Warner demands meeting with DOJ to discuss lack of progress on Ashanti Alert

mark warner newU.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to the Department of Justice requesting an in-person meeting to get the timeline for the full implementation of the Ashanti Alert system, as required by legislation passed by Sen. Warner and signed into law in December 2018.

In March, Sen. Warner wrote to Attorney General William Barr to request an update on the implementation of the alert system. In response to Sen. Warner’s letter, the DOJ indicated that little progress had been made on the implementation of the federal Ashanti Alert system, with only a program coordinator and internal working group members identified. No timeline for a full implementation was provided. Additionally, in April, Sen. Warner held a press conference with Del. Jay Jones and Ashanti Billie’s family urging the DOJ to move swiftly to implement the Ashanti Alert system.

“I am disheartened that over seven months after being signed into law, I have been unable to get appropriate answers from the Department on the status of implementation, including a briefing from the person who was supposed to be designated as the national coordinator. Thus, I am requesting an in-person meeting this month with key individuals responsible to discuss next steps of the implementation process. At this meeting I would hope to get a detailed timeline of the Department’s plans on the full implementation of the Ashanti Alert communications network,” wrote Sen. Warner.

In the letter, Sen. Warner slammed the DOJ for making little-to-no progress on the Ashanti Alert communication network seven months after it was signed into law.

“President Trump signed into law the Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 (Pub L. 115-401) on December 31, 2019. This law is critical to our nation’s efforts in saving the lives of missing adults. Given the urgency of improving public safety, I am especially frustrated at the Department of Justice’s slow pace of implementation of the law. In April 2018, Virginia passed its own legislation to create an Ashanti Alert network and the first alert was issued in July 2018 – three months after it was signed into law by Governor Northam. While I understand that creating a nationwide alert system is a challenging undertaking, the current lack of progress is concerning and unacceptable. Virginia has led the way in fully implementing this critical alert system in a short period of time and now it is the federal government’s turn to act quickly and efficiently in order to start saving lives on a national level,” continued Sen. Warner.

The Ashanti Alert system is named after Ashanti Billie, the 19-year-old who was abducted in Norfolk, Va. on September 18, 2017. Her body was discovered in North Carolina 11 days after she was first reported missing. Because of Ashanti’s age, she did not meet the criteria for an Amber or Silver Alert – tools utilized by law enforcement that make it easier for the public to assist in locating a missing person. The Ashanti Alert, like the other alert systems, would create a new national communication system to notify the public about missing or endangered adults through radio and television broadcast systems and assist law enforcement in the search.

In today’s letter, Sen. Warner also conveyed his concern that the DOJ has not yet appointed an Ashanti Alert Coordinator – the designee in charge of overseeing federal and state coordination of the system. In his letter, Sen. Warner asks whether a designated national coordinator has been appointed and if not, what is causing the delay.


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