Who gets to decide what risks you’re allowed to take on your own property? Is it legitimate for police to make that call? Or is it your life and your right to risk it if you want to protect your home?
In Florida, a 42-year-old man realized that his neighbor’s house was on fire. It had apparently started as a kitchen grease fire, but the fire had spread. Before firefighters arrived, Daniel Jensen grabbed a hose and started spraying water on the fence between his house and the burning house and on a corner of his roof. At one point, he was afraid his house was in danger and he wasn’t sure whether his daughter was out of the house, so he was spraying water around her window.
All of this seems pretty reasonable to me, but I haven’t had police training that tells me I’m always in charge and my orders must be obeyed.
Police pulled him back from the area of the fire. Then when Jensen again saw flames getting closer to his house — and with firefighters still not on the scene — he grabbed the hose again and started spraying.
At the direction of a sergeant on the scene, an officer then used a taser to knock Jensen down into the puddle of water he was standing in.
You can watch a television interview with Jensen below and see what you think. One thing that irritates me is that the reporter just assumes it’s legitimate for a police officer to order Jensen to quit protecting his property. She only seems concerned with whether police used excessive force in making Jensen comply.
I don’t know whether I would have been hosing my my property or not under the circumstances. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know how threatening the situation was. But based on what Jensen says and what his neighbors say in a previous interview, I think I’d have been doing the same thing. And even if I wouldn’t have made the same decision, it’s his property and his life, not mine.
Jensen said police didn’t seem to think it was important to save his house.
“They kept telling me, ‘Let it go, that’s what insurance is for.’ That’s not acceptable to me,” Jensen said.
We’ve professionalized emergencies so much in this country that it’s not seen as legitimate when people act in their own self-interest. We’re treated as children who have to be protected from the consequences of our own decisions.
What police did to Jensen was wrong. It’s his house. It’s his life. It should be his decision about how much risk he wants to make.