PBS report on the New Orleans Police Department during Hurricane Katrina.
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Five years ago, Hurricane Katrina center-punched the Gulf Coast, coming ashore in the small town of Waveland, Miss. A huge wall of sea water rolled into the Waveland PD building, causing employees to flee for their lives. A dozen of them rode out the flood waters by clinging to a tree in the parking lot.
I later had the opportunity to go to Waveland with a truck load of supplies and a donated detective vehicle. That trip changed my life because I saw the strength of the human spirit and learned a valuable lesson: Sometimes it takes time, a great deal of time, to get things back on course. That first visit to Waveland was followed by three more, each of which showed significant growth and improvement.
Katrina also exposed a very ugly underbelly. The whole world watched spellbound as the fabric of societal order was ripped apart in New Orleans. Cops abandoned their community and uniformed personnel were shown on TV participating in looting. Predators ruled the streets and at times, it was difficult to tell the predators from those who should have been policing. It took the efforts of thousands of officers from around the country, including our own Jeff Chudwin, to get the city back on track.
For many of those who lost so much as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, life is just now returning to “normal.” I have the greatest deal of respect for those who have shown strength and endurance beyond what anyone thought possible. They refused to give up and have taught us a great deal about dealing with adversity. At this five-year mark, please consider how ready you and your department are to face a major disaster. It’s important that some of the toughest lessons ever learned never be forgotten.