The impact of the recent hurricanes that hit the United States may not be better illustrated than in the experience of New Orleans. The experience has raised concerns regarding the capacity of cities to respond to natural disasters and deliver critical services amidst the disaster. One of the most critical sectors to promote operationally efficiency of a city’s emergency plan is the New Orleans Police Department. Police services have always played a significant role in disaster management and relief but considering the impact felt by the city in recent years, the role of the police has been given even greater highlight and urgency.
One of the critical initiatives to be accomplished is the development of city emergency plans that recognize the socio-economic, cultural and demographical characteristics of the city. The police should assume a primary collaborative role since they will most likely be at the forefront of the efforts when the disasters actually hit. Efforts should consider the roles to be taken by federal emergency management services, local government and the community. One of the biggest realizations for cities hit by natural disasters like New Orleans is that enormity of the impacts requires the cooperation of everyone. There must be also a long term commitment to develop and maintain city emergency plans through educational and training programs for the public, the police, medical and social services. There should be a universal collaborative effort to create support systems before, during and after disasters.
One can only imagine the disappointment, vulnerability and hopelessness. One would feel when you see these officers lead or condone crimes like looting which can be seen as evidence of the breakdown of government and social order. There is no sight more disturbing than when civil officers like the police fail to maintain their role as protectors of the social order, peace and public welfare and failure in these roles should have accountability.