FLORIDA — Not long after 1 p.m. on Thursday, a Florida Blue Alert was broadcast to residents’ phones and other digital devices on behalf of Volusia County, concerning a manhunt for a suspect who shot a Daytona Beach police officer.

So what is a Blue Alert, exactly? Floridians don't see them that often, and may not know.

What You Need To Know

  • The Daytona Beach Police Department issued a Florida Blue Alert on Thursday afternoon

  • Blue Alerts are issued in critical cases involving a law enforcement officer

  • The FDLE, FDOT and FHP work together to authorize and broadcast Blue Alerts

  • The Florida Blue Alert system has been in place since 2011, but only three have been issued

A Blue Alert is used when Florida law enforcement agencies want to enlist the public’s help in a serious police investigation directly pertaining to an officer, such as when a suspect is on the loose after killing or badly injuring an officer, or when an officer is missing. As an Amber Alert is to a missing child or a Silver Alert is to a missing elderly person, a Blue Alert is to a critical situation regarding a law enforcement officer.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which authorizes Florida Blue Alerts in conjunction with the Florida Highway Patrol and Florida Department of Transportation, lists four criteria that must be met for a Blue Alert to be issued:

  • A law enforcement officer must have been seriously injured, killed by a subject or subjects, or missing in the line of duty “under circumstances causing concern for the law enforcement officer’s safety”

  • The investigating agency has determined that the subject “poses a serious risk to the public or to other law enforcement officers and the alert may help avert further harm or assist in the apprehension of the suspect”

  • There is pertinent and potentially helpful information, such as the description of a subject’s vehicle or license plate number, to broadcast to the public

  • The agency of jurisdiction recommends issuing the alert

In the case of Thursday’s alert, the Daytona Beach Police Department provided the identity of a suspect, Othal Wallace, and a description of the car he might be driving — a gray 2016 Honda CR-V with a California license plate 7TNX532.

The Florida Blue Alert system was created by Governor Rick Scott via executive order in 2011; according to the FDLE, only three have ever been issued since then. Thirty-five other states have Blue Alerts.