First Responder or First Victim: Who is Responsible for Your Protection

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics there were 794,300 law enforcement personnel employed in 2010.  Law enforcement encompasses a variety of professions including state and local police officers, sheriffs and deputy sheriffs, transit and railroad police, detectives and criminal investigators, and fish and game wardens.  At the federal level this includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Secret Service, Air Marshals, Border Patrol, and Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

Law enforcement personnel are generally categorized as first responders along with fire fighters and emergency medical personnel.  State and local police have a general responsibility to enforce laws and maintain the peace.  Federal law enforcement personnel have specific areas of responsibility.

The label, first responder, is misleading and inaccurate.  Law enforcement personnel are usually the second responder when it comes to a crime.  If an intruder breaks into your home at 3am the homeowner is the first responder to the situation.  If someone in the home is able to place a 911 call and law enforcement responds, law enforcement officers are the second responders.

Homeowners have an individual responsibility to protect their life and property.  The choice is whether the homeowner is the first responder or the first victim.  Individuals must decide whether to protect themselves or to subjugate themselves to protection by law enforcement personnel.   This raises a moral question.  Whose responsibility is it to protect your life?  According to your conscience, if you decide to abrogate the defense of your life or property to law enforcement, is it a morally superior decision to ask someone else to risk their life to protect your life?

There are other considerations in choosing to rely on law enforcement for your protection.  First, is law enforcement required to protect you?  Secondly, are you willing to subject yourself or your family members to becoming a crime victim as you wait for law enforcement to respond to your request for protection?

A recent American Thinker article referenced a study done by the Atlanta Journal Constitution on police response times to 911 calls.  The average time for the police response to a high-priority crime is eleven minutes and eleven seconds.  When a home invasion occurs at 3am there is no law enforcement officer waiting in your home to respond.  Using a standard six round revolver, conservatively we’ll assume six shots are fired in thirty seconds and it takes another thirty seconds to reload.  The home invader can fire sixty-six shots with a standard revolver in eleven minutes.   What if there are two, three, or more armed invaders.  That’s hundreds of rounds fired in eleven minutes.

When law enforcement arrives they are often armed with weapons that have twenty round (or more) magazines and look similar to what is colloquially called an assault weapon.  Though the federal government and law enforcement refer to these as personal defense weapons when owned by civilians they are magically transformed into assault weapons.  That point aside, law enforcement officers are the second responders not the first.  To repeat, are you willing to become a crime victim because you’ve abrogated your personal responsibility to others that can’t be present to help you for at least eleven minutes on average?  If you answered yes, you’ll really appreciate the irony of the remainder of the article.

The most significant fallacy is the first question I asked; are law enforcement personnel required to protect you?  Most people answer this question incorrectly.  Police have no legal responsibility to protect you.  Read it again.  Police have no legal responsibility to protect you.  If the police witness a person pull you out of your car, beat you senseless, and steal your car they are not obligated by law to protect you.  You are probably thinking this is preposterous and I have no idea what I’m talking about.

There are two federal court cases you should become familiar with; DeShaney v. Wisconsin and Warren v. District of Columbia.  The DeShaney case details can be read here, but the case reached the Supreme Court and the court ruled:

The constitution is not a source of any affirmative obligation on the state or its subdivisions to protect its citizens. Since “the Due Process Clause does not require the State to provide its citizens with particular protective services, it follows that the State cannot be held liable under the Clause for injuries that could have been averted had it chosen to provide them.”

Likewise, in Warren v. District of Columbia the plaintiffs filed suit against the District of Columbia for negligent failure to provide adequate police services.  The case details can be read here.  The case was appealed to the Circuit Court of Appeals and it was dismissed based upon “the fundamental principle that a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any particular individual citizen.”  In other words, law enforcement personnel have a general duty to protect the public at large and not any individual citizen.  Law enforcement is not obligated, legally or otherwise, to provide anyone with police protection.

These crimes occurred under normal circumstances.  Consider emergency situations like the L.A. riots, natural disasters like Katrina, or whenever there may be shortages of food and water, or disruption to the economy.  If it takes the police eleven minutes to respond in normal circumstances how long will it take to respond under emergency conditions?  It is inconceivable to believe law enforcement can protect you under any emergency conditions.

If law enforcement is not obligated under law to protect you and government wants to restrict or deny firearm ownership, precisely how would a citizen protect their life and the lives of their family?   Inquiring minds want to know.

Furthermore, for those who decide to abrogate their responsibility to protect themselves to law enforcement how do you reconcile that decision knowing law enforcement has no obligation to protect you?  Will you sleep better knowing the police may not respond to your call for protection or may not respond in a timely manner?  Can you live with the fact that you failed to prevent the killing of a family member, the kidnapping of a child, the rape of your wife, or the theft of your property?

If individuals are restricted or denied the ability to be first responders and law enforcement are only responders when they chose to be, it’s reasonable to conclude the government is setting the stage for a subjugated society.  What else could government do knowing the citizens are unarmed?  The answer:  just about anything they want.  The possibility of further infringements or invasions upon rights and liberty are increased tremendously under these conditions.

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1 Comment

Filed under Constitution, Philosophical, Public Policy

One response to “First Responder or First Victim: Who is Responsible for Your Protection

  1. Susan

    “Though the federal government and law enforcement refer to these as personal defense weapons when owned by civilians they are magically transformed into assault weapons. ”

    The above statement is not accurate. Otherwise this is a very good article and may wake up some people to the fact that police are not there for the purpose of their personal protection.

    There is no “magical” transformation. Police weapons are sometimes full auto versions of the semi-auto firearms sold to the public. The National Firearms Act of 1934 banned possession of full auto from civilian citizens except in the case of stringent rules to get a license for a full-auto. In 1986 that law was amended and no civilian can own ANY full auto firearm made in or after 1986.

    As an illustration of the differences between a police (or military) version of a firearm and the version sold to civilians I give you the FNH P90.
    The P90 is a bull pup rifle designed for police use in urban settings. It has a selector switch that will allow the user to switch from single shot (one trigger pull equals one bullet fired) to full-auto (pull and hold the trigger and empty the 50 round magazine in 3.4 seconds).
    The civilian version of this firearm is the PS90. The PS90 has a 6″ longer barrel. The magazine contains a plug that reduces its maximum capacity down to 30 rounds (not the 50 for police use) and it does NOT have a selector switch to allow it to fire on full-auto.
    In short, what the average citizen can purchase in a firearm store and those firearms designated by law for police and/or military use only may look alike, but the function is very different.
    Further the term “assault rifle or assault firearm” is a made up term created by the Violence Policy Center to confuse the portion of the public that has no firearms knowledge and build support for their assault on the 2nd amendment. An “assault weapon” is an RPG, a tank, an F-16, etc.

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