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Yes, law enforcement officers have a duty to protect the public

In the aftermath of the Uvalde, Texas shooting, some people claim police officers do not have an obligation to protect others.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Every day, the public is learning new information about the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Some are questioning the decisions of law enforcement on the scene and their obligations while on the job.

One claim shared by many on social media cites several U.S. Supreme Court cases regarding state officers' conduct.


Do law enforcement officers have an obligation to protect the community?



This is true.

Yes, law enforcement officers have an obligation to protect the community.


In Deshaney vs. Winnebago, a mother sued her local department of social services, alleging they failed to protect her son from his abusive father despite repeated complaints.

"In that case, the Supreme Court said that police departments and local governments don't owe duties to protect particular individuals," Sklansky said. "They owe a duty to the public to protect. But that means that as a community, we have a right for the police to protect us."

Sklansky said the court's decision didn't rule on the conduct of the officers, but rather on what consequences officers of the state may face.

"As a general matter, those individuals cannot sue for compensation, and their families can't sue for compensation," Sklansky said. "That's different from saying that police departments don't have a duty to protect people. The Supreme Court did not say that police departments lacked any duty to protect people."

Lt. James Maye said each law enforcement officer takes an oath to protect the public from serious harm or death.

"They put their hand on the Bible and they swear that they're going to live up to an oath," Maye said. "They agreed to sign on and uphold. And we take that oath very seriously. And that oath includes responding to people in need."

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