All Points Bulletin Winter 2011 : Page 1

A LL P OINTS B ULLETIN VOLUME 21 • NUMBER 4 • WINTER 2011 FLORIDA SHERIFFS FSA Member’s Idea for Blue Alert Law Keeps Deputies Safer Every day, Florida law-enforcement officers go to work with the mission of protecting and serving Florida residents. Last summer, one of those residents decided he wanted to make sure the officers were being protected as well. Chris Schlenker, a 13-year member of the Florida Sheriffs Association living in Palm Harbor, was the driving force behind what is now Florida’s Blue Alert Law. The law, which went into effect October 1, requires the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to issue a statewide “Blue Alert” if a law-enforcement officer is killed, assaulted, missing or has suffered serious injury, and the whereabouts of the suspect are unknown. Much like an Amber Alert (for missing children) or Silver Alert (for missing elderly citizens) the information is transmitted over the statewide emergency communication system. The Blue Alerts notify officers across the state about the suspect, so they are aware of the danger, and if they are in a targeted area can start a search. The notifications also allow citizens to keep an eye out for the suspect and notify authorities if they see anything. The idea for the law came from Schlenker as he was watching a TV news broadcast about a similar law being passed in California. He said he wasn’t sure if such a law existed in Florida. “I have seen the Amber Alerts and Senior Alerts, but I didn’t know if there was one to warn people when an FSA member Christopher Schlenker (second from right) and his sons Ryan, 21, and Kevin, 19, attend Gov. Rick Scott’s ceremonial signing of the Blue Alert bill into law. Also in attendance were State Capitol Police Officers, Florida Highway Patrol Capt. Mark Welch, Kim Marie and State Rep. Peter Nehr. Photo Credit: Office of the Governor officer had been shot or killed and the suspect had gotten away,” Schlenker said. “I just thought the alerts could help. To me, they say, ‘Let’s catch the guy who did this.’” The Blue Alerts also take advantage of having more people simply paying attention, according to Schlenker. “Once the alerts are posted, motorists can keep an eye out for the car and tag number and alert law enforcement if they think there is a match,” he said. “It is just one more tool that Sheriffs now have to allow the eyes of the public to help them. There are only so many officers on the road. All I wanted was to get something in place to help law enforcement.” While a citizen can certainly come up with an idea for a new law, it takes the cooperation of at least one state legislator to embrace the idea, and Schlenker found his in his own district. “I contacted Rep. Peter Nehr about sponsoring the bill, and his staff asked me to get more information on the subject. So that is what I did,” Schlenker said. “I went to the California state website and got all the information I could on it and forwarded it to his office. Not long after that, he contacted me and said he had filed the bill.” House Bill 3, Assault or Battery of a Law Enforcement Officer, and its identical companion, Senate Bill 464, passed both houses unanimously. The Blue Alert Bill was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott and it went into effect October 1. Schlenker was invited by Representative Nehr to attend the ceremonial bill signing in the Governor’s Office. The idea to suggest the bill was more than just a random idea sparked by a passing news story. It was motivated by a lifelong connection to law enforcement and a sincere desire to help officers in a tangible way. “I Continued on page 4 ALL POINTS BULLETIN H WINTER 2011 1

FSA Member's Idea For Blue Alert Law Keeps Deputies Safer

Every day, Florida law-enforcement officers go to work with the mission of protecting and serving Florida residents.Last summer, one of those residents decided he wanted to make sure the officers were being protected as well.<br /> <br /> Chris Schlenker, a 13-year member of the Florida Sheriffs Association living in Palm Harbor, was the driving force behind what is now Florida’s Blue Alert Law.<br /> The law, which went into effect October 1, requires the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to issue a statewide “Blue Alert” if a law-enforcement officer is killed, assaulted, missing or has suffered serious injury, and the whereabouts of the suspect are unknown.<br /> <br /> Much like an Amber Alert (for missing children) or Silver Alert (for missing elderly citizens) the information is transmitted over the statewide emergency communication system.The Blue Alerts notify officers across the state about the suspect, so they are aware of the danger, and if they are in a targeted area can start a search.The notifications also allow citizens to keep an eye out for the suspect and notify authorities if they see anything.<br /> <br /> The idea for the law came from Schlenker as he was watching a TV news broadcast about a similar law being passed in California.He said he wasn’t sure if such a law existed in Florida.<br /> <br /> “I have seen the Amber Alerts and Senior Alerts, but I didn’t know if there was one to warn people when an Officer had been shot or killed and the suspect had gotten away,” Schlenker said.“I just thought the alerts could help. To me, they say, ‘Let’s catch the guy who did this.’”<br /> <br /> The Blue Alerts also take advantage of having more people simply paying attention, according to Schlenker.“Once the alerts are posted, motorists can keep an eye out for the car and tag number and alert law enforcement if they think there is a match,” he said.“It is just one more tool that Sheriffs now have to allow the eyes of the public to help them.There are only so many officers on the road. All I wanted was to get something in place to help law enforcement.”<br /> <br /> While a citizen can certainly come up with an idea for a new law, it takes the cooperation of at least one state legislator to embrace the idea, and Schlenker found his in his own district.<br /> <br /> “I contacted Rep. Peter Nehr About sponsoring the bill, and his staff asked me to get more information on the subject.So that is what I did,” Schlenker said.<br /> “I went to the California state website and got all the information I could on it and forwarded it to his office.Not long after that, he contacted me and said he had filed the bill.”<br /> <br /> House Bill 3, Assault or Battery of a Law Enforcement Officer, and its identical companion, Senate Bill 464, passed both houses unanimously. The Blue Alert Bill was signed into law by Gov.Rick Scott and it went into effect October 1. Schlenker was invited by Representative Nehr to attend the ceremonial bill signing in the Governor’s Office.<br /> <br /> The idea to suggest the bill was more than just a random idea sparked by a passing news story.It was motivated by a lifelong connection to law enforcement and a sincere desire to help officers in a tangible way. <br /> <br /> “I Have always had a love of law enforcement,” Schlenker said.“I applied for the FBI in New Jersey early in my adult life and later served for two years as a Level 1 Auxiliary Florida State Trooper.It has always been in my heart.<br /> <br /> ”That is also a reason he became a member of the Florida Sheriffs Association more than a decade ago.“I appreciate everything the Sheriffs do, not only in their jobs keeping us safe, but also the extra effort they make to support programs like the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches,” Schlenker said.“They are out there helping the kids, and they don’t have to do that. I know that my small donation helps, and I feel good about the ability to support them.”<br /> <br /> FSA President Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson said Sheriffs around the state are grateful that FSA members are looking for ways to get involved and help make the state safer for everyone.<br /> <br /> “Deputies throughout the state dedicate themselves every day to protecting the public and keeping Florida safe,” Johnson said.“We owe it to all of those brave officers to do The same for them. And that was the reason behind passage of the Blue Alert Law.Florida’s Sheriffs and the entire law enforcement community are extremely grateful to the Legislature for passing this law and especially appreciate that the idea came from a member of the Florida Sheriffs Association.<br /> It’s nice to know that our citizens and FSA members are looking out for us.<br /> This law is going to make a difference!”<br /> <br /> In addition to helping law enforcement, Schlenker said this process has been a great reminder to himself, his wife, Jennifer, and the four children they are raising together -- Ryan, 21; Kevin, 19; Alena, 15; and Mia, 4. “When I saw this issue come up on TV combined with my connection to law enforcement, I knew I had the chance to do something,” he said.“It was a great reminder that if you want to do good, don’t wait for the next person. Go do it yourself.”

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