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:

Some of Joseph Lozito's injuries. Credit: WCBS 2

Some of Joseph Lozito’s injuries. Credit: WCBS 2

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.”