Vermont Tests ‘Blue Alert' System for Police Emergencies

The system is designed to notify the public of emergencies when members of law enforcement are in danger or have been killed by suspects

The state of Vermont launched a first-ever test of its new Blue Alert system, which is designed to be used only in specific public safety emergencies.

Vermont’s public safety headquarters in Waterbury played host Friday to a trial run of the new system, to be activated on only the darkest days for law enforcement.

Those include instances where an officer could go missing or become gravely injured or killed on duty, and when investigators need tips from the public to find the officer or track down a dangerous suspect who is on the loose.

The Blue Alert emergency notices would be similar to the better-known Amber Alerts.

“The systems are somewhat redundant with each other, and they’re somewhat similar, so all the mechanisms in place during an Amber Alert would also be in place during a Blue Alert as well,” said Sgt. Greg Campbell of the Vermont State Police, one of the state’s Blue Alert administrators.

Vermont is the latest state to adopt a Blue Alert system; more than 30 now have them.

Think back to the 2003 death of VSP Trooper Mike Johnson, who was hit and killed on Interstate 91, trying to stop a drug suspect escaping arrest who ended up fleeing all the way to Pennsylvania.

If that tragedy were to happen today, a Blue Alert would use smartphone notices and tap into the state’s network of highway road signs and lottery machines to spread the word about the runaway driver.

Broadcasters would do their part, too.

“It could be life-saving information,” observed Wendy Mays, the executive director of the Vermont Association of Broadcasters. “Let’s hope we never have to use [a Blue Alert]. But it’s really good that we’re testing it here today.”

The test did detect a few kinks in the system with a technology vendor, according to people participating in the drill. State Police officials in the room said that was exactly why they held the test: to better know how to make a Blue Alert run smoothly, if one ever has to be issued.

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