State Sen. Steven Bradford attends the MedMen Red Jacket Preparation Launch with Brotherhood Crusade in Culver City, Calif., on November 7, 2019. (Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for MedMen)
California will become the first state in the nation to create what’s called an Ebony Alert system beginning next year to help find black youth reported missing under unexplained or suspicious circumstances.
Senate Bill (SB) 673
, authored by Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), passed unanimously through both chambers of the California Legislature, receiving its final approval in the Senate Sept. 14.
“The Ebony Alert will ensure that vital resources and attention are given so we can bring home missing Black children and women in the same way we search for any missing child and missing person,” said Mr. Bradford in a statement
following the governor’s decision to sign the bill. “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.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law Oct. 8, despite having concerns that the bill was too expansive.
“While I am signing this bill, my Administration has broader concerns that were clearly expressed to the author throughout the process,” Mr. Newsom said in a letter
to the Senate after signing SB 673.
The criteria in the bill are expansive and do not align with such for existing alerts for children, Native Americans, and elderly missing people, the governor added.
“Our emergency alert system is dependent on people not being fatigued by it and thus ignoring it,” Mr. Newsom said in the letter.
The governor has directed the California Highway Patrol and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to propose reforms to the law through future budget proposals to ensure all of the state’s programs are consistent, he said.
Under the new law, the state will issue a notification for black youth who are reported missing and are at-risk, developmentally disabled, cognitively impaired, or who have been abducted.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom talks to reporters in the spin room following the FOX Business Republican Primary Debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., on Sept. 27, 2023. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Once enacted on Jan. 1, 2024, the system will authorize law enforcement agencies in the state to request the California Highway Patrol to issue a public alert if it is determined it would help investigators locate the missing person. Once activated, the Ebony Alert would be posted on electronic highway signs to alert the public.
The new law also encourages television, cable, online, radio, and social media outlets to cooperate by publishing the information.
The program is similar to the American’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER) Alert system, which was created in 1996 in Texas as a legacy of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped and murdered. The system was later adopted nationally.
About 39 percent
of people reported missing in the United States in 2022 were people of color, according to the Black and Missing Foundation, a national nonprofit group dedicated to bringing awareness to missing persons of color.
In the United States, 521,705 people
were reported missing in 2021, according to the National Crime Information Center. Of those, about 34 percent
were black. Census data show the black population in the United States is about 14 percent.
Last year, California created a similar program called the “Feather Alert
” system. The public alerts can be used by law enforcement agencies investigating suspicious or unexplained disappearances of indigenous people.
The “historic” bill signing will put a spotlight on black children and young women, according to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) California Hawaii State Conference, a regional chapter of the national civil rights organization that sponsored the legislation.
“Today’s bill signing represents a historic breakthrough, guaranteeing that Black children and young Black women will receive the attention and protection they need when they are reported missing,” said the chapter’s President Rick Callender.