By Alexandra Seltzer | Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
When an off duty Miami Dade Police officer was shot in a robbery in September, law enforcement officers called on the public to help track down the three suspects.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement issued a Blue Alert.
The alert mimics that of the Amber Alert, which is used to help locate missing children, and Silver Alert, which is used to locate missing people who have dementia or Alzheimers.
It notifies nearby residents when a police officer is injured, shot or missing and provides suspect information to help the public aid in the search.
The program went into effect last year. This month however FDLE set up a website for the program and added email alerts.
“We hope it will never be used again. But it does provide law enforcement with another tool when they are looking for someone that meets the criteria of this case,” said FDLE spokesman Keith Kameg. “It’s just one tool but it’s a very good tool because when a scene is breaking, timeliness is everything.”
In the September incident, police arrested the three men the day after the shooting. The officer was treated at a hospital and released.
“We take any assault on anybody very seriously but when you’re talking about the protectors of society, that kind of knocks it up a level,” said FDLE Special Agent Supervisor David Gross.
After an officer is injured, shot or missing, local law enforcement works with FDLE to release suspect information to the media. The information is also issued by way of emergency broadcast system on television or the radio.
And as with the Silver Alert, which is in its fourth year, the Department of Transportation posts information on highway signs so drivers can watch for suspects.
“We wanted to make sure that it had the same formatting and the same visual blast would still captivate the audience enough to read it, and if they could render assistance and say ‘hey that car is right in front of me,’ ” Gross said. “We wanted continuity with the other alert systems.”
To sign up for the Blue Alert: http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/Content/News/Sign-up-for-Florida’s-Blue-Alerts-Email.aspx