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Ebony Alert becomes law in 2024. Here’s what to know

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News Channel 3
Allie Anthony
December 27, 2023

On January 1, a New California law protecting Black youth will go into effect.

The law creates an emergency alert system, similar to a Silver Alert or an Amber Alert, that aims to help find missing Black youth between the ages of 12 and 25.

According to the bill’s text, the Ebony Alert is “designed to issue and coordinate alerts with respect to Black youth, including young women and girls, who are reported missing under unexplained or suspicious circumstances, at risk, developmentally disabled, or cognitively impaired, or who have been abducted.”

Black people make up 13% of the U.S. population. According to the Black and Missing Foundation, nearly 40% of missing persons cases are people of color.

“Ebony Alert” legislation created by Senator Steven Bradford (CA-35), makes California “the first state to create an alert notification system to address the crisis of missing Black children and young Black women between the ages of 12 and 25.”

In support of the bill, an Assembly Floor Analysis included: “According to the California Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP (CA/HI NAACP), ‘Black women and girls are at increased risk of harm and make up a disproportionate percentage of all missing people. In addition to making up a disproportionate percentage of all missing people and receiving fewer media coverage, Black women and girls are at increased risk of harm.'”

Bradford said at the time of the bill being signed into law, “Our Black children and young women are disproportionately represented on the lists of missing persons. This is heartbreaking and painful for so many families and a public crisis for our entire state. The Ebony Alert can change this.”

A law enforcement agency may request that an Ebony Alert be activated if that agency determines that an Ebony Alert would be an effective tool in the investigation of missing Black youth, including a young woman or girl. The law enforcement agency may consider the following factors to make that determination:

(1) The missing person is between 12 to 25 years of age, inclusive.

(2) The missing person suffers from a mental or physical disability.

(3) The person is missing under circumstances that indicate any of the following:

(A) The missing person’s physical safety may be endangered.

(B) The missing person may be subject to trafficking.

(4) The law enforcement agency determines that the person has gone missing under unexplained or suspicious circumstances.

(5) The law enforcement agency believes that the person is in danger because of age, health, mental or physical disability, or environment or weather conditions, that the person is in the company of a potentially dangerous person, or that there are other factors indicating that the person may be in peril.

(6) The investigating law enforcement agency has utilized available local resources.

(7) There is information available that, if disseminated to the public, could assist in the safe recovery of the missing person.

The new law and alert system are designed to call attention to missing Black youth through media and alerts. The objective is to bring public awareness to missing persons and help identify them. The alert system can use highway signs, television, radio, and social media to spread information about missing Black youth.

Ebony Alerts can be activated by the California Highway Patrol upon request from local law enforcement.

According to a Senate Floor Analysis, “CHP notes the specified criteria are fairly broad and could trigger alerts under many circumstances. To the extent CHP is required to activate more alerts, the public could also become desensitized to the urgent messages conveyed by the alerts.”

This was also noted in Governor Newsom’s message upon signing the bill into law. He wrote, in part:

While I am signing this bill, my Administration has broader concerns that were
clearly expressed to the author throughout the process. The criteria in this bill are
expansive and do not align with the criteria in existing alerts such as the Amber
Alert, Endangered Missing Advisory, Feather Alert and Silver Alert.
Our emergency alert system is dependent on people not being fatigued by it
and thus ignoring it. Our challenge is to achieve balance between the
imperative to notify the public quickly in cases of missing persons or dangerous
situations, but to not desensitize that same public by sending too many

To work towards this balance, I have directed the California Highway Patrol and
the Office of Emergency Services to propose reforms through the budget to
ensure consistency for all of California’s alert programs. I look forward to
working with the Legislature to accomplish this work.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom

Governor Newsom’s message on Senate Bill 673

Photo credit: News Channel 3

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