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Special edition: An alert of a different color

Aug. 13, 2019

Blue Alert Test: 1:10 p.m. Thursday

We’ve all seen AMBER Alerts – those notices that help law enforcement find abducted children with the public’s help. But most people have probably never heard of a Blue Alert. That will change this Thursday, August 15, when we perform a statewide test of the Minnesota Blue Alert System at 1:10 p.m.

When a local, state or federal law enforcement officer is killed or seriously wounded in the line of duty, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) can issue a Blue Alert that includes detailed vehicle information as well as information about the suspect and the circumstances of the incident. It will also include any available photos. That way, if any member of the public sees a vehicle or person matching the description, they can dial 911 as soon as it’s safe to do so and report it. It’s important to remember never to try to apprehend or even approach the subject of a Blue Alert, as they could still be dangerous.

Thursday’s test of the Blue Alert will help you learn what to expect if a real alert gets issued. It will mention all the elements of a real Blue Alert, but will end with “This is only a test of the Minnesota Blue Alert Plan. NO ACTION IS REQUIRED AT THIS TIME.”

The test will be sent out via email, text or fax to the media and Minnesota Crime Alert Network subscribers. Those watching TV or listening to the radio will also hear the test through an Emergency Alert System message. Real alerts will also appear on electronic highway message signs throughout the state – but this won’t happen during the test.

So how do the BCA and the investigating agency decide to send out a Blue Alert? The incident has to meet everything on a list of specific criteria in order for the system to be activated. You can find more detailed criteria here, but in brief, they are:

  • A law enforcement officer has been killed or wounded.
  • The offender poses a serious risk to the public or other officers.
  • A detailed description of the offender’s vehicle must be available.
  • The lead investigating law enforcement agency must request it.

When you see the Blue Alert test on Thursday, take a moment to familiarize yourself with how it looks. That way, when there’s a real Blue Alert, you can potentially save the life of a law enforcement officer, a fellow citizen or yourself.