AUSTIN (KXAN) — In the wake of the fatal shooting of a San Antonio police officer who suffered a gunshot wound to the head, questions continue about what more can be done to protect law enforcement officers who are targeted in the line of duty.
SAPD Officers Miguel Moreno and Officer Julio Cavazos, both 9-year veterans of the department, were shot Thursday afternoon while patrolling near downtown.
Effective Sept. 1, 2017, Senate Bill 1183 will require statewide Blue Alerts in Texas.
The purpose of the legislation is to assist in the apprehension of someone suspected of injuring or killing a law enforcement officer. The law requires a statewide Blue Alert system be implemented through the Texas Department of Transportation, the governor’s office and other law enforcement agencies.
A Blue Alert gives state and local authorities the ability to send warnings meant to notify a community about imminent threats to police.
“Unfortunately, there are some really bad actors in our communities, all over the country that seek to harm our law enforcement,” said Oscar Rodriguez, the president of the Texas Association of Broadcasters. “Law enforcement can determine when a threat may be moving to a particular community and so, this kind of alert will help ensure that a community where that threat is coming, is aware of the concern, and on the lookout.”
Rodriguez says he believes SB 1183 will make for a more robust program at the state level.
The warnings will be sent out to and then by media outlets over radio, broadcast, cable and satellite networks. The alerts will also be displayed over highway signage to let the public know they need to be on the lookout for the suspect or suspect’s vehicle.
“It would immediately alert other law enforcement agencies, the press, and actually the public, of the suspects on the loose,” explained Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston.
The alerts will also be helpful in helping law enforcement to get any information they can get from the public.
“In everything that we see now, with terrorism and other similar concerns, that whole rule of ‘if you see something, say something,’ is just extraordinarily important,” added Rodriguez. “People are alert. They do notice things, and when they speak up, they very often can make a life-saving difference.”
New efforts could soon be made at the federal level to enhance the Blue Alert system. In May, Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai released a statement proposing to add a Blue Alert option to the nation’s Emergency Alert System, EAS. The proposal is aimed, Pai says, to protect law enforcement officers and make communities safer, nationwide.
“As we have learned from the very successful AMBER Alert initiative for recovering missing children, an informed public can play a vital role in assisting law enforcement,” Chairman Pai said, as quoted in the press release. “By expanding the Emergency Alert System to better support Blue Alerts, we could build on that success – and help protect those in law enforcement who risk their lives each day to protect us.”
That initiative remains underway. It’s not clear at this point, if and when that federal proposal could take effect.
The Blue Alert program in Texas began in 2008 when then-Governor Rick Perry issued an executive order.