I have often written about the fact that not only do the police have no legal obligation to protect any individual, they can’t be successfully sued for failing to protect any individual. Recent news stories have hammered home that inescapable reality.
In Detroit, the average police emergency response time–when they respond at all–is now 58 minutes, though police Chief James Craig claims it is “about 50 minutes.” Consider what this means. Any competent police force would do all that it could to avoid ever announcing a 50+ minute emergency response time to the public. Such an announcement is essentially admitting that a police force is useless. Altering the famous aphorism: “when seconds count, the police are minutes away,” to “when seconds count, the police are about an hour away–maybe” is like sunlight to a vampire to competent police agencies. Yet this glacial emergency response time is the status quo in Detroit, and similarly slow response times are becoming the norm elsewhere in this age of Obamanomics.
This kind of response time also speaks to a great many other potentially deadly problems. When a police force can’t do better, even the best officers become demoralized and many leave, seeking places where they can actually have a hope of being helpful to others and where they can look people in the eye. The remaining officers initially struggle against their plight, but eventually have to give up and accept it, and that inevitably leads them to care less and less. They can’t help people in dire danger, and allowing it to stress them is destructive. This necessarily uncaring attitude spills over into all aspects of their thinking, and is just another symptom of a completely dysfunctional blue state model. Detroit is not alone.
February 12, 2011, New York City, the uptown No. 3 train:
He says he put his life on the line to stop a killer — and claims cops sat back and watched.
But city lawyers are arguing that the police had no legal duty to protect Joseph Lozito, the Long Island dad stabbed seven times trying to subdue madman Maksim Gelman — a courtroom maneuver the subway hero calls “disgraceful.”
A judge is currently deciding whether Lozito, who sued the city last year for failing to prevent the attack, will get his day in court.
The drug-fueled Gelman had fatally stabbed three people in Brooklyn and killed another with a car during a 28-hour rampage when he entered an uptown No. 3 train on Feb. 12, 2011.
Police officers Terrance Howell and Tamara Taylor were part of a massive NYPD manhunt. They were in the operator’s cab, watching the tracks between Penn Station and 42nd Street for any sign of the fugitive. Lozito was seated next to the cab.
In the official NYPD account and Howell’s own affidavit, Howell heroically tackled and subdued the killer. But Lozito tells a different story.
The 42-year-old mixed-martial-arts fan says he watched Gelman approach the cab window, barking: ‘Let me in!’ Gelman even claimed to be a cop, but a dismissive Howell turned away, he says.
Gelman walked off. A straphanger recognizing Gelman tried to alert the cops, but was also rebuffed. A minute later, Gelman returned and set his sights on the 6-foot-2, 270-pound Lozito.
‘You’re going to die,’ Gelman announced — then stabbed him in the face.
Lozito leapt from his seat and lunged at the 23-year-old Gelman as the psycho sliced at him.
‘Most of my wounds are in the back of my head,’ Lozito said. ‘He got to the back of my head because my left shoulder [was] in his waist.’
In his account, Lozito pinned Gelman to the floor, disarming him. Howell then emerged from the booth, tapping Lozito’s shoulder: ‘You can get up now,’ he said.
‘By the time he [Officer Howell] got there, the dirty work was already done,’ Lozito said.
Gelman, who was eventually convicted, killed his girlfriend, her mother, his stepfather and a stranger, and wounded five others. Lozito was truly heroic and thought the police less than heroic, so he tried to fight City Hall:
Lozito says a grand-jury member later told him Howell admitted on the stand that he hid during the attack because he thought Gelman had a gun.
An angry Lozito decided to sue the city for negligence, arguing the cops should have recognized Gelman and prevented, or reacted more quickly to, the assault.
The city routinely settles such litigation but is playing hardball with Lozito, insisting his demand for unspecified money damages be tossed because the police had no ‘special duty’ to protect him or any individual on the train that day.
‘Under well-established law, the police are not liable for such incidents,’ said city lawyer David Santoro. ‘That doesn’t detract from the Police Department’s public safety mission — or the fact that New York is the safest big city in America.
Santoro is right. As insane as it may sound, particularly considering these specific circumstances, the Supreme Court has upheld the principal that the police have a duty only to the public in general, not to any individual. After all, if any citizen could sue the police for failing to protect them, what city could afford a police force? A New York court correctly applied the law:
A man who was brutally stabbed by Brooklyn subway slasher Maksim Gelman two years ago had his negligence case against the city dismissed in court yesterday, despite the fact that two transit officers had locked themselves in a motorman’s car only a few feet from him at the time of the attack.
…Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Margaret Chan has sided with the city, noting that there was no evidence the cops were aware Lozito was in danger at the time.
Chan did however, note the heroism of Lozito’s actions: ‘The dismissal of this lawsuit does not lessen Mr. Lozito’s bravery or the pain of his injuries,’ she wrote in her decision yesterday. ‘Mr. Lozito heroically maneuvered the knife away from Gelman and subdued him on the subway floor.’ Gelman was sentenced to 200 years in prison in January 2012; he was sentenced to an additional 25 years for Lozito’s stabbing the following month.
In every law enforcement agency with which I was associated, there would have been two terms that defined the inaction of the officers: cowardice and dereliction of duty. In fact, there is–philosophically speaking–nothing that would prevent the most severe discipline of these officers, including firing. Of course, New York City officers are unionized, and in union shops, even the incompetent and cowardly are protected from the effects of their inaction, a sad fact now well known to Mr. Lozito.
However, the reality of the law remains, and the lessons are stark and simple. No matter how much a given police officer may want to help others, no matter how hard he tries, economics, time and distance, and human nature are always limiting factors. Even having two armed police officers mere feet away is no guarantee of safety.
The police can’t protect you; in some places, they no longer try. You are solely responsible for your personal safety and the safety of those you love. You always were.
Remember that the next time some morally reprehensible politician wants to have a “reasonable conversation” about “common sense gun laws.”
Reblogged this on Justice For All and commented:
Recently during the NAACP yearly convention our Attorney General Holder, while remarking about the Zimmerman Case and self-defense gave us his views on Self-Defense. In a nutshell he wants to call the police and retreat before any attempt at Self-Defense. Unfortunately, as this article by Mike illustrates, the police have no obligation to protect you, and they are not liable if they fail at their generalize duty to protect. It is up to us to defend ourselves and our family.
Has it always been the case that police have no responsibility to protect individuals?
It has been since Warren v. District of Columbia said so.
For another one that would surprise most people, read Castle Rock v. Gonzales.
You are your own first responder.
Erp, forgot to close my link tag before I dropped down to the last line.
Mike McDaniel said:
Castlerock is generally considered the definitive Supreme Court case that upheld the lower courts, as in Warren. I do refer to and discuss Castlerock in the links in the article.
IIRC, a court ruling in Riss vs. New York also upheld the principle that police have no legal duty to protect an individual.
Mike McDaniel said:
Yes. Decisions all the way to the Supreme Court have affirmed this. Castlerock v. Gonzales is the definitive Supreme Court case, which I discuss in the links in the article.
New change.org petition from Tracy and Sybrina filled with some serious whopper sized lies!
Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton with Change for Trayvon
Last year, our son Trayvon Martin was stalked, chased down and killed by George Zimmerman, and Zimmerman faced no punishment whatsoever. That’s in large part because Florida is one of at least 21 states with some form of ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, which enables people like George Zimmerman to claim self-defense.
We’re calling on 21 governors whose states have some form of ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws to review those laws and amend them so that people who instigate conflicts — people like George Zimmerman — won’t be able to use these laws to get away with murder.
‘Stand Your Ground’ was never meant to give aggressors the opportunity to get away with murder, but that is what happened when our son, Trayvon Benjamin Martin was killed. After Trayvon’s death, law enforcement used the law as an excuse to refuse to arrest George Zimmerman. Even worse, the jury in the case was instructed to think of what Zimmerman did as self-defense, even though Zimmerman ignored instructions from the police and instigated conflict with our son, who was just trying to get home to his father.
We are shocked and heartbroken by the jury’s decision to allow our son’s killer to go free. Despite our despair, we must honor Trayvon’s legacy by doing all that we can to protect other young people from being targeted, pursued, and senselessly murdered.
We are not the only ones calling for ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws to be reviewed. President Obama spoke out on the need for review, and prominent Republicans like Senator John McCain have joined him. This is not a Democrat or Republican issue, it’s not ‘black’ or ‘white’ issue, it’s a wrong and right issue. This is a matter of making sure that no other family will ever have to go through what we have been through. No parents should ever have to know what it feels like to watch your child’s killer walk free.
Here in Florida, we are pushing for an amendment to Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law. Sign our petition to call on all at least 21 governors to review their laws and consider similar amendments so that they can protect children in their states, just as we wish Florida would have protected Trayvon.
We want to say thank you to all of you who have stood up for our son. Because of all of your efforts, Trayvon’s life is celebrated all over the world. Please continue to stand with us as we fight to ensure that his legacy is to leave behind a safer and more peaceful world for all our sons and daughters.
Both the prosecution and defense said that SYG was not a factor in the case. And Trayvon Martin’s parents should be in jail for child neglect (and maybe for contributing to the delinquency of a minor) instead of making the rounds of the talk show circuit.
Mike, I have a deep appreciation and respect for you based on your articles, your experience, and your obvious intellect. I respect your knowledge of the law and the way in which it works (or doesn’t work) for the public.
Reading this article, I found myself asking aloud, “What do I pay taxes for”? Am I paying law enforcement to write me tickets for speeding or failing to move my car after 2 hours from the court house? But in my time of need, I cannot or should not expect those same officers to come to my aid quickly? Geez!
This made me feel better about a recent call I received requesting financial support for LE. I told the caller that “No, I do not wish to donate, as I already am forced to pay for their services through my taxes. And I am saving my money for a new Taurus 38 and ammo”. I should have also told him that I don’t wish to pay twice for my next ticket!
Mike McDaniel said:
Thank you; you’re very kind.
As crazy as this legal doctrine might sound, it does make perfect sense. No one could afford a police agency large enough to have even the most remote hope of keeping an eye on everyone 24/7. Talk about paying taxes! Part of the reason people are often outraged to learn this is that politicians and police executives often allow the public to have the misconception–or simply lie to them–that the police can protect everyone or that it’s their job. It’s not and never was. The police exist to deter crime to whatever degree their presence can do that, and to investigate crimes that have already occurred. If we expected them to absolutely proactively prevent crimes, they would become more like a secret police force, and that’s entirely incompatible with democracy and our representative republic.
Just a word about Taurus products. I’ve generally found them to be inferior to American-made firearms. I’ve run across some that are quite good, but as a rule, tend to shy away from them. While they can be a bit cheaper than their counterparts, there are certainly better options.
So Mike, if it is not the policeman’s job to protect/help people, why do they make such a fuss about people arming themselves for self protection?
I think it is perfectly understandable that the general public does not understand the fact that policemen are not required to protect individuals. Our police cars ALL have the following painted on the back and both sides: “To Protect and Serve”. False advertising?!
Mike McDaniel said:
Actually, the overwhelming majority of rank and file police officers have no problem with law-abiding citizens keeping and bearing arms. Police executives–political animals–and the politicians that hire them are another story entirely.
“To protect and serve” is actually a sentiment that most officers strive to uphold. They just have no legal duty to do the protect part.
Chip Bennett said:
Perhaps it’s an overly simplistic differentiation, but I view it as duty versus legal liability. Sure, police officers have a duty to protect the law-abiding public; that’s the sole raison d’etre for a police force. But it’s simply not practical, feasible, or reasonable for police officers to bear legal liability for any inability to protect law-abiding citizens from the actions of criminals.
Police officers cannot be everywhere, at all times, with sufficient power to stop any and all victimization. The only way such a scenario would even be imaginable would be under a police state – and that idea is anathema to anyone who loves freedom.
I think the Lozito case pushes the bounds a bit (officers duty-bound to protect citizens instead lock themselves inside the train operator’s cab, while a psychopath menaces and attacks people on the train), but I’m hard-pressed to come to a different conclusion. Those police officers have families to return home to also, and have to make split-second, potentially life-or-death decisions. Confronting Gelman may or may not have produced better results. They could have restrained him without further injury, or the attempt could have resulted in more people being attacked, injured, or killed.
@Carol: if you’re looking at Taurus, you might consider Ruger. They’re in the same price range, and are excellent guns. Ruger makes the LCR revolver chambered in .38 (among other calibers), or you might consider what I just got for my wife: the LC380 pistol, chambered in 380ACP.
Mike McDaniel said:
Dear Chip Bennett:
In that New York Case or any other, when there is a deadly threat and a killer is actually trying to kill people, any nearby police officer has an absolute obligation to use their firearm to shoot and stop the killer. There is no excuse for what those officers did, or more correctly, didn’t do. If they are so unable to deal with the stresses and dangers of the job, they need to find another occupation. If I worked with those officers, I could never again trust them when danger presented itself.
Any confrontation of Gelman in that situation should have been done by means of expended ammunition.
Well! Good Article
I am kind of stunned that there isn’t even a “reasonable person” or “reasonable effort” standard requiring police action. If I was attacked by a person at a police station, with several dozen armed police officers nearby, they could just sit back and drink their coffee?
Mike McDaniel said:
In the scenario you mentioned, they could indeed just sit back and drink their coffee, at least insofar as being sued was concerned. Competent, professional police agencies that are actually accountable to the people they serve would never allow that sort of thing however, and officers neglecting their duty in that way would surely be severely disciplined or fired. In such agencies, no officer would think of doing that because they would understand that no other officer would ever again trust them. There are exceptions to this rule: NYC and Las Vegas come immediately to mind.
However, as I noted in the article, if people could sue the police for failing to protect them, there would be no police, so as outrageous as this legal doctrine sounds, it is eminently practical and rational.
Reblogged this on A world at war.
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Mike McDaniel said:
You do know that was an article I wrote for TTAG some years ago, right?
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Mike McDaniel said:
Dear Concealed Patriot:
I wrote a considerably updated version of this article in July of 2019: https://statelymcdanielmanor.wordpress.com/2019/07/22/why-i-carry-a-handgun-2019/
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