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Duty to protect

Courts have long ruled that the police have no duty to protect you. This case may change that:

The lesson of that day haunts Cockerham-Ellerbee: The protective order designed to keep Ellerbee away from her family was merely a sheet of paper. The promises of police to arrest him came up empty.

Cockerham-Ellerbee wants the protective order to mean something to police. She has been given permission by the state Court of Appeals to try. In an unprecedented lawsuit being followed by domestic violence advocates across the state, Cockerham-Ellerbee is blaming her hometown police department — officers to whom she once sold coffee at a local market — for broken promises that cost her daughter’s life and shattered her own.

If she prevails, Cockerham-Ellerbee’s case will likely force officers in North Carolina to more vigilantly monitor abusers ordered to stay away from their partners.

Restraining orders are just pieces of paper.

6 Responses to “Duty to protect”

  1. Jim W Says:

    Sorry but this case isn’t going to change that. So long as the law gives the police discretion over how to allocate their policing resources, there is no way that a citizen can legally compel the police to protect them against victimization by private actors.

    It’s tied up in the whole state action thing- this situation is a combination of non-state action and state inaction. The 14th amendment just doesn’t create positive rights and it doesn’t protect you from private citizens. Even the liberal justices don’t believe it. The only way for her to have a legal right to protection is if a statute creates one- and it is unlikely that any state government would do something that foolish.

    If your ex-husband is a violent psychopath, get a gun to go with the restraining order.

  2. Mike Says:

    While courts have ruled officers have no duty to protect a particluar person, they have ruled that if a “special relationship” has been established, they the cops are liaible. Since Cockerham-Ellerbee had a protective order, if she told the cops Ellerbee was violating the order, the courts may well find a special relationship exists.

    However, law enforcement by nature is reactive, responding after the fact. Anyone who feels threatened enough to get a protective order should seriously consider getting a weapon and carry permit.

  3. Kevin Baker Says:

    This case won’t overturn decades of precedent. If Castle Rock v. Gozales wasn’t going to do it, nothing will.

  4. mariner Says:

    Let’s be careful what we wish for.

    Do we REALLY want to set a precedent that whenever a woman calls police to complain about a man, the police must arrest him?

    Think long and hard about that.

  5. Mike Says:

    I like how “domestic violence advocates” are watching the case. People who advocate domestic violence? Hmmm. This writer doesn’t exactly have what I would call mastery of the language.

    I’m with Mariner – dangerous precendent to set.

  6. Sigivald Says:

    If police were forced by law to devote their time to enforcing restraining orders preemptively, that suggests that judges will be less likely to issue them, since suddenly they’re very expensive to the policing power.

    I’m with Uncle – even if they try really hard in the best of faith (which they often do), cops can’t protect you from someone who really wants to attack you. Only you can, and typically only – effectively – with something that make small pieces of metal move exceedingly fast.

Remember, I do this to entertain me, not you.

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