Monday, September 28, 2009

The Police Are There to Protect Us, Not You

I don't have anything original to say, but as this is a practical matter I thought I should do a little bit to get this information out.

By putting together facts from two different news reports, the redoubtable Will Grigg has pointed out something about the revoltingly brutal murder of Derrion Albert that has not otherwise been noticed:
As the Chicago Tribune noted, “The first officers who arrived on the scene waited until backup arrived before they broke up the fight, witnesses said.”

That’s right: Armed “officers” — plural — sat by and refused to intervene while an innocent 16-year-old was beaten to death in front of them.

A report from a local CBS affiliate adds this critical detail: “When police arrived, three of [the Agape Community Center's] staff went out to rescue a boy who was getting beaten by several others. The teen was later identified as Albert. Police waited with the staff members until the ambulance arrived to transport Albert, [Center Director Milton] Massie said.”

As Grigg points out, this means that "unarmed civilians intervened at personal risk in a genuinely heroic, albeit doomed, effort to save the honor roll student" while the officers waited for backup.

The practical point here is: there is no scandal here. These officers were not doing anything legally wrong. The police have no legal duty to protect individual human beings. Their duty is, after you have been killed or injured, to provide a collective, public good: to catch the bad guy so the other bad guys will be more reluctant to attack other people.

The moral is: if you have reason to believe you are in danger of attack, do not under any circumstances rely on the police to protect you. You must take all reasonable steps to protect yourself. You are on your own.
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