Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Why We Need Batman

Every time I think things can't get any more screwed up, reality tosses another large bucket of cold water in my face to bring me back to my senses. The latest is summed up in this recent Washington Post article: U.S. Judge Says Law Enforcement Officers Had No Legal Duty to Protect Parkland Students During Mass Shooting.

Let that sink in for a moment. A Federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by survivors of the massacre at Parkland High School in Florida against Broward County, the Broward County Sheriff, and several named law enforcement officers on the grounds that law enforcement personnel were not legally required under the US Constitution to protect them.

According to the judge's ruling*, police officers have no legal duty to protect you if you are threatened by an armed civilian, because the 14th Amendment to the Constitution (the basis of the students' lawsuit) only requires protection from state actors ... not private ones. The judge wrote that the "Due Process Clause" of the 14th Amendment** "protects individuals first and foremost from action taken by the state," and that "nothing in the language of the Due Process Clause itself requires the State to protect the life, liberty, and property of its citizens against invasion by private actors."

Another article discussing the case, this one in the New York Times, quoted Darren L. Hutchinson, a professor and associate dean at the University of Florida School of Law, who said that “Neither the Constitution, nor state law, impose a general duty upon police officers or other governmental officials to protect individual persons from harm — even when they know the harm will occur ... Police can watch someone attack you, refuse to intervene and not violate the Constitution.”


If we accept this reasoning, there doesn't seem to be much point in spending tax money on police departments which have no legal responsibility to protect us from anything except the Federal Government***. Further - and worse, from my perspective - it bolsters the arguments of Second Amendment zealots who insist that we must all pack heat because we can't depend on the police to protect us.

If any lawyer out there can explain this travesty to me, I'd be delighted to hear it.

In the meantime, I think there just might be a silver lining inside this vast dark cloud ... because our police seem to be constitutionally required to protect us only from our government, I wonder if I can get them to go after Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and all the other menacing government characters that are placing us in danger. Hmmm ...

Have a good day, and don't bother calling 911 unless you're being menaced by a government employee. Just reach for the Batphone.


* I have been trying to lay hands on a copy of the actual ruling, but have as yet been unable to find one online. I have only the quotes cited in various newspapers.

** In case you were wondering, the "Due Process Clause" of the 14th Amendment (the second sentence of Section 1 of the Amendment) reads: "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

*** Although heaven knows we (not to mention the rest of the world) need some protection from it under the current Administration.

† Idle hands are said to be the devil's playground, and lots of government employees have idle hands while they're furloughed.

1 comment:

allenwoodhaven said...

Twisted reasoning, to be sure!