What is a Blue Alert and how are they applied in Tennessee?

·2 min read

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has been utilizing Blue Alerts since July 1, 2011.

Similar to AMBER Alerts, TBI uses them to "for the rapid dissemination of information to the public to assist in apprehending violent criminals who kill or seriously injure law enforcement officer in the line of duty or to aid in locating a missing officer where foul play is involved."

Blue Alerts are issued by the staff in TBI's Criminal Intelligence Unit.

Though they are able to be utilized, they are not very common. One of the most high profile uses of the alert involved Steven Wiggens, a suspect in the fatal shooting of a Dickson County Sheriff's Office deputy in May 2018.

According to TBI spokesman Josh DeVine, the Wiggens alert was only the second one issued at the time.

There are five criteria that must be met in order for a Blue Alert to be issued:

  • A sworn law enforcement officer is killed, sustains life-threatening injuries or the officer is missing in the line of duty under circumstances warranting concern for the law enforcement officer's safety.

  • The suspect or suspects pose an imminent threat to public safety and law enforcement personnel.

  • A description of the offender or vehicle is available for statewide broadcast to the public and law enforcement 911 centers.

  • Prior to activation, if the suspect or suspects are identified, the requesting agency will immediately place the suspect in the temporary felon file in the National Crime Information Center and obtain felony warrants as soon as possible or within 24 hours.

  • The head of any Tennessee law enforcement agency, Colonel of the Highway Patrol, Chief, Sheriff or their designee of the investigating law enforcement agency of jurisdiction requests the TBI to activate the Blue Alert system.

TBI issued another Blue Alert in 2019 for Curtis Ray Watson, an inmate who escaped from the West Tennessee State Penitentiary.

On Tuesday, TBI issued two Blue Alerts, one for Samuel Q. Edwards after they say he shot at a Hendersonville police officer during a chase in Madison on Monday night, officials said.

"He should be considered armed and very dangerous," the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said in a tweet Tuesday.

A second Blue Alert was issued Tuesday for BJ Brown after an Erin police officer was shot during a traffic stop.

Brown, 32, is facing an attempted first-degree murder charge in connection with the shooting, TBI said.

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This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: What is a Blue Alert in Tennessee and what does it mean?