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….
A Baton Rouge police officer said he had a friend on the New Orleans force who told him he threw his badge out a car window in disgust just after fleeing the city into neighboring Jefferson Parish as the hurricane approached. The Baton Rouge officer would not give his name, citing a department policy banning comments to the news media. The officer said he had also heard of an incident in which two men in a New Orleans police cruiser were stopped in Baton Rouge on suspicion of driving a stolen squad car. The men were, in fact, New Orleans officers who had ditched their uniforms and were trying to reach a town in north Louisiana, the officer said.
Only a few bad apples. Right. Thirteen percent of the force simply quit and that likely doesn’t count those who were witnessed joining in the looting of the stricken city while in uniform.
No wonder even other policemen are disgusted. The behavior of their New Orleans counterparts may have finally laid to rest the Norman Rockwell portrait of the policeman as someone on your side, on whom you can depend in an emergency. It hasn’t been particularly valid since American police began to fancy themselves as a law-enforcing paramilitary instead of humble keepers of the peace, but now the self-serving, self-protecting reality has been exposed for the world to see.