Local municipal police chiefs welcome the new Blue Alert tool that will notify the public and other law enforcement agencies when an officer has been killed or wounded in the line of duty.
Last week Gov. Eric Greitens signed a law to create a new alert system to quickly identify and lead to the capture of suspects who kill or wound law enforcement officers.
Washington Police Chief Ed Menefee said he supports the system.
“I really think it’s a great idea,” he said “Anything that will help catch guys like this — the more we can get the public involved, the better we are at catching the bad guys. There’s a lot more eyes and ears out there in the public than what we have.”
St. Clair Police Chief Bill Hammack told The Missourian anyone who attacks a police officer potentially is a danger to anyone who crosses their path
“Obviously when we deal with individuals in the public who commit violent acts toward anyone, they’re a danger to the community,” he said.
The system would be activated when a suspect is on the run after shooting a law enforcement officer. The public will be notified by the system.
“If you have someone who will shoot a police officer, that person obviously is extremely dangerous,” Hammack said.
“If this is a system that is similar to the Amber Alert, you’re going to get a lot of information out quickly, which will really assist in the apprehension of these people,” he added.
“If they’re dangerous enough to shoot at law enforcement or kill a police officer, the quicker they can be apprehended the better.”
The law goes into effect Aug. 28, making Missouri the 28th state to have a Blue Alert system.
“These people that are doing stuff like this are a danger to the public,” Menefee said. “Advising the public is a good thing.”
Menefee said Washington police have never had the need for the Blue Alert system in the past.
“Knock on wood,” he said.
Hammack noted he is not aware of any officers that have been shot or killed in the line of duty in St. Clair during his tenure.
“There’s been four occasions when officers have been involved in shootings, but they were not injured,” he commented.
Despite no instances of attacks on officers, Menefee said the general idea is worth backing. He explained building a bond between the community and the police helps solve other cases.
Union Assistant Police Chief Capt. Kyle Kitcher echoed those sentiments.
“It should be a valuable endeavor bringing law enforcement, media and the public together in the event of a law enforcement-related injury or attack,” he said.
The only potential drawback from the alert could be a case of mistaken identity, Menefee said.
“The downside might be that somebody gets the description and mistakes the wrong person for the perpetrator,” he said. “But that’s when they need to be calling police and not taking matters into their own hands.”
Hammack said any effective measure to better fight crime is beneficial to the police.
“Any tools that we can have to help apprehend criminals in a timely fashion is welcomed,” Hammack said.
In addition to the alert system, the law also provides for stiffer penalties for assaults committed against law enforcement officers.
“If you hurt or attack a police officer in Missouri, we’re going to bring you to justice. You are going to prison and not getting out for a long time; it’s simple,” Greitens said during a ceremony to sign the bill.
The measure also adds museums visited by children under 18 to the list of public places where sex offenders are banned.
“I do feel that sex offenders should be banned from museums that cater to children,” Kitcher said.
The law also creates a crime of illegal re-entry. When a person is deported from the U.S. for committing a crime and returns to the country and commits a felony, they also would be guilty of illegal re-entry in Missouri. The offense would be a Class C felony punishable by three to seven years in prison.
Missourian staff writer Elizabeth Barmeier and Karen Butterfield contributed to this story.