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Kalamazoo-area legislators propose active shooter alert system

Capitol Building in Lansing, MI
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Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0
Capitol Building, Lansing, MI

Michigan state representatives are hoping to protect residents in the event of another shooting incident.

Two separate bills, one proposed by Brandt Iden, R-Oshtemo Township, one from Jon Hoadley, D-Kalamazoo, look to implement statewide active shooter alerts, similar to "Amber Alert" notifications.

The proposals come as a response to the shootings in Kalamazoo last month, which left six people dead and two more injured. Jason Dalton is suspected of murdering the victims randomly over the course of several hours while on-duty as an Uber driver.

Hoadley said had the public known about the situation earlier, people would have known to stay home and avoid danger. 

"There was still a significant amount of time between when the mass shooting occurred and when they actually apprehended the subject," he said. "There was a period of time there where even a relatively slow Michigan public state response would have found a way to alert the public." 

Iden said when there's an emergency over the weekend, as was the case with the Kalamazoo incident, people are less likely to be following the news and could use an alert from the police. 

"I will tell you that I was unaware that this was all going on until I got home later on that evening," Iden said. "Had I gotten this alert on my phone I would have been just more alert; you just would have paid more attention."

Hoadley and Iden said the notification systems already exist, with programs like the Integrated Public Alert & Warning System already being used for certain situations. The bill would give police departments access to these networks and allow them to contact the state police, who would send alerts to residents of a threatened area.

Additionally, Hoadley's bill would establish punishments for false notifications. 

Many college campuses alert students by text, call, e-mail or other means if there are active shooters, or other dangers. Western Michigan University, which is located just miles from the site of two of the murders last month, did not send an alert to its students when reports stared coming in.

WMU President John Dunn wrote an open letter apologizing to students, saying "we need to make adjustments in our own procedures."

"Clearly, we failed last night to provide adequate information and updates," he wrote. 

Iden said adding a statewide alert system is an easy way to provide another layer of protection for citizens. He said implementation wouldn't require any appropriations, just political will. 

"We need to put these protocols in place, something that doesn't already exist today, so we have this as another tool in the toolbox for local law enforcement officials," he said.

Hoadley and Iden both said they plan to combine their efforts and craft a single bill that they hope to pass through Lansing. 

This is just the first step for lawmakers looking to protect Michiganders from future shooting incidents, Hoadley and Iden said. Both said they hope to continue discussions with law enforcement about further safety measures.