Police Have "No Duty" To Protect Individual

     "An appellate court in Washington, D.C., has ruled that the D.C. police department was not negligent in failing to protect three women from a brutal 14-hour ordeal in which they were repeatedly raped and beaten by two knife-weilding assailants.

    "The case stemmed from a 1975 incident in which two men broke into the house shared by the three women and a four-year-old child.

    "Two of the women called the police after hearing the third woman's screams for help.

    "A police dispatcher assured them assistance was on the way. But one squad car arriving on the scene merely circled the house without stopping and another officer apparently knocked on the door but left when no one answered. The women telephoned police a second time, but according to the court record, the dispatcher failed to relay the second call.

    "The two intruders subsequently discovered the other women and abducted all three at knifepoint, repeatedly raping and beating them over the next 14 hours.

    "Even though two of the women had called the police and received assurances of assistance shortly before the crime occurred, the court said the women were not entitled to sue the police department for negligence.

    "In dismissing the women's suit, a seven-judge panel of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals reaffirmed what it called the 'well-established' and 'uniformly accepted rule' that 'a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any particular individual citizen.'

    "The court held that the police have a duty only 'to the public at large and not to individual members of the community.'

    "Similar court decisions across the nation place citizens in a dilemma. More and more states are adopting stronger limitations on the citizen's right of self-defense and on when an individual can use deadly force against a criminal assailant.

    "Compounding this is the nation-wide drive at both the local and state levels by anti-gun groups to place increasingly restrictive gun laws on the books, laws which hamper the law-abiding citizen's efforts to possess firearms, especially handguns, for self-protection.

    "In the District, for example, handguns are virtually banned. Long guns kept in the home are required to be unassembled or trigger locked...

    "If higher court rulings ultimately hold that police have no duty to protect the individual citizen, and if the private ownership of firearms faces ever-increasing restraints, U.S. citizens will continue to find themselves at the mercy of the violence-prone criminal element."

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