Former New Orleans Police
Superintendent Eddie Compass
Four officers have been suspended and one reassigned.
In the hours and days after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and floodwaters
overwhelmed 80 percent of the city, reports of widespread looting, violence
and heavily armed gangs roaming the streets were rampant.
Now, as police investigators unravel the tales and find that many of
them — such as stories about multiple rapes and murders of women and children
at the Superdome — were false, officers are also faced with the
difficult task of investigating their own. On Thursday, four New Orleans
police officers were suspended and one reassigned amid allegations that they
participated in some of the looting.
According to CNN, the city's police department is looking into claims
that as many as a dozen officers may have gone on a looting spree in the days
after the storm hit. The probe was initiated after officials began
reviewing news reports, according to acting Police Superintendent Warren Riley,
who would not elaborate on what the tapes contained.
Riley promised "swift and decisive action" against any violators.
"There is zero tolerance for misconduct or unprofessionalism by any member
of this department," he said. The officers are alleged to have taken televisions
and Rolex watches, as well as not acting to stop other looters.
"The investigation does show police officers with some items," Riley
said, but he noted that many of those items were essential to the officers doing
their jobs, such as food and clothing. Another matter Riley is investigating,
according to The New York Times, is the commandeering by some officers of more
than two dozen Cadillacs from a local car dealership after police lost the use
of some of their vehicles in the flooding that followed the storm.
"There were some officers who actually patrolled in Cadillacs,
I will tell you that," Riley said. "But it was done with the greatest
New Orleans Police Superintendent Eddie Compass abruptly resigned on
Tuesday and Mayor Ray Nagin named Riley to be his replacement. A department
spokesperson denied that Compass' resignation was tied to the probe.
Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti Jr. is also investigating two
separate incidents of possible looting by law enforcement, but would not specify
which jurisdiction his probe is centered on. A police spokesperson said one
of the incidents Foti is examining took place at the AmeriHost Inn and Suites
in the days following the storm, which were captured on tape by a local TV reporter
Officials have reviewed videotape showing an officer reaching for his
gun as he blocked a reporter from the 10th floor of the hotel, where he and
seven other officers were reportedly staying. The hotel's owner told CNN that
on August 29, the night of the storm, 70 officers moved into the hotel, 62 of
whom went out to fight looters, while eight stayed behind and began and a four-day
drinking and looting spree.
"They'd leave [at] nine or 10 at night and come back at 4:30 in
the morning," carrying "everything from Adidas shoes to Rolex watches,"
owner Osman Khan said. Other witnesses said the men came back with fans, weapons
and even a generator that was stolen from Tulane University Hospital next door
and used to keep their beer cold.
Other witnesses told CNN that police continue to loot unoccupied homes,
kicking in doors and carting off stereo equipment and other valuables.
Another unfolding scandal involves the renting of cruise ships by the embattled
Federal Emergency Management Agency. CNN reported that the agency has paid more
than $236 million to Carnival Cruise Lines to rent three ships for six months
to house evacuees, police and emergency workers.
While FEMA was expecting 10,000 evacuees to use the ships, so far, fewer than
2,000 have taken up the offer. U.S. Senators Tom Coburn and Barack Obama derided
the "sweetheart" deal for Carnival on Thursday in a letter to Homeland
Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, asking him why the government is paying
the cruise line rates much higher than market levels when Greece offered to
send two cruise ships for free. The price tag for the ships was calculated on
what Carnival would have earned on tickets, as well as casino gambling, food
and beverage and other amenities that the evacuees do not have access to, according