Lori Tankel had a problem: A lot of angry people thought she was George Zimmerman.
She began getting death threats on her
cellphone after a jury acquitted him on July 13, 2013, of the second-degree murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Unfortunately for Tankel, her number was one digit away from the number Zimmerman used to make his call to police just before he fatally shot Martin.
The phone number had been shown throughout the trial. And, believing the number was Zimmerman’s, someone posted Tankel’s number online.
Just minutes after the verdict, Tankel began getting death threats.
“We’re going to kill you. We’re going to get you. Watch your back,” threatened a typical call.
Tankel worked as a sales representative for several horse companies. She had grown used to relying on her phone to keep her business going.
But, almost as soon as the Zimmerman verdict came in, “My phone just started to blow up. Phone call after phone call, multiple phone
calls,” Tankel said.
So she did what any ordinary citizen, faced with multiple death threats, would do: She called the police.
According to her, the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office told her the department itself receives around 400 death threats a minute on social media sites.
In short: Unless you’re wealthy, a politician or–best of all–a cop, don’t expect the police to protect you if your life is threatened.
If you doubt it, consider the lessons to be learned when, in February, 2013, Christopher Dorner declared war on his former fellow officers of the Los Angeles Police Department.
First, above everyone else, police look out for each other.
Robert Daley bluntly revealed this truth in his 1971 bestseller, Target Blue: An Insider’s View of the N.Y.P.D. A police reporter for the New York Times, he served for one year as a deputy police commissioner.
“A great many solvable crimes in the city were never solved, because not enough men were assigned to the case, or because those assigned were lazy or hardly cared or got sidetracked.
“But when a cop got killed, no other cop got sidetracked. Detectives worked on the case night and day….
“In effect, the citizen who murdered his wife’s lover was sought by a team of detectives, two men. But he who killed a cop was sought by 32,000.”
Second, don’t expect the police to do for you what they’ll do for one another.
The LAPD assigned security and surveillance details to at least 50 threatened officers and their families. A typical detail consists of two to five or more guards. And those guards must be changed every eight to 12 hours.
Those details stayed in place long after Dorner was killed in a firefight on February 12.
But if your bullying neighbor threatens to kill you, don’t expect the police to send a guard detail over. They’ll claim: ”We can’t do anything until the guy does something. If he does, give us a call.”
Third, the more status and wealth you command, the more likely the police are to address your complaint or solve your case.
If you’re rich, your complaint will likely get top priority and the best service the agency can provide.
But if you’re poor or even middle-class without high-level political or police connections, you’ll be told: “We just don’t have the resources to protect everybody.”
Fourth, don’t expect your police department to operate with the vigor or efficiency of TV police agencies.
“I want this rock [Hawaii] sealed off,” Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) routinely ordered when pursuing criminals on “Hawaii Five-O.”
Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett
Real-life police departments, on the other hand:
- Often lack state-of-the-art crime labs to analyze evidence.
- Often lose or accidentally destroy important files.
- Are–like all bureaucracies–staffed by those who are lazy, indifferent or incompetent.
- Are notoriously competitive, generally refusing to share information with other police departments-–thus making it easier for criminals to run amok.
Even when police ”solve” a crime, that simply means making an arrest.
After that, there are at least three possible outcomes:
- The District Attorney may decide not to file charges.
- Or the perpetrator may plead to a lesser offense and serve only a token sentence-–or none at all.
- Or he might be found not guilty by a judge or jury.
Fifth, the result of all this can only be increased disrespect for law enforcement from a deservedly–and increasingly–cynical public.
It is the witnessing of blatant inequities and hypocrisies such as those displayed in the Christopher Dorner case that most damages public support for police at all levels.
When citizens believe police care only about themselves, and lack the ability-–or even the will-–to protect citizens or avenge their victimization by arresting the perpetrators, that is a deadly blow to law enforcement.
Police depend on citizens for more than crime tips. They depend upon them to support hiring more cops and buying state-of-the-art police equipment. When public support vanishes, so does much of that public funding.
The result can only be a return to the days of the lawless West, where citizens–as individuals or members of vigilantee committees–looked only to themselves for protection.