Duty to act: What does your SOP say?

The debate arises as to who has a legal duty to act and what does that obligation actually mean

By Anthony Mangeri
American Military University

There have been several stories of public safety personnel, on and off duty, failing to meet the response expectations of their community. The incident in the District of Columbia involving a 77-year old man who died outside a fire station brought into focus emergency responders’ legal duty to act versus expectations by the communities we serve to aid those who ask for help.

The term duty to act is a legal term that defines an individual’s or organizations legal requirement to take action to prevent harm to a person or the community as a whole. The debate arises as to who has a legal duty to act and what does that obligation actually mean. More importantly, there can be a conflict between the legal obligation to respond and the community’s expectations.

Firefighters and emergency responders are hired, trained, and funded by the community to respond to the public’s request for assistance in a time of emergency. A department’s mission statement may establish a legal duty or relationship between the fire or rescue department and the community.

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About the author

In Public Safety is an American Military University (AMU) sponsored blog that features analysis and commentary on issues relating to law enforcement, emergency management, fire services and national intelligence. This blog features in-depth discussions authored by leading experts with decades of experience in their field. To stay updated on blog posts and other news relevant to these sectors, please follow us on Facebook by “liking” AMU & APUS Public Safety Programs. You can also follow us on our sector-specific Twitter accounts: @AMUPoliceEd, @AMUFireEd, @AMUDisasterEd, @AMUIntelStudies.

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