The police can’t investigate every crime and some agencies won’t try.

Police Chief Charles McClelland leaves after speaking to City Council at City Hall regarding the police department's budget, Thursday, June 5, 2014, in Houston. (Cody Duty / Houston Chronicle)

Police Chief Charles McClelland leaves after speaking to City Council at City Hall regarding the police department’s budget, Thursday, June 5, 2014, in Houston. (Cody Duty / Houston Chronicle)

We, the people, are on our own. The police have no responsibility to provide personal or property protection to you as an individual citizen except with limited exceptions of a special relationship such as being in custody/under arrest. This ruling has been handed down multiple times in recent years with Warren v. District of Columbia often cited as one of the leading cases in this area of law.  And for once, a police chief (Chief Charles McClelland, of the Houston Police Department) has gone so far as to publicly state that the police can’t and won’t actively respond to every case.

“We work violent crimes first. If someone steals your trash can or your lawn mower out of your garage, there are no witnesses, there’s no evidence, there’s nothing for a detective to follow up on, it’s not assigned,” McClelland, a 37-year veteran of HPD, told City Council members during a budget hearing. “There has never been a time that I have been employed there that the Houston Police Department has had the capacity to investigate every crime that’s been reported to the agency.”

via Chief: HPD can’t investigate every crime and should not try – Houston Chronicle.

Don’t misunderstand this as a “gotcha” or indictment against HPD or any other agency. To be fair, the Chief is just stating a reality.  And I highlight it only as a call to recognize the fallacy of the idea that the government will protect you. It simply can’t be done. Agencies will always struggle with their budgets and the availability of resources/officers. They cannot be everywhere at all times and that means some calls for help will go unanswered and may never be investigated after the fact. In short, you’re on your own.

-GM

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