One day after a jury convicted Brian Fitch Sr. of gunning down Mendota Heights Police Officer Scott Patrick, a Minnesota House Committee signed off on a proposal to create a “Blue Alert” system to catch suspects involved in the slaying or serious injury of cops.
The bill, authored by Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, cleared the House Public Safety Committee Tuesday. It would create the system already active in 20 states, which operates similar to the AMBER Alert system used to locate suspects in child abductions.
If an officer is killed or seriously hurt, alerts over television, radio, text messages, road signs and other broadcast systems would let the public know authorities are on the lookout for a suspect. Because Blue Alert would use the similar AMBER Alert system, implementing it would come at no cost, said Cornish, a retired police officer.
Rep. Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, is a Cottage Grove police officer who was on duty the day Patrick was killed. He said that although interdepartmental communication has improved over time, communicating alerts out to multiple agencies that day was cumbersome. Fitch was arrested several hours later after a shootout with St. Paul Police. Schoen said suspected cop-killers are generally the type who know they’ve sealed their fate, he said, and present an even greater danger to the public.
“A person that takes an officer’s life has really committed themselves to an act that is irreversible and there is virtually no hope left,” he said. “These are not people that we want roaming our streets, going into our schools or having any opportunity to have any more freedom than they do for their last seconds of freedom.”
Rep. Jim Newberger, R-Becker, a paramedic, asked Cornish whether he would consider amending the bill to include EMS providers, firefighters and other first responders killed or critically wounded in roadside hit-and-run incidents.
Cornish said he would to consider it, but would be concerned with oversaturating the Blue Alert system by including multiple dangerous professions, such as Minnesota Department of Transportation workers.
“The more we put on it I worry about the frequency that the system is used and therefore taking away from the unique, once-in-a-while need for this.”
The measure heads next to the House Transportation and Finance Policy Committee.