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Arizona starts Blue Alert system to catch those who assault police

Gov. Jan Brewer held a symbolic signing of the Blue Alert law on Thursday. The law actually went into effect on July 24. (Governor's Office Photo)

PHOENIX -- Arizona has had the Amber Alert system in place for several years and on Wednesday, the state began the Silver Alert for missing elderly.

Now, get used to the Blue Alert.

Arizona is now one of 20 states to have the system that is designed to quickly arrest anyone who hurts a police officer.

It works much like an Amber Alert. Once an officer is assaulted, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) alerts local media and the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT). The media broadcasts information about the attack and a description of the suspect, while ADOT posts information on freeway message boards, including a description of the suspect's car and a license number.

State Rep. Justin Pierce sponsored the bill that brings the system to Arizona. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer held a "symbolic" signing of the bill on Thursday, but it actually was signed into law on July 24.

There were 2,000 attacks on law enforcement officers reported in Arizona last year. Pierce said that having the Blue Alert makes sense.

"If it's my community where somebody has turned a deadly weapon [on] or killed a law enforcement officer, I'm going to want to know," Pierce said. "I'm going to want my family to know."

He said that when a suspect assaults an officer, everyone in the community is at risk.

"If somebody is willing to turn a deadly weapon on a law enforcement officer or kill a law enforcement officer, they're going to turn that on anybody. There's nobody that's free of that.

"Hopefully this system will save lives and will raise an awareness to hopefully be able to apprehend that person sooner and bring justice to the person who caused harm, and potentially death, to one of our law enforcement officers."

Members of a group called "Concerns of Police Survivors," or COPS, supports the Blue Alert system.

"We know what it's like to have our loved ones killed in the line of duty, never to come home again," said Jan Blaser-Upchurch, the group's president.

She hoped that it will make suspects think twice about hurting a cop.

"Blue Alert is a means to apprehend criminals who seriously injure or kill police officers in the line of duty," said Tom Berry, the Founder of the National Blue Alert System.

Berry said that the system is already working in other states, even after the suspects have crossed into another state.

"We had one in Florida, where three siblings shot at a police officer," said Berry. "They then went to Georgia, robbed a bank, then stole a license plate in Texas and tried to change the identity of their car. They were caught in Colorado because somebody knew about the Blue Alert."

Arizona was the 19th state to implement a Blue Alert system. Kansas followed a short time later and Berry said that Missouri, Maine and several other states are also considering it.

About the Author


Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.

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