Named after the two New York cops who were murdered days before Christmas in 2014, the Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu National Blue Alert Act of 2015 was signed into law by both houses and the president on Tuesday, May 19. The short bill was easily passed.
The bill’s stated intent is to create a nationwide alert system to share immediate information between law enforcement agencies throughout the country whenever law enforcement agents are injured, killed or there are credible threats against officers.
On the law surface it seems quite reasonable. If you are committing fatal acts of aggression against a specific segment of the population, it would be a good idea for that segment to create a network to attempt to stop you from committing murderous acts through education, awareness and information.. Which is exactly what CopBlock.org does, so if nothing else, the new law enforcement resource is a sort of Cop Block for cops. Taken literally, I have no problem with this. I find it is a good policy to rarely take things literally.
I am skeptical that we can completely take the law on its surface. Until it has been dragged through the U.S. Supreme Court, there will be no precedences to give it and definition. The terms are vaguely written, which may be less about simplicity and more an attempt to hide a potentially highly abusable new resource to law enforcement agencies. Depending on how this law is interpreted by courts, its terms could mean a lot of things that aren’t immediately apparent.
First and foremost, the creation of this network and the protocols it requires may be a backdoor into greater control of local police agencies by the federal government. At a time when more choices need to be made by communities from within those communities, adding more federal control and influence via a centralized agency may be a big mistake. Not long ago, government agencies began training local police forces and arming them with war-grade equipment, and the resulting militarization of the police has been a disaster. Although just last week Obama promised to curtail the militarization of police, it may have been merely a change of tactics. After he takes credit for ending the one form of militarization, the federal centralization that emerges from something as seemingly simple as this new law may create a whole new police state monster.
The little vague tidbit that really got me the most curious was right near the end.
“…include standards that specifically provide for the protection of the civil liberties of law enforcement officers and their families.”
I have no idea what that means. It is written in such widely interpretable language that it could mean anything. However, a telling part is the term ‘specifically’. This does not just offer LEO’s the general rights and protections of all citizens, but specific rights and protections. Until that has been interpreted it could just as well mean that if a cop insists that you call him a ‘Police Hero’ and you instead call him a ‘Pork Gyro’, you are infringing on his ‘specific law enforcement rights’ and subject to prosecution beyond protection for the first amendment. I am not saying it will be interpreted that way. I am saying that from where it sits, it could be. They say that truth is stranger than fiction, but neither fiction nor fact can keep pace with legislation.