No. Not unless they assume a duty of care. The question of whether police have a duty to protect the public, including subway passengers, is a complex legal and societal issue. According to the Supreme Court ruling in Warren v. District of Columbia (discussed here), the police do not have a constitutional duty to protect individuals from harm. This ruling establishes that the primary responsibility of law enforcement agencies is to enforce the law and maintain public order, as well as protect municipal property, rather than providing specific protection to individuals in every circumstance.
Police Officers Are Instruments of the Government
The reasoning behind this ruling is rooted in the concept of limited resources and the practical challenges of providing constant protection to all members of the public. Police departments must prioritize their efforts and allocate resources to address a wide range of public safety concerns. As a result, individual citizens often bear the responsibility of taking necessary actions to protect themselves in dangerous situations.
New York City Police Department Had No Duty To Protect Subway Car Passengers
The case described in the recent New York news, where a Marine Corps veteran allegedly killed Jordan Neely in a rear naked choke, highlights the reality that individuals may need to rely on their own abilities to defend themselves in certain circumstances. In this specific incident, the Marine, Daniel Penny, claimed to have acted in self-defense and protected other passengers after Neely threatened them aggressively. The video evidence captured the intensity of the situation and the actions taken by Penny to restrain Neely.
While it is essential for individuals to take measures to protect themselves and others when faced with imminent harm, it is important to note that every situation is unique, and the appropriate response depends on the specific circumstances. In this case, Penny’s attorney argued that his actions were a result of a perceived threat to his safety and that of others, highlighting the need for individuals to make split-second decisions when facing potential harm. Even if there were police officers; they could have simply looked the other way.
Example of Subway System Police Officer Ignoring Subway Crime
Joe Lozito, was a Philadelphia resident stabbed while riding a subway train after he was approached by madman killer, Maksim Gelman. The New York City subway train altercation occurred on February 12, 2011, with Gelman using his knife to stab Lozito in the face. With the police just standing there, Lozito was forced to fend off and subdue the knife wielding Gelman. The courts ruled that the police officers had no duty to protect subway ridership, including Joseph Lozito. No Supreme Court case has decided otherwise, either.
It is worth considering the broader implications of this reality, including the importance of personal safety awareness and self-defense training if you want to ride the subway system. If you are riding a subway train, you should probably make local community efforts to ensure public safety and consider learning Judo or grappling. These incidents underline the significance of understanding self-defense laws and being prepared to respond to potential threats in various settings, including public transportation on subway trains.
Nevertheless, it is crucial to acknowledge that the expectation for individuals to protect themselves does not absolve law enforcement agencies and society as a whole from the responsibility of creating safe environments. Police forces and NYPD officers, in particular, have no affirmative duty to protect individuals because no legal obligation exists at common law. LEO will not always address subway crime, and the local politicians do not seem too concerned about the underlying issues contributing to crime and violence. The balance between individual responsibility and societal support in promoting public safety remains an ongoing discussion and a subject of policy debates.
Just because the train operator has a special relationship and special duty of care to its passengers, it appears policing is not one of these duties when the state or local municipality is involved. Cops have “no constitutional duty” to protect people. Can you think of reasons why officers should be a special duty to protect subway passengers? What about the fact you can’t use a gun to defend yourself from wild killer the state sets loose? We want to hear your comments.