A police force that does not protect those who seek its protection. An officer who doesn’t even watch over the pavement beside the police station he’s charged with guarding. A Rapid Response unit that isn’t rapid and whose responsiveness is questionable at best.

Police officers who respond to a young girl’s cry for help in the most lethargic and bureaucratic manner imaginable.

And a society which, stunned and repulsed, cannot tear its eyes away from a crime that could have been avoided if the police did their work conscientiously and with even a modicum of professionalism.

It was a tragedy, pure and simple. No more description required. And it was a tragedy precisely because a whole lot of people whose duty it was to prevent it played a part—directly or indirectly—in the murder of a luckless girl. They let it happen.

Is that the problem of a police force that failed to act? Certainly. The police failed to comprehend the danger, failed to protect the victim and failed to stop the perpetrator.

But it’s not just that. An entire social and family circle seems to have known or suspected or supposed, but no one stood between the victim and her killer.

And do you know why? Because our society, like our police, has not learned to react when the alarm bells sound. Sometimes, they don’t even hear them.

Out of indifference, a lack of conscience, or a failure to understand. Out of boredom or out of habit. Because nothing can jolt them out of their lethargy.

They ignore the urgent out of a reluctance to confront the dangerous. And simply sit there instead, waiting to hear about the next murder on the news.

Is it a question of policing or of society? It’s a matter of both.

There can be no society without policing. And there can be no policing of a society without a police force that’s embraced by that society. That lives with and in it.

Whose patrol cars can become taxis or ambulances or safe spaces if needs be.

But most of all, there can be no society if it does not know how to heed the alarm bells. Though, needless to say, anyone prancing around for the camera yelling “cops, pigs, murderers” isn’t sounding the alarm, and has no right to.

There is no doubt we’re faced today with new forms of crime and delinquency.

But it is equally obvious that the constitutional state, the law-abiding citizens who seek recourse to law and order in order to protect themselves, can’t just sit there and do nothing.

They have an obligation to react to the alarm bells that have already become part of our everyday life.

And without losing their trust in the public good we’re called upon to protect. All of us.