A Day In The Life Of A New Orleans Police Officer Immediately after Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Police Department was a mess. Reports of officers deserting, even looting, were rampant. Five years later, 16 officers now face federal charges ranging from murder to corruption to cover-ups -- mostly from incidents that took place just after the storm. NPR's Audie Cornish rides along with Sherife Davis. She first met him two years ago, when he was a rookie cop.
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A Day In The Life Of A New Orleans Police Officer

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A Day In The Life Of A New Orleans Police Officer

A Day In The Life Of A New Orleans Police Officer

A Day In The Life Of A New Orleans Police Officer

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/129512989/129512993" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Sherife Davis is a New Orleans police officer and veteran of the war in Afghanistan. He says even he's surprised by the level of violence in the city. "These guys out here, they shoot with AK-47s most of the time. That's the weapon of choice for New Orleans." Audie Cornish/NPR hide caption

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Sherife Davis is a New Orleans police officer and veteran of the war in Afghanistan. He says even he's surprised by the level of violence in the city. "These guys out here, they shoot with AK-47s most of the time. That's the weapon of choice for New Orleans."

Audie Cornish/NPR

One thing about New Orleans that hasn't changed in the five years since Hurricane Katrina is the blistered reputation of the city's police department.

In the days after Hurricane Katrina, the NOPD became infamous for officers who deserted their posts or were caught looting. Sixteen officers now face allegations of federal crimes, from murder to corruption to cover-ups.

Back in 2008, NPR’s Audie Cornish met Officer Sherife Davis on his first day of training. Back then, the cocky Air Force veteran wasn't worried about the NOPD's reputation or the city’s criminals. He'd already served in combat missions overseas.

"This city is no worse than Afghanistan or Pakistan, Iraq," Davis said then.

Cornish caught up with Davis earlier this month. He took her along in his squad car.

Patrolling The Neighborhood

Davis drives by the Iberville Housing Development -- a regular stop on his patrol and where he spent much of his training time.

"You get to know the people back here," Davis says. "So even the ones you put in jail, they eventually get out, and they come back, and there's a respect built."

But even this veteran of Afghanistan is surprised by the level of violence. Davis remembers one victim who was shot 48 times, then run over by a car.

"In New Orleans, there's a culture where they actually sit and wait to commit a murder," he says. "They actually hunt down their victims, literally.”

A Different Kind Of War Zone

And for Davis, that puts New Orleans right up there with Iraq and Afghanistan. The only difference is the NOPD is not as well-equipped as the U.S. military.

Over there, he says, soldiers patrol with semi-automatic rifles. In New Orleans, officers carry only handguns -- which is no match for the weaponry gangs pack on the city's streets.

"These guys out here, they shoot with AK-47s most of the time. That's the weapon of choice for New Orleans, and we don't have that."

Scandals Adds To The Pressure

Davis is proud of his job, in spite of the recent spate of investigations that hit the city’s police department. He says the majority of new officers know how to do their jobs well. And forcing them to walk on eggshells, he says, does not help with the difficult balance of building relationships and handling criminals.

"I don’t think New Orleans should be, you know, considered a corrupt police department when we're all out here risking our lives to make the city better," he says.