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Senator Steven Bradford. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Bill Would Create ‘Ebony Alert’ Emergency System For Missing Black Youth

‘What we should do is fix the system we have now’

By Evan Symon, April 4, 2023 12:44 pm

A bill to create a new “Ebony Alert” system to send out emergency notifications in the event of a missing black child or black young woman gained traction this week before a looming Senate Committee vote.

Senate Bill 673, authored by Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), would specifically authorize law enforcement agencies to request the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to activate an “Ebony Alert” for black children and young women between the ages of 12-25 who are reported missing under unexplained or suspicious circumstances. The bill would require the department to activate an Ebony Alert within the appropriate geographical area requested by the investigating law enforcement agency and to assist the agency by disseminating specified alert messages and signs, if the department concurs with the agency that an Ebony Alert would be an effective tool in the investigation of a missing person according to specified factors. These factors include age, if the person was possibly a victim of human trafficking or abduction, if their physical safety is endangered, or if the person suffers from a physical or mental disability.

In addition, SB 673 would encourage news organizations including television, cable, online, radio and social media outlets to cooperate with disseminating the information contained in an Ebony Alert. On the whole, the bill would act much like current Amber Alert system for abducted children and the Silver Alert system for elderly, developmentally, or cognitively-impaired people who have gone missing and are determined to be at-risk.

Senator Bradford wrote the bill due to the high number of black children who are reported as missing, the high number of black children reported as “runaways” that aren’t covered as part of the Amber Alert system, and a high number of sex trafficking victims being black. According to studies cited by Bradford, 38% of children reported missing in the U.S. are black and 40% of all sex trafficking victims are black women, despite the U.S. population only being 14% black.

“The Ebony Alert would ensure that resources and attention are given so we can bring home missing Black women and Black children in the same way we would search for any missing child and missing person,” said Senator Bradford last month in a statement. “When someone who is missing is incorrectly listed as a runaway, they basically vanish a second time. They vanish from the police detectives’ workload. They vanish from the headlines. In many ways, no one even knows they are missing. How can we find someone and bring them home safely when no one is really looking for them.”

Since being introduced last month, the Ebony Alert bill has started to gain support in the Senate. In addition to fellow Senators, many social justice and civil rights groups have backed the bill, citing that the high numbers of missing for African-Americans has prompted the need for the special alert.

“Black women and girls are at increased risk of harm and make up a disproportionate percentage of all missing people. The NAACP California Hawaii State Conference considers missing Black women and girls an epidemic and necessary for its own safety alert.” noted NAACP California Hawaii State Conference President Rick Callender. “SB 673 will create the Ebony Alert, providing law enforcement with additional tools and resources to help locate missing Black youth and adults through cooperation with the community and the CHP.”

The “Ebony Alert” bill proposal

However, while SB 673 does have much support in the state legislature, critics have noted that rather than create an entire new system, the current Amber Alert system in California would simply need too be updated to account for those currently not being covered by the system.

“If the current system isn’t doing the job, you fix the system, you don’t just keep adding more,” Manuel Moreno, a Southern California law enforcement official, told the Globe Tuesday. “We take Amber Alerts very seriously. Everyone’s phone flashes an alert, highway signs put up the information, and print, radio, TV, and social media extensively covers it. More systems mean more to know for the public. People know what Amber alerts are, but there is still a curve on Silver alerts, as we get people asking what they are still. An Ebony alert could do this. Or, even worse, you have racist people out there who might see ‘Ebony Alert’ and promptly ignore it. There are still terrible people like that out in the world.”

“What we should do is fix the system we have now. Black children are being disproportionally listed as missing? Ok, let’s correct the Amber Alert system’s criteria or see what we can do to get more people on there for alerts and find them. Because, ask any cop and pretty much any person. If a child is in danger or kidnapped, we’ll do everything we can to get them back. Even if it is just a driver being on the lookout for a certain car and calling it in.”

Those who have had children gone missing have taken a more nuanced view of the bill.

“You can add an Ebony Alert, or make Amber Alerts bigger to cover more. However you want to do it,” added Angela Thompson, whose niece was abducted and was found thanks to the Amber alert system seven years ago. “Whatever works best in helping more children from disappearing or being taken. No one should go through that. Whichever way helps the most people and finds them safely. If it takes an Ebony Alert to do it, then it does.”

SB 673 is expected to be heard in the Senate Public Safety Committee soon.

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9 thoughts on “Bill Would Create ‘Ebony Alert’ Emergency System For Missing Black Youth

  1. Cannot wait for that Missing White, Asian, Hispanic, etc Alert bills coming soon – equality/equity right?

  2. How about an alert system for all the kids the Democrats are trafficking from south America to pedophiles and pimps all over the country?

    1. Exactly CW.
      Ebony alert sounds very racist to me.

      Is this because when LEO’s need a descriptor of an assailant or victim they are not allowed to say black, asian or hispanic???

      Ever called dispatch and told not to say black? What did they call the shooter in Florida who shot Trayvon Martin, a White Hispanic or something like that. No wonder they can’t solve crimes!!

  3. Segregation is back and going strong. Ebony Alert, can you imagine if a white man suggested this? God Bless our country.

  4. I think these so called “law makers” stay up late at night just thinking of ideas to further divide our country.

  5. And this will be struck down immediately as a violation of the 14th amendment like so many other racist California laws. Why not just make a general missing persons alert system that covers ALL people?

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