Saturday, March 18, 2006

Police looting OK in New Orleans

Hat tip to The Dead Pelican for this news: If you're a New Orleans cop, it's your DUTY loot Wal-Mart:

Four New Orleans police officers have been cleared of looting allegations stemming from a news videotape that shows them taking items from the Uptown Wal-Mart two days after Hurricane Katrina, but the officers were suspended for 10 days for failing to stop civilians from cleaning out the ransacked store, the New Orleans Police Department said Friday. ...
Despite an avalanche of public outrage over the officers' actions, an internal investigation recently cleared them of looting allegations, said Assistant Chief Marlon Defillo, commander of the Public Integrity Bureau. He said the officers had permission from their superiors to take necessities for themselves and other officers. The New Orleans Police Department later informed Wal-Mart management, after the store had been secured, that its officers had taken some needed items, he said.

Perfect. In the midst of the greatest natural disaster in recent U.S. history, what is the most important duty for the New Orleans P.D.? Shopping! Then, "after the store has been secured" -- that is, after it's been thoroughly ransacked -- the police chief will tell you: "They weren't looting, that was ... uh, an official requisition of emergency necessities." More:

The four officers -- Olivia Fontenot, Vera Polite, Debra Prosper and Kenyatta Phillips -- were suspended for 10 days without pay for "neglect of duty" because "people can be observed illegally inside the store with property in their possession and you took no police action to prevent or stop the looting," according to their disciplinary letters. ...
Superintendent Warren Riley said Friday: "It was determined that all four officers had received permission from their commanders to get clothing for fellow officers who were soaking wet. They did not steal anything."
Defillo said the officers, all assigned to the badly flooded 3rd Police District, were among the officers rescued from that district's emergency shelter at the LSU Dental School in the aftermath of the storm.
"They were putting underwear, socks and shoes in the (shopping) basket," Defillo said. "The problem we had with their actions is that there were citizens in the store taking nonessential items and these officers did nothing to prevent these citizens from looting."

This is how ill-prepared the NOPD was for Katrina: Its own police officers had to be rescued from their "emergency shelter." And the department's backup plan in case their uniforms got wet? Loot Wal-Mart.

Here's more:

On top of her 10-day suspension, Fontenot received an additional three-day penalty for her "discourteous" response to MSNBC correspondent Fred Savidge, her disciplinary letter states. ...

In the video, the officers never offer an explanation as to why they're filling a shopping basket with merchandise. Instead, Fontenot tells Savidge that they are "looking for looters."
When Savidge points out that he can see looters everywhere, the following exchange takes place:

Fontenot: "That's what I see, including you. What are you doing in here?"
Savidge: "I haven't taken anything, ma'am."
Fontenot: "But you're in the store, huh?"

OK, this actually makes me like Officer Fontenot, because of my deep loathing for TV "journalists." TV reporters are paid at least twice what print reporters earn, and most of what you see on TV news is based on reporting originally done by print journalists. How many times have I turned on the TV and seen some airhead chick reporter saying, "Eyewitness News has learned ...." without telling her viewers that the Big Scoop was "learned" by reading that morning's newspaper?

Fred Savidge is lucky all he got was a "discourteous response" from Office Fontenot. Being rude to TV reporters should be encouraged, not punished.

Previous DONKEY CONS coverage of New Orleans:
3/17: Dean screams about New Orleans

2/15: Morial spews a flood of lies
2/4: New vote-fraud opportunities
1/26: Knee-deep in the Big Muddy


DONKEY CONS: About the book