Duty to protect

As I pointed out in a post not too long ago, the police have no duty to protect you as an individual.  This has been asserted by law enforcement agencies and confirmed by the courts.

Somebody stops you on the street and threatens you with a knife lest you hand over all your money?  Not the government’s problem.  Oh, they’ll take your report and if by some chance they catch the guy they’ll add mugging you to the list of charges against him.  Maybe.  If they don’t plea deal that away.  But protect you from him in the first place?  Don’t be silly.

Some big ugly brute rapes your sister, wife, or daughter, beating her bloody in the process?  Still not the government or police’s problem.  Again, they’ll take the report and…good luck with that.

A gang breaks into your house killing your family and your dog (we’ll leave aside that this “gang” may wear badges for this discussion–that’s for another day).  Police come to photograph the bodies, collect evidence, and once again if they catch the folk use this evidence in court against them.  But you remain singularly unprotected.

Call the police telling them there’s an intruder and can they come protect you?  You’re on your own there, buddy.

And when they’re right there?  Well sometimes.  Maybe.  But then there’s…

Be attacked by a knife wielding maniac on a subway car with police right there in the operator’s compartment.  They’ll come out and arrest the maniac if you successfully subdue him despite being stabbed multiple times.  But protection?  I guess today was not your lucky day.

And so it goes.

Want to put a material into your body that the State considers harmful to you?  The police won’t… Wait a minute!  This one’s different.  The state will make that illegal in order to protect you from yourself.

The State disavows any responsibility to even try to protect you as an individual.  It’s only mandate is to protect “society.” But somehow, the State takes it on itself to protect you from yourself.  It bans things because you might hurt yourself doing them.  Whether the Narcotic act of 1914, the Volstead act in 1919, the manifold drug laws to follow, New Yorks “large soft drink” ban, and so on and so on, the same State that refuses to take responsibility to protect you from violent hoodlums takes upon itself the responsibility to protect you from yourself.  Advice and education is not sufficient.  It will protect you so hard that it will throw you in jail with violent criminals in order to “protect” you.

How does this make sense?  It doesn’t, not if “protection” is the reason.  If the State really was interested in protecting me then it would at least take responsibility for a best effort to protect me from violent criminals, not just society but each of the individuals that make up society.  Yes, I know they can’t protect everyone, but that doesn’t mean they should not try to protect those they can.

As Kaila said, in the following exchange in my novel The Hordes of Chanakra:

Before Kreg could even begin to feel uncomfortable about the banter over him, Shillond smiled at him and said, “Don’t mind me.  We have this argument quite often.  Last week it was an injured sparrow; the week before, an orphaned fawn; Kaila has difficulty realizing that she cannot save the entire world from hurt and harm.” He cast a sidelong glance at his daughter.

“And if I cannot defend all the weak and helpless of the world,” Kaila said, “Is that not all the more reason to defend and aid those who do come under my hand?”

But they don’t do that.  Maybe there’s a reason for that.  Maybe “protection” is not the goal.

So ask yourself, if it’s not to protect you from yourself, what exactly is the purpose?

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2 thoughts on “Duty to protect”

  1. Given that our society is willing to legalize recreational drugs, and unwilling to kick people off food stamps, I’d be willing to support complete legalization, of pretty much everything, in exchange for a three strikes rule:
    1: warning with mandatory afternoon education course on what is permitted when receiving assistance (don’t buy pot if you can’t pay the rent on your own). Failure to attend considered the second strike.
    2: mandatory education and outpatient rehab. Failure to attend considered third strike.
    3: Criminal charges of welfare fraud. Mandatory penal rehab.
    Pay for it via taxation on the substances.

    In a world with a different safety net mechanism, I’d propose a different solution, or just let thing fall where they fall.

    I suspect we’ll wind up with a system where pot is legalized, and being purchased with the same sorts of scams we see regularly with fungible assistance. From my point of view, I’m legalizing an act I of which I disapprove (but have no moral right to control), subsidizing that behavior for those most likely to be harmed by it, in exchange for reducing police involvement in, largely, other people’s lives, and a possible reduction in property seizure type corruption (I don’t think legalization would solve this.). I can understand the moral argument, and am willing to accept it as a matter of principle, but I don’t see this as likely to make my life much better.

  2. Much of the problems we see with police today comes down to leadership. When the leadership is lacking, you get shitty police officers. When the leadership is good, you get Pete Nielsen. https://www.facebook.com/WESTFARGOPOLICE/photos/a.10155229919932962.1073741828.145169612961/10156109846372962/?type=3&theater

    I’ve known Pete since he got his first job in law enforcement. I’ve worked with him at two different agencies. But, he’s not the only one at the department that would do something like this. Leadership is a thing, and it affects the whole department.

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