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September 02, 2005

Katrina: Police Behaving Badly

Sean over at Objective Justice has been tracking news about police participating in looting in New Orleans. I was actually skeptical at first b/c the whole looting angle is something I expect the media is blowing way way way out of proportion because it gives it something sensational to talk about and because looting is perversely more palatable than “gee, this is a human tragedy and no one really seems to be doing much about it.” However, it seems pretty clear that the cops—at least some of them—are part of the problem. Salon reports that in the French Quarter the cops were using their guns and authority to protect their barbecue from hungry residents:

In contrast, some residents of the French Quarter appear comfortable, well-fed and relaxed. About 150 New Orleans police officers have commandeered the Royal Omni Hotel, part of the international luxury chain of Omni hotels that is housed in an elegant 19th century building, complete with crystal chandeliers and a rooftop pool. “All of the officers that are here, I can tell you in a classical sense, are gladiators,” says Capt. Kevin Anderson, commander of the Eighth District of the NOPD (French Quarter). “To be able to put your family's concerns aside to protect the citizens of New Orleans, it's just an awesome job,” he says. Across the street from the Royal Omni at the Eighth District police department, several police officers keep a wary eye on the street with shotguns at the ready, while some fellow officers grill sausage links over charcoal barbecues. They are under strict orders not to communicate with the media. Capt. Anderson does confirm, however, that locations where officers were housed came under gunfire on Tuesday night. No officers were injured. “It is a very dangerous situation that we're in,” Anderson says.

So the cops are “gladiators” in a classical sense? Does that mean every man for himself? Read on in the story to learn how the cops are offering protection to upper-class restaurant owners in exchange for prime rib. Meanwhile, thousands of people are basically trapped in the city's convention center and FEMA didn't even know authorities had been telling people to go there. Who knows how many thousands are still on the streets, or who knows where, without drinking water or food.

You all know this, and maybe it's still too early for recriminations, but there's a growing realization that the relief response has been inadequate. And why is that? Um, Iraq? Does anyone believe that we wouldn't have tens of thousands more National Guard troops working on relief and evacuation efforts on the ground in the affected area if we didn't have so many National Guard resources committed in Iraq? Don't you think they'd be doing airdrops of food and water, or mass helicopter evacuations—if those helicopters weren't already in use in Iraq? And it's not just Iraq; a Seattle disaster-response leader put it:

“It's terrorism, terrorism, terrorism, terrorism,” said Eric Holdeman, director of King County's Office of Emergency Management. “It's what all the funding is directed towards.

”New Orleans shows the result when known problems aren't addressed because we're fixated on something else.“

Meanwhile, Yubbledew holds press conferences and flies over the area like a perverse tourist. Yeah, he's got my full support for that.

Posted September 2, 2005 06:11 AM | crimlaw general politics

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Here's the police acting crazy to reporters. It's bad all around.

Posted by: Melissa at September 10, 2005 06:26 PM

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