Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
The background for the decisions of our Supreme Court.
In the early morning hours of Sunday, March 16, 1975, Carolyn
Warren and Joan Taliaferro who shared a room on the third floor of
their rooming house at 1112 Lamont Street Northwest in the District of
Columbia, and Miriam Douglas, who shared a room on the second floor
with her four-year-old daughter, were asleep. The women were awakened
by the sound of the back door being broken down by two men later
identified as Marvin Kent and James Morse. The men entered Douglas'
second floor room, where Kent forced Douglas to sodomize him and Morse
Warren and Taliaferro heard Douglas' screams from the floor below.
Warren telephoned the police, told the officer on duty that the house
was being burglarized, and requested immediate assistance. The
department employee told her to remain quiet and assured her that
police assistance would be dispatched promptly.
Warren's call was received at Metropolitan Police Department
Headquarters at 0623 hours, and was recorded as a burglary-in-progress.
At 0626, a call was dispatched to officers on the street as a "Code 2"
assignment, although calls of a crime in progress should be given
priority and designated as "Code 1." Four police cruisers responded to
the broadcast; three to the Lamont Street address and one to another
address to investigate a possible suspect. (This suggests that when
they heard that there had been a burglary, the police must have felt
that they had a promising lead on a culprit.)
Meanwhile, Warren and Taliaferro crawled from their window onto an
adjoining roof and waited for the police to arrive. While there, they
observed one policeman drive through the alley behind their house and
proceed to the front of the residence without stopping, leaning out the
window, or getting out of the car to check the back entrance of the
house. A second officer apparently knocked on the door in front of the
residence, but left when he received no answer. The three officers
departed the scene at 0633, five minutes after they arrived.
Warren and Taliaferro crawled back inside their room. They again
heard Douglas' continuing screams; again called the police; told the
officer that the intruders had entered the home, and requested
immediate assistance. Once again, a police officer assured them that
help was on the way. This second call was received at 0642 and recorded
merely as "investigate the trouble;" it was never dispatched to any
Believing the police might be in the house, Warren and Taliaferro
called down to Douglas, thereby alerting Kent to their presence. At
knife point, Kent and Morse then forced all three women to accompany
them to Kent's apartment. For the next fourteen hours the captive women
were raped, robbed, beaten, forced to commit sexual acts upon one
another, and made to submit to the sexual demands of Kent and Morse.
The victims sued the police department. Their basis was as follows.
(from same source)
Appellants' claims of negligence included:
- the dispatcher's failure to forward the 0623 call with the proper
degree of urgency;
- the responding officers' failure to follow standard police
investigative procedures, specifically their failure to check the rear
entrance and position themselves properly near the doors and windows to
ascertain whether there was any activity inside;
- the dispatcher's failure to dispatch the call received at 0642 hours
The court's decision:
By a 4-3 decision the court decided that Warren was not entitled to
remedy at the bar despite the demonstrable abuse and ineptitude on the
part of the police because no special relationship existed. The court
stated that official police personnel and the government employing them
owe no duty to victims of criminal acts and thus are not liable for a
failure to provide adequate police protection unless a special
relationship exists. The case was properly dismissed by the trial court
for failure to state a claim and the case never went to trial
So I say to all of you who claim we have no need to own weapons for
self defense because we have the police to protect us, "REALLY? And
what is your basis for that ignorant statement?"
Wake up and smell the coffee, people. The police are there to clean up
the mess, collect evidence, and put the people who broke the law in
jail after the fact. But even if you call them, tell them there's a
crime in progress, and request help, there is no right to expect them
to respond, no right to expect them to actually check the premises, and
no right to expect them to protect you if they do show up. Face it, the
ONLY people responsible for your safety are you and any private company
you choose to hire. NOT the police you are forced to pay for from your
taxes. Take some classes, learn to shoot, determine if you would use
the gun in time of need, and if you believe so, take your safety into
your own hands and buy a gun. Or don't. But don't put your faith in a
cop. because they aren't paid to be there for you.
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