The Job of Police
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
The horrific shooting spree in a Florida school has led to widespread discussion about what local police officers did and did not do to impede the killer. Much of the commentary about this incident has revolved around the notion that police officers have a duty to protect the citizens in their community from harm. In numerous cities and towns throughout the U.S., decals appear on the sides of police vehicles announcing that the police exist “To Protect and Serve” the local people. This is an erroneous concept.
Erroneous? Yes. Consider that no police force or any of its members are ever held responsible if someone is killed or harmed within their jurisdiction. You or I can’t sue the local police if some criminal attacks us and causes us harm. If I follow an attack that harmed me with a suit aimed at the police (and the jurisdiction that hires them), it would get me nowhere. Why? Because the job of police is not to protect me or anyone else. The police can’t be held accountable if harm comes to me or to you. Police are never sued for negligence if a criminal harms someone. That fact ought to be drummed into every American’s consciousness.
If the police aren’t responsible for protecting the people, who does bear that responsibility? The answer, very simply, is each person. And how do ordinary persons protect themselves from criminal activity? The quick answer is he or she has to be armed and must know how to use whatever weapon is chosen to fill that need. Another answer, though impractical for most, would have citizens hire bodyguards who would be armed.
John W. Whitehead of the Virginia-based Rutherford Institute has regularly pointed out that the U.S. Supreme Court has more than once ruled (such as in 2005 with the Town of Castle Rock vs. Gonzalez decision) that police have no responsibility to protect members of the public from harm. The men and women who serve as police officers frequently do seek to stop an individual committing criminal activity but they are not required to do so. The responsibility to stop a criminal from attacking you lies with yourself.
Which brings us to the absolute right of a citizen to be armed. If it’s not the job of police officers to see to it that no criminal attacks you, that responsibility is yours. And any impediment to you having the means to protect yourself is absolutely wrong. The Founders of our nation knew this and their awareness that led them to add the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment, wrongly considered by many to apply only to citizens who serve in a militia, applies to virtually everyone.
Should the right to be armed be denied to someone who has already used a weapon for a criminal purpose? Yes. How about the mentally disturbed and those taking medication for suspected mental problems? Yes again. How about children who don’t know how to use a weapon or aren’t aware of the dangers posed by weapons? Parents should be held responsible for their children. And a suitable age must be established for youthful weapon possession.
In the wake of the Florida shooting, clamor for doing away with private ownership of weapons is again being raised. Such demands are incredibly wrong and will, if enacted, lead to more crime, even the governmental crime known as tyranny.
In no way is this author promoting any move toward abolishing local police forces. They have an important role to play in keeping society orderly. But, as must be made abundantly clear, it is not their job to “protect” citizenry from harm. If they do so without cancelling the rights of law-abiding citizens, fine. The most certain way to insure that police do not present a problem is keep jurisdiction over them and their activity in the hands of local authorities.
Should teachers be free to have a weapon while in a school? Of course. Should schools and other places be deemed “gun-free zones”? Absolutely not! Such a labeling of schools as gun-free will invite criminally minded and mentally deranged to go to schools where there are no guns to stop them from creating mayhem.
There should be no restrictions on the ordinary citizen who wishes to protect himself and his family from a criminal. And there should be a reversal of the attitude that has people relying on police for such protection.
Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.