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.


Matt Olver said...

Disgusting video. You make good points on this. One thing I noticed in reviewing these links is that perhaps the police didn't know Derrion Albert was an "honor roll student" as this was going on. This is one catch phrase, if applicable, the media likes to sauce their shocking stories with after the fact. As if a tragic victim's academic achievement makes this all the more despicable.

Jeremy said...

Just revolting. Coming from a small town I can just not relate to the motivations that would incite people to this kind of brutality. "To protect and serve"; protect who? serve who?

p.s. Looks like a great place for the olympics

Lester Hunt said...


Now that I think of it, it also is not clear from the two stories that Grigg puts together that the police were there while Martin was being killed. (Maybe they came in afterward.) But we still have, unless someone is reporting someone is reporting things that aren't true, the dramatic contrast between the citizens who rushed in to help, and the police who did not.