One of the questions that come up is this : Should Neighborhood Watch people be armed? Are they Law Enforcement? No. They are observers, and therefore they should “observe and report” only.. This means that they should NOT CONFRONT suspects who might be committing crimes. Does this mean that, as a Neighborhood Watch member they give up their rights as a citizen? NO! For seven years I was in Air Force Security Police where we were taught that while the Posse Comitatus act barred Federal Troops from enforcing Civil law we still retained our right as Citizens.. What did this mean? Lets say I was at a base that conducted town patrols. While I could not be dispatched to a robbery, as that would be construed as Enforcing Civil Law, I could act if I just happened to be out front when the bad guys came out. I still had my rights of citizens Arrest. Does this mean that the people who wish to make their neighborhoods safe have to give up that same right just because the joined a Neighborhood Watch? I don’t think that should be a question. IF they were to see a Felony taking place they should be able to act. Of course, since they are not Law Enforcement, and therefore they are not protected by the same laws as REAL LAW ENFORCEMENT officers, they have to be correct, or they could be charged, for arresting someone who turns out to not be a real felon. I used to tell some of the people I worked with, in the private security field, that if they want to play cop they have to know more about the law than the cops do, as they can be arrested for false arrest, or imprisonment, so the best thing for them to do is “observe and report”. As an A.F.S.P. we were told that the first things we were to do was 1 Detect, 2. Report, and then 3. neutralize the threat. The first two were the most important, as someone other then you must know about the threat, and be able to respond.
So, while they might still have the rights of a private citizen, to arrest for a felony, the best action for them is to “observe and report”, and let the people with the express authority make the arrest. If Mr. Zimmerman had seen an actual felony, or had a probable cause to believe he had seen a felony act being committed, it might be different. Still the best thing would be to stay our of the way, and let Law Enforcement handle the situation, not go charging in.
There is just as much evidence to show that Trayvon Martin was defending himself, and if that is true then Zimmerman is the aggressor as there has so far been not proof of a felony action on Martin’s part.
The Sanford Police would have been with in their rights to arrest Zimmerman. We might never know what really happened but, I do not believe the “Stand Your Ground” law applied to him.
Maybe the law needs to be clarified. What we don’t need is to take away a citizen’s right to defend themselves, or others, or to prevent the commission of a violent crime. What we do need is for the law to clearly explain under what circumstances you are allowed to not be the victim.
If we wind up going back to the days when you were required to retreat from a threat, we might face the possibility that a citizen who is forced to protect himself would become the criminal, and that would be a real crime.
- Zimmerman Charged with Second-Degree Murder (blogs.lawyers.com)
- ‘Stand your ground’ panel hears emotional testimony (naplesnews.com)