Tuesday, April 24, 2018
In the United States you have no legal right to expect that the police will protect you from criminal acts or arrest the perpetrators after the fact. There's actually a lot of case law on this subject but I'll stick to just two cases.
In 1975, Carolyn Warren, Joan Taliaferro, and Miriam Douglas were victimized, at knife point, by Marvin Kent and James Morse in a rooming house in Washington, DC. The police were called numerous times but they dropped the ball with the result that "For the next fourteen hours the women were held captive, raped, robbed, beaten, forced to commit sexual acts upon each other, and made to submit to the sexual demands of Kent and Morse." The victims later "sued the District of Columbia and individual members of the Metropolitan Police Department for negligent failure to provide adequate police services" in federal court. In affirming the dismissal of their lawsuit the en banc District of Columbia Court of Appeals adopted the reasoning of a lower court (citations omitted):
The Court, however, does not agree that defendants owed a specific legal duty to plaintiffs with respect to the allegations made in the amended complaint for the reason that the District of Columbia appears to follow the well-established rule that official police personnel and the government employing them are not generally liable to victims of criminal acts for failure to provide adequate police protection ... This uniformly accepted rule rests 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 ...
A publicly maintained police force constitutes a basic governmental service provided to benefit the community at large by promoting public peace, safety and good order ... Accordingly, courts have without exception concluded that when a municipality or other governmental entity undertakes to furnish police services, it assumes a duty only to the public at large and not to individual members of the community. [Warren v. District of Columbia, 444 A.2d 1 (1981)]In 1999, Jessica Gonzales' estranged husband, Simon Gonzales, abducted their three daughters in violation of a restraining order against him. She made repeated attempts to get police to enforce the restraining order and return her children to her. They did essentially nothing. Her husband murdered the girls and then committed suicide-by-cop.
She filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that "the town of Castle Rock, Colorado, violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution when its police officers, acting pursuant to official policy or custom, failed to respond properly to her repeated reports that her estranged husband was violating the terms of a restraining order." The US Supreme Court reinstated the District Court's order dismissing the lawsuit. They concluded that Jessica Gonzales "did not, for purposes of the Due Process Clause, have a property interest in police enforcement of the restraining order against her husband" (Castle Rock v. Gonzales, 545 U.S. 748 (2005)).