Eighteen Sheriff's Deputies Waited 500 Yards Away While A Burglar Terrorized A 70-Year-Old Disabled Man

from the you-get-what-you-pay-for?? dept

I will faithfully serve and protect my community…

– A Hippocratic Oath for Policing, the National Police Foundation

To Protect and To Serve

The Los Angeles Police Department motto, adopted in 1955

[N]othing in the language of the Due Process Clause itself requires the State to protect the life, liberty, and property of its citizens against invasion by private actors…

– US Supreme Court, DeShaney v. Winnebago County, 1989

There is no legal obligation for police officers to protect citizens. There may be a moral obligation. And there may be the obligation thrust on certain departments who’ve adopted mottos or decorated their badges with “protection” niceties, but that obligation only goes as far as the courts demand… which is nowhere.

That’s why we end up with this sort of protection/service far too often. (h/t WarOnPrivacy)

Seventy-year-old Bill Norkunas, a childhood polio survivor, headed over to the light and flicked it on hoping to scare away whoever was there. Instead, the light was a beacon drawing a young man to his front door, a door made of glass.

And then for the next 15 minutes, Norkunas stood there, barefoot and unclothed, with his crutches, on one side of the glass pane trying to steady a gun in his trembling hand while the stranger stood on the other side, pounding on the door, banging it with his hip or gnawing at the thick hurricane-grade glass with a garden paver.

[…]

And as bewildering, and just as terrifying to him, is the knowledge that a squad of Broward sheriff’s deputies responded to his Tamarac neighborhood, but none came close to his home to stop the man. Instead, they waited down the street until he walked over to them and surrendered, witnesses told the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

It wasn’t just Norkunas involved in this. The man trying to break into his home had attempted to do the same thing at other houses in the neighborhood. 911 was besieged by calls from Norkunas’ neighbors. But apparently nothing they said made the Broward County Sheriff’s Department any more willing to confront the reported burglar. For this entire ordeal, deputies waited hundreds of feet away, apparently waiting for the problem to solve itself.

Instead of stopping the would-be-intruder at Norkunas’ door, witnesses said, the deputies stayed down the street and around a corner, some 500 yards away while Norkunas and his neighbors flooded the 911 emergency communications system begging for help for almost 15 minutes.

This was an actual emergency. The 70-year-old man asked 911 operators if it was OK for him to shoot the intruder if he managed to make his way into his house. Neighbors calling the dispatchers expressed similar concerns for the man’s safety. Meanwhile, 18 deputies stood by while this information was relayed, never moving for the fifteen minutes it took for the burglar to give up and surrender to law enforcement.

And the Broward County Sheriff’s Department — the same department that received deserved heat for its inadequate response to the Parkland school shooting in 2019 — has offered no satisfactory explanation for this lack of effort when citizens’ lives were on the line.

Norkunas said a sergeant explained procedures for setting up a perimeter so that Johnson could not escape, but also admitted they could have done better.

That’s a problem. There were 18 deputies at the scene. It only would have taken a handful to approach Norkunas’ house and attempt to apprehend the suspect. Not a single officer did. Instead, the amassed group of useless deputies lucked into an arrest when the suspect found them and turned himself in.

Because of this inaction, the relationship between the neighborhood and their alleged “protectors” has been irreparably damaged. One neighbor installed security cameras. Another stated she no longer “counts on police” to handle dangerous situations. And Nakounas has taken to carrying his gun with him at all times, even when taking his dog for a walk.

When the Supreme Court said police have no obligation to protect citizens, they took this to heart. The end result has been a stream of horrendous and horrifying incidents where police are willing cast aside their moral obligations just because they couldn’t be held legally liable for failing to “do better.” Not giving a shit still pays off, ensuring officers return home safely every night, even if those paying their salaries end up dead.

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Comments on “Eighteen Sheriff's Deputies Waited 500 Yards Away While A Burglar Terrorized A 70-Year-Old Disabled Man”

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56 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Scary!

we can use it any time a person BANGS ON OUR DOORS, after we shoot them.

The U.S. Supreme Court has reiterated that there is no duty for police to provide protection, even where both statute and court order tracking language of statute specifically require protection. Castle Rock v. Gonzales, 545 U.S. 748 (US 27-Jun-2005).

None the less, after you shoot the burglar, there is a chance that trigger-happy cops will shoot you. Remember, you can be too bright to be a cop. Jordan v. New London, 2000 U.S.App. Lexis 22195 (US 2d Cir., 23-Aug-2000, unpub). So they may not understand what was going on, and mistake the phone with which you called them to bring the meat wagon for a weapon. Oops, sorry about that.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Scary!

I thought the usual "I feared for my life" response from a cop was "so I shot him six times."

That’s for when they don’t really fear for their lives. When they actually fear for their lives, they cower out of range while they wait for SWAT and the armored vehicles to come out so they can go all Rambo on the perp. At that point, buildings get destroyed, and perps may get shot a hundred times or more.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Scary!

"I thought the usual "I feared for my life" response from a cop was "so I shot him six times.""

I’m halfway convinced the "response" here is because the police are so miffed at being taken to account for murdering people in broad daylight that some of them by now just go to the crime scene and stand around looking upset.

It’s very effective. They’ll go right back to work again as soon as they get their right of shooting people in the back six times without due cause back.

The alternative explanation would be that they were just shit-scared. 18 people with rifles, body armor, nightsticks, hand-to-hand training and handguns…against a crazy man with a rock?
Clearly above their pay grade. Call the national guard for this one.

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This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

It is hard to have it both ways.

Neighbors were terrorized, but not physically harmed.

The would-be burglar was apprehended, again without physical harm to anyone. Without even a chase.

Without the 70 year old being struck by a police bullet through the glass door. Without a neighbor being killed by a stray bullet through a wall. Without a mentally ill person being shot. Without a black man being shot while being given conflicting instructions. Without a bullet-riddled corpse of a suspect.

Yes, this was bad. But it could have been so much worse.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: It is hard to have it both ways.

"Yes, this was bad. But it could have been so much worse."

It could also have been so much better.

I know that "a black man was taken in alive" is impressive at the moment, but it shouldn’t be the bar to aim for. There’s so much else wrong here.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It is hard to have it both ways.

That’s not actually a pro-police statement, you know. If nothing is the best cops can manage to do, if nothing is the best we should even expect cops to do, why shouldn’t we just fire them all and use the money for something that’s actually useful?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It is hard to have it both ways.

The implication in your post is that "worse" is what would have happened if the police did get involved. And I agree. So tell me, anyone, what good are the police? What purpose do they serve? Why should we not put all that public funding to better use?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Peter says:

Re: Re: Re: It is hard to have it both ways.

"…..without any trained intervention"

Did you read the story? Did you miss the bit about how there was no trained intervention? I mean the lack of intervention of these trained officers was pretty much the whole story, and you are here telling us that we should not defund the police because otherwise there would be nobody trained to intervene in situations like this. Really?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: It is hard to have it both ways.

That premise seems to assume that the general public is as quick to assault and/or kill people as the police are which I find hard to buy but even if it was true and people had to deal with things without them at least if a non-cop assaults/kills someone the legal system might actually give a damn rather than just handing out wagging a disapproving finger for getting caught to the guilty party, such that things might start bloodier but they’d calm down as killers were taken off the street rather than left to continue on same as before.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: It is hard to have it both ways.

"…you will need another(likely larger) department for picking up the corpses as people ‘solve’ their problems without any trained intervention."

According to crime statistics worldwide US police are actually responsible for more killings than actual criminals are responsible for in many countries, per capita.

It’s arguable that today the US might see less corpses if all the cops disappeared.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It is hard to have it both ways.

"[Asserts facts not in evidence]"

United states police killing per 10 million people, annually (officially, on record); 34,8. 0,348 per 100k.

This is higher than the same statistics per capita of intentional homicide of Japan, Singapore, Oman, Macau, Luxembourg and Monaco; About on par with Norway and Indonesia.

Source of the data; wikipedia.

List of countries by intentional homicide rate.
List of killings by law enforcement officers by country.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Dave (profile) says:

I think people miss the real point here. Not that a group of cops did this, but that out of 18 ‘deputies’, not one saw anything wrong with what they did(n’t do).

There is no chance of randomly picking 18 from a population and getting unanimity on something like that unless the entire population, or a reasonable approximation of it, shares that opinion. This doesn’t just prove those 18 aren’t fit to be cops; it proves that the entire pool from which they’re drawn is unfit.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

…or that the entire system has become useless and needs to be replaced with something better / more effective.

That "thin blue line" has worn through and faded so badly it is just throwing good money after bad to keep funding law enforcement in its current form. We need to fire every last one of them and start over.

davedave (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I find that approaches wishful thinking, whether in the US or the UK. I doubt it’s that cops are in some way selected such that they’re all terrible people. The system they’re in and the incentives they face turn them into a problem. The same system with new people would have the same problems.

Conversely, I’d have thought that if we fix the systems and incentives, the current lot will mostly become good cops.

Personally, i suspect, in my unexpert opinion, that the big thing we’re getting wrong is that police generally don’t speak to anyone except criminls and victims of crime in their daily work. They aren’t expected to e.g. deal politely with someone who wants directions or to check the time, anymore, and it’s created an in-group and an put-group from their perspective.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"I doubt it’s that cops are in some way selected such that they’re all terrible people."

In the UK and most of europe, probably so. In the US, however?

Google; Hidden in Plain Sight: Racism, White Supremacy, and Far-Right Militancy in Law Enforcement

The author, one Mike German, is a former FBI operative who went undercover among white supremacists. Imagine his surprise on how many times he found himself surrounded with what might as well have been a police precinct given how many law enforcement officers were present in the white power rally.

davedave (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I used to do something similar too, briefly. If he claims to have been surprised, I doubt his credibility 🙂

If this is widespread, rather than cancerous clusters of evil, what’s the cause?

Having asked that, I note that I lol’d at the idea of generalising ‘the UK and most of Europe’ in this regard. Presumably the same applies to the US.

In any case,it’s still a problem with the system and incentives that allows groups of white supremacists to form and thrive out of a potential intake that broadly reflects the population.

Upstream (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

In any case,it’s still a problem with the system and incentives…

True that. Bad incentives yield bad results. Bad cops get commended & promoted. Good cops get harassed, demoted, made to do extra / undesirable work, etc. or are fired.

See my comment below about intake not reflecting the general population.

davedave (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Your point re intake is basically the same point as indentives etc, seen from another bit of the vicious circle.

But you corrected me that it should be ‘potential intake’, given how much a buggered system will put good people off applying.

I mean, if we’re talking bigger picture, you could solve the worst parts of the problem by just taking the bloody guns away from your police. We have a problem with racist police here in the UK, and we have a problem with the special units of armed police firing their guns pretty much every time they’re sent out, but at least by separating the two we can see pretty clearly that, racist or not, police shouldn’t be allowed guns except in extreme situations.

Fwiw:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Harry_Stanley

Racism was involved there, but not to a great degree. It was almost entirely explainable as ‘you give police guns and they will fire them’. There are endless examples like that from round the world.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

"We have a problem with racist police here in the UK, and we have a problem with the special units of armed police firing their guns pretty much every time they’re sent out, but at least by separating the two we can see pretty clearly that, racist or not, police shouldn’t be allowed guns except in extreme situations."

In sweden we have armed police, and yet we don’t have anywhere near the same situation the US has. In fact it’s pretty damn rare for an offender to get shot. That’s not to say swedish police is free of problems. It just means that before you hit US levels of police killings shit needs to be broken to absurd levels, across a very wide swath of departments.

The racism in US law enforcement, both inherent and systemic, has the deplorable quality of spreading. You get one bad cop into a department, Code Blue immediately applies. No matter what that bad cop does, the precinct will have his back – leading eventually to the whole precinct already being complicit. From that point on the downhill slide escalates, because when you’re already accessory to murder there’s no real moral brake left.

Attempts have been made, sporadically, to clean up precincts. But the standard police union-negotiated employment contract for cops does not allow a simple sacking. So the solution is always, invariably, to just transfer the bad cops to other precincts. It ends up with a few precincts composed almost exclusively of people other cops found unacceptable. And most of the rest compromised because that bloody Code Blue means almost no matter what you do other cops will have your back.

Upstream (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I doubt it’s that cops are in some way selected such that they’re all terrible people.

This kind of misses the reality. What happens is that cops largely "self-select" in such a way that all of them end up being terrible people, even if they may not all have started out that way.

Short version:
Prospective cops see they system the way it is, and has been for generations (corrupt, all bad cops). Bad prospects are eager to sign up. Most potentially good prospects shy away from joining such a corrupt organization. The few good prospects who do sign up are eventually either converted to bad cops, or expelled.

This is how we wind up with the current situation where all cops are bad people (see ACAB).

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Ceyarrecks (profile) says:

Clarification

as stated:

"I will faithfully serve and protect my community…

  • A Hippocratic Oath for Policing, the National Police Foundation"

The correct term is HYPOCRITICAL, hypocrisy, hypocrite: one who states to be for something, yet in action does EXACTLY the opposite.

States the term "protect" in reality, Abandons.

So.
Remind me again why these whom are looked to for "protection" are being $paid$ to harm us?!?!?!?!

Remind me again why there is no accountability–oh. right, because leadership are equally hypocrites.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Upstream (profile) says:

No $$ and no fun

If it is not fun or profitable, the cops don’t want to be bothered. Actually doing their job properly generally doesn’t fall into either category. This sort of behavior is disgustingly common. It is only because this was a particularly egregious example that it made the news at all.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: No $$ and no fun

They’re happy to stop and harass innocent people on the chance that they might be able to score some free cash. But ask them to actually do their job and it’s a non-starter.

Fire every last one of them. Abolish their union (render it obsolete by dismantling police departments). Replace the whole damned thing with an organization that actually serves the public, knows how to deescalate, treats those who need help rather than killing them, etc, so on and so forth. Our tax dollars could go to far better use than funding a militia that doesn’t give even a single damn about the public who pays them.

That One Guy (profile) says:

'It's only fun when we're the only threat at the scene!'

Well that’ll certainly help with the next budget meeting, if the local sheriffs are going to make clear what a bunch of spineless cowards they are the second anything difficult shows up it seems their budget would be much better spent elsewhere, whether that be firing the lot of them as useless parasites and working on replacing them with competent people and/or increased funding for social safety nets to decrease the odds of random wandering crazy people.

If you can’t or won’t do the job then there’s no reason for you to keep it.

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