h/t raconteur report.
So it transpires that there were several armed local deputies outside the school in the US while it was being shot up by a teenager. These deputies did not enter the building and engage the shooter due to the fact that they were wetting their britches. It seems that there is a good proportion of US cops who are happy to shoot in the face unarmed civilians wearing bathrobes but shake with fear at the idea of engaging and taking a down an armed criminal in the middle of a gun rampage.
The “school guard” or whatever his official title is supposed to be was outside the entire time hiding behind a concrete pillar. The fact that he was armed and that he knew that there was a shooter inside gave him a distinct advantage over the shooter as the shooter did not know that he had a potential armed opponent on the scene. But even with this advantage he still didn’t enter the building. He didn’t even try to stop the shooter when he exited the building.
Okay, so nothing new in so far as what has been discussed all over the internet on this subject over the last few days. But on the weekend I saw this piece over at Tim Newman’s site and this line really stood out for me:
However, it has been pointed out on Twitter that policemen are not obliged to put themselves in danger to save others, despite many people understandably thinking they ought to, and it’s what they’re paid for.
I found this somewhat incredible. Policemen are indeed obliged to put themselves in danger to save others. There are numerous jobs that require those who accepted the job to put themselves in physical danger. A fireman is an excellent example of this. If your house was on fire and your wife and children trapped on the top floor then I’m not sure that you would react well to the firemen on scene declining to enter due to the physical danger that this entails.
Being a whitewater rafting guide was a very cool job by any standards, but it also had some very real physical dangers. I still remember several occasions when I had to dive into flooded rivers to rescue clients that had been swept off other guides’ rafts. I remember these moments because they scared the shit out of me after I had successfully performed the rescues. Any guide who might have refused to put himself on the line would have been bounced on the spot. And I very much doubt that any customer would have been happy if they had been allowed to be swept to their doom simply because the guides on the scene didn’t want to risk their own lives in such a situation.
Society reacts very badly when people in such positions neglect their duty of care to others because of the risk of personal harm. An excellent example of this was the captain of the Costa Concordia who abandoned the scene of that disaster as it was unfolding.
The individuals on Twitter pointing out that policemen are not legally obliged to place themselves in danger are apparently actual lawyers, so Tim’s piece is most probably accurate. But this doesn’t mean that such craven acts are morally acceptable, particularly in a front line position such as being a police officer. Yes, the law may very well be on your side, but you signed up to protect and serve the public, not to be yourself protected by such laws.
Personally, I’ll not criticise the individual too harshly. Nobody wants to go and get shot and this chap probably didn’t realise he’d have to face down a lunatic with an AR-15 one day; when the time came, he bottled it. Yes it’s cowardly but it’s also human and understandable.
If you don’t want to have to risk entering a burning building, don’t sign up to be a fireman. If you don’t want to have to dive into flooded rivers to rescue people, don’t sign up to be a whitewater rafting guide. And if you don’t want to have to confront an armed intruder in a high school when a specific part of your job description requires you to do so, then don’t sign up to be a school cop.
I judge the individual concerned very harshly indeed. But since society has effectively eliminated the act of shame or personal contrition then I’m sure that in the future the individual concerned will be able to come up with some internal narrative supporting the notion that he was really the victim here.
I don’t care what the laws state regarding the requirement of policemen to put themselves in danger to protect the general public, because the expectation of the general public is that the police will do so. As Michael Williamson so eloquently pointed out, nobody cares if you go home safe at the end of your shift because by signing up as a cop you relieve the average citizen of the responsibility of taking the law into his own hands to protect himself.
Social cohesion relies on implicit social contracts. One of these is that police will protect the public, particularly if the public are punished if they take the law into their hands in order to defend themselves. People who have the attitude that shootings in the US can only be solved by taking away the general public’s ability to defend themselves are seriously misinformed. But when you add to this the fact that the armed police in the latest shooting refused to go in and protect the public then such an attitude is simply delusional.
If this continues you can expect in the future that petty warlords will begin popping up in Western societies. If people are not allowed to defend themselves but the police won’t defend them either then the average citizen will turn to their local big man. Like the opening scene in The Godfather when the funeral director who had placed his faith in the police finally understood that the only one who could help him was the local top criminal.
If the police want to use petty laws to hide behind when they fail at their job then do not be surprised when the public loses confidence in the police and starts to make other arrangements. Because the police do not exist in isolation. They serve a need, and if they don’t fulfill that need then they will inevitably be replaced with something else that does.