Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Public versus Private Safety

Good article from Gary Marbut, head of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, on the public safety versus private safety debate:
In his first remarks in opposition to HB 228, Jim Smith representing the Montana Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association declared that MSPOA sees HB 228 as a conflict between "public safety" and "private safety." This announced the "us versus them" bias that MSPOA may have towards HB 228, and perhaps towards the rest of us.

Retired Los Angeles Police Department detective Joseph Wambaugh writes fiction about police and policing. A very experienced observer of police personnel, Wambaugh speaks through his characters about the attitude and the worldview of police officers. Police officers, Wambaugh says, see people as divided into two categories, cops and perps (cop slang for criminal perpetrators). Any person not wearing a badge and not in prison, according to this attitude, just hasn't been caught yet committing his or her special crime.

Is this the starting point for MSPOA to consider citizen self defense? Is this the sort of respect MSPOA members hold for the people of Montana? Is this attitude leaking into Montana from places like Los Angeles? These are questions worth pondering as we examine public safety, and then private safety.
If a serial murderer is kicking in your door intending to murder you, and you call 911 to ask for protection, police have no duty whatsoever to even respond. If they do respond, they have no duty to respond quickly. If they do respond quickly, they have no duty to do anything effective to protect you once they do arrive.
This is underscored by a 2005 incident in Bozeman. The Bozeman Police Department responded to a call about a knife-wielding assailant and robber at a convenience store in Bozeman. BPD personnel surrounded the convenience store with guns drawn, and held in that surround for 30 minutes during which time the knife-toting robber raped the female convenience store clerk.

This is not to say that individual officers don't want very much to protect innocent people. Most officers in Montana do. However, current law says that they are not obligated to do so, and inadequate or interfering policies too often lead to tragedies such as the one in Bozeman.

Response times. A common saying among those who believe in self defense is, "When seconds count, police are only minutes away." This principle is nowhere more accurate than in Montana, so much of which is rural. We live in Montana for the lifestyle, not for the big money (big bucks maybe, but not big money). Because Montana is not a wealthy place, we cannot afford to hire enough police officers to insure that they are likely be nearby at the moment any individual needs protection. Even if we could afford to hire enough police officers that one would be likely to be proximate when needed, we wouldn't do so. To do so would give us a police state, the antithesis of liberty so cherished by Montanans. We will never have reliably short response times for police officers in Montana. This is why police are sometimes called the "thin blue line." This line is very thin, indeed, in Montana.

2006 police response times according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics:

11.7% of police responses to crimes of violence were within one day or longer
Only 26.6% of police responses were within five minutes
32% of police responses were between six and ten minutes
Almost 42% of police responses took over ten minutes

Large cities have an average response time of seven minutes for high priority calls ...

More here, with links to sources.

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