The official motto of the police department of the City of Los Angeles is “To protect and serve.” 1 The Mission Statement of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff states that “We, the members of your Sheriff’s Office . . . are committed to protecting persons and property.” 2 Unfortunately, neither the Los Angeles police nor the Santa Barbara sheriff, nor police in any other city or town in America actually have shown that they can protect people from harm.
On May 23, 2014 six innocent young people lost their lives because of the failure of local police to protect the public from a known danger. The tragedy occurred in the town of Isla Vista, California. 3 The majority of the 23,000 residents are students at the nearby Santa Barbara campus of the University of California. All statements of fact in this post are taken from a news report of the event cited in the notes to this post.
This incident is significant to a main theme of Capitalism: The Liberal Revolution (CTLR)—that state police are incompetent to protect persons and property because they have no proprietary interest in protection and there are no consequences for losses due to their failure to protect. Incidents of this kind have been all too common in the United States in recent years, so this particular outrage in California has a significance and meaning of more than local import.
This Post is not intended to denigrate state police officers who by and large want to protect the people they are supposed to serve. The cause of their inability to protect people is the legal framework within which they work.
Local police officers for Isla Vista are provided by the Sheriff’s Department of Santa Barbara County, hereinafter referred to as the police.
According to news reports the police stated that the killings were premeditated mass murder by 22-year old Elliott Rodger. Police officers had encountered Rodger three times before his murderous rampage on May 23, 2014. One night in the summer of 2013, Rodger went to a party and tried to shove women off a ledge where they had been sitting. When several men intervened and pushed him off the ledge instead, Rodger suffered an injury to his ankle. While he was being treated at a clinic for his injury, police showed up to interview him. The police determined that Rodger had instigated the altercation, but did nothing further. 4
In 2014 Rodger accused a roommate of stealing three candles. One can surmise that more was involved than three candles. Rather, there was probably an altercation that prompted a call to the police, who went to interview Rodger.
An attorney for the family of Rodger said that several weeks before the killings members of Rodger’s family became alarmed by YouTube videos of Rodger regarding suicide and the killing of people, so they called the Santa Barbara police. The police interviewed Rodger on April 30, 2014. The sheriff’s deputies who went to Rodger’s apartment to interview him knew of the videos he had posted on the internet. The deputies did not view the videos before going to see Rodger on April 30. After Rodger’s murderous rampage on May 23 the Sheriff’s office described the videos as “disturbing.” 5
After the interview of April 30 the police did nothing further despite the statements in Rodgers’ YouTube videos regarding suicide and killing people. After he had killed six people 23 days later police officers commented that when they interviewed Rodger he was polite and courteous.
On May 23, 2014 Rodger recorded a video of himself in his car and posted it on YouTube. In the video he said:
“For the last eight years of my life, since I hit puberty, I’ve been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desires, all because girls have never been attracted to me.
“Girls gave their affection and sex and love to other men, never to me. I’m 22 years old and still a virgin, never even kissed a girl. And through college, 2½ years, more than that actually, I’m still a virgin. It has been very torturous.
“I will have my revenge against humanity. I will punish all of you for it. Yes . . . After I have annihilated every single girl in the sorority house I will take to the streets of Isla Vista and slay every single person I see there. All those popular kids who live such lives of hedonistic pleasure.”
That same day Rodger stabbed to death three roommates at his apartment. After killing his roommates, Rodger went to a sorority house and knocked loudly on the door according to Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown. No one answered. He then shot three women outside the house, killing two and injuring the third.
Rodger then fired on people at multiple other locations nearby, fatally wounding a young man. Twice deputies engaged him in gunfire, the first time wounding him in the hip as he drove, said Sheriff Brown. The rampage ended after the young man exchanged fire with deputies and hit a bicyclist before crashing into parked cars. “It would appear he took his own life at this point,” Brown said.
Brown added that Rodger had three semi-automatic handguns as well as more than 400 rounds of ammunition when he died. Rodger purchased all his firearms legally. They were registered to him. 6
Usually police come to the scene of a crime in response to a report from private citizens. The only element of crime prevention afforded by the state’s police is the deterrence of crime by the possibility of a criminal being apprehended, prosecuted successfully and then incarcerated. That this is inadequate protection is evident from the prevalence of violent crimes where the perpetrator is never identified, or is identified only after committing a violent attack on others.
How could private security do any better than the police? They could do better by taking the initiative to act on information indicating that there is danger of violent crime from a known person.
- When Rodger’s family warned that he was publishing videos about suicide and the killing of people, private security [“Security” hereinafter] could have initiated a 24-hour surveillance of Rodger’s activities including watching for his publication of threats on the internet.
- Security would know Rodgers was in possession of three semi-automatic handguns because he had registered his purchase of the guns. 7
- The day Rodgers perpetrated the six murders he issued a video of himself threatening to annihilate every single girl in a sorority house and next to slay every single person he saw on the streets of Isla Vista. Because private security would be watching for videos published by Rodger they would see that video as soon as it went up on the internet.
- Security officers in surveillance of Rodger might have heard the cries of Rodger’s roommates when he stabbed them. They might even have heard something going on in the apartment that would cause them to intervene in time to save the lives of Rodger’s roommates.
- After witnessing the threatening video of May 23, Security would have sent to Rodger’s residence a contingent of competently trained and experienced security officers to take preventive action. When Rodgers left his residence to enter his car, private security would be there in force, waiting for him. Rodger’s weapons might have been visible on his person as he walked out of the apartment to enter his car. Whether or not Rodger’s guns were visible, Security could have questioned Rodger about his weapons, and demanded that he relinquish them then and there. If he refused, the security officers could have taken appropriate action to disarm him, place him under arrest, take him into custody, and notify his family.
We anticipate three objections to this scenario: first, that it is illegal for private security to arrest an individual no matter how dangerous he is; second, that there is no apparent means for payment of such security services; and third is the issue of dealing with the permanent threat of a man like Rodger by isolating him from society.
As to illegality, under the existing laws of the political state private citizens can make an arrest to stop the commission of a crime. Furthermore, that objection assumes that the political state is still in operation and if so, that it would punish private security for doing what state police are supposed to do. It is the position of CTLR that the political state is bankrupt in all but name, and eventually will cease functioning so completely that even police and police departments will have gone out of existence.
Payment for such security services would be financed by insurance. Insurance companies already sell life insurance and medical expense insurance. It would be good business for such insurance companies to provide such security services. Insurance companies cannot know in advance whether someone they insure will be killed or injured by a wrongdoer. Insurance companies could and would cooperate in a consortium to share the expense of maintaining permanent private security to protect against a variety of risks, including the risk of death or injury by malicious attack. In such cases insurance companies, in their own proprietary interest, would not wait to see if a person threatening murder or assault might attack someone they insured.
It is not enough to stop an intended murder by a man like Elliott Rodger. Once it is known that he is capable of murder and is motivated by deep-seated psychological disturbance, he must be isolated from society to protect others. Under existing state laws even if such a person has not yet attacked anyone, he could be held in custody indefinitely until it is determined he is no longer a danger to others. Therefore, it ought not to shock the conscience of even lovers of freedom that a dangerous person is placed into protective custody as long as need be.
In the forthcoming chapter on Justice there will be a discussion of remedies available to a person who claims he has been wrongfully taken into custody and kept there against his will. Suffice it to say for now that the concept of justice in CTLR must and will provide protection for individuals who believe they are wrongfully arrested and detained by private security. The justice mechanism would be buttressed by dispute resolution procedures and insurance that individuals could buy to finance their resistance to unjustified arrest and confinement.
- See “Origins of LAPD Motto,” http://www.lapdonline.org/history_of_the_lapd/content_basic_view/1128 ↩
- See http://www.sbsheriff.org/missionstatement.html ↩
- Isla Vista is an unincorporated community in Santa Barbara County, California. ↩
- Reported in “In Isla Vista, red flags came too late,” by Scott Gold, Abby Sewell, and Lee Romney, Los Angeles Times, May 26, 2014, http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-isla-vista-main-20140526-story.html#page=1 ↩
- “Deputies didn’t view Elliot Rodger’s videos in welfare check,” By Kate Mather, Richard Winton, and Adolfo Flores, Los Angeles Times, May 29, 2014 http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-rodger-welfare-20140530-story.html ↩
- Quotations from “Police identify Calif. shooting suspect as Elliot Rodger,” USA Today, May 25, 2014 http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/05/24/shooting-california-santa-barbara/9532405/ ↩
- Gun registration is required by political laws. However, lack of gun registration in a stateless society would be no handicap to Security; and knowledge of registration was of no help to the police in this case. ↩