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Listener supported WNYC Studios. Wait, you're OK? You're listening to Radiolab Radio from WNYC. Hey, I'm Jad Abumrad. This is Radiolab. Quick warning, this episode contains strong language and graphic violence, so if you are listening with kids, you might want to sit this one out.
But OK, with that out of the way, we'll start things off with recording producer Bob Parker. Oh, boy.
Hey, do you know I mean, do you have a sense of where you want to start? Sure. OK. It all began, I think, in June.
You know, the George Floyd protests were happening in full flux in New York.
And Parker says since she was a journalist and forbidden from protesting, she was just stuck in her apartment feeling kind of helpless and just spending a lot of her time thinking the police department and I wound up having this, like, genuinely befuddling thought of just like, wait, what exactly is the police for?
You mean like what is their job?
Yes, like that was just something that I was really trying to figure out for myself.
Now I have to confess, initially, I didn't see how that was even a question. I mean, there are a lot of things that need to be talked about when it comes to policing in America, but their job description didn't seem to be one of them.
I mean, that felt pretty clear to me. Police are supposed to enforce the law. Yes.
But more than that, police are sworn to protect and serve.
They're supposed to protect us to protect and serve. That's what they say, right?
I mean, the thing you see written on the sides of their cars, protect and serve to protect and serve the people. Now, do they always do that? No. But that's clearly their job. Yeah.
That's what you think? That's what I thought.
But then, funnily enough, a friend sent me like an animated video.
If you've ever been on the Internet and I mean you here right now of this guy, my name is Joe Lozito, named Joe Lozito, and he's got a bald head, trim goatee.
And in this video, he basically just tells this insane, wild story that let whipped out at age night of this thing that happened to him that took this question that I had of like, what do the police do? And just sort of like blew it open.
Tell me more.
So they saw this video, OK, and it was about what happened to him. And so I immediately I went and I like I searched for him and messaged him. OK, cool, cool, cool.
So can you just tell me your name and where you're from?
Yeah. Joseph Lozito. But everyone calls me Joe and I'm from Long Island, New York, but originally from Queens.
There's something in the background. Yeah. Oh shit.
I didn't meet my TV. Hold on. Fuck, I forgot about that. OK, how about that.
Is that better. Yeah, I can hear it now. All right. So let's go back to February of 2012. 2011. So 2011.
Yeah. So February of 2011.
February 12th started like a regular day six M Joe got up.
I'm a creature of habit that just got the door over to a Wawa, got my coffee at the time. Is living in Philly, working in New York City. So I drove to New Jersey, got on the train, took a nap, woke up in Manhattan. Penn Station made its way downstairs where the subways are on the platform. We got on the first train, which is the three trains and the very first car took a seat in the very first seat, just basically like at the very front of the train, a few more people got in.
And if you've taken the subway before, you know, the doors are open for ten seconds or whatever.
But this morning, Joe says. They were just sitting there with doors open. Next thing I know, two police officers get on the subway and they walked up to the very front of the car where there's this little door to the motorman's compartment where the driver is and the two officers, they go in there, which I thought was weird.
But whatever. It's New York. Who the hell knows? Finally, the doors close.
We start moving, but we're crawling is if a single person was behind the entire subway and pushing it, it was that slow, which again, was a little weird, but it was only going to get weirder because it was right.
Then Joe noticed that there was this man in his mid 20s, six feet tall. He was a little dirty, standing a few feet away from Joe. And this guy went over to the door where the officers and the driver were. He starts banging on the door, yelling, let me in. One of the officers out back. Who were you? He says, I'm the police. The officer shouts back, No, you're not. We're the police.
And with that. The man walks back without incident, but then Joe looks across the train and notices this other guy's scared to death like he was going to shit his pants.
A passenger. This guy had clearly seen the first guy and he was alarmed. So he goes up to the same door, starts knocking on it, but with a bit of subtlety as to not draw attention, wavering the cops to come out.
That keeps knocking on this door over his shoulder, back at the first guy who is now standing like a foot away from Joe. And I look up at him and he says to Joe. You're going to die when he reaches into his jacket, pulls out an eight inch knife and stabbed him right in his face. Oh, my God. Under my left arm. And Joe said, you don't have time to think about it.
He lunged at this guy's legs, ended up wrapping my arms around his waist.
And while I was taking him down, I was able to stab Joe once, twice, three times in his head, but.
I was able to get him down, Joe landed on him with all of his weight, but even with that, he still had the knife in his hand and now all of a sudden he's flailing up with the knife and just got his hands up trying to catch his wrist. And this guy slashes it. Joe hits his hand, splashes again, slices his arm, and then the third time. Joe grabs this guy's wrist, slams it to the ground and the knife came out.
According to Joe, it's then and only then that one of the police officers was behind that little door, rushes over, grabs the guy and says, you can get up now. We got him. At this point, I've lost a lot of blood. Joe is laying there bleeding from his face and his back and his hands. The cops are wrestling the madman. Other passengers are fleeing. At one point, a man rushes up to Joe and starts pressing napkins to his wounds.
And eventually the train gets to the next station and the paramedics are waiting there and they rush into the train, lift me up off of the subway, see to put me on the stretcher. And as they lift me up, I pass out.
And it's kind of like when you start nodding off, when you're watching television, where you're nodding off, but you could still hear what's going on in the background. And Joe heard one of the officers who was on the train with that call me. Likely. Likely. What does that mean? He wasn't sure. Eventually they get him to a hospital, ring me in this room, and now all of a sudden is when the pain kicks in.
And it's the worst pain I've ever had, like someone doused my head in gasoline and lit it on fire, like pain, you can't even imagine they give him one morphine jacked me up pretty good. He ends up with, like 80 staples in his body. Fast forward a little bit more.
My day gets a lot better. My family's there. All of a sudden my wife and my kids get there.
In the midst of all this, at some point, a police officer shows up in Joe's room, introduces himself, and he holds up a mug shot of the guy.
And he says, Is this the guy that did this to you? And I said, yes. And he says, Oh, you're a hero. He killed four people last night.
Turns out his name was Maksim Gelman, who a.k.a. the fact is called like the butcher of Brighton Beach. But what's pretty astonishing about this, and Joe didn't know this at the time, but the police had been searching for this guy for the past 24 hours. There was a citywide manhunt for him. And that morning, Joe was attacked. The police had gotten a tip that Guzman was in the subway. So they sent hundreds of officers down there looking for him.
Wait, so the police on the train knew, knew, but they say stayed behind the door? Yes. Oh, wow.
Take down Maxim and a few days later I'm doing all these interviews. Joe, thanks for joining us. We really appreciate it. Pleasure. He's got a black eye. Gnarly scars all over his head. Boy, oh, boy. And in all these interviews, they're calling me a hero, a hero tonight.
And I'm saying, well, I'm not a hero.
He still doesn't believe he's a hero because I'm just a regular guy.
You're a hero. I don't think I know. I hear you're a guy. That's cool.
Instead, just like the police are the heroes, the police are heroes.
You know, like I said, I'm just grateful for all the police and EMTs that were down there to save me or else, like I said, I wouldn't be here right now. Those are the heroes.
I'm not a hero. But then. A few things happened after the news media moves on after two police officers on the train are praised by the mayor and the chief of police after Joe Testifiers, the gunman's grand jury, and gets him indicted. One day, Joe is walking down the street and he notices he's being followed.
I turn around quickly and I'm like, Can I help you? And the man told you, listen, I was part of the grand jury. And I've got to tell you something. When those police officers testified, one of them told us while you were there rolling around on the floor with Gelman, he said, I started to come out, but I thought he had a gun. So I closed the door and stayed inside. After we heard that, we got furious because the whole group of us, we all looked at each other like, did he actually just admit to not coming out to do his job and leave the subway full of people with a spree killer?
He said after that he goes, I had to tell you. And I'm sitting here going like, holy shit. They left a spree killer, a known spree killer, a spree killing fugitive on a subway with probably 20 people. Twenty twenty five people. When Joe heard this, he thought back to this moment when he was in the hospital recovering was when his sister came by. She's a cop. And he told her that he heard one of the officers on the train say that he was likely.
I said, what is likely me? And she goes, They called you likely. And I go, Yeah. And she turned white. And I go, watch goes. Likely means likely to die. We reached out to the police officers who were on the train through their precinct but never heard back, but anyway, make a long story short, after meeting that guy on the street, after thinking back to what really happened that day.
That was when that was when we decided to pursue legal action.
So Joe decides to sue the police department. Problem is, he couldn't get a lawyer to actually take his case to trial, so he decides to represent himself. Got this gigantic box of legal documents started pouring through his case. If I had time before work, I was doing this before. If I had time after work, I was doing this after and eventually.
OK, it's his day in court. This whole story and says the cops failed him, failed everybody on that train, and they should have to pay. And the judge says Mr. Zeitels version of the story sounds highly credible.
His version of events rings true, basically says you're telling the truth, but then goes on to say, but based on blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, I have to dismiss this case. What's the blah, blah, blah, blah, blah?
Why? Well, here's what the judge said. No direct promises of protection were made to Mr. Luisito, nor were the direct actions taken to protect Mr. Lozito prior to the attack. Therefore, a special duty did not exist.
What? I'm confused. What does that mean?
Well, she basically says the cops had no duty to protect Joe in that situation. What? Yeah, this is where you get to my earlier question. What are the police for? Despite what you think, legally, it turns out protecting you is not their job. Protecting me is not their job.
How is that even possibly true? That's not true. Is that true?
How is that true? Well, it turns out it has to do with some legal precedents, Catholic versus Gonzales. That was the big one. And to tell that story, I'm actually going to bring in some help. I'll come back. But for now, here's producer Sakari. Yes, hi.
OK, so I talked to this woman, Chris McDaniel Miccio, an attorney and a law professor in upstate New York.
So where were you like in life or in the world?
I guess when you first got to know Jessica Lynch and I was the professor of law at the University of Denver from College of Law, and I was teaching law classes and one of them was a seminar on domestic violence.
And one day she comes across this one case.
And I was thunderstruck, completely shocked. It was a domestic violence case from Castle Rock, Colorado.
So I'm reading this and I'm thinking I need to get involved.
She has around ended up finding the number of the woman who is at the center of the case. And I met her. We became friends. The woman's name is Jessica Lanahan.
She lived in the town of Castle Rock. She had three little girls who were 10, nine and seven years old, who she adored. And back then, this is June nineteen ninety nine. She'd gotten divorced from her husband, Simon Gonzalez, and had even taken out a restraining order against him that protected her and the children both.
And in this restraining order, there was this condition that he had to give notice if he wanted to see the children, if he were to violate that order, the police would have to arrest him.
So a few weeks after she'd taken this restraining order, June 22nd, 1999, the kids were playing outside. From what she told me, Jessica was in the house. And you know how kids are. They don't talk. They scream. So they screaming at each other and they're playing. And all of a sudden it's very quiet. She looks out the window, no. She knew immediately Simon had taken him because he has this history of being abusive, she was beyond anxious.
She calls the police repeatedly.
She calls the police at 5pm p.m. at seven thirty pm, eight thirty pm and 10:00 PM.
And she even later that night, she goes in person to the Castle Rock police station at twelve, forty a.m. on June twenty third.
And the thing was, Jessica worked at the police station as a custodian and we're not talking about a police department the size of the Bronx or the New York City Police Department. We're talking about a relatively small environment and people knew who she was and people knew that Simon was violent.
Basically, the police told her, oh, you know, he'll wait, wait, wait. He'll bring the kids back. Don't worry. He'll bring the kids back like the kids are with their dad. It's not a big deal.
And she was beside herself. Who else was she going to call? What was she going to do?
The police basically ignored the restraining order. I called and met with the Castle Rock police nine times over a 10 hour period.
This is testimony from Jessica herself a few years later.
I beg them to find my daughter's, to bring them to safety and arrest Simon. My cries for help fell on deaf ears. The police went to dinner, looked for lost dog and had three officers tending to a routine traffic stop.
And what happens is finally, at a three p.m. that night, Simon drove up to the Castle Rock police station, got out of his truck.
I think he had a Glock and he just started firing at the precinct.
Oh, wow. Why would anybody do that? Why would anybody do that? You know, the reaction you're going to get, like he wanted a confrontation. He wanted to die. He knew what if he fired on the precinct? They were going to come out and they were going to start firing at him.
The police come outside, opened fire on Simon. He dies at the scene. And once the shooting stops, the police approach Simon's truck. And open the door at that point, they saw three dead little girls. Oh, Christ. Yeah, it is basically the understanding is that Simon has killed them before arriving. Wow. And when Jessica arrived at the police station, she was taken into an interrogation room and she was informed she didn't get to see her children.
They wouldn't let her see her children. She didn't get to see her children until they were laid out for the funeral. Eventually, after all this, Jessica decided to sue the Castlerock police department, as Joe Luisito would with the NYPD over a decade later, and the argument that her lawyers were making is that the police, by not enacting this restraining order, by not seeking to arrest this man and protect Jessica and her children, by failing to do those things, they violated Jessica's Fourteenth Amendment right.
And the 14th, again, is the 14th Amendment is the state shall not deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law. I turn to the United States courts to seek justice, to hold police accountable for illegally ignoring and demeaning me and my children in our time of need.
So she files a petition in the federal district court, which got kicked up to the 10th Circuit Court, and then it went up to the Supreme Court will hear argument now in number four 278, the town of Castle Rock versus Jessica Gonzalez.
So in 2005, Jessica's case went before the Supreme Court. Mr. Chief Justice.
And may have pleased the court.
And very quickly in this case, the justices started asking these questions that were so Reichle, how would you describe the property?
They're just they're just very technical. What is the property?
Your client has been deprived of their questions about property. And if the restraining order is property, that would be a property.
If you had a private contract with or there was a lot of discussion about the hard shall enforce what the word shall means.
Something Michelle does mean shall far, but eventually that if you compare it to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, zeroes in on the big question that we've been asking about the police's job, which is like if we have restraining orders, the police have an obligation to enforce them.
To my knowledge, we've never held that the police have an actionable obligation to enforce that. So that is what does the restraining order do then?
I think it does two main things. First of all, it gives her rights against her husband, which are enforceable through contempt and are enforceable by asking the police to enforce them.
And that is the interest of the restraining order gives her, but only to ask the police and then not the police are not obliged to respond. That is correct.
If she she has the ability to ask the police to enforce the order. But the police have discretion under our reading of the statute.
And then Justice John Paul Stevens just asks point blank for the police, have any duty at all, in your view, the police? I don't believe that the police have any sort of actionable duty. I think that what and what you start to hear is this argument that's come up again and again at the court that if you look at the 14th Amendment or the U.S. Constitution as a whole, there's nothing in there that says the police have to protect you from other people.
In fact, that's not what the Constitution is for.
The Constitution is a negative rights constitution, meaning our Constitution is keep your laws off my body.
The Constitution is there only to protect you from the state.
There's no affirmative duty on the part of the state to protect you.
So it protects you from the police, theoretically. Right. But it doesn't demand that the police protect you from your abusive spouse.
Which is why in Jessica's case, when Justice Stevens asked the police, have any duty at all, in your view, the lawyer for the police was like the police?
No, I don't believe that the police have they didn't have to do anything. They didn't have to do a damn thing.
The case is submitted.
And to be brutally frank, I knew we were going to lose. I knew it, but I didn't think we'd lose as badly as we did.
In a seven to two decision, the Supreme Court decided that the Castlerock police had no duty to enforce the restraining order against Jessica's ex-husband.
The two dissenting judges were John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We reached out to the Castlerock Police Department to interview them about Jessica Gonzalez's case, but they declined.
In 2005, the United States Supreme Court threw out my case. The court also sent a message to police officers all over the country.
That they can ignore their responsibilities to enforce restraining orders and that they can get away with it, when she lost it was it was as if her children had been murdered.
Again, I went from being victimized by Simon to being victimized by Colorado and Castlerock.
It was as if she experienced it all over again.
I felt so deceived. I'd grown up thinking that my department was bound by the laws and that it was just and fair so sudden when I needed you most turned your back on me and my family. Obviously, the years after my tragedy initial, it's really paralyzing. Sometimes the pain overwhelms me and I have to step away from my own life just to cope.
There were three beautiful little girls who didn't deserve this. No child deserves this. No woman deserves this.
Our system is broken and I have paid the price for its flaws. I have to say, talking to other lawyers about this case, again, this is Bob Parker, first of all, they all these lawyers talk about this case and really quiet, somber tones like it's a dark day for them is a really dark day.
But it was also. And I get it. What do you mean they they understand? They don't agree with the policy, but they understand why the Supreme Court made that decision because they say if the Constitution says the police must protect you, well, suddenly that's going to incentivize the police to be a lot more heavy handed. Then we'd have to arrest for jaywalking. We'd have to arrest for, you know, an open container, like we'd have to arrest for everything.
And you would have essentially a police state that you would do is what you mean that?
They see Jessica Gonzalez as like like in a utilitarian sense, she's the cost you pay.
To preserve our safety from overpolicing, yes. Now that I think about that. Are you convinced by that argument that there is that slippery slope that they that they seem to be worried about?
I mean, this idea that we they get discretion, meaning police make all their own subjective decisions and how to enforce the law. Hello. Racial bias. Or we get a world in which they have an obligation to enforce every law across the board. But you get a police state. I don't understand why that had those to those have to be the two choices like that just seems bananas to me like I feel like there is some medium and I don't understand why the law can't.
Figure that out well, is there is there some kind of middle path that says. The police can have discretion, but they but they they do have to protect us in certain cases. Well. Sort of there's literally this special path that's coming up. Right after the break. This is Lauren Furi from Western Springs, Illinois. Radiolab is supported in part by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science and technology in the modern world. More information about Sloan at Sloan Dog Science.
Reporting on Radiolab is supported in part by Science. Sandbox is Science Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science.
Jed Radiolab, we are back with the Parkrun Sakari, and we just heard two different stories from two different people where the police failed to protect either of them. And we learned that according to the Constitution, police don't have to they have no constitutional duty to either of them. Right.
And you were wondering if they're like if if there is some sort of middle path to the police having to protect us. Yes. Yeah, right. So in that Supreme Court case, Scalia, in his opinion, kind of hints at that, like he references these cases in the lower courts that talk about this idea of like a special relationship. Hello.
Hi, how are you? I'm good. How are you?
I don't know. When I first encountered this term special relationship, I was like, what the heck? Like what? Like, what does that mean?
So I called this guy, John Goldberg, professor at Harvard Law School, and my main area of interest and expertise is tort law.
And so real quick, tort law is the universe of law that governs what happens when one person hurts another person.
And in tort law, we have a general rule which says people aren't obliged to help you. It's your problem. It's not theirs.
The classic example is like if you're walking down the street and you see somebody in need of rescue and you could easily and safely rescue them, but you don't legally, that's totally fine.
You don't have to do anything for them. But that's horrible.
Morally, you've probably done something horribly wrong, but legally you're not subject to liability.
See, OK, here's where I find myself thinking all about the limitations of the law. Yeah, totally.
But the idea here is we may think it's a virtuous and heroic even for someone to step in and rescue another person from some danger. But do we really think that if they don't do that, they should be paying thousands or millions of dollars to the victim because they chose not to?
I don't know. I don't get it either. But there is an exception to that in the law.
What the courts have said is if there's the right kind of special relationship between the person who's at risk and the person who could rescue them, there might be a legal duty to protect or rescue.
If two people are in a special relationship, then one of them has to protect the other.
So a classic example would be if you are a hotel and you invite people to come and stay in your hotel as all hotels do, you need working locks on the door to make sure nobody breaks in in the middle of the night, you have to have a well lit parking lot or maybe even a security guard. And that's all premised on the idea that a hotel or a motel or an inn owes it to its guests by virtue of their relationship.
John says you'll also see the special relationship status in transit industries, airlines, taxi cabs, things like that, or you'll see it in these relationships between like a guardian and another person, between prison and prisoner parents and minor children.
So surely police officer citizen has got to be the right kind of special relationship, right? Yeah, but along come the courts and say, nope, actually not.
However, the courts have said that there are times when the police do have a special relationship. Like if certain conditions are present, then maybe, yes, the police do have an obligation to protect you.
What are the boxes you need to check in order to have a, quote, special relationship with the police so that they can protect you?
Well, most states have a rule that's similar to the one that you're seeing in New York. This is Alexandra Lahav, professor of law at the University of Connecticut.
And she told me that in a lot of different places around the U.S., it comes down to the very same criteria that Joe Lozito was being held to.
All right. So the rule in New York, and it's sort of like this four point test, the first of which is that there has to be direct contact between the person and the police.
So someone goes to the police and says, you got to help me.
The second thing is the police then have to respond to you and say, OK, we're on it.
So some kind of promise to this individual, I will protect you. And then number three, you need knowledge on the part of the officers that not acting could lead to harm.
The police also have to be aware that if they don't do anything, that the person will suffer.
That seems like getting into the head of the police. Yeah. How could you know that kind of thing? That's what now you're seeing why this test is so hard to make.
And then you need in addition, the fourth thing is kind of the most mind boggling, which is the person asking for protection.
They believe justifiably, that the police will protect them. They have to prove that they relied on the police's protection.
It acted differently. Exactly. They changed their behavior because they're like, oh, phew, now I know I'm safe so I can go out, you know, but I wouldn't have gone out otherwise.
The way the courts look at these four criteria is like all. All of them have to be checked off. Now we've got the right kind of special relationship and enjoy the Lazarus case, he just didn't check those boxes. Well, very, very, very few people do.
Oh, God, what a minefield. So if you think about it, in order for Lozito to have checked those boxes, he would have had to, one, walk up to the police and say, police, I need your help. I'm about to get stabbed. And then to the police would have needed to say, yes, we will help you, because, three, we know that to not help you would definitely result in harm to your face and your back and your hands.
And then for Joe would have then had to say, great, I will now relax myself and act differently in the knowledge that you will help me.
That is insane. That's insane, and I guess it kind of brings me back to Parker's original question, which is if protecting people on the streets is so damn hard to make legally binding because it's not their job.
Then what is their job? Now you come to the fundamental problem, so this is Professor Barry Friedman, a law professor at New York University School of Law, and I'm the faculty director of the policing project there.
Is there anywhere in the country that has, like, really clear laws for what the local or state police is supposed to be doing or what they're not supposed to be doing? Really, it is remarkable. I was interested in policing for years and years, and this is a light bulb that went off in my head finally and then I started to see it everywhere that I looked.
What you get is, you know, you might get a drone statute in one state and you'll get a statute about chokeholds in another state and you'll get a statute about, you know, license plate readers in another state. But it's all totally like pinprick. And what you will never, ever, ever find is a comprehensive code of police conduct doesn't exist.
That's so strange. And like not even in, like, I don't know, state constitutions or something.
Maybe that's a far cry you're listening to is making me so happy because, you know, you're listening in the veil. It's coming off of your eyes. And I and it happened to me. But but no, you know, this is a question that we oddly don't ask much about the police, but ask in most other areas of government. So if you think about it, you know, there's a whether it's the FDA or your local zoning board, we don't usually think of government getting to do things without some sort of formal permission statute or a constitutional authorization.
Well, so we've just like collectively as a society being like, hey, you're a cop. And they're like, oh, OK. What does that mean? I don't know, just do what you got to do. And they're like, oh, I. And then that's it.
Now, Sajad, in the present, to be fair, we called up a bunch of active duty officers.
Hello. Hello, hello. Hello.
From all over the country, from South Carolina, recruiter for the city of Charleston Police Department, one police officer in the state of Connecticut from Illinois, Florida police officer with the Lincoln Police Department in Nebraska.
When we asked them, like, what do they think their job is, they said, well, to protect people.
Oh, certainly that's part of it. Intervening in protecting again and again, they said, yeah, helping people is kind of clichs.
That's our job, is to protect and serve. We want to protect people stuff. We want to protect people against burglaries, trying to protect women from from abusers. We have a natural duty to protect. What most police officers want to be doing is standing between the general public and violent. You want to do your best to help other people and keep them out of harm's way. That's why we're doing this.
And in talking to them about where that idea actually comes from.
So when when you talk about duties like where is it written down, it kind of gets into the code of ethics for for policing or models its ethics guidelines.
It is mottos like Protect and Serve. It's city charters that created police forces in those cities, charters that say things like protect the peace, maintain order, enforce the law.
And this is something that came up in Zarqawi's conversation with Barry Friedman that the actual mandates for what police are supposed to be doing are kind of internal to the police departments themselves.
And the problem is there's a lack of democratic control. We don't use the ordinary ways that we do everything else in government with regard to the police. We don't pass statutes. We don't pass regulations. We don't then because we have those statutes do sufficient auditing to make sure that they're being followed. And the reason it's hard to hold people responsible today is because we're missing clear rules on the front to tell them what we expect them to do.
And I guess in that void, it's sort of it seems like what happens is it leaves the courts to kind of debate over what those rules are and and how to draw lines, I guess. Yes.
And they're terrible at it. I mean, if you again, if you think about it, the Constitution is kind of a weird way to run anything in government. I mean, it's it's a framework for government, but all it is, is a framework. And then the framework gets filled in with statutes. We have environmental protection statutes and we have workplace safety statutes, but we don't have policing statutes. And so basically the courts are left to try to hold people accountable or not under the vaguest of terms.
That's why it's hard to hold people accountable and why people get frustrated. And the odd thing is they keep doubling down on that by creating more mechanisms on the back end to try to hold people responsible and don't notice that the whole problem is the vacuum, as you described it, on the front end. I mean, you've puzzled through it, Sarah, in a very logical way. And everywhere you turn looking for logic, you find a twist. And that's that's problematic.
And what bothers me about the moment we're in, I mean, there are many paths of some things about the moment we're in, but people are walking around very much with a bad apples view of the problem when the truth of the matter is that the future just isn't regulated. Well, let me ask you a bigger question.
When I asked this to Parker, if it's not legally the police's job to protect us, then whose job is it?
I don't know. The census said it is, but there's this one part of the story I haven't told you yet. That gives me a little hope. Like if you think back to Joe Luisito, the guy got stabbed in the subway. It wasn't just Joe. The cops in the stabbed on the train that day. This was rush hour. There were a bunch of other people on the train. And when the stabber lunged at Joe, they got out of the way, were like, absolutely not.
Want no part of this and go to the next car. Took a step back just like the cops did. But there was one guy on the train who didn't step back. He took a step forward.
My name is Alfred Douglas and I was originally born in Jamaica, but I came here twenty six years ago and I've been living in New York ever since.
What was it like to witness something like that, to see someone get attacked? Miss, I could tell you that I'm 58 years old. I've never seen somebody so viciously slashed before.
So I'll focus on the three train with Joan. I was just standing there and as the train started moving, you know, this guy came from the back of the train. And once he walked in, my house was fixed on him because, you know, he didn't look right. And, you know, when the bus beside this woman and the woman get up and then you move on when you know across from Joe and all of a sudden he just lunged forward, jump on to Joe and then start attacking Joe.
Joe, Joe is all covered in blood. The all the passenger that was of the front, they start running to the back of the car while the tussle was going on, the police that was in the motorman's cabin opened the door and look out.
And then they went back in and hid, just hid in there. As Joe was getting stabbed.
After Joe took him down and they were on the ground, the police came out the motorman car and grabbed him. Maxim Gilma, no fighting the cop by the time Joe couldn't see, you know, is there it was covered in blood, you understand me? So he was just crying for his wife, his kids and whatever. So I said to myself, you know, we got to help him. So I just I kneeled in his stomach and try to get control of his arm because the officer, like half is gone in one hand and, you know, trying to control him with one hand.
So, you know, I see that he needed help. So I went there and I kneeled down on him. So after cuff him up now, you know, the train, like, come to a stop. And when I look at Joe, you know, I've never seen a slash like that before. Is is neck like the back of his neck? It was just jump like pump, you know, like blood just pumping out of them.
It seemed like eternity because, you know, Joe, you thought he was going to bleed out. I thought he was going to bleed out, too. So I guess, you know, if anybody have, like, a tissue or a napkin. But before I got a napkin, I, I was applying pressure to his to his neck. And then somebody came up with a piece of a napkin and I used the napkin to apply the pressure.
No, that's just me, I was I was raised by my grandmother, I was taught to help, you know, when you see the need for help, you know, I just did what I thought was right at the time. Had you heard that Joe sued the city? No, I haven't heard anything about that. And how did that go? The judge threw the case out, citing, yeah, citing that the police has no special duty to protect him.
And so the transit cop that walk the beat don't do it and have no, no duty to protect consumers. Essentially, yeah, and that's that's news to me. Why do they have the police in New York alone if they ain't got no duty to protect us? That's what I'm trying to figure. We pay our taxes, that's, you know, that's what I thought they were employed for you. This is new to me. I didn't know the police does not have a duty to protect the citizens of a country or a state.
I don't I mean, I got a process this. And I know something like this exists, if this is the case that this should free up the gun laws in New York, everybody could have the protection. I was living all my life all this time thinking the police are there to serve and to protect. You understand me, if they see something unlawful happening, it's their duty to, you know, be the judge. And the jury on the spot can see how they could say that it wasn't their job.
To protect the citizens, that this it's a strange world, I got to process this and I to let my kids know and whoever will listen to me, I got to let them know about this, because this is news to me. Like it takes to like a badly wounded guy and a guy with some napkins to defeat a serial killer.
Yeah, and that's Davis fully aware that if I were in a situation like that, I don't know if I would jump in.
Oh, yeah. I don't know.
Like, the kind of thing I've done on the subway was like in February, I saw a girl crying and I gave her a tissue and now the it's happened.
I know that I won't do that anymore.
You just give her an empathetic frown face across across the way, like, I'm sorry, ma'am, I'm sorry.
I'm going to leave this Kleenex right over here and you can come and get it. Yeah.
Special thanks to April Hayes and Katja McGuire for their documentary Home Truth, about Jessica Lanahan to Cracked Balkam for sending us down this rabbit hole. Caroline Bettinger Lopez, Jeff Grimwood, Christy Lopez, Anthony here on Mike Wells, Keith Taylor, and to the officers that we spoke to for this piece, Chase Wetherington, Terry Cherry, Luke Berkovich, Jeremiah Johnson and Aaron Landers. I'm Jad Abumrad. Thanks for listening. This is the news from Lisbon, Portugal.
Radiolab was created by Jad Abumrad and edited by Sorin Lula Mueller and lots of nuts. There are a couple Gilinsky because our director of sound design, Suheil Achtenberg, is our executive producer. Our staff includes Simon Adler, Jeremy Bloom, wrestler Rachel Kucik, David Gable, Tracy Mick Keelty, Cubin Lowe, Andy McEwen, harakiri Erin Wagner. That's Walter and Webster with help from Mahima only I have written back. And joining me on our fact checker is Michele herIt.