'Blue Alerts' could help capture cop shooters in Minnesota

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Think of it as an "Amber Alert" for downed police officers.

Known simply as "Blue Alert," it would send out text messages and notifications for radio, TV, and traffic signs when an officer is killed or wounded, the Star Tribune reports.

Instead of helping find missing children or their abductors (like the Amber alert), the alerts would assist authorities in tracking down suspected police attackers.

Now, a bill that would implement the system is one step closer to a vote in the Minnesota legislature, thanks to a "thumbs up" from the House Public Safety Committee this week.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Tony Cornish, himself a former police officer for more than 30 years, the Winona Daily News reports.

Blue Alerts are already being used in at least 20 other states, and the debate over whether to use them here in Minnesota seems especially timely with the conclusion of a Twin Cities "cop killer" case.

Brian Fitch was convicted Monday night in the July murder of Mendota Heights Police Officer Scott Patrick. Fitch eluded authorities after the shooting and, according to prosecutors, planned to kill as many officers as he could following the incident. He was later wounded in a shootout, and is now facing life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Committee members used the highly publicized Fitch case as an example of how Blue Alerts could help authorities bring in such suspects more quickly, according to WCCO.

MPR notes the bill has at least one more hurdle to clear before it's put to a vote – it'll now go to the House Transportation Committee for further review.

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