Tempe, AZ — As Americans are quickly finding out after the horrifying shooting in Uvalde, Texas — during which police refused to go into the school to save the children — law enforcement has no legal duty to protect citizens. Case law going back decades in the Supreme Court has clearly established this premise and it has been used to defend cops who were charged over their cowardice.
While there are certainly many police officers who will put themselves in harms way to do good and save lives, Uvalde, Parkland, and the following case out of Tempe, prove that there are still plenty of cops who will not.
According to the Tempe city government, police responded to a reported disturbance involving Sean Bickings, 34, and his wife. According to police, when they arrived, they spoke to Bickings and his companion, who cooperated fully and denied that any physical argument had taken place. Neither were being detained for any offense.
While police ran the couple's names through a database to check for outstanding warrants, for some reason Bickings "decided to slowly climb over a 4-foot metal fence and enter the water" in Tempe Town Lake, according to a statement from the city. Police informed him that swimming wasn't allowed in the lake — but Bickings wasn't swimming — he was drowning.
As Bickings begged for help, he drifted away as police watched from safety. He would eventually go under and never resurface. Tempe Fire's Dive and Rescue team would later find his body.
City Manager Andrew Ching and Police Chief Jeff Glover referred to Bickings’ death as a tragedy in the city's statement. But it was more than that. It was a fatal reminder that police have no legal duty to protect life.
As FOX29 reports, in a transcript of conversations released by Tempe Police, an officer, only identified as ‘Officer 1,' was noted as telling Bickings that he won't be going into the lake.
"I'm drowning," Bickings, noted as ‘victim’ in the transcript, said.
"Come back over to the pylon," an officer, noted as ‘Officer 2' in the transcript, said.
"I can't. I can't (inaudible)," said Bickings.
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"OK, I'm not jumping in after you," said Officer 1.
Instead of jumping in after Bickings, the officer threatened to detain his wife for being frantic.
"If you don't calm down, I'm going to put you in my car," the officer stated.
"I'm just distraught because he's drowning right in front of him and you won't help," she said.
For several more minutes, Bickings' wife begged the officers for help until he finally stayed under, never resurfacing.
According to the city's statement, Tempe has asked the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and Scottsdale Police to examine the Tempe Police response to the drowning.
The three Tempe police officers who responded to the call and witnessed the drowning have been placed on non-disciplinary paid administrative leave pending the investigations, as is customary in critical incidents.
Police watching people drown and refusing to help is not that uncommon. As TFTP reported, Johnny “JJ” Baldwin, 24, suffered a similar fate in Franklin County, Tennessee.
According to police, they began pursuing Baldwin after they claimed he made a minor traffic violation. When Baldwin stopped, he ran before falling in Tims Ford Boiling Fork Creek.
Ten feet away as Baldwin took his last breaths, police taunted him as he drowned.
"Your dumb a** jumped in the river,” would be the last thing Baldwin would hear.