Questions Posted to "Ask a Dispatcher"
Q. A few days ago, I witnessed a scuffle between a security guard and a pair of young males. Aside of helplessly watching the officer get beat, what does the law allow us to do?
Dear Juneau Resident,
I understand your angst in not wanting to just stand by while someone is assaulted. Protecting others is an impulse near and dear to our hearts here at JPD. Citizens, like police officers, are allowed under the law to use physical force to protect themselves and others. The levels of force allowed have to be only enough to defeat the force being illegally used, which can become a matter for the courts as could the whole ‘defense of others’ issue. Keep in mind that citizens have an obligation to retreat as soon as the danger has passed in almost all cases. If you find yourself chasing someone, that is bad. Stop and go back to help the person who was assaulted. Make sure you mentally note as much detail as possible about the suspects so you can tell the police.
There is some legal as well as personal risk to getting involved physically in the situation. Thank goodness many people have made the decision to get involved, disarming gunmen in schools, assisting elderly people being robbed, and throwing their own bodies over someone dragged from a vehicle by a mob. There is even increasing talk of charging people who stand around and watch a teenager being kicked to death. The truth is Good Samaritans may be sued by the parents of kids who have been afoul of the law many times and have lawyers on speed dial. The decision you are looking to make is personal and may be challenged down the road. Sometimes doing the right thing is not the easy thing.