“The Police Have No Obligation To Protect You. Yes, Really.”

In cases such as DeShaney v. Winnebago County (1989) and Castle Rock v. Gonzales (2005), the Supreme Court has declined to put police and other public authorities under any general duty to protect individuals from crime. The decisions have been broadly unpopular, but Mike McDaniel at PJ Media takes the Court’s side on policy grounds: “This [lack of a particularized duty] might seem absolutely outrageous, but it is logical, rational, and unquestionably necessary.”


  • That was an interesting article. After reading it I kind of agree with Mike McDaniel, but, one thing puzzles me. If the police are under no obligation to protect an individual, why do most police organizations support gun control? One of the cornerstones of the anti-gun groups arguement is that you don’t have to protect yourself, that is what the police are for.

  • however, try to selectively not co-operate with said police and see what happens.

  • “why do most police organizations support gun control?”

    Rackets never like competition…

  • And I agree that while it SOUNDS like a stupid decision, it makes sense in a way…

    If it wasn’t the case, then the police (and by extension the city) could and would be sued for failing to protect a guy from being mugged as he walked down a dark alley at 3am.

  • SCOTUS has come out w its usual weasel word piece of lawyerese.

    If the court declares the police have no obligation to . . . . Then they can damn well get off their little lawyer behinds, show some balls (completely non SCOTUS) and declare what the police ARE obliged to do.

    Just one problem. As any lawyer, politician, liar quickly learns, NEVER express a positive. It can come back to interfere w your plans.

  • Congrats on making the ABA Journal’s fifth annual top 100 law blog list!

  • Doesn’t that beg the question: if the police have no obligation to protect us, then don’t we have a “super” right to protect ourselves. And doesn’t that mean we do not have to obey the police when we believe we need to protect ourselves?

  • “When seconds count, the police are minutes away” say the Second Amendment supporters.

    And with Castle Rock v. Gonzales, there is no obligation even for that.

  • Will someone familiar w the subject please post a copy of the oath of service the average law enforcement official (SCOTUS has already determined they are not an “officer” if they have not taken an oath to protect “a” constitution) takes when he starts to dip out of the public trough?

  • Here’s the one for Michigan. It is a universal oath for all state offices:

    “All officers, legislative, executive and judicial, before entering upon the duties of their respective officers, shall take and subscribe the following oath or affirmation: I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the constitution of this state, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of ______ according to the best of my ability…”

    (Constitution of the State of Michigan 1835)

  • David Smith 12.28.11 at 4:43 pm
    they can damn well get off their little lawyer behinds, show some balls (completely non SCOTUS) and declare what the police ARE obliged to do.

    Historically, the police were obliged to arrest people the Sheriff wanted arrested. That’s their job, to serve the State. Thay are The State’s muscle.

    More generally, they are only obliged to do what their bosses tell them to do, just like you or I. The difference is that, as agents of The State, and members of powerful Gangs Unions, they have qualified immunity for doing so.

  • So much for “Serve and Protect”

  • To be clear, what DeShaney and Castle Rock say is that the police have no constitutional duty to protect you. One may be able to sue police in state court for their failure to act (depending on one’s state’s laws). What one can’t do is sue police in federal court, claiming that they violated one’s constitutional rights .