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Politics & Government

Senate To Vote On Amber Alert-Style Notification System For Injured Police Officers

Gov. Tom Wolf
Pennsylvania police officers are recognized by Gov. Tom Wolf for carrying Naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an overdose, on March 1, 2016 in Harrisburg, Pa.

When a child is abducted, millions of Pennsylvanians are asked to help through the Amber Alert system. State Representative Dom Costa, D-Allegheny, is hoping to use a similar system when a police officer is hurt.

Costa’s bill creating an “Officer Down Advisory” system, known as HB-31, was approved by the state House this week and is awaiting action in the Senate.

Costa said in the case of an injured officer, enlisting the help of every citizens is a must.

“Let’s face it, when someone is out there that has harmed an armed police officer, they are an extreme danger to the public and other officers,” Costa said. “So we want to apprehend that person as quickly as possible.”

To make sure the system is not over-used, the legislation calls for all alerts to be approved by state police.

“It’s not going to be somebody punches an officer in the face and he’s at large,” Costa said. “That’s not going to kick in the alert. It’s going to be for the most serious incidents. Serious assaults, death, serious bodily harm.”

Costa said he does not have an estimate as to how often such an alert would be warranted. According to the FBI, an average of 50,000 officers are assaulted while on duty each year.

Costa said while he was writing the legislation he thought to call the alerts, “blue alerts,” but later changed to the more common “officer down,” often heard on TV and movies.

“The alert will come out with a description, hopefully, of a suspect, the suspect vehicle and things like that,” Costa said. “Then you have tens of thousands of eyes out there looking for it.”

A similar bill was approved by the House last year, but did not come up for a vote in the Senate. Costa said he thinks the Senate simply ran out of time to bring up the measure and is optimistic it will pass quickly.