In light of the recent terror attack in Orlando, Florida many people are asking the question, “What can the government do to protect the people?” Everything from banning certain types of firearms to prohibiting people on the no-fly list from buying guns to immigration reforms has been proposed as possible government solutions.
However, did you know that the government, and specifically law enforcement, does not have any duty to protect the general public? Based on the headline and this information, you might assume this is a new, landmark decision. However, it has long been the court’s stance that, essentially, the American people are responsible for taking case of their own personal safety.
According to a 2005 ruling from the SCOTUS, the government doesn’t even have a duty to protect you if you’ve obtained a court issued restraining order. From a New York Times article on that ruling:
The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the police did not have a constitutional duty to protect a person from harm, even a woman who had obtained a court-issued protective order against a violent husband making an arrest mandatory for a violation.
The decision, with an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia and dissents from Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, overturned a ruling by a federal appeals court in Colorado. The appeals court had permitted a lawsuit to proceed against a Colorado town, Castle Rock, for the failure of the police to respond to a woman’s pleas for help after her estranged husband violated a protective order by kidnapping their three young daughters, whom he eventually killed.
The idea that police are heroes and sworn to protect the public has been ingrained in our minds. In fact ‘to serve and protect’ is written on most police cars. However, according to specific rulings by the supreme court, police in the US have no legal duty to protect you as a person. Police cannot be held criminally or civilly liable for failing to protect your life or even failing to respond to calls or enforce restraining orders. On the other hand, there are laws against ‘failing to assist an officer’ in all 50 states that say citizens can be arrested for failing to physically assist police officers when asked to do so. They can even legally obligate you to be conscripted and take up arms under posse comitatus. There were 4 armed cops at parkland high school. None fired a shot and 3 hid behind their cars. 17 kids died. They had no legal duty to do anything about it. They cant be sued for negligence or charged with deriliction of duty. They are not defenders. They are aggressors. The promise of life and liberty in the constitution means nothing.