NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Sunday that emergency alerts, such as the one urging cellphone users to be on the lookout for the Chelsea and New Jersey bombing suspect, need to include photos.
Schumer said the public is missing key information.
Early Monday, the city’s Office of Emergency Management used its citywide alert system for the first time to pass on information about a criminal suspect. It included the name of suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami and his age of 28, but advised, “see media for pic.”
“We’re stuck in 1992,” Schumer said. “It’s amazing. Our wireless emergency alert can’t send pictures.”
Schumer said the Federal Communications Commission needs to update the wireless emergency alert system. He said the alert that went out last Monday sent people scrambling to find a photo of Rahami on the internet, 1010 WINS’ Samantha Liebman reported.
“When a terrorist is on the run, a picture’s not only worth a thousand words, but it can save a thousand lives if the right person sees it,” Schumer said.
Schumer is calling on the FCC to finalize proposals made last year that would allow for photos, videos, and more than the current 90 characters allowed in the messages.
“In this era of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, our wireless emergency alert system needs to get as smart as our phones.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has also called for updated alerts, WCBS 880’s Stephanie Colombini reported. Despite praising the system last week, he sent a letter to the FCC asking for improvements.
There were also complaints last week that the alert might amount to profiling. An article on the website Boing Boing complained that the message amounted to a “Muslim hunt,” and said it “encouraged people to treat anyone who looks like he might be named ‘Ahmad Khan Rahami’ with suspicion,” the Boing Boing article by Rob Beschizza said.
“In a country where people are routinely harassed and assaulted for just appearing to be Muslim, this is remarkably ill-advised,” Beschizza wrote.
On “The Brian Lehrer Show” on WNYC radio Friday morning, Mayor de Blasio said the complaint was an “absolute misunderstanding,” and called the use of the alert “very effective” and “very necessary.”
“We had a guy here that we knew was armed and dangerous, who we knew might be capable of other very substantial acts of violence. We had to get everyone’s full attention,” de Blasio said. “We had to get everyone’s full attention. We also knew that the image would be around instantly given the reality of modern communications.”
Rahami, who is suspected in the bombing that left 29 people injured in Chelsea a week ago Saturday night and two other incidents in New Jersey, was apprehended in Elizabeth later in the day this past Monday.