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Green light: MN House OKs 'Blue Alerts' to catch police attackers

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The Minnesota House Monday overwhelmingly approved a bill to establish a statewide "Blue Alert" notification system that would help capture suspects who attack police officers.

The House voted 129-0 to set up the system, which would operate much like the statewide Amber Alerts that are issued when children go missing, the Associated Press reports. A companion bill is making its way through the state Senate.

The system would be activated if a law enforcement officer were killed or seriously injured and officials believed the perpetrator posed a threat to the public.

Blue Alerts would include descriptions of suspects, their vehicles and license plate information, and would be sent out via TV and radio stations, cellphones, electronic highway signs and other outlets., in hopes that tips from the public would lead to an arrest.

The National Blue Alert Foundation says 21 states now operate Blue Alert systems.

One of the sponsors of the bill, Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, is a retired police officer.

“This gets us a lot of extra eyes and ears,” said Cornish, according to the Forum News Service.

Another police officer in the House, Rep. Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, said the hunt for the suspect who killed Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick in July could have ended more quickly had a Blue Alert been in place.

The manhunt spanned several communities over several hours that day.

“We knew who the suspect was early in the day,” said Schoen, according to the Forum News Service. “This system would have prevented a lot of angst that happened in communities.”

The suspect, Brian Fitch, was arrested that evening after a shootout with police. He was convicted in February of first degree murder in Patrick's death and sentenced to life in prison.

Cornish said the cost of setting up the system would be minimal because it can simply use the same infrastructure as the Amber Alert system.

Minnesota's Amber Alert system has been in place since 2001, and all 28 children who were the subjects of Amber Alerts were found safely, the Forum reports.

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