Eighteen Sheriff's Deputies Waited 500 Yards Away While A Burglar Terrorized A 70-Year-Old Disabled Man

from the you-get-what-you-pay-for?? dept

I will faithfully serve and protect my community…

- A Hippocratic Oath for Policing, the National Police Foundation

To Protect and To Serve

- The Los Angeles Police Department motto, adopted in 1955

[N]othing in the language of the Due Process Clause itself requires the State to protect the life, liberty, and property of its citizens against invasion by private actors…

- US Supreme Court, DeShaney v. Winnebago County, 1989

There is no legal obligation for police officers to protect citizens. There may be a moral obligation. And there may be the obligation thrust on certain departments who've adopted mottos or decorated their badges with "protection" niceties, but that obligation only goes as far as the courts demand… which is nowhere.

That's why we end up with this sort of protection/service far too often. (h/t WarOnPrivacy)

Seventy-year-old Bill Norkunas, a childhood polio survivor, headed over to the light and flicked it on hoping to scare away whoever was there. Instead, the light was a beacon drawing a young man to his front door, a door made of glass.

And then for the next 15 minutes, Norkunas stood there, barefoot and unclothed, with his crutches, on one side of the glass pane trying to steady a gun in his trembling hand while the stranger stood on the other side, pounding on the door, banging it with his hip or gnawing at the thick hurricane-grade glass with a garden paver.

[...]

And as bewildering, and just as terrifying to him, is the knowledge that a squad of Broward sheriff’s deputies responded to his Tamarac neighborhood, but none came close to his home to stop the man. Instead, they waited down the street until he walked over to them and surrendered, witnesses told the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

It wasn't just Norkunas involved in this. The man trying to break into his home had attempted to do the same thing at other houses in the neighborhood. 911 was besieged by calls from Norkunas' neighbors. But apparently nothing they said made the Broward County Sheriff's Department any more willing to confront the reported burglar. For this entire ordeal, deputies waited hundreds of feet away, apparently waiting for the problem to solve itself.

Instead of stopping the would-be-intruder at Norkunas’ door, witnesses said, the deputies stayed down the street and around a corner, some 500 yards away while Norkunas and his neighbors flooded the 911 emergency communications system begging for help for almost 15 minutes.

This was an actual emergency. The 70-year-old man asked 911 operators if it was OK for him to shoot the intruder if he managed to make his way into his house. Neighbors calling the dispatchers expressed similar concerns for the man's safety. Meanwhile, 18 deputies stood by while this information was relayed, never moving for the fifteen minutes it took for the burglar to give up and surrender to law enforcement.

And the Broward County Sheriff's Department -- the same department that received deserved heat for its inadequate response to the Parkland school shooting in 2019 -- has offered no satisfactory explanation for this lack of effort when citizens' lives were on the line.

Norkunas said a sergeant explained procedures for setting up a perimeter so that Johnson could not escape, but also admitted they could have done better.

That's a problem. There were 18 deputies at the scene. It only would have taken a handful to approach Norkunas' house and attempt to apprehend the suspect. Not a single officer did. Instead, the amassed group of useless deputies lucked into an arrest when the suspect found them and turned himself in.

Because of this inaction, the relationship between the neighborhood and their alleged "protectors" has been irreparably damaged. One neighbor installed security cameras. Another stated she no longer "counts on police" to handle dangerous situations. And Nakounas has taken to carrying his gun with him at all times, even when taking his dog for a walk.

When the Supreme Court said police have no obligation to protect citizens, they took this to heart. The end result has been a stream of horrendous and horrifying incidents where police are willing cast aside their moral obligations just because they couldn't be held legally liable for failing to "do better." Not giving a shit still pays off, ensuring officers return home safely every night, even if those paying their salaries end up dead.

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Filed Under: broward county, broward county sheriff, florida, police, protect and serve


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  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 15 Dec 2020 @ 3:34am

    Scary!

    But - but - but, this wasn't some kid with a cell-phone or a family pet, it was an actual baddy with a rock! They were a-feared for their lives!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 3:47am

      Re: Scary!

      I thought the usual "I feared for my life" response from a cop was "so I shot him six times."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 4:07am

        Re: Re: Scary!

        Only if they're black or brown apparently cause otherwise they're content to just sit back and let the problem solve itself.

        Your tax dollars at work.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          ECA (profile), 15 Dec 2020 @ 1:32pm

          Re: Re: Re: Scary!

          I want a link to that Supreme court comment..
          I would LOVE to post it around.
          AND THEN,
          we can use it any time a person BANGS ON OUR DOORS, after we shoot them.
          But, the laws, in this area, tend to demand that the body land inside the house. No matter the intent of the attacking person.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 4:12am

    What would have happened if they had approached, and seen the home owner with an aimed weapon? The outcome could have been worse.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 6:01am

      Re:

      Presumably they already knew the homeowner had a gun since I believe the article says that he asked a police operator if he could shoot the intruder.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 6:18am

        Re: Re:

        Being told he had a gun, and seeing a gun pointed vaguely in their direction are different things.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 8:46am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Your right, had the cops actually responded every civilian on the block would probably be dead. The old guy shoulda just yelled "he coming right for me!" and blasted the dude on the porch.

          Only call the cops if you really want to commit suicide but are scared you might screw it up.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 4:32am

    It is hard to have it both ways.

    Neighbors were terrorized, but not physically harmed.

    The would-be burglar was apprehended, again without physical harm to anyone. Without even a chase.

    Without the 70 year old being struck by a police bullet through the glass door. Without a neighbor being killed by a stray bullet through a wall. Without a mentally ill person being shot. Without a black man being shot while being given conflicting instructions. Without a bullet-riddled corpse of a suspect.

    Yes, this was bad. But it could have been so much worse.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 15 Dec 2020 @ 5:50am

      Re: It is hard to have it both ways.

      "Yes, this was bad. But it could have been so much worse."

      It could also have been so much better.

      I know that "a black man was taken in alive" is impressive at the moment, but it shouldn't be the bar to aim for. There's so much else wrong here.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 7:46am

      Re: It is hard to have it both ways.

      The implication in your post is that "worse" is what would have happened if the police did get involved. And I agree. So tell me, anyone, what good are the police? What purpose do they serve? Why should we not put all that public funding to better use?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 1:19pm

        Re: Re: It is hard to have it both ways.

        If you defund the police to use the money elsewhere, you will need another(likely larger) department for picking up the corpses as people 'solve' their problems without any trained intervention.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 8:07am

      Re: It is hard to have it both ways.

      I would need more info on how this was dispatched but, it sounds more like a mental illness call than a burglary. If you have the space and time, and nobody is getting hurt, letting the subject wear himself out is a perfectly valid tactic.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 8:40am

        Re: Re: It is hard to have it both ways.

        But when the mentally ill person is threatening others, the police should take some action. Here is how the U.K police deal with a somewhat similar situation. The machete wielder was taken to hospital for proper care.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 9:50am

      Re: It is hard to have it both ways.

      Yep. This

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    genghis_uk (profile), 15 Dec 2020 @ 4:39am

    Somewhere between 'hail of bullets' and 'casual observer' there is a middle ground where good policing lives.

    They have not quite got it right yet - keep trying!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 7:46am

      Re:

      They have not quite got it right yet - keep trying!

      No! Stop trying! That will only get more people killed at the hands of our own government.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    scotts13 (profile), 15 Dec 2020 @ 5:14am

    So, the police have fully embraced the the most effective/least harmful response they're capable of... is NOTHING.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dave (profile), 15 Dec 2020 @ 5:15am

    I think people miss the real point here. Not that a group of cops did this, but that out of 18 'deputies', not one saw anything wrong with what they did(n't do).

    There is no chance of randomly picking 18 from a population and getting unanimity on something like that unless the entire population, or a reasonable approximation of it, shares that opinion. This doesn't just prove those 18 aren't fit to be cops; it proves that the entire pool from which they're drawn is unfit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 7:48am

      Re:

      ...or that the entire system has become useless and needs to be replaced with something better / more effective.

      That "thin blue line" has worn through and faded so badly it is just throwing good money after bad to keep funding law enforcement in its current form. We need to fire every last one of them and start over.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Kitsune 106, 15 Dec 2020 @ 5:27am

    Hmmmm

    If there is no reason for police to protect, then what authority do they have to order us if it's not for safety? And if not to protect, then should they be okay with civilians getting military gear to protect selves....

    Shrug..

    This is super bad optically.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    john Katos (profile), 15 Dec 2020 @ 5:37am

    Defund?

    What good are they? With accounts like these it gives credence to "defund the police".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 7:50am

      Re: Defund?

      It's ironic that I have to go to my local police station to get a concealed carry permit that I need because the local police are useless.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ceyarrecks (profile), 15 Dec 2020 @ 8:32am

    Clarification

    as stated:

    "I will faithfully serve and protect my community…

    • A Hippocratic Oath for Policing, the National Police Foundation"

    The correct term is HYPOCRITICAL, hypocrisy, hypocrite: one who states to be for something, yet in action does EXACTLY the opposite.

    States the term "protect" in reality, Abandons.

    So.
    Remind me again why these whom are looked to for "protection" are being $paid$ to harm us?!?!?!?!

    Remind me again why there is no accountability--oh. right, because leadership are equally hypocrites.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Peter, 15 Dec 2020 @ 8:50am

    Question at the next town hall meeting with the Chief

    So what exactly are we paying you all to do?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Upstream (profile), 15 Dec 2020 @ 9:20am

    No $$ and no fun

    If it is not fun or profitable, the cops don't want to be bothered. Actually doing their job properly generally doesn't fall into either category. This sort of behavior is disgustingly common. It is only because this was a particularly egregious example that it made the news at all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 10:06am

      Re: No $$ and no fun

      They're happy to stop and harass innocent people on the chance that they might be able to score some free cash. But ask them to actually do their job and it's a non-starter.

      Fire every last one of them. Abolish their union (render it obsolete by dismantling police departments). Replace the whole damned thing with an organization that actually serves the public, knows how to deescalate, treats those who need help rather than killing them, etc, so on and so forth. Our tax dollars could go to far better use than funding a militia that doesn't give even a single damn about the public who pays them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 15 Dec 2020 @ 9:48am

    'It's only fun when we're the only threat at the scene!'

    Well that'll certainly help with the next budget meeting, if the local sheriffs are going to make clear what a bunch of spineless cowards they are the second anything difficult shows up it seems their budget would be much better spent elsewhere, whether that be firing the lot of them as useless parasites and working on replacing them with competent people and/or increased funding for social safety nets to decrease the odds of random wandering crazy people.

    If you can't or won't do the job then there's no reason for you to keep it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 10:30am

    "Health" care fail

    So at some point, someone should have called medical personal in (thinking EMT). The police can't deal with something like this without killing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    danderbandit (profile), 15 Dec 2020 @ 10:51am

    Maybe he needs a dictionary

    Norkunas said a sergeant explained procedures for setting up a perimeter so that Johnson could not escape, but also admitted they could have done better.

    I don't think that word means what he thinks it means.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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