But can the police be expected to protect everyone, or even anyone, all the time? Ciera Jackson of St. Louis had obtained a protective order against her ex-boyfriend Victor Whittier. Eleven days later she was dead, shot four times, the restraining order lying atop a microwave a few feet from her body. Her case is unfortunately not unique. One prosecutor tells women who request a restraining order to do so with a backpack and a plan.

Do the police have a duty to protect you when called? The law says otherwise. In Warren v. District of Columbia three women sued the District of Columbia and members of the police department for their failure to provide police services. Two of the women shared a room on the third floor of a house on Capitol Hill, a third had a room on the second floor. When the two on the upper floor heard the sound of the back door being broken down and the screams of the woman below they called 911.

They called repeatedly for half an hour. Police drove by but never attempted to enter. When the screams below stopped the women assumed the police had come. Instead the two intruders seized them and for the next fourteen hours raped, beat, robbed, and abused all three. Their lawsuit against the city and police was dismissed, the judge writing, “The duty to provide public services is owed to the public at large, and, absent a special relationship between the police and an individual, no specific legal duty exists.” In short, the police have a duty to protect all of us but not any one of us.