Reeling from the chaos of this overwhelmed city, at least 200 New Orleans police officers have walked away from their jobs and two have committed suicide, police officials said on Saturday.
Some officers told their superiors they were leaving, police officials said. Others worked for a while and then stopped showing up. Still others, for reasons not always clear, never made it in after the storm.
The absences come during a period of extraordinary stress for the New Orleans Police Department. For nearly a week, many of its 1,500 members have had to work around the clock, trying to cope with flooding, an overwhelming crush of refugees, looters and occasional snipers.
P. Edwin Compass III, the superintendent of police, said most of his officers were staying at their posts. But in an unusual note of sympathy for a top police official, he said it was understandable that many were frustrated. He said morale was "not very good."
"If I put you out on the street and made you get into gun battles all day with no place to urinate and no place to defecate, I don't think you would be too happy either," Mr. Compass said in an interview. "Our vehicles can't get any gas. The water in the street is contaminated. My officers are walking around in wet shoes."
As terrible as the stresses were that these officers were put under, as human as they are, there is no excuse for dereliction of duty in the face of natural disaster.
I hope that the cops who ran away, or became looters themselves, will one day feel the shame they so richly deserve.
The people of New Orleans depended on them to do their duty, when they were needed most. Even if they had to fight a losing battle and just hold the line until the National Guard came in, that is what they were trained and sworn to do.
When it comes time to rebuild the New Orleans police, the ones who stayed and fought will form the core of a more competent and trustworthy force. The cowardly and corrupt must never be permitted to wear the badge again.
I'll leave the last word to a New Orleans cop who did his duty:
Some officers have expressed anger at colleagues who have stopped working. "For all you cowards that are supposed to wear the badge," one officer said on Fox News, "are you truly - can you truly wear the badge, like our motto said?"
Source: New York Times