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Old January 23, 2009, 09:22 PM   #1
TPAW
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Police and protection?

I read a post where someone said that the police are not obligated to protect you. Can anyone refer me to a ruling/court decision on that?
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Old January 23, 2009, 09:56 PM   #2
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There are a couple of fairly famous cases, one is out of DC from about 1985 or so. I am embarrassed that I can neither find my copy of the text file about it, or even recall the name, but someone whose brain is working better than mine is will come up with it.

The story is that three women who lived in an apartment heard two guys breaking in, and called the police. The police came by, saw no sign of forced entry, and left. The two men assaulted the women, who later sued the PD for failing to protect them. Court said that, as sad as it was that they were assaulted, it is not up to the police to provide personal security for any individual citizen, so they lost their lawsuit against the police department.

As I say, someone will post the proper citation (and this time I will not forget the name) - but this case is one of the ones often cited as proof that legally, you are responsible for your own self defense, and the police are not responsible to protect you.

I bet someone has posted it already, I type so slow...
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Old January 23, 2009, 09:59 PM   #3
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The precedent is there I can't site the actual cases but it is the reason why you can't sue the police for failing to prevent a crime against you.
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Old January 24, 2009, 12:46 AM   #4
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Castle Rock v. Gonzales, around 2005, comes to mind.
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Old January 24, 2009, 12:49 AM   #5
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its the job of the police to protect the law, not you.

I'll refrain from personal comments on this.
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Old January 24, 2009, 12:57 AM   #6
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Yep they serve the government not the individual.
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Old January 24, 2009, 01:05 AM   #7
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Warren v Washington D.C. Here's a short summary:

http://gunowners.org/sk0503.htm
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Old January 24, 2009, 07:28 AM   #8
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one sentence from Warren vs DC:

Quote:
the government and it's agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any particular individual citizen
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Old January 24, 2009, 09:00 AM   #9
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I seem to be the dissenting voice within the forum as I understand the court's judgment to be correct. "...the government and it's agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any particular individual citizen". Now.

What I don't understand is how come the complaint was dismissed in light of that in every jurisdiction there is a general negligence statute/case precedent which roughly states that a person who by an act or omission causes damage to another party through fault or negligence shall be obliged to repair the damage so done. This is nothing new under the sun. Same principle applies under Federal Jurisdiction in Civil Rights Litigation - money damages for the alleged violation of Constitutional rights stemming from official acts. Government doesn't act alone but through its agents.

If agents acted in a wanton and negligent manner in the execution of their duties and responsibilities as government officials, the government and the officials (in their personal capacity) should be held liable and responsible for the damages suffered.

I don't know much about case law but thats my 2 cents.
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Old January 24, 2009, 09:55 AM   #10
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Thank you, Sodbuster, Warren was the case I was thinking of.
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Old January 24, 2009, 10:48 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maromero
If agents acted in a wanton and negligent manner in the execution of their duties and responsibilities as government officials, the government and the officials (in their personal capacity) should be held liable and responsible for the damages suffered.
However, if there is no duty to protect the private citizen (and there just isn't), then there is no negligence in the performance of their duties.

That's the flaw in that line of reasoning.
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Old January 24, 2009, 10:52 AM   #12
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Old January 24, 2009, 11:20 AM   #13
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"However, if there is no duty to protect the private citizen (and there just isn't), then there is no negligence in the performance of their duties.

That's the flaw in that line of reasoning."

I was thinking about that myself after posting but I believe that "no duty to protect a particular private citizen" doesn't automatically equate to no negligence in performing their duties, not to protect a particular citizen per SE but their actions according to their training in particular situations vis a vis their particular conduct in handling the actual situation. The example of the dispatcher announcing the incident with the wrong code is an example, the cops actions in attending the call vis a vis what the officer's training and regulations dictates.

For example, if a robbery in progress (or whatever the code is) is announced over the radio, regulations dictate a cop to act in such and such ways to ensure bla, bla, bla and the cops just drove by looking out the window. Such actions do not constitute an infraction of the duty to protect a particular citizen (which we agree does not exist) but an infraction to the statutes, regulations and rules which govern the officer's actions in a particular situation.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
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Old January 24, 2009, 11:41 AM   #14
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I think the biggest problem is the general feeling of the public. Seems to me that most people have the misconception that law inforcement's purpose is to serve and protect them. How many people were taught at a young age that the cops "are here to protect you"? These court cases seem actually finish the sentence "to serve and protect the courts". I think if more people knew the true purpose law inforcement, they would see things differently, especially issues regarding concealed cary, and civil rights in regards to an arrest.

I find it strange that firefighters and EMT's have been fired, and in some cases, sued in the past for failing to save or protect life. Is this an unfair double standard?
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Old January 24, 2009, 12:37 PM   #15
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Quote:
I think the biggest problem is the general feeling of the public. Seems to me that most people have the misconception that law inforcement's purpose is to serve and protect them.
As well as politicians that promote weapon bans. Cops are not there to protect particularly you within the society but the government will make it hard or even illegal for you to legaly protect yourself.
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Old January 25, 2009, 06:44 AM   #16
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Don't some police departments have "To serve and protect" written on the side of their police cars?

Does all this reasoning also apply to fire departments?

I think part of the problem may be big cityness. It is easy to not know people, ironically, even though you are surrounded by so many people. People feel no obligation to help other people. Obviously, people help one another all the time, sometimes as risk of their own lives, even for strangers, and firemen are well known for doing that. But that's their job. Same for the police.

Do the police ever walk a beat anymore? I think you ought to get to know the local policeman real well, same as the guys at the gas station, everyone at your bank (where you want to be well known) and your next door neighbors for good measure. But the city and suburbs, perhaps everywhere but the small town like I grew up in seems a little too big for that.

I used to work for a savings and loan in D.C. way back when there were savings and loans. A policeman who seemed like someone out of Car 54 would escort someone walking to the bank (a savings & loan was not a bank) a block away to the old National Savings & Trust, one block from the White House. But I guess times have changed. Still, there is always a danger of taking one incident and thinking that happens all the time, everywhere.
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Old January 28, 2009, 12:50 AM   #17
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Police have only one job...

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Old January 28, 2009, 03:01 AM   #18
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Old January 28, 2009, 03:22 AM   #19
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I can't cite cases, sorry...

But the general rule is that the police have a duty to the general public, and not to any specific individual. You can't sue the police dept for failing to protect you. (you can, but it will go nowhere). Under certain conditions, you might have a case against individual police officers, but against the general dept, no.
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Old January 28, 2009, 04:57 AM   #20
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I can't cite any court cases, but I can refer you to the hilarity that ensued when a few years ago I survived a home invasion, and subsequently asked the detectives what protection I could expect from the police in the future. With very lighthearted but bone-chilling matter-of-factness they informed me, between bouts of laughter, that any such protection was not part of their job description. This particular conversation is a big part of the reason that I frequent this forum, and contributed to my understanding of one of the aspects of the rights granted under the 2nd amendment.

Quote:
Don't some police departments have "To serve and protect" written on the side of their police cars?
That little jewel of disinformation gives the populace a false impression of the duties of the police and in a better world would be painted over on each and every police vehicle. If there ever was a time that it was true, that time has passed, and it probably persists as a mechanism for police chiefs to discourage the citizenry from availing themselves of their 2nd amendment rights.
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Old January 28, 2009, 08:45 AM   #21
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I mentioned in another thread about carry in national parks that the National Park Service plainly states (on their various web sites) that you are pretty much on your own in the back country. You are responsible for your own safety. They go on to state a few common sense things to keep in mind when you are more than a few feet from the road and in some places, it is perfectly legal to be armed, and probably expected. You could probably say the same thing about national forests, which are under a completely different department and have a completely different attitude about everything.

I haven't checked any police department web site, so I don't know what they officially have to say about the subject. I doubt that what any given policeman would say, if anything, is likely to be 100 percent official. But I think there is a larger issue here that no one has mentioned.

Lots of people here worry about the government, whichever THE goverment it is, taking over and eliminating all personal rights. That may be but I think another problem is that government is sometimes avoiding its own responsibilities to the citizens. This happens for various reasons, one of which is the dislike of citizens (and non-citizens, for that matter) for paying taxes. Taxes are what makes the government run. When we start doing things on the cheap, bridges fall down and the police become scarce. Or they start selling the roads, which has happened, and in effect, privatizing government services.

People have rights, government has power but we all have obligations; to our neighbors, our community and to the nation, and in some cases, especially in the south, to the state. I hope none of these obligations ever conflict. But if all we talk about are rights and powers, we can in some ways become a burden.

Ultimately, if the police are not protecting and serving, then you need to become an activist, a word a lot of people don't like. Otherwise, you have to get organized. You organize with your neighbors, choose leaders, get things done. You may not agree with what your other neighbors and some of the leaders that get chosen, but well, that is pretty much what government is.

Here's another thought; do elected police officials, which is to say the sheriff in those places that don't have a separate police department, function any better than a police chief, typically hired?
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Old January 28, 2009, 08:55 AM   #22
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Quote:
I was thinking about that myself after posting but I believe that "no duty to protect a particular private citizen" doesn't automatically equate to no negligence in performing their duties, not to protect a particular citizen per SE but their actions according to their training in particular situations vis a vis their particular conduct in handling the actual situation. The example of the dispatcher announcing the incident with the wrong code is an example, the cops actions in attending the call vis a vis what the officer's training and regulations dictates.
Those are all duties that extend to the department.

In order to recover for negligence, you need:

1. A duty owed to the plaintiff.

2. A breach of that duty.

3. The breach is a proximate (immediate) cause of some injury.


The scenario in which the police are called, don't see a problem, and people are injured by criminals lacks all three. Does anyone really think a different leagl standard would be a good way to change how the police perform as a practical matter?


When I was a lad, living in the city, a neighbor heard someone downstairs in the middle of the night. She called the police. The dispatcher told her to stay in her room and they would send someone by in the morning. While our neighborhood had some privately hired security for a while, I never saw a city police car in my neighborhood.

I now live in a village with about a thousand residents and 20 police officers. I see at least one car daily. They wave. They don't have a legal duty to protect me individually, but they are courteous and helpful, even when pulling me over.

Last edited by zukiphile; January 28, 2009 at 09:18 AM.
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Old January 28, 2009, 12:36 PM   #23
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A thousand residents and 20 policemen is one policeman for each 50 people. I live in a county of 1,300,000 with something like 1,000 policemen (maybe more), which is something like 1,300 per policemen, but probably less if there are more police but still, that makes them spread kind of thin on the ground.
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