Both Candidates Support National Blue Alert System

Former Gov. Romney and President Obama answered a Fraternal Order of Police survey saying they support H.R. 365/S.657, the National Blue Alert Act.

The two major party candidates for president this fall apparently agree on at least one thing: They support bills that would set up a national Blue Alert system through which law enforcement could seek the public's help if a law enforcement officer goes missing, is killed, or is seriously wounded in the line of duty. The Fraternal Order of Police asked former Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama to answer questions about several of its top legislative priorities, and FOP has posted their answers to the questionnaire prepared by the organization's National Legislative Office.

FOP supports the enactment of H.R. 365/S. 657, the “National Blue Alert Act,” which will create such a national alert system, and it asked them whether they would sign it into law. (H.R. 365 already passed the U.S. House of Representatives in May, while S. 657 has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. About 15 states, including California, currently have Blue Alert plans in place, according to the Blue Alert Foundation Inc.)

"I commend the efforts of states who have already taken action to enact “Blue Alert systems to ensure that critical information is quickly and appropriately disseminated to law enforcement agencies when a police officer is injured or killed. I support these state efforts and am willing to consider any legislation designed to achieve similar goals nationwide," Obama answered.

Romney's answer: "I believe the federal government, through the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other resources, should do all it can to assist state and local law enforcement in the location and apprehension of criminals who have assaulted or killed an officer. The Blue Alert concept is based upon the highly effective Amber Alert system, which has rescued over 500 children and apprehended many offenders since the 2003 PROTECT Act reinforced the Amber Alert system at the federal level. Over the last two Congresses, the National Blue Alert Act has been mired in a legislative dispute relating to funding streams and funding levels. Although I understand and respect the different voices and views in this dispute, the reality is that the dispute has been allowed to persist without any resolution due to a lack of leadership from the executive branch. As president, I would ensure that my administration would engage to bring meaningful federal support to the Blue Alert system to help ensure the prompt identification and arrest of those who have harmed or killed law enforcement officers."

The bills would direct the U.S. attorney general to establish a Blue Alert communications network in the Justice Department and to work with states and local governments that are using or developing Blue Alert plans.

The questionnaire also asked the two candidates about the D Block of spectrum designated to create a national public safety broadband network. FOP's survey noted a new entity, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), would be created within the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration and given $7 billion to fund the build-out of the network, but this is less than the original $12 billion proposed to fund the build-out completely. FOP asked what steps they would take to ensure resources to complete the network are provided.

"Effective communication among law enforcement and first responders is critically important during any public safety incident. I will support reasonable and cost-effective proposals to ensure communications interoperability and the development of a national public safety broadband network," Romney answered. "This should be achieved by hearing from all those affected and involved in the issue, not by any lone voices with a narrow agenda that ignores the broader public interest. Further, decisions about the allocation and use of spectrum must be made in a manner that takes into account public safety concerns as well as the economic and other benefits to all Americans provided by telecommunications services."

Obama's answer: "First responders put their lives on the line to protect us every day. They need dedicated bandwidth to communicate with each other, especially in emergency situations when commercial wireless networks are congested. Already, we have made progress. The Recovery Act provided resources to jurisdictions using wireless broadband for public safety. And I have directed federal agencies to enable large swaths of spectrum to be used more efficiently, a goal the National Telecommunications and Information Administration is pursuing. The Payroll Tax Reduction Extension sets aside a portion of the spectrum for a nationwide interoperable public safety broadband network for law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical technicians. This law also invested into research into set aside critical funding for public safety network R&D—funds that will be vital to helping the public safety community build a robust, flexible and innovative network for first responders all around the country. I am committed to continue this progress in my second term."

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