Remembering the case of Warren v. District of Columbia

Warren v. District of Columbia

Do the police have an obligation to provide protection to the individual? To answer this, let’s remember the case of Warren v. District of Columbia. According to Wikipedia:

In the early morning hours of Sunday, March 16, 1975, Carolyn Warren and Joan Taliaferro, who shared a room on the third floor of their rooming house at 1112 Lamont Street Northwest in the District of Columbia, and Miriam Douglas, who shared a room on the second floor with her four-year-old daughter, were asleep. The women were awakened by the sound of the back door being broken down by two men later identified as Marvin Kent and James Morse. The men entered Douglas’ second floor room, where Kent forced Douglas to perform oral sex on him and Morse raped her.

Warren and Taliaferro heard Douglas’ screams from the floor below. Warren telephoned the police, told the officer on duty that the house was being burglarized, and requested immediate assistance. The department employee told her to remain quiet and assured her that police assistance would be dispatched promptly.

Warren’s call was received at Metropolitan Police Department Headquarters at 0623 hours, and was recorded as a burglary-in-progress. At 0626, a call was dispatched to officers on the street as a “Code 2” assignment, although calls of a crime in progress should be given priority and designated as “Code 3.” Four police cruisers responded to the broadcast; three to the Lamont Street address and one to another address to investigate a possible suspect.

Meanwhile, Warren and Taliaferro crawled from their window onto an adjoining roof and waited for the police to arrive. While there, they observed one policeman drive through the alley behind their house and proceed to the front of the residence without stopping, leaning out the window, or getting out of the car to check the back entrance of the house. A second officer apparently knocked on the door in front of the residence, but left when he received no answer. The three officers departed the scene at 0633, five minutes after they arrived.

Warren and Taliaferro crawled back inside their room. They again heard Douglas’ continuing screams; again called the police; told the officer that the intruders had entered the home, and requested immediate assistance. Once again, a police officer assured them that help was on the way. This second call was received at 0642 and recorded merely as “investigate the trouble;” it was never dispatched to any police officers.

Believing the police might be in the house, Warren and Taliaferro called down to Douglas, thereby alerting Kent to their presence. At knife point, Kent and Morse then forced all three women to accompany them to Kent’s apartment. For the next fourteen hours the captive women were raped, robbed, beaten, forced to commit sexual acts upon one another, and made to submit to the sexual demands of Kent and Morse.

Clearly, the police were negligent. Clearly, the police handled the situation terribly. So what did the court decide for Warren v. District of Columbia?

By a 4–3 decision the court decided that Warren was not entitled to remedy at the bar despite the demonstrable abuse and ineptitude on the part of the police because no special relationship existed. The court stated that official police personnel and the government employing them owe no duty to victims of criminal acts and thus are not liable for a failure to provide adequate police protection unless a special relationship exists. The case was dismissed by the trial court for failure to state a claim and the case never went to trial.

Read that again: “The court state that office police personnel and the government employing them owe no duty to the victims of criminal acts and thus are not liable for a failure to provide adequate police protection.”

We are forced to pay for the police, a service which is monopolized by the government. How fair is it that the government can coerce people to pay for a service but then make the rules of the “agreement” such that they absolve themselves of accountability? We as taxpayers and subjects of the government simply cannot state, “This is what the rules of the relationship are and it doesn’t matter what the government wants.” Why does the state get that privilege?

If police protection were privately provided and a police service acted the way the state-provided police did in this situation, how many people would find it acceptable? Wouldn’t there be incentive by the businesses to keep their customers happy? If they didn’t, wouldn’t the customers leave in favor of a provider who promised and delivered on such services?

Why does the state get away with something that is so obviously unfair?

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