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Obama and Congress Establish Nationwide 'Blue Alert' System for Threats Against Police

The bipartisan legislation — named for two NYPD officers who were murdered in their patrol car in December — will ensure that officers are aware of threats against them as quickly as possible.
Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

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President Obama signed a bill into law on Tuesday that mandates the Justice Department to devise a notification system to quickly relay alerts regarding threats and assaults against police officers to law enforcement authorities across the country. These "Blue Alert" notices are based on the Amber Alert infrastructure that tracks reports of missing and abducted children, and are meant to facilitate the apprehension of suspects.

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The legislation, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, was sparked by the assassinations of two New York Police Department officers in December. The Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu National Blue Alert Act of 2015 is named in their honor, and their families were in the Oval Office to attend the president's signing ceremony.

"They were serving their community with great honor and dedication and courage, and all of New York grieved and all of the nation grieved," Obama said. "It's important for us not only to honor their memory, it's also important for us 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."

Related: In Photos: The Aftermath of the Brooklyn Police Shooting

Ismaaiyl Brinsley gunned down Ramos and Wenjian while the two officers were sitting in their patrol car in Brooklyn on December 20. Brinsley murdered his girlfriend in Baltimore that morning, before heading to New York City. Prior to carrying out the attack on Ramos and Wenjian, he posted threats on Instagram about his plans to kill cops, claiming revenge for last year's police killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson and Staten Island.

Baltimore police were on the case and aware of the threats. They noticed Brinsley's location via social media and called an NYPD precinct in Brooklyn that was in his vicinity shortly before sending a wanted poster of Brinsley via fax. But the fax arrived at the NYPD's crime data center just as Ramos and Wenjian were being shot.

The Blue Alert system will instantaneously relay reports of such threats as they arise and ensure that officers are aware of them as quickly as possible.

Related: Families of Eric Garner and Michael Brown Denounce Killing of NYPD Officers