Save a Life, Go to Jail

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He was charged with "interfering with public duties":

A San Marcos man was arrested after rescuing a swimmer from the swirling waters near a restaurant on the San Marcos River over the weekend.

Police say Dave Newman, 48, disobeyed repeated orders by emergency personnel to leave the water. The police report does not mention Newman's rescue of 35-year-old Abed Duamni of Houston on Sunday afternoon….

[Rev. John] Parnell and another man blocked the police officer's path to the squad car while other members of the crowd yelled at the police, telling them Newman had saved Duamni's life and should not be arrested.

[Via Lew Rockwell.]

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  1. Why don’t they just come right out and pass a law making it illegal to make a cop look bad?

  2. I think “smirking at an officer” is the official name for the crime. They HATE being smirked at. Anything but that.

  3. Sounds like those cops should get out of public service and go into teaching.

  4. …Maybe the police officer was an Objectivist!

  5. Was Mr. Newman also charged with not keeping his underwear clean, or failure to wear his underwear on the outside so the police can check? Is the charging instrument in Swedish?

    I ask this because San Marcos is the name of the country that had Fielding Mellish (played by Woody Allen) as its ruler in “Bananas”. Maybe the original revolutionaries took control again after Mellish failed to return from the U.S.

  6. That reminds me of a scene from Voltaire’s Candide. Perhaps he was arrested for failing to appreciate that, in the best of all possible worlds, the man was clearly meant to drown.

  7. Welcome to my hometown. The issue is likely deeper than what first appears. Mr Newman leads a group of local citizens who wish for the city to take control of the headwaters of the San Marcos river from the local university (Texas State-San Marcos). In that it was the university police who arrested Mr Newman, I strongly suspect that politics plays a prominent role in this arrest.

    The university and the city seem to be at constant odds with each other and occasionally the local PD aggresively target students which is usually followed by the university PD countering by targeting “locals.” Needless to say, this leads to some pretty hairy weeks/months until everything settles down again.

    GinSlinger

  8. Yeah, it looks like a bad decision until the next time when the rescuer gets into trouble and they lose a cop or 2 going after the rescuer.

    We might be dealing with a death-minimizing rule here, even though some people (eg, duamani) would lose if the rule is followed.

    I am not sure how this fits in with libertarianism, but I like the application in (globally) death minimizing rules for police emergency type situations, rather than freedonm maximizing rules in this context.

  9. Maybe the problem is that the man interfered in the officer’s personal narrative of heroism.

    “Aw, man, you ruined the story! I was supposed to be the hero! Now you’re gonna pay!”

  10. David-
    Even assuming there’s a valid reason for the law, is it too much to ask that cops be smart enough to recognize a situation where an exception needs to be made? Like, it’s illegal to leave the house with no clothes on, but if I’m awakened one night to find my house on fire, and run outside without getting dressed, should I still be arrested for indecent exposure, or should the cops be smart enough to figure out that arrest is not necessary in this instance?

  11. And of course, in the “house on fire” example the assumption is the fire was so far along that I had no time to get dressed. Or maybe my clothes had already burned. Whatevr.

  12. “…if I’m awakened one night to find my house on fire, and run outside without getting dressed, should I still be arrested for indecent exposure, or should the cops be smart enough to figure out that arrest is not necessary in this instance?”

    If reports regarding your beauty are anywhere in the ballpark, then I would say no–you shouldn’t be arrested for indecent exposure under any circumstances.

    …Rosie O’Donnell, on the other hand, should be arrested on the spot.

  13. Gentlemen: All jokes concerning Jennifer’s fixation with getting out of her clothes will come from me, thankyouverymuch.
    Peter: I was thinking the same thing.
    “Furthermore, all children under 16 years old are now… 16 years old!”
    “This trial is a travesty. It’s a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.”

  14. Am I the only one who suspects Jennifer is a balding fiftysomething man who enjoys toying with the imaginations of certain Hit & Run readers?

  15. As soon as I made that post, I was thinking that JEFF should have been the hypothetical naked person in this example. But in all seriousness, I think any sensible cop would ignore the indecent-exposure laws if the person in question was seen running out of their burning house; why can’t the cops do the same thing in this Texas scenario? Any law which says you have to stand back and watch a man die, even though you’re capable of saving him, is a completely bullshit law.

    Jeff-
    One of these days we’ll have to take a good picture of me and put it on your Website, just to settle such questions once and for all. But *I* get to decide what constitutes a good picture; that godawful one from Waterfire needs to be destroyed.

  16. Jeff-
    After reading Jesse Walker’s post, I am more determined than ever to get a good picture of myself up on your Website.

  17. Jesse, I can tell you from first hand experience that she is not balding.
    (And with that joke, Jeff was never heard from again…)

    Now I Have Bananas stuck in my head “Few people realize that we lead the world in hernias.”

  18. Saying that I’m not going bald is meant to be a JOKE? Hmmph. If I ever do go bald, it’ll be from pulling out my hair in frustration.

  19. No, dear, I’m implying that you’re a fiftysomething man.

  20. Oh. Well, so long as you don’t mind being gay in this scenario, I guess it works for me.

    And back on to the topic: these cops are IDIOTS.

  21. By the way, Jeff, I don’t know if this is just a problem with my browser at work, but clicking on your name does NOT take one to your Website, but to “Page not found.” Would this have something to do with the fact that the address is listed as being “dot-NET?” I thought you were a “dot-COM.”

  22. I’m kinda torn on this one:

    1st – This was clearly an authoritarian cop who just couldn’t stand to have his authority questioned – a grown up Eric Cartman on his big wheel. If someone is breaking a law, arrest them and charge them for it. Otherwise (and almost all of criminal procedural law is based upon this assumption) I have no need to obey you any more than any other person. Just because you’re a power tripper (almost a pre-req for cops) doesn’t mean that you actually deserve respect.

    On the other hand, the University, as a property owner of the land surrounding the water, has every right to restrict people using their property. Granted, we have a screwed up commons for water rights, but in general, I have no problem with the University prosecuting him for trespass (I know, I know, they didn’t prosecute him for that).

    It’s one of those mixed bag stories, IMO.

  23. Good catch, love. It’s fixed.

    If I am correct, there exists or existed somewhere a law that NOT helping a person in danger in tantamont to depraved indifference. I think is was a state law, but I forget which state.

  24. as a property owner of the land surrounding the water, has every right to restrict people using their property

    Is saving a drowning man considered “using” property? If anything, this sounds like a reason to arrest the victim, but not the hero.

    To go back to my burning-house example, that’s like saying that if I run into a burning building to save a kid, I should be arrested for trespass.

  25. “Jeff and Jennifer”… coming this fall to ABC.

  26. Am I the only one who suspects Jennifer is a balding fiftysomething man who enjoys toying with the imaginations of certain Hit & Run readers?

    For the sake of our Libertarian Girls Gone Wild money-making scheme, I sincerely hope not. But I confess, that thought had crossed my mind at some point or other.

    To be fair: with my postings, I’ve probably led people to believe I’m a 13-year old delinquent boy, a mildly retarded middle aged woman, or a perverted old man who can’t stay on topic. The internet giveth and the internet taketh away, but at any time, she may mislead you.

  27. How does this jive with Libertarianism? A logical question, but one that almost answers itself.

    It’s not that action need comform to law or philosophy, it’s that law needs to be rational, which in this country, is damn near impossible.

    The point of (what we’d hope is) free, private behavior is just that; it needs no authority to justify it. The authoritarian viewpoint is skewed not only from justifiable precedent or prior law, but from all NORMAL perspective.

    So many things come down to nothing more than perspective. By one perspective, when a hero charges into the river to save another, it’s not material if he’s successful. It’s a given that society views that action as sovereign, responsible to the person making the decision to enact it, and therefore honored by law.

    On the other hand — the reductionist/authoritarian/dysfunctional view — all action can somehow be called into question as to how it serves an unachievable and foolish notion of a higher greater good. This crap used to be the stuff of bad scifi films. Now it’s real life.

    Obviously law should serve the indiviidual, not the other way around. It’s when we get into this lazy well-I-think-what-we-should-do subjectivity that nonsense like this happens.

  28. “He’s a tall, stunningly handsome Scottish geek who loves cooking and comics, but hates sports. She’s the willful Slavic misanthope who dared to love him…”

  29. Your name-link still isn’t working, honey.

  30. Whatever happened to people helping people? Not anymore. “Get back in line, Citizen. I work for the Government, and we are the ones who save people, not you.”

  31. “Get back in line, Citizen. I work for the Government, and we are the ones who save people, not you.”

    Exactly; the extension of which is no allowable self-protection. But for now, the next time your guest falls overboard, call 911 for permission first.

    And that citizen’s arrest? Forget it. Home invader? Guy stealing your car? Witness to a kidnapping?

    Don’t lift a finger; you might hurt yourself.

  32. What makes this worse is, didn’t the Supreme Court recently rule (in the case of restraining orders, anyway) that the cops DO NOT have an obligation to protect citizen’s safety? Great message from the cops: “We don’t have to keep you alive, and nobody else is allowed to try.”

  33. Following up on 6Gun’s good post, I would think that a would-be rescuer would only be liable for prosecution if he genuinely interfered with another’s efforts to perform a rescue, or if his recklessness endangered someone else. Once you get past the general principles, the application gets all screwed up because it may be quite open to interpretation regarding who might be more able to execute a rescue or whether trying to execute one makes one a danger to other would-be rescuers. The assumption being made by the state (and its supporters) is that agents of the state are always more qualified to perform a rescue and that anyone else who tries to is not only getting in the way but endangering the police who would be ogligated to perform a new rescue if the aforementioned would-be rescuer screws up. As always, if we base prosecution on what actually happens rather than following broad rules that may (or may not) result in the overall best results, then we only prosecute those who have done genuine harm.

  34. …then we only prosecute those who have done genuine harm.

    And, I should add, that’s the way it oughtter be!!

  35. Jennifer:

    “Is saving a drowning man considered “using” property? If anything, this sounds like a reason to arrest the victim, but not the hero.”

    My comment was more to the point of what the guy did after rescuing the other guy. Refusing to leave the property after the implied license of necessity was no longer applicable is grounds for trespassing. In other words, breaking into W’s ranch to save him from SH’s hypothetical hitman does not create a lifetime right to reside in W’s ranch.

    The University police, agents of the owner of the surrounding property (again, the water itself is most likely a commons), do have some authority to request that the guy leave the area. Granted, as I noted, these cops appeared to be more on a power trip, as the charge indicates, than acting as agents of a property owner.

  36. Ignoring the fact that the police having the power to tell someone what risks they are allowed to take is total bullshit, once the advice (order my ass) to get out is acknowledged and refused the guy should be on his own. Provided he doesn’t cause someone else to drown by dragging them in, no harm, no foul. As far as endangering others, I don’t see how given there is no obligation on the part of the police to rescue anyone especially given the SCOTUS ruling that police are not required to enforce restraining orders. Do we really need a nanny to tell us we can’t do something because it’s dangerous? If we do, life is about to get really boring.

  37. Quasibill-
    But from what I read of that story, it’s not an accurate analogy to say “After saving W’s life (God forgive me if I do) I can reside in his ranch for life;” it’s more like, “After saving W’s life, I can pause for a few seconds to catch my breath, or work out the kinks I got in my muscles. from lifting his heavy self.”

    The story said the guy smirked after the cops told him to leave the water, and before he saved the man. I imagine that smirk was identical to the look I’d get on my face, if I were about to save a person’s life and some pathetic excuse for a human being told me not to bother.

  38. by way of further answer to the “what does this have to do with libertarianism” question… firstly, what girth said. the government is there to protect the people, but the people also are entitled to protect themselves, and in fact, the better equipped the people are to protect themselves, the less they need government intervention (always a good thing in libertarianism). so when the government is actually restricting the people’s right to protect themselves, we’ve got problems. hence, the traditional libertarian stance on gun control.

    second, i would like to refer everyone back up to GinSlinger’s post. predictably, there were probably other politics at play. which ties in to the libertarian idea that when you give the government enough pointless laws to work with, they can be selectively enforced to serve a larger political agenda.

    third, since when does everything posted on H&R have to relate directly to libertarianism in some way?

  39. The assumption being made by the state (and its supporters) is that agents of the state are always more qualified to perform a rescue…

    And the extension of THAT is that the State is eventually more qualified to do everything. Which is obviously its aim and its enablers’ plan.

    Again, it all comes down to perspective. As with Kelo and various other recent assaults on the individual, when you subjectively argue little “public good” tidbits, you can overwhelm even the most structured constitution.

    What annoys me is how this evil, like all evil, makes its own backyard the debate hall. The argument gets so debased that eventually you end up debating whether air is free. I say, don’t give the bastards their forum.

    In this case, what needs debating isn’t whether a small throng hollered at the cops and then all went home and switched on the teevee; what needs debating is who’s going to press charges against the police for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, risking a citizen’s life, etc.

    Problem is that that requires a collective spine this country started to lose a hundred years ago.

  40. also, what makes this case so eggregious as to merit promotion from the daily brickbat to H&R?

  41. what makes this case so eggregious as to merit promotion from the daily brickbat to H&R?

    Um, maybe the fact that it’s apparently illegal to save another human being’s life?

  42. what makes this case so eggregious as to merit promotion from the daily brickbat to H&R?

    The fact that it was posted by me instead of Charles.

  43. Please excuse the threadjack, but an astrologer is suing for anquish caused by the comet probe:
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20050705/ap_on_fe_st/russia_comet_case

  44. That’s the thread right below this one, Jeff. I envy your having enough to do today that this escaped you.

    On the other hand, I’m getting paid an awful lot of money to post on Hit and Run today. That Internet won’t surf itself, you know!

  45. How does the Good Samaritan Law (GSL) work in this case? Can the rescuee invoke the GSL to protect the rescuer from the police if the rescuee was crying for help at the time and gladly accepted the helping hand of the rescuer?

  46. Sorry about that, folks. I am an idiot.

  47. Goos Sam-
    As I understand it, the Good Samaritan law says only that the person you save can’t sue you. So if I give you the Heimlich maneuver and break a rib in the process, you can’t sue me for that. It doesn’t say anything about the cop whose feelings I hurt because HE wanted to save you himself.

  48. How does the Good Samaritan Law (GSL) work in this case?

    If it’s like other laws, against you. I’d wager that anything said by the rescuee would get him slapped with some legal problem like conspiracy to commit wanton interference with public duties.

  49. also, what makes this case so eggregious as to merit promotion from the daily brickbat to H&R?

    What it deserves is promotion to 50 statehouses run by special interest nancys, zach, nearly all of them pathological liars with egos the size of Montana. Junk law like this is an affront to domestic freedom, and that’s putting it politely. Think tea party. Think tar and feathers and rails.

    We don’t have statesmen in power, we have bought-off feel-good jackasses passing everything under the sun and doing it ONLY to buy votes.

    I find it amazing that we don’t do three things in order to save the Republic: (1) Make passing unconstutional law an offense, (2) outlaw government lobbying itself, and (3) enact immediate term limits.

    No chance of that happening and so one concludes we just don’t give a damn. We LIKE stuff like this; it takes the weight of freedom off our shoulders.

    Instead we have the Pelosi’s and Clinton’s making law. That isn’t law, it’s cradle-to-graveism.

  50. I can’t believe that I didn’t include this earlier! As an institute of higher education, neurotically concerned with increasing it’s reputation, the university has to see this as a public relations disastor (there are 5 pages of results for this story on Google news). I have already sent an e-mail to the UPD and the president and offer the addresses for the rest of you.

    UPD: police@txstate.edu

    President Trauth: president@txstate.edu

    Here is a situation where the market can/will reign in rogue cops.

    GinSlinger

  51. alright. but all that’s more or less what the brickbat’s about, too. i was only pointing out that this is the sort of thing that usually ends up there.

  52. Five bucks says the cops all had dry feet after their ordeal.

    Galius

  53. Yeah, it looks like a bad decision until the next time when the rescuer gets into trouble and they lose a cop or 2 going after the rescuer.

    We might be dealing with a death-minimizing rule here, even though some people (eg, duamani) would lose if the rule is followed.

    Hey, I guess you can’t make a hypothetically life-saving omelette without sacrificing the actual human life egg in front of you.

    If you’re drowning and I’m able to help you, should I say, “Sorry, I’m not authorized, because it would just encourage the next guy who tries to save someone from drowning, and he might not be as competent at it as I am, and drown himself, and maybe get some cops killed too, so you’re on your own”?

    Nothing like discouraging natural human instincts to help each other and replacing it with a rule to leave such things to the professional employees of the State — again. Meet the Drowning Welfare State.

    (Not that I should pick on you at such length, but it’s disturbing how such thinking infects even the minds of reasonable people.)

  54. To add to what Stevo wrote, let me remind y’all that the Supreme Court has ruled COPS ARE NOT REQUIRED TO SAVE YOUR LIFE. So if the cops don’t have to save you, and nobody else is allowed to try, is it too much of a stretch to say that the cops, basically, get to decide who lives and who dies?

  55. jennifer, do you have a link to that decision?

  56. It’s a slow day at work, Zach. Let me do a Google search.

  57. It’s Deshaney v. Winnebago County. The cops are under no obligation to protect you. Which is more polite than the Supreme Court coming right out and saying “All y’all can go fuck yourselves.”

  58. “Jeff and Jennifer”… coming this fall to ABC.

    The fact that I have sibling cousins named Jeff and Jennifer has totally ruined this for me… Blast!

    (And Jeff is a libertarian, to boot!)

  59. Stevo,
    I am saying that the law should play the acrtuarial odds. If rescuers in dangerous (read: legitimate police) situations (raging rivers, collapsing towers, etc) tend to cause more loss of life than they prevent, then I think the law should go one way. If they tend to prevent more loss of life than they cause the law should go the other way. Do you *know* whether rescuers are a net gain or a net loss taken over the entirety of rescue situations?

    Side bar: during my childhood, I think that police/firepeople were killed at least twice going after unsuccessful rescuers. On time at the Rockbottom Dam in the Susquenhanna river (’77? ’78?), it was like a lot of fireman at one time. It is a real problem and not some weird hypo I made up. (Whether or not the problem justifies the law at issue here is of course a larger, more actuarial issue). Likewise, I don’t think we would have wanted civilians rushing into the Twin Towers on 9/11, even if a couple private rescuers got lucky and pulled out asmatics or whatever.

    Jennifer:
    You aren’t going to get much teleological juice out of the rule if you exempt successful rescuers. Every rescuer is sure that she will be successful until it is too late to save herself and the unlucky police who will then have to try to save her.

  60. it’s disturbing how such thinking infects even the minds of reasonable people.

    There you have it.

    Let’s pick a number, say 5 on a 10 scale. We’ve lost half our rights, half our freedom, half of the real American dream.

    If this is the case, why do nearly all political debates revolve around the insane reductionism of a system already half gone?

    It’s like debating whether to run the alley and risk being mugged or run the street and risk being stabbed. The problem isn’t that one option, one law is so jacked up as to be incomprehensible, it’s what we’re going to do about a thousand bad laws.

    I’d like to think original freedom was something of an absolute, and that everything that comes after it serves not to enhance it — it cannot — but to tear it down brick by brick. If this is so, debating these angels on the pinhead is a foolish waste of time. A solid democratic people who respected their heritage would be acting convincingly on each state’s legislature in the time it took to write this.

    Stop wrestling with these swine.

  61. “Duamni, who said he did not see any signs warning swimmers of the dangerous currents, jumped into the water several times before the current caught him. He had just finished eating at the restaurant when he decided to go for a swim.”

    That’s the first thing that crosses my mind after a satisfying meal..

    “Hmmmm. My stomac is nice and full. WHERE ARE THOSE RAPIDS?”

  62. Bureaucracies grow by encroaching.

  63. Wait a minute, Deshaney was the ruling that said social workers aren’t required to save the lives of people in their care. Crap. I know the cops-aren’t-responsible rule is out there somewhere, though.

    David-
    You don’t find a logical problem in a body of laws which says cops are NOT required to save you from other people, but can take as many of your rights as they deem necessary to save you from YOURSELF? So they don’t have to save me from a crackhead rapist, but they’ll imprison me forever to save me from the evil joint I just rolled? They’re not required to stop a man from throwing me into deep water, but they can arrest me to prevent me from going into said water myself? Holy jumping Jesus.

  64. The cops are under no obligation to protect you.

    As it should be. The cops are for enforcing basic, rational law, which naturally means, arresting perps, not being precogs. Self-protection begins at home, and every citizen has (had?) the right to act in their own best interest, within a sane structure of law.

    I keep saying it’s a matter of perspective; that is, will. The reductionists preen their million fine points of subservience, none of which do a damn thing to stem the tide of authoritarianism.

  65. You don’t find a logical problem in a body of laws which says cops are NOT required to save you from other people, but can take as many of your rights as they deem necessary to save you from YOURSELF?

    Ha! Sloth! It’s EASIER. And when society has torn down reason and accountability on the path to PC hell, all the better.

    I always knew the state-rule future was coming, I just never thought it was now.

  66. Zach-
    It was Castle Rock, Colorado, v. Gonzales.

    6Gun-
    I don’t have a problem so much with the idea that the cops are not required to protect me; what’s bullshit is that they’ve effectively made it impossible for me to protect myself, AND for others to try and save me, AND the cops aren’t expectged to fill in the gap. If the cops aren’t required to save the cramping swimmer, then they have no right to stop anyone else from doing so.

    And frankly, I’d rather have cops who protect me from other people than cops who protect me from myself.

  67. Agreed on all counts, Jennifer.

    I’m just waiting for some lame reductionist to try and factor in the emotional distress of the swimmer hearing dry-shoed cops tell folks aloud that he’s not worth saving. I mean if State = God, let’s be sure we don’t miss anything.

    Come on reductionists, factor that bit in with the other seventeen million variables on your way to Utopia…

  68. As a further addition to the part about cops being required to save you and “death minimizing” regulation –

    No one forced the cop to be a cop. He chose a risky occupation voluntarily. So I am constantly amazed at how many freedoms people are willing to give up to make cops feel safer. Anytime you get pulled over in your car, you better be the most compliant, timid person on earth, or you’re likely to get shot, clubbed, or tasered by the hyped-up Marine wannabe that’s been trained to “take control of the situation”. Screw innocent until proven guilty – you’re dead (or maimed) if you don’t do everything to keep the cop from wetting his pants.

    Getting back from rant mode – if the cops don’t want to risk their lives, 1) noone is requiring them to (see the SCOTUS stuff in other posts), and 2) noone is requiring them to be cops in the first place. Scared of what might happen when doing the job? Then take another job. Don’t trample on our liberties just because you’re too afraid of what might happen if you do it the right way.

  69. Jennifer,

    I am no fan of cops in general, but I draw a distinction between the legitimate and “illegitimate” (for lack of a better word) work they do.

    I am not sure exactly how I would draw the distinction in every case, but maybe some example will show a pattern:

    Illegitimate: speed trap on non-lethal stretch of hi-way.

    Legitimate: co-ordinating and executing tower rescues on 9-11

    Illegimate: marijuana bust

    Legitimate: co-ordinating and executing rescues in a turbulent river

    Anyway, whenever I look at a segment of police work, I first ask myself whether the work is primarily public safety (legit) or primarily revenue raising (non-legit). If it is legitimate stuff, I like to have the police firmly in charge (at least if they are present), even if they’re not perfect. If it is illegitimate stuff (eg, no knock warrants for drug searches), then I look at that segment more the way you suggest on this thread.

    Even if it is unlibertarian of me, I think that some police work is legitimate and that there should be some (albeit a lot less) police people.

  70. correction: fewer

  71. Comment directly to the local San Marcos media at http://www.sanmarcosrecord.com. You might also comment at the Austin American Statesman, as San Marcos is just south of Austin and the story was carried in the Statesman.

  72. David-
    So how would you classify police work of arresting those who would save their fellow man: legit or not?

  73. Jennifer —

    You’re thinking of “Warren vs. District of Columbia.” Cops are supposed to protect “society at large” but have no obligation to protect individuals (meaning they can’t be penalized for failure to do so). This usually comes up in gun rights discussion, usually after someone asks “Why do you need a gun when the police exist to protect you?”

    Google +police +”protect individuals” for some references. Here’s one:

    http://www.gunowners.org/sk0503.htm

    David: I don’t think the law should play the actuarial odds, no.

    Suppose the police receive 400 phone calls from Bad Urban Neighborhood a year. Suppose two thirds of those result in no arrests and no convictions, due to poor leads, a heavy backlog of cases, difficulty finding cooperative and articulare witnesses, etc.

    Suppose Wealthy White Suburb makes 20 calls to the police a year, and 90 percent of those lead to arrests and convictions. I think if the cops want to play the odds, they should ignore all calls from Bad Urban Neighborhood and concentrate on Wealthy White Suburb, where they can solve crimes more efficiently.

    To make the analogy more closely parallel, let’s also make it illegal for private individuals in Bad Urban Neighborhood to take anti-crime steps themselves — by arming themselves, for example, onthe presumption that they’re so incompetent at protecting themselves that they’re better off with no protection at all.

    (Hmm, maybe this is already happening.)

    There’s also the fact that cops can’t be everywhere or as numerous as civilians.

    Here’s what I think: (A) any private individual should be allowed to risk his life and try to save someone else from drowning if he so chooses. And (B) if the police, in their presumed expert professional judgment, feel they are unable to rescue an incompetent civilian rescuer without unacceptable risk to themselves, should not feel obligated to make the attempt — they guy took his changes. This seems fair to me. Especially since (B) seems to be already in force.

  74. Answer:

    Above I said that I thought the rescue law of this thread would be justified if there was some decent empiracal basis to conclude that such a rule would, on balance, save lives. Since we haven’t yet taken empirical evidence on this important question one way or the other, I remain uncertain about (but open to) the legitimacy of the law being ridiculed on this thread.

    However, for the sake of giving you some kind of answer, let’s assume that the empirical evidence came in and we all agreed that more lives would be saved if private rescuers never attempted rescue.

    Under this assumption:

    arresting the man is legit work. the arrest would lead private rescuers not to rescue in future. police lives are thereby saved. sure the media won’t cover the story this way.

    Instead it will be: “Boy drowns, police rescue attempt falls short.”

    However, we know the real story: “2 police lives saved by 50 private citizens who each decided not to venture into raging river because of anti-rescue-law and despite obviously drowning boy.” That is what the hypothetical actuarials, that we have hypothetically agreed upon, tell us.

  75. Stevo:
    see my comment above about legit versus illegit police work. Your hypos seem to be on the illegit side of the law so, like, you know how I feel about that.

  76. arresting the man is legit work. the arrest would lead private rescuers not to rescue in future. police lives are thereby saved. sure the media won’t cover the story this way.

    Oh, good. So long as POLICE lives are saved, who cares about the non-uniformed peons? Police lives are FAR more important than the stupid little citizens they’re not legally obligated to protect, right?

  77. Is it me or have the last three posts already devolved into subjectivity?

    Look, one bright day when all the information in the Universe is safely tucked away inside The Machine, and we’re all pluggd in, then surely we’ll be acting every thought, every whim, every action in the surest, most collectivist-correct way.

    Until that miracle, how do we protect basic rights when even Libertarians are willing to debate stuff on feelings?

  78. stevo, i don’t know that i agree. some of what you say makes sense… but cops are obligated to help people who put themselves in danger, one way or the other. for instance, i walk through an alleyway in a bad part of town late at night because i’m drunk and don’t know any better. are the cops not obligated to help me if something happens that i wasn’t counting on? you could extend that reasoning to get rid of cops entirely.

    i agree completely that “There’s also the fact that cops can’t be everywhere or as numerous as civilians.” if there are no cops around, someone should obviously have the right to try and save a drowning man. but what if the cops are there already and already in the process of doing something? unless they’re doing it in a completely incompetent manner, any “help” that could be offered by a civilian just seems like stupidity and grandstanding. not that cops aren’t very much capable of both on their own.

  79. Excuse me, not including your post, Jennifer…

  80. However, we know the real story: “2 police lives saved by 50 private citizens who each decided not to venture into raging river because of anti-rescue-law and despite obviously drowning boy.”

    So, assuming people will be stopped by this law in life-and-death situations, which I find unlikely… Skip raging rivers. What if there are no government personnel around and a small child is drowning in waters shallow enough for an adult civilian to safely wade in?

    Is it really worth it to let that kid drown?

  81. but cops are obligated to help people who put themselves in danger, one way or the other

    No, the Supreme Court has ruled that they are, at most, obligated to try and find the perps after the fact. Otherwise, you’re on your own.

  82. Jennifer:

    It depends on what the data tells us. I can’t give me answers, until you give me the data I seek.

    No, it is not *just* police lives we are saving. Very often the would-be rescuer will also save herself by not going in. Sometimes the would-be rescuer will even save the intial victim by foregoing a rescue attempt (eg, would-be rescuer gets in trouble and distracts rescue efforts from initial victim).

    Here is an example drawn from my life recently. In 2003, I lived in a big desert basin (the Morongo, npi). There were flash floods. I think that 10 or so people died in the floods the year I lived there. If I remember correctly, (at least) 2 of those 10 were unsuccessful private rescuers. If they had stayed on their cars they would be alive. So, not just police lives we are talking about.

    (and b4 someone starts sounding off about assumption of risk, let me pre-empt that by saying that there is not sufficient information or consent to assume risk in a typical rescue situation.)

    Now, of course, the data I demand would also have to account for successful rescues. For all I know, there were 100s and 100s of successful private rescues in the Morongo Basin in 2003. These rescues would easily overbear the two drowned men as an actuarial matter. But, we won’t know, until we get the data.

    The narrow question you asked was “is it just police?”

    Narrow answers: (1) no; but (2) police lives should count as heavily as anybody else’s when dealing with emergency protocols for raging rivers and floods. The police belong at these situations when possible (preferably with training in head), and they should be able to expect private citizens to behave in a way that helps everybody minimize the loss of life (probabilistically speaking).

  83. Eric:
    my answer would depend upon the actuarial data again, but my gut tells me that situations where police are present / not present probably exhibit different actuarial trends and would call for a distinction in the law between police-present and police-not-present.

    I am not clear: do we know if the rescuer in San Marcos could have been arrested if the police had not been present and not attempted to call him off before he went in the water?

  84. jennifer, i was trying to keep the conversation to what cops ought to be doing, really. if you want to get all realistic-like, just imagine the frenzy that would be caused by a cop saying to a TV camera: “Well, this guy took it upon himself to save another drowning man. We saved the drowning man, but decided we didn’t want to risk our own lives further by saving his would-be rescuer. So yeah, that guy’s dead now.”

  85. David-
    In the case you mentioned, with amateurs going into the river, there are two possibilities: 1. The rescuer dies. In this case, there’s no punishment the cops and courts can really be expected to dish out to said rescuer; it’s all moot. 2. The rescuer lives, in which case punishing him seems purely spiteful; obviously, the rescuer did not need the law to protect him.

    As for those two private rescuers who died rather than stay on their cars, well, I suspect that the type of person who would risk his own life to save another’s would likely be willing to risk jail time and a fine, too. So what the hell is the point of said law, except to add more mileage to the cops’ power trip?

  86. Jennifer:
    I tried (successfully) to pre-empt these latest objections in the assumption of the risk sentence in my previous post.

  87. Hm. Maybe the police should arrest the water, too?

    Live free. fight or swim.

  88. and b4 someone starts sounding off about assumption of risk, let me pre-empt that by saying that there is not sufficient information or consent to assume risk in a typical rescue situation.

    why not?

  89. Since we’re giving away our rights for protection, could we at least get cops with a minimum IQ of 125?

  90. Curious-
    Drream on. There was a case in Connecticut a few years back, where a guy applied for a cop job (I think it was in New London, home of the Kelo travesty) and took an IQ test which revealed him to be above average but certainly no genius; I think his score was around 120. He didn’t get the job, because (this is true) they said he was TOO INTELLIGENT for the job! (They were afraid he’d get bored and quit.) He took it to court and lost.

  91. because the would-be rescuer does not have sufficient information nor quiet time for informed consent to work. Very likely, the rescuer is acting on instinct, adrenaline, fear, emotion. There is not time to consider the magnitude of the risks for the would-be rescuer and others (eg, her rescuers). This context is not consistent with a knowing assumption of risk. Just because a rescuer is successful, it does not mean that risk was assumed in any fair sense of the phrase.

    Not 4 the squeamish:
    http://www.snopes.com/horrors/freakish/hotsprng.htm

  92. honestly everyone, if the cops are already at the scene and in the middle of a rescue, you can’t say that getting all gung-ho and trying to one-up the cops is somehow a “right”. i subscribe to the very libertarian belief that citizens should be both entitled and encouraged to protect themselves, and that the government exists ultimately for the purpose of protecting its citizens when they can’t do this. but unless we concede that the government is at times better equipped to protect its citizens than are the citizens themselves, then what is the point of a government at all? or has everyone gone anarchist all of a sudden?

    by the logic i’m seeing on this thread, it’s my inalienable right to pick up my semi-automatic and leap into a hostage negotiation, or to decide to tag along with my shotgun during a SEAL operation. government power is put to illegitimate uses all the time these days, but that doesn’t mean we should prevent it from performing maybe its sole legitimate purpose.

  93. …or i should say, interefere with it performing maybe its sole legitimate purpose.

  94. On the other hand, a rescuer worker, with good training in head, can assume the risk in a more meaningful way, both because it is her job to consider contingent dangers and because the police, in theory, give her good information about the risks she faces.

  95. David W. –

    You seem to be arguing based on a strict utilitarianism, which isn’t a bad point to start from. But I think it’s a bad place to end up at.

    A lot of the posters have been arguing from an a priori stance, that we have the right to help other people, regardless of whether or not we are trained to do so. This seems to me to be another case of “leave it to the experts” that has so pervaded society. Nothing wrong with that, except when the experts try to tell you to butt out, because you’re just in the way. My life is mine to throw away in a futile attempt at rescue, not the government’s to save because it considers me unable to make a good decision.

    And remember that, in the final analysis, police and firefighters are public servants, and they have voluntarily assumed the risk. If that risk includes saving my ignorant ass because I wanted to save someone else’s life – well, so be it.

    I think it comes down to the fact that passing laws to prevent altruism is just wrong, no matter the intentions of those who pass those laws. I’m no objectivist; I think that altruism is a good thing, overall, that needs to be encouraged, rather than discouraged.

    because the would-be rescuer does not have sufficient information nor quiet time for informed consent to work.

    Y’know, sometimes people don’t need all that quiet time and information. Sometimes waiting for all the information and the time to digest it is a luxury that can’t be afforded. And yes, that means that sometimes I’ll make a bad decision. But that doesn’t mean that my decision wasn’t informed consent. Informed consent isn’t some ideal reached only after all the information is in and has been properly processed; it’s reached when people have enough information and time for the situation at hand.

  96. Since we’re giving away our rights for protection, could we at least get cops with a minimum IQ of 125?

    Comment by: Curious at July 5, 2005 04:56 PM

    Curious-
    Drream on. There was a case in Connecticut a few years back, where a guy applied for a cop job (I think it was in New London, home of the Kelo travesty) and took an IQ test which revealed him to be above average but certainly no genius; I think his score was around 120. He didn’t get the job, because (this is true) they said he was TOO INTELLIGENT for the job! (They were afraid he’d get bored and quit.) He took it to court and lost.

    Comment by: Jennifer at July 5, 2005 05:00 PM

    http://www.chrononhotonthologos.com/lawnotes/cop104.htm

    Man deemed too smart for police force

    For the full story,
    (link no longer valid) http://www.foxnews.com/news/wires2/0908/n_ap_0908_269.sml
    September 8, 1999

    By Brigitte Greenberg, Associated Press

    NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) —

    The New London Police Department’s rejection of Robert Jordan because he scored too high on an intelligence test did not violate his rights, according to a United States District Court Judge.

    The city’s rationale for the long-standing practice is that candidates who score too high could soon get bored with police work and quit after undergoing costly academy training.

    The judge said there is no evidence that a high score is in any way related to job satisfaction, performance or turnover. But he said: “The question is not whether a rational basis has been shown for the policy chosen by defendants. Plaintiff may have been disqualified unwisely, but he was not denied equal protection.”

    In 1996, Robert Jordan scored a 33, the equivalent of an IQ of 125. Nationally the average score for police officers, as well as office workers, bank tellers and salespeople, is 21 to 22, the equivalent of an IQ of 104.

    Police in New London, population 27,000, interviewed only those candidates who scored 20 to 27.

    City manager Richard Brown said the hiring process will remain the same. “There has been nothing to come across my desk that would cause me to make a change,” he said.

  97. “There was a case in Connecticut a few years back…”

    I’ve heard that story so many times now, I’m startin’ to think that it might be an urban legend.

    …I’ve heard Navy guys say that happened when they tried to join the Marines, and I’ve heard Marines say that happened when they tried to join the Navy.

    I’ve heard a lot of people say that happened in a lot of different circumstances, and I’m not sayin’ it never happened, and I’m not sayin’ that this didn’t really happen with this cop in Connecticut.

    …But the first time I heard that story was in the mid-eighties, and it was in a completely different context. …and I’m skeptical.

  98. Thank you, Nobody Important.

    Ken-
    Nope, not an urban legend. Urban legends are something you hear “from a friend of a friend of a friend who knew the person it happened to;” for me, I learned of the drama while it was ongoing in the news each night, since from where I was living it was a local story.

    It’s official, folks: The Thin Blue Line between chaos and whatever consists of people who only rated a “C” grade on the bell curve of human intelligence.

  99. “A federal court has determined that in New London, Connecticut, the police were justified in denying employment to an applicant who was too smart to be a policeman.”

    I aplologize for doubting you.

  100. …I didn’t even see nobody important’s comment, I apologize for that too!

  101. David W. ?

    You seem to be arguing based on a strict utilitarianism, which isn’t a bad point to start from. But I think it’s a bad place to end up at.

    well, I would stress that my stance is qualified. I think utilitarian standards ought to be applied in raging rivers and collapsing towers. in these kinds of special situations, i think utilitarianism is in order because I don’t think rational choice is an open option in these situations.

    Here is a hypo that may help clarify where I draw the line between rescuers being able to make rational choices and those that I would have the gov’t control by utilitarian standards: if the rescue involved a person donating a kidney (at some personal risk), then I would not be behind a law enabling the police to stop this rescue. I will go further than that even!!! I would not let the police stop the rescue even if the person had one kidney, making death a virtual certainty for the rescuer.

    Still, I would go right back to utilitarian ethics, enforced by cops, if the kidney were on fire or about to explode.

  102. “you seem . . . up at.” is a quote from a previous post — should have been italicized.

  103. Comment by grylliade at July 5, 2005 05:52 PM

    … sums up perfectly the viewpoint I was articulating so poorly myself.

    Especially:

    I think it comes down to the fact that passing laws to prevent altruism is just wrong, no matter the intentions of those who pass those laws. I’m no objectivist; I think that altruism is a good thing, overall, that needs to be encouraged, rather than discouraged.

    The last thing the law should do is suppress people’s pro-social (I’m guessing that’s the antonym of anti-social) instincts. Even if amateur liefsaves are generally incompetent, government suppression of pro-social behavior can have consequences far beyond the specific matter at hand. You end up with a generally anti-social society.

    I guess this annoys me because I remember a case in the news several (20?) years ago. A woman picked up a hitchhiker because he claimed he needed help. The hitchhiker then raped her. Then the idiotic judge gave the guy a reduced sentence, “reasoning” that the girl was foolish to pick up a hitchhiker, and therefore bore some of the responsibility for his crime herself!

    MORON! He should have given the hitchhiker a more severe sentence for taking advantage of the woman’s Good Samaritan impulse. You want a legal system that encourages and protects the Good Samaritan impulse (and incidentally, more harshly punish and deter those who would take advantage of another person’s Good Samaritan impulse in order to commit a crime).

    Twenty years later, this case still pisses me off to no end. It also helped demolish the “argument from authority” for me. I realized that even people who are expert professionals in their field can be tragically, colossally wrong sometimes. It taught me to look at the logic, not the credentials. (Einstein said some pretty dopey things too.)

  104. Why do Good Samaritans hate America?

  105. Why do Good Samaritans hate America?

    Because liability is the name of the game in this shithole. When you save someone’s life without the help of the “first responders” you’ve taken gas from the BMW of some ambulance chaser.

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