Fort Hood, The Washington Navy Yard, and Your Local Law Enforcement Academy
After a while, you begin to believe that the law has a term for everything. From “uninvolved co-conspirator” to “officious intermeddler,” it makes the practice of law very interesting. It also reminds us that the law influences everything we do. Driving a car, riding a bike, even walking are governed by hundreds of laws, regulations, and legal principles across the United States. These legal principles lead to standards of how we conduct ourselves. Doctors have standard procedures employed during surgery to prevent infections, lawyers have standards to protect client confidentiality, and many other professions are controlled by similar standards. In most cases, those standards are voluntarily adopted by the members of the profession.
One term in the law keeps coming to mind with regard to the recent instances as well as the concept of an active shooter. That term is “special relationship.” This is not a new term. A special relationship is one in which a person becomes responsible for another or a group of people. Typically, the person or group is vulnerable in some way and someone agrees to look out for them or the law places an obligation upon them to do so. This is especially true when the vulnerability is created due to circumstances or the actions or omissions attributable to another. The harm suffered or the risk of harm must be also reasonably foreseeable.
The three locations listed in the title of this post, Fort Hood, the Washington Navy Yard and your local law enforcement academy all have several things in common. They are high profile locations. They have public access. They are easy to find. They serve high profile targets such as military and law enforcement officers. They are also potential targets of international and domestic terrorism as well as active shooters. Most military installations prohibit LEOs from outside of the base as well as members of the military from carrying firearms on the premises. What about your training facilities?
It is easy to build a link to the senseless casualties during an active shooter attack and the disarming of people who are now unable to defend themselves. At Fort Hood and the Washington Navy Yard, this is especially troubling as the victims were trained in the proper use of firearms and many likely had combat experience. If the policies of those facilities prevented those brave soldiers from protecting themselves, someone should be held responsible especially if the injuries and deaths resulted from ineffective security procedures.
If a law enforcement training facility disarms LEOs as a condition of entry, it can be argued that a special relationship has been created between the facility and the LEOs who are now unable to protect themselves. This could lead to liability especially if the facility does not have anyone providing armed security. After all, the risk is the same whether the LEOs are armed or not. All that has changed is the ability of the LEOs to protect and defend themselves.
The statement, “We’ve always done it that way” always provokes the same response from me: “I got my mail yesterday and I didn’t hear hoofs.” It is time for law enforcement training facilities to pay attention and make certain the LEOs in your facilities are able to protect themselves. LEOs are targets. Just look at the numbers. Stay safe.