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President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed legislation drafted by Sen. Ben Cardin to create a nationwide alert system to help capture anyone who harms a police officer or makes a credible threat to do so.

The measure is named for Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, the New York City police officers who were killed last year by a man with Maryland ties. Police say Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley killed the officers in December after shooting a former girlfriend in Owings Mills.

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The law, which Cardin introduced in 2010, creates a system similar to the Amber alerts used to locate abducted children. Baltimore County police said last year they tried to alert the New York City Police Department that Brinsley had pledged to kill officers in the area.

"It's important for us not only to honor their memory, it's also important for us to make sure that we do everything we can to help ensure the safety of our police officers when they're in the line of duty," Obama said before signing the bill in the Oval Office.

The blue alert system, he said, "prevents the possibility that other officers may be caught by surprise, and it ensures that appropriate steps can be taken as quickly as possible."

Twenty-two states — including Maryland — have created similar systems, according to Cardin's office. The legislation was altered this year — adding credible threats as a possible cause for activating a blue alert — in response to the killing of Ramos and Liu. Previously the alert would have been activated by the death or injury of an officer.

Cardin attended the bill signing, along with members of the officers' families.

"My hope is that law enforcement officers and their families can take comfort in knowing that with the enactment of the National Blue Alert, the infrastructure soon will be in place for all Americans to play an active role in keeping them — and neighborhoods nationwide — safe from harm," Cardin said in a statement.

"Seamless integration across the broadest audiences can expedite the capture of suspects and reduce the risk of additional victims," he said.

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