New Orleans Cops Told They Could Shoot Katrina Looters
Post-Katrina message: 'If you can sleep with it, do it'
By Jane Yager,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 25, 2010 6:53 AM CDT
NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 06: Corrections officers search a jailed inmate at a temporary prison inside a Greyhound bus terminal September 6, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – In the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, some New Orleans police officers were told they could shoot looters, according to an investigation by ProPublica and the Times-Picayune. One captain told officers at roll call (it's on videotape) that "we have authority by martial law to shoot looters" (martial law had not actually been declared, but there was confusion about this), and another police captain says the police department's second-in-command told him to "take back the city and shoot looters."

The latter captain says he was also told, "If you can sleep with it, do it." Though the chaos that reigned in New Orleans has been well documented—along with confusion about martial law, many police stations were under water and the law enforcement command structure collapsed as communications failed—the investigation offers the first evidence that some within the police force believed they had authority to shoot looters even if they posed no immediate threat. Click here to read about one highly publicized incident.