Officer Paul Schubert was fired by the New Orleans Police Department for leaving his job just before Hurricane Katrina hit last August and not returning for four weeks, says USA Today. Schubert, 54, says he fled to Texas to save his disabled wife, who needed a doctor’s care and medicine for her rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and poor eyesight. Schubert is among more than 200 New Orleans officers who have been under investigation for leaving their posts during the hurricane crisis. Five days after a hearing in which a panel ruled that Schubert should be allowed to keep his $44,600-a-year job, Superintendent Warren Riley vetoed the decision.
Schubert’s case illustrates the no-win situation many officers faced when family and police obligations collided, says David Benelli, president of the Police Association of New Orleans, which represents about 1,100 of the department’s 1,400 officers. Benelli adds that some of the post-Katrina security problems in New Orleans stemmed from the police department not having enough officers available. “I spent a year in Vietnam,” he says. “But the week I spent in the Superdome (in squalid conditions with limited security) was worse than my entire year in Vietnam.” So far, 87 officers have been fired, and 41 have resigned while under investigation. About 65 officers accused of misconduct have been cleared of wrongdoing.