King County Councilman Steve Hammond has learned an important lesson from the disastrous disaster relief effort in New Orleans. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong lesson… but you can’t fault the guy for his dedication to lifelong learning.
Yesterday Hammond introduced an ordinance that would make the investigation, arrest and prosecution of “looting and related crimes” the county’s highest law enforcement priority during natural or man-made disasters. Hmm. And I suppose once we’ve rounded up all the people grabbing Pampers and Doritos from collapsed convenience stores, then we can get around to actually… um… rescuing people. Hammond explains:
“This measure will protect King County from the kind of lawlessness that enveloped New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and plagued the city of Seattle during the World Trade Organization protests in 1999,” said Councilman Hammond. “By making the arrest of looters and other disaster-related crimes a top priority of law enforcement during the next natural disaster or man-made conflict, we will force local emergency administrators to timely coordinate evacuation assistance with the federal government and we will protect our citizens from the dangers of anarchy.”
Uh… what the fuck is he talking about?
First of all, I’m kind of offended that Hammond would equate the worst natural disaster in US history, with WTO protests that resulted in a McDonalds and a couple of Starbucks getting their windows smashed. Second, how exactly does making looting our top priority “force” local emergency administrators to coordinate with the federal government? And third… what the fuck? If I’m trapped underneath the rubble of my collapsed house, I’d like the county’s top priority to be digging me the fuck out, not guarding the snack food aisle at the local Safeway!
In the event of a major disaster I sure as hell want the police and the national guard and other first responders in thick of it, on the streets, making their presence felt, and keeping order. But when faced with the choice of rescuing a person from a collapsed building, or rescuing a TV from the arms of a looter, I’d hope the police would follow their own moral conscience, rather than the twisted directives of Hammond’s “Wal-Mart Protection Act of 2005.”
If Hammond is looking for a public safety issue to nudge him ahead in his tough primary battle against
Raymond Shaw Reagan Dunn, I’d focus on the inherent danger of relying on public officials whose resumes were built on political appointments.