in Boston after the marathon bombings actually help? How much did they hurt? What’s the balance? Where’s the balance?

Come to think of it, when is there not "an imminent credible threat to an officer"? They are hired to put themselves in those positions. This is not to suggest that cops should behave recklessly, they should take care, but their job is to face dangers so the general public doesn’t have to. If they don’t like the risks, there are plenty of other rent-a-cops security agencies hiring.

Agammamon says:

Oh this ought to be fun. Right now my own area gets weather alerts from a major city (we’re a tiny little one) 300 miles away because we’re grouped in the same reporting zone. Its really nice to know that there are ‘duststorm conditions in Maricopa County’ at 5 in the morning on a Saturday. Or the perennial ‘burning would is prohibited due to a smog warning in Maricopa County’ that only ever happens on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and never never never any other time of the year.

Now we’ll be getting notifications of ‘potential’ crime threats in Phoenix. That’ll be useful info to have.

Until I turn it off like I did with the weather alerts.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

This looks like the next 2MH step.

This is to announce exciting police incidents, to reveal how good a job the blue line is fighting back the onslaught of crime, and to provide embellishments that justify why the police is beating / gunning down suspects in the area. I would be surprised if the system was not used in a couple of years to post false incidents in order to support our populist tough-on-crime political messaging.

The current administration has already announced that the US crime rate is comparable to Gotham (or Cabot Cove), that we should regard the police as well as we regard Batman, and equip them like the caped crusader as well (or at least like front-line soldiers).

Of course, tough on crime generally means tough on poor people and marginalized groups. since policies labeled as such make rights easier to circumvent, and suspects easier to convict (regardless of actual guilt).

The legal system, at this point, serves mostly to fill prisons with warm bodies. I expect Blue alerts will be used to justify such extreme policy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Amber Alerts exist because children are not able to fend for themselves. We, as adults, have somewhat of a moral obligation to help children in danger. An emergency alert system for severe events, e.g. a natural disaster, wildfire, terrorist attack or something else the public should avoid also makes sense.

But these only work when used sparingly. If you treat every thunderstorm as a hurricane, then when a real hurricane comes along, people will ignore the warning.

The same thing applies here. Start firing off alerts for every little thing and people will ignore them.

Besides, what purpose is a Blue Alert supposed to serve? What is the general public supposed to do about it? The police already have a dispatch system for responding when one of their own is in danger. A Blue Alert could put them in even more danger if crowds of people (or worse, cop haters) decide to get involved.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The reason why Amber Alerts are needed is that children are not able to fend for themselves.

The reason why Amber Alerts are useful is that a member of the public who is aware of the alert and sees something related to the alert can do something which helps resolve the problem – if nothing else, report the sighting to law enforcement.

As far as I can see, no analog to either of these things holds for Blue Alerts and police officers.

Police officers are, generally, able to fend for themselves; if they were not, it would be unreasonable to expect them to also fend for others, as is the basis of their job.

And when a police officer is in a situation which he (or other pronoun) cannot handle alone, the odds that a member of the general public who sees the situation – whether aware of the alert or not – will be able to do anything to help resolve the problem are exceedingly slim. (Not to mention that the general public are generally advised not to get involved in anything that requires the intervention of police officers.)

As such… what useful effect, exactly, is introducing these alerts supposed to have?

Anonymous Coward says:

Nothing New, Just a Tip o' the Hat

“In all seriousness, the Blue Alert system only serves one purpose: to elevate law enforcement officers above the people they serve, granting their victimhood a higher status than that granted to their fellow citizens.”

This doesn’t elevate the LEOs’ statuses – it merely publicly acknowledges a pre-existing condition. Cops always care more about other cops than they do “the littul peepul.” They want to terrorize criminals into avoiding damaging cops at all costs.

TRX (profile) says:

My local town bombs my land line with Amber Alerts and “information notices” about trash pickup, burn bans, and other spam. They have some out-of-state service that uses at least a dozen different numbers, and they’ll wardial the land line every ten minutes until someone picks it up and lets the recording yammer.

So far they’re not doing the cellphones. They get their share of misdials and spam, but not the wardialing.

It is swiftly coming to the point where the phones are more trouble than they’re worth.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

We should not forget that such a “service” was provided to the people of Fallujah, Iraq, in November 2004, just before the US military was sent in with orders to shoot and kill every single man, woman, child, and dog seen in public.

Anyone who thinks that such a “kill em all, let god sort them out” mentality only happens among soldiers in war battlefields should remember that many cops were in fact soldiers on those battlefields (as active-duty or reservists) and took part in the slaughter.

Anonymous Coward says:

When five cops were killed in Dallas by a lone gunman last year, police departments in cities all across the country hunkered down in their bulletproof buildings and stopped patrolling, responding to calls, and everything else police are supposed to do to “serve and protect” the public. Yet despite the extreme paranoia of police, the predicted “open season on cops” that they were sure would happen never took place. It certainly raises the question of who the police really work for if they get to skip work (but still get paid) any time they feel threatened, whether justified or not.

Society would be far better off if police were not constantly being radicalized by exaggerated threats and paranoid predictions to the point where they start seeing everyone as potential enemies that need to be gunned down for their own safety. Of course it’s only a tiny percentage of cops who kill unarmed, innocent people, but it’s still a number that’s much too high, and implementing warning systems (remember those bogus Bush-era color-coded travel “alerts”) will only serve to make things worse.

dickeyrat (profile) says:

Let’s all drop everything to pay all possible assistance to The Police State! Stop everything you’re doing, someone spit at a Cop! If the pigs–I mean, Cops, can’t accept the fact that danger is part of the gig, them let them quit to get jobs as milkmen, or in Trump’s coal mines. I for one almost never watch television, but I don’t look forward to having my cell-phone or anything else disturbed and perturbed by — O No!! — A precious Cop is in some kind of danger somewhere! No shit, Sherlock!

Anonymous Coward says:

From the marketing dept.

This is simply a stunt to promote the Police. A direct feed into peoples phones that tell them exactly what they want you to hear in order to promote cops in the best light possible in every situation.
Cop shoots unarmed citizen? First thing to do is report it in so the alert can go out about a dangerous psycho in the area or a robbery suspect. Then wait 30 minutes and report the “kill” or type in the wrong time in report.
Cops need money?: Send out alert of drug kingpin lookout squad and that they will seize “contraband”… messages that many will not read and that completely ignores that criminals also get them.

It seems to me that this is not a justice system but a justification system for all the crap that is done by law enforcement.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: From the marketing dept.

“This is simply a stunt to promote the Police. A direct feed into peoples phones that tell them exactly what they want you to hear in order to promote cops in the best light possible in every situation.”

Relax. They’re just getting ahead of protesters. This will mostly likely be used to send “We’re watching you motherfucker” notes, when there is civil disobedience going on. Not a big deal.

John85851 (profile) says:

My favorite part

My favorite part of the announcement: “
“Blue Alerts can be used by state and local authorities to notify the public… to help apprehend dangerous suspects.”
So the public gets to help apprehend dangerous suspects? How? People already call in tips so why is a push-alert needed? Or is this telling people that it’s okay to grab your gun and go help the police arrest (or “apprehend”) the person?

Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously says:


This makes perfect sense. The police need to be protected from the public.
Who better to use as a human shield against the public than the public. The public will not lynch itself, after all.
These politicians and this FCC will need all the police-protection it can save now, when the pitchforks hit the streets…

Anonymous Coward says:

Blue Alert = "non-white" people hide from cops

The real reason for this is to warn the ‘non-white’ citizens that a pissed off cop in fear of their life (due to an alert) is now going to shoot them on sight and claim that they were a terrorist…

Taking bets now… how long between the first ‘blue alert’ and the first citizen being shot ‘accidentally’ (who just happens to be a non-white citizen who was unarmed and had no record)?

I say it depends on the size of the city, populatino > 500,000 it will be less than 6 hours, less than that and it could be a whole day before someone gets shot…

Ok, who’s going to setup the ‘blue alert’ roulette website so we can start betting on this crap?

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