The Uvalde, Texas, School District Police Department has received harsh criticism over its inability to stop the school shooting who killed and wounded 19 kids and two school teachers.
When the gunman was in two classrooms that were adjacent the officers of 19 police were waiting outside for more than an hour waiting for their tactical gear to be delivered.
Texas Department of Public Safety Colonel. Steven McCraw called it “the mistaken choice. Period. No excuses for this.” The response was described as “100 100% flawed” Thor Eells, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, stated, “If you’re in a class with innocent students and I’m sure that guns have been fired, then I must engage with you.”
The families of victims do not have any recourse against the police since officers in the field are generally protected from litigation by an immunity conditional to their job. Sometimes, police face consequences for their conduct, such as the case of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of killing George Floyd. However, criminal charges against officers of the police who do not ensure the safety of the public are extremely unusual.
Concerns about Police Duty
The motto “To serve and protect,” first coined by the Los Angeles Police Department in the 1950s has since been popularly adopted by police departments across the world. What, then, is the police officers legal duty to safeguard citizens? Shouldthey be able to risk their lives when they are in dangerous situations, such as that of Uvalde?
No, it’s not.
In the case of 1981 Warren in v. District of Columbia ,the D.C. Court of Appeals declared that the police are required to perform a “public obligation,” however “no particular legal obligation exists” absent an exclusive relationship between the officer and an individual like a suspect who is in the custody.
It is worth noting that the U.S. Supreme Court has declared that police officers are not under any obligation specific to guard. In its decision from 1989 in DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services in which the justices decided that the social services department was not required to safeguard a boy from the abuse of his father. The case was titled Castle Rock v. Gonzales ,a woman brought a suit against the police after they not protecting her from her husband, who had violated an order to restrain him and took and murdered three of their children. Justices found that the police had no obligation to protect their citizens.
Recently it was reported that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld a lower judge’s decision that the police should not be held responsible for their failure to safeguard pupils in the massacre of 2018 that killed 17 people in Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School located in Parkland, Florida.
Police have protocols in place for handling dangerous situations such as those at Uvalde and Parkland These procedures emphasize the need for officers to swiftly take actions. According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police is one example. It states, “Taking action during active shooting incidents, instead of waiting for specially trained and trained police officers, could be lifesaving and help prevent severe injury. In the event of delay, it will likely lead to additional deaths.”
IACP offers instructions on how officers responding to such situations must decide on the best way to handle that swift reaction.
However they go about it, it is likely to very risky. The risk could be the safety of their lives.
However, as the courts have ruled that they are not required to perform that task.
The next time you spot a police car passing by and have “To Guard and Serve” written on their doors, remember that there is no legal obligation to carry out that.
If you’re in need of police to safeguard you, all you can do is wait for that they do.
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