Michigan may soon adopt Blue Alert system

Posted at 5:51 PM, Oct 02, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-02 17:51:05-04

MICHIGAN -- President Obama signed the Blue Alert Act this past May after two New York City police officers were killed in the line of duty. Since then, 24 states have adopted the law and Michigan could be next.

The Blue Alert system is similar to the Amber Alert system. Instead of missing and endangered children, the system is for law enforcement officers who are killed or seriously injured and when the suspect is still on the run.

“It would hit all the media outlets. It would hit all the cell phones. It would hit the highway, and it would be broadcast immediately so members of the community are aware that there’s somebody at-large," Bob Ott, a detective sergeant with the Ingham County Sheriff's Department told FOX 17.

Ott presented the idea to the Michigan Fraternal Order of Police, who then asked state senator Tonya Schuitmaker to sponsor a bill.

The measure hits home for Ott's department. Ingham County deputy Grant Whitaker was killed in December 2014 after chasing a suspect at high speeds.

“There was a suspect that was at-large, and we had a vehicle description. We even had a video of the vehicle," Ott explained.

Also, Michigan State trooper Paul Butterfield was murdered on the job in September 2013.

"It was several hours before those suspects were even found," Ott recalled.

“[Trooper Butterfiled] had radioed the traffic stop that he was making, had given out a vehicle description and a license plate number, and he was shot and killed on the side of the road and the suspects left the scene," Ott explained.

He said having the 'Blue Alert’ system in place may have led to quicker arrests.

“Certainly if we can get more eyes out looking for a person that’s injured or murdered an officer, that only makes our community safer. I think it’s a great idea for Michigan,” Kent County sheriff Larry Stelma said.

In the last few years, Stelma said technology has advanced greatly, and he said the sharing of information is more prevalent than ever in the law enforcement community.

“Why it took the execution of those two New York officers to actually initiate it, is probably a tragedy," he said.

Ott said one concern raised was the cost to the taxpayer. Schuitmaker tells FOX 17 the cost would be minimal since the Michigan State Police already have the infrastructure in place with the Amber Alert system.

“We feel that somebody that kills or injures a police officer in the line of duty is a danger, and we want to quickly apprehend that person and keep them off the street so they don’t hurt or kill somebody else," he said.

This is moving along in Lansing. Ott said a bill has passed in the Senate and is now before the House criminal justice committee before it heads to the House floor.