Letters, Macon Telegraph

Another View, Published July 20, 2005

John F. Kraus II RN


You recently published an editorial that you described as a "handwringer" because you, and by extension society, were at a loss for options to solve the problem.  While it is easy to feel helpless in the face of the brutality displayed in these incidents the root causes are not elusive and neither are the solutions.

These incidents are only the tip of a much larger iceberg of social change that has its roots in court decisions dating from the post WW-II era up to the present.  One key court case that demonstrates the root causes of this dilemma is Warren vs. District of Columbia.  This case helped define the doctrine that the police "have no duty or responsibility to protect the individual, only society as a whole".   Briefly,  in this case three women were in their dwelling when one was attacked by several intruders.  The attackers did not know the other two were present. The two who remained free called the police repeatedly but the police did not respond appropriately.  When these two women were eventually found by the attackers all three were subjected to hours of sexual torture.  They sued the police and lost.   The court´s ruling was that there exists a "fundamental principle of American law that a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any individual citizen."

Today we see police departments that fail to act even when the general public is at risk.  The Atlanta truck driver is a perfect example.  News reports noted that the area was known for this type of behavior and a year previously bus service was suspended due to similar incidents.  Furthermore, there were news reports that the police were notified of problems in this area hours before the incident. There is evidence that this event was both predictable and preventable.

I think that many law enforcement agencies have begun extending the above legal doctrine to conclude that they have no duty to enforce any specific law unless they decide to on a whim. Society as a whole is increasingly finding that it has no governmental protector that is on the side of the law abiding citizen.   This may well be part of the explanation behind the recent shooting of the 15 year old car thief in Macon.  How many times had the people in the shooter´s neighborhood called police only to be ignored?   This is no justification for the events that occurred but it may be indicative of the level of frustration that poor law enforcement response can create.  Without knowing all the facts I can only speculate, but a statistical analysis could provide the answer.

By omitting the above sentence the meaning of the later statement about lack of justification seems to imply a tolerance for the earlier actions in the third paragraph regarding the truck driver. This reading was confirmed by another writer who took me to task for being soft on criminals.

Therefore,  I challenge the Macon Telegraph to use the open records law of Georgia (OCGA 50-18-70 G) to document the locations where minor quality of life crimes are being enforced and, more importantly, where they are being ignored.  Give us a clear geographically detailed picture of who gets protection and who does not.  I suspect that a simple statistical analysis of the locations with high citations vs. low citations would show some startling patterns.  Correlating this with citizen complaints vs. citations issued will quickly show where citizens are being ignored.

I never wrote "I would like to see someone, perhaps The Telegraph". Yet these words were published as through I had written them by retaining the first person.

To remedy the situation citizens need to demand the ability to sue any law enforcement agency and or local government that can be demonstrated to be systematically failing to respond to citizen complaints.

A handwringer of a situation?   I think not.  These events are a call to action for those who believe that governments and law enforcement exist to serve the citizen; something they seem to have forgotten despite the "To Serve and Protect" motto so conspicuously displayed by many departments.

This letter was published July 25th with editorial changes that, while not significantly changing the overall message, did remove references to local events. The text above was the original text that was sent to the Telegraph. I have highlighted the most important editorial changes in the text above. I don't think the changes significantly shortened the letter but did change my intent.
My reply was never published.
Below is the letter as published.