The Police are Under No Legal Obligation to Protect You

By Robert Greenslade, © Nitwit Press

Opponents of the private ownership of firearms always claim there is no need for individuals to own a firearm for self-protection because the police are entrusted with that duty. Nothing could be further from the truth. Courts throughout these United States have consistently held that police have no legal duty to provide police protection to any individual citizen.

In 1981, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals issued a decision in a civil suit against the Metropolitan Police Department. In the syllabus, the Court wrote:

“[The] fact that police answered [the phone call for help] and arrived outside premises which were scene of burglary and assault did not give rise to special duty on part of police toward victims therein, and police officers were not answerable in damages for failing to ascertain that assaults were continuing upon victims therein, or for leaving premises without so ascertaining.”

The Court ruled that:

“[G]overnment and its agents are under no legal obligation to provide public services, such as police protection, to any particular citizen.  The duty to provide public services is owed to the public at large, and absent a special relationship between the police and an individual, no specific duty exists.”  [Cite for case: D.C. App., 444 A. 2nd 1, 1981]

On April 19, 1990, an Associated Press article entitled: “Woman can’t sue cops for failing to help,” stated:

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Postal Service Running on Fumes

The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee held a hearing this week on the U.S. Postal Service’s dire financial situation. The USPS is facing a $10 billion loss this year, is about to max out its $15 billion line of credit with the U.S. Treasury, and doesn’t have the money to make a required $5.5 billion payment for retiree health care benefits due at the end of the month. The USPS is projecting insolvency in 2012 if Congress doesn’t step in to provide relief.

Congress hasn’t been able to bring itself to allow the USPS to close 3,000 of its 30,000+ retail locations, so it’s hard to imagine that it will allow operations to come to a halt. Therefore, the important question is what sort of relief will Congress ultimately provide?

Let’s start with what it won’t do: consider privatization. “Consider privatization” means authorizing studies or a commission to examine what it would take to prepare the USPS for sale to the private sector. In its current form, it’s unlikely that anyone would touch the USPS with a 10-foot pole. The reluctance to even consider privatization is unfortunate, especially since European nations have been liberalizing their postal markets for two decades. Getting the privatization ball rolling would probably require leadership from the White House, and that won’t happen with this administration. (See this Cato essay on privatizing the USPS for more information.)

Interestingly, U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe is asking Congress to let the USPS operate more like a private business by allowing it to reopen collective bargaining agreements, eliminate Saturday mail delivery, manage its own employee benefit programs, and have more freedom to close down excess postal facilities. Donahoe understands what Congress either doesn’t or is unwilling to recognize: if the USPS is to operate solely on the revenues that it generates, then it needs the flexibility that comes with private ownership.

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Want to push back against federal overreach?

Arm yourself with constitutional information Sept. 30 in Colorado! Dave Kopel and I will be offering a one-time public class on the Constitution in Colorado Springs. The program, co-sponsored by the Colorado Springs Gazette and the Independence Institute, is called “A Constitutional Guide to Fighting Federal Overreach; A program for the Grassroots.” The class will run from 2…

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