Thread: Duty to act?
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Old 01-14-2013, 10:23 AM
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Armed24-7 Armed24-7 is offline
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In Warren v. District of Columbia (444 A.2d. 1, D.C. Ct. of Ap. 1981), the case revolved around the negligence of the local police, not the failure to act. The police did act, but the action might have been negligent. The court found that "the police do not have a legal responsibility to provide personal protection to individuals".

What the court meant was that if you become the victim of a crime, law enforcement cannot be held responsible. The ruling is not saying that the police have no obligation to act. Many 2nd amendment activists misinterpret that ruling and use it to push their agenda. The police cannot be omnipresent. Although law enforcement (in most places) diligently seek out criminals to get them off the streets, most of our job is reactionary. Was the court correct in it's ruling? I don't know. We all know how screwed up our court system can be. This is why case law is challenged all the time in the courts. Case law is always open to interpretation.

Most of our time is spent responding to crimes that have already been committed and also to other types of disturbances. We are burdened with not only responding to major incidents, but also the pettiest of calls for service. These petty calls for service take up a lot of our time. Report writing also takes up a lot of our time.

Law enforcement does have an obligation to act. In fact, the police in Warren v. District of Columbia did act. Whether or not they acted negligently, I do not know. There are many questions I would have before making that judgement call. We were thee for the hearings and we were not privy to any 911 recordings (if any). We do not know what the 911 operator/dispatcher was told by the informants/victims on the phone. We don't know what information the officers in the field were given when the call was dispatched. Officers have to prioritize calls for service based on the information given. The 911 operator has to determine the level of urgency based on the information they collect from the caller. If the responding officers have several calls for service pending that they need to respond to, they also have to prioritize their responses based on the information they are given, which is now technically 3rd hand information. So, who could have been negligent? The 911 operator? The dispatcher? The field officers? The person who called 911?

All that being said, I think it would be deplorable if law enforcement failed to respond and act with due diligence to calls for service. In fact, the county sheriff and/or the FBI have the authority take control of law enforcement responsibilities, should a police department fail to provide adequate services.

On my department, negligence, cowardice, malfeasance and/or failing to act could get you disciplined, removed from the field, or fired.

It is important to be careful where you get your information. Be sure to know who is interpreting that information and that it is coming from a reputable source.
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Last edited by Armed24-7; 01-14-2013 at 10:30 AM..
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