Vermont is now among 34 states that may at some point see a Blue Alert. Similar to the Amber Alert network which rapidly publicizes a missing children, Blue Alerts are triggered when a broad group of law enforcement officers — from police to judges to Corrections officers — are injured or killed in the line of duty, and a suspect remains at large or a danger to the community.
Vermont State Police Lt. Shawn Loan, who works in the VSP's Vermont Intelligence Center, explained to Vermont Edition that these alerts are part of a national program established by a Congressional act passed in 2015. According to Loan, as Vermont joins the other states in the alert network, it recently carried out its first test of the system.
Loan said that Blue Alerts involve an extensive group of partners.
"The Vermont Blue Alert network is managed by the state police but it has partnerships with the Vermont Intelligence Center, the Vermont Emergency Management, Vermont Lottery, Vermont Association of Broadcasters, Agency of Transportation, U.S. Attorney's Office," Loan said, as well as associations for police chiefs, troopers and sheriffs.
As far as when the Blue Alert system may be triggered, the alert's definition of law enforcement extends beyond just police officers.
"It includes prosecutors, judges, corrections officers, probation and parole — anybody that's involved in the criminal justice system in that way," Loan explained.
Loan clarifies a Blue Alert is also triggered only if a law enforcement officer is the victim; if a suspect is at large after a civilian has been attacked, Loan said there are other means to alert people in those cases.
The Blue Alert is a particular way to allow for national activation with just one code, Loan said.
"It's different than a normal bulletin system," Loan explained. "Because it's run through this network and it reaches farther than normal, like a press release or even VT-ALERT. So it's something that we need to have set up in preparation and hopefully we never have to use, similar to an Amber Alert."
A Blue Alert will not be triggered if a member of law enforcement is injured or killed but the suspect is then taken into custody.
Listen to the full interview above to hear more from Lt. Loan on how Blue Alerts will work and how the public will receive the alert.
Broadcast live on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.