Carolyn Warren, et al., vs. District of Columbia, et al. 444 Atlantic Reporter, 2nd Series, beginning at p.1, (DC Appeals, 1981).
Summary. Appeal from Civil Action No. 79-394. In the trial court, the defendants were “non-suited,” a term meaning that there is no relief for
their complaint which also means the Trial Court did not go into the merits of their claims. A special 3 judge panel of the DC court reversed the
decision as applied to Carolyn Warren and Joan Taliaferro. The case of the third complainant, Miriam Douglas, was not reinstated. The DC appealed the
part of the decision reinstating the case of the 2 women to the Appeals Court.
Warren and Taliaferro heard Douglas' screams from the floor below. Warren telephoned the police, told the officer on duty that the house was being
burglarized, and requested immediate assistance. The department employee told her to remain quiet and assured her that police assistance would be
dispatched promptly. Warren's call was received at Metropolitan Police Department Headquarters at 6:23 a. m., and was recorded as a burglary in
progress. At 6:26 a. m., a call was dispatched to officers on the street as a "Code 2" assignment . . Four police cruisers responded to the
broadcast; three to the Lamont Street address and one to another address to investigate a possible suspect.
Warren and Taliaferro crawled from their window onto an adjoining roof and waited for the police. While there, they saw one policeman drive through
the alley behind their house and proceed to the front of the residence without stopping to check the back entrance of the house. A second officer
apparently knocked on the door in front of the residence, but left when he received no answer. The three officers departed the scene at 6:33 a. m.,
five minutes after they arrived.
Warren and Taliaferro crawled back inside their room. They again heard Douglas' continuing screams; again called the police; told the officer that
the intruders had entered the home, and requested immediate assistance. Once again, a police officer assured them that help was on the way. This
second call was received at 6:42 a. m. and recorded merely as "investigate the trouble" - it was never dispatched to any police officers.
Appellants' claims of negligence included: the dispatcher's failure to forward the 6:23 a. m. call with the proper degree of urgency; the responding
officers' failure to follow standard police investigative procedures, specifically their failure to check the rear entrance and position themselves
properly near the doors and windows to ascertain whether there was any activity inside; and the dispatcher's failure to dispatch the 6:42 a. m. call.
. The trial judges correctly dismissed both complaints. In a carefully reasoned Memorandum Opinion, Judge Hannon based his decision on
"the fundamental principle that a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any
particular individual citizen."
[The operative words
are “ . . to any particular individual citizen.” Comment offered by Don W]
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. Holding that no special relationship existed between the police and appellants, Judge Hannon concluded that no specific
legal duty existed. We hold that Judge Hannon was correct and adopt the relevant portions of his opinion.
" . . [I]t is easy to condemn the failings of the police. However, the desire for condemnation cannot satisfy the need for a special relationship out
of which a duty to specific persons arises. In neither of these cases has a relationship been alleged beyond that found in general police responses to
crimes. Civil liability fails as a matter of law. END
[edit on 7/22/2006 by donwhite]