Blue Alert to warn public of cop killers on the run

Published: Monday, Oct. 17 2011 6:48 p.m. MDT

SANDY — First there was the Amber Alert to get the public to help look for missing and endangered children.

Now comes the Blue Alert to be used when a person suspected of killing or seriously injuring a law enforcement officer is on the loose.

"This is such a sobering subject," said Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds, who is also head of the Utah Sheriff's Association. "This is something to protect you. This is a way society can give back to you."

Edmunds made his comments before an auditorium full of law enforcers from across the state attending a daylong Amber Alert training conference on Monday.

The Blue Alert will work in the same way as an Amber Alert. It will be activated when an officer is killed or seriously injured and the attacker is still on the run and poses an imminent threat to the public or other law enforcement officers.

Layton Police Chief Terry Keefe, also head of the Utah Police Chiefs Association, said it's an alert that police hope they never have to use. But like the Amber Alert, there will likely be times when it's necessary.

Keefe said he can think of two incidents within the past year that the Blue Alert might have helped: The shooting deaths of Millard County Sheriff's deputy Josie Greathouse Fox and Kane County Sheriff's deputy Brian Harris.

"If we got the information out we might have been able to apprehend those suspects a little earlier," he said.

Law enforcers also stress that if a Blue Alert is issued and someone spots a wanted suspect, the public should not try to engage them.

"If they have motivation to kill a police officer, they're obviously a danger to the community," said Utah Department of Public Safety Commissioner Lance Davenport.

Also Monday, Amber Alert officials announced the Endangered Person Advisory, used for missing children that don't rise to the level of an Amber Alert.

"Everything does not qualify for an Amber Alert, so we need another mode to get the word out," said Elaine Runyan Simmons.

One of this year's speakers at the conference was Simmons, whose 3-year-old daughter was abducted while playing at a park in Sunset in 1982. To this day, no one has ever been arrested. She has since become an advocate for finding missing children. The earliest incarnation of the Amber Alert in Utah was originally called the Rachael Alert, after Simmons' daughter.

She said Monday she believed her daughter's case had gone cold again. But she said she still held out hope that someday it would be solved and justice would be served.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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