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California adopts ‘Ebony Alert’ system for missing black youth 12-25 years old

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The Center Square
Kenneth Schrupp
October 11, 2023

California adopted a new “Ebony Alert” program to notify residents of missing Black individuals between the ages of 12 and 25. This “Ebony Alert” program will operate in parallel to the national Amber Alert program for missing minors, and state “Feather Alert” for missing tribal members and “Silver Alert” for missing elderly. “Ebony Alerts” will be spread via electronic highway signs and encourage use of radio, television, social media and other systems.

SB 673, the bill authorizing the new program, notes the alerts would be issued for black individuals in the age range who are “reported missing under unexplained or suspicious circumstances, at risk, developmentally disabled, or cognitively impaired, or who have been abducted.” Because the Amber Alert program is only for minors, this “Ebony Alert” program would effectively expand the use of Amber Alerts to include younger adults as well, albeit only for black individuals.

“Today, California is taking bold and needed action to locate missing Black children and Black women in California. I want to thank the Governor for signing the Ebony Alert into law,” said bill author Sen. Steven Bradford in a statement celebrating the new 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.”

While communications around the bill focus on black children and women, the bill language does not exclude black men from the “Ebony Alert” system. It also does not specify criteria for the term “black.”

The bill did not have any votes against it in the state legislature, though there were a handful of abstentions. Some critics of the new law say that while expanding the alerts system to improve law enforcement effectiveness is a welcome change, the fact that the new law only applies to a single ethnicity and not the population as a whole is a missed opportunity.

“While I support law enforcement directing resources to missing or at-risk youth, we should be protecting and helping all victims, not just those of a particular ethnicity,” said Assemblymember Bill Essayli, R-Woodcrest, who abstained from voting on the bill and whose parents came to the United States after fleeing the civil war in Lebanon.

The new program goes into effect on January 1, 2024.

Photo credit: The Center Square

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