Laura Rae Dove

Document Type



This article considers whether an obligation should be placed upon the State to enforce its own laws in situations where the State is in a unique position to protect particular citizens. The author argues that the current system, under which the State has virtually no obligation to enforce its own laws, affronts the classical liberal underpinnings on which the United States was founded.

The article examines the U.S. Supreme Court’s holdings in DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services and in Town of Castle Rock v. Gonzales. These two holdings, the author argues, do not properly consider the importance of the State’s responsibility to protect its own citizens. The article further considers whether the dissenting justices in DeShaney and in Castle Rock offer a better solution to State protection for private citizens, ultimately concluding that the dissenting opinions do not go far enough to adequately protect citizens.

Finally, the article concludes that private citizens should be imbued with a constitutional right to police protection from criminal acts by other private citizens. This viewpoint, the author posits, more properly fits with the Constitution’s classical liberal perspective and more appropriately recognizes the important role assumed by the State.