LAYTON -- No law enforcement officer has ever been shot in Layton; however, officers are glad there is now a quick way to notify the public if such an incident occurs.
"We need to be prepared and need to have a mechanism in place to put that information out there, to warn citizens and put the person responsible in custody as soon as we can," said Lt. Quinn Moyes.
Utah has a new tool to quickly catch violent criminals who kill or seriously injure a law enforcement officer.
Officials announced Monday that Utah will now issue a Blue Alert to warn the public if an officer is harmed while on duty. This alert, similar to the Amber Alert for missing or kidnapped children, will notify law enforcement, media and the public by email, text and electronic highway signs.
Layton Police Chief Terry Keefe, who also serves as the Utah Chiefs of Police president, joined Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, Utah Department of Public Safety Commissioner Lance Davenport and Utah Sheriffs' Association President Dave Edmunds to launch Blue Alert at the 2011 statewide Amber Alert training.
"Law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day," said Keefe, who has been actively pursuing a Blue Alert program for Utah. "The Blue Alert will quickly let law enforcement and the public know that an officer is down and a suspect is on the loose."
Two Utah law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty in 2010. Millard County Sheriff's Deputy Josie Greathouse Fox was shot and killed during a traffic stop Jan. 5, 2010. The 37-year-old officer had stopped a vehicle on Highway 50, one mile east of Delta, and was approaching when fired upon with a high-powered rifle. The suspect fled the area. Following a statewide hunt by law enforcement, the suspect was found hiding in a shed in Beaver County.
On Aug. 26, 2010, Kane County Sheriff's Deputy Brian Harris was shot and killed while tracking a burglary suspect in the desert near Fredonia, Ariz. Harris, 41, had begun a foot pursuit of the man in Kane County, but the man fled across the border into Arizona. As Deputy Harris tracked the man's movements, he was fatally struck by rifle fire. A large manhunt was initiated in which the suspect exchanged fire with other officers multiple times.
"We have learned from the Amber Alert how the public can quickly provide important tips and save lives," Shurtleff said. "The Blue Alert will also protect the public and other officers."
In order to justify a Blue Alert, the situation must meet the following criteria:
* Has a law enforcement officer been killed, seriously injured or assaulted with a deadly weapon by the suspect?
* Is the suspect an imminent threat to the public and other law enforcement personnel?
* Is information available for the public about the suspect, the suspect's vehicle and vehicle tag?
* Will public dissemination of available information help avert further harm or accelerate apprehension of the suspect?
"A suspect reckless enough to kill or hurt a police officer will also be a clear threat to everyone else," Davenport said. "The Blue Alert should be taken very seriously."
Utah is now one of 10 states with an alert for fallen officers. Six more states have pending legislation for a Blue Alert.