Mob violence can inflict devastating costs. Although typically wrought by private individuals, the incidence of riot as well as extent of riot harm often turn on the adequacy of police preparation and planning. Under the English common law, local governments were responsible for providing riot protection for their denizens. In keeping with the English tradition, early state laws in the United States also provided for communal riot responsibility, and when the states ratified the Fourteenth Amendment, state obligations in the riot context were well-established. Despite the common law underpinnings of the governmental duty to protect citizens from mob violence, however, few states retain their riot responsibility statutes, leaving most riot victims without redress. This article contends that, under the legal doctrine of state-created danger, local and municipal governments should bear legal responsibility for state actions that spark mob violence or augment riot harm. Sociological evidence supports this argument by establishing that state action directly impacts not only the gravity of mob violence, but also the opportunities for mobs to form. These studies provide pertinent information for the trier of fact in determining the extent of the State’s responsibility for creating or increasing dangers to citizens from mob violence in a particular riot.
Susan S. Kuo, Bringing in the State: Toward a Constitutional Duty to Protect from Mob Violence, 79 IND. L.J. 177 (2004).