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Hell in High Water

NCJ Number
Police: The Law Enforcement Magazine Volume: 29 Issue: 11 Dated: November 2005 Pages: 32-34,36
David Griffith
Date Published
November 2005
4 pages
This article describes the experiences of the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina.
In New Orleans' fifth district, police officers under the command of Capt. John Bryson spent the 2 days before the storm hit land trying to get residents to evacuate; the morning the storm hit that mission was over, NOPD officers were ordered to come to predestinated shelters. Before the storm had completely passed, the NOPD tactical team began assessing damage. In the fifth district, Bryson and his officers had sheltered at the Bywater Hospital, which was supposed to have been evacuated; however, a long-term care facility on the third floor had 49 patients still waiting to be evacuated. Throughout the storm and the morning after, fifth-district officers worked to evacuate the patients. The ninth and the lower ninth wards were flooded, and people were scrambling onto rooftops to escape rising waters. The top priority was to mount boatlifts for rescues. Boat rescues continued for about 13 days and into nights. Before, during, and after the storm, the NOPD had to cope with looting. After the storm and during the flooding, the looting got worse as desperate people broke into stores for food and other supplies. Some looters, however, targeted firearms, home entertainment, and jewelry stores. Priority was given to the suppression of looting for weapons and profit. The absence of usable custodial facilities meant looters' names and addresses were obtained for warrants to be served later. An additional threat was snipers who targeted firefighters and rescuers. Before, during, and after the storm, officers had the satisfaction of knowing they had evacuated and rescued many, but they also were frustrated by seeing the suffering and deaths of many.