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JOHN WILKERSON
Falling ceilings, warped furniture, soaked and moldy files and wet insulation show the extent of the damage done by Hurricane Katrina driven waters that filled the Waveland Police Department, in an Oct. 13, 2005 photo. Up and down the Mississippi coastline devastated by Katrina's winds and storm surge on Aug. 29, hobbled police departments like Waveland's are struggling to uphold the law.


JOHN WILKERSON
Waveland Police Sgt. Trent Boyd, left, and officer Theresa Beeson and narcotics investigator Jeremy Skinner hold a pre-shift meeting in a tent constructed in the parking lot.


JOHN WILKERSON
Waveland, Miss., Police Department shift Sgt. Trent Boyd, left, briefs patrol officer Theresa Beeson in a tent outside their destroyed headquarters, Oct. 17, 2005. Uniforms of the Waveland police officers have become less formal since Hurricane Kattrina hit Waveland, Miss., Aug. 29, 2005, destroying the offices and equipment of the department.

By ADAM GOLDMAN
Associated Press Writer

Long before the sun rises over this small coastal city, Sgt. Trent Boyd arrives at the Waveland Police Department. Or what's left it.

He parks his car - a hand-me-down from a North Carolina police department - and sits in a beat-up chair and table near a patchwork of trailers, refrigerators and generators that have replaced the town's crumbled station.

"You don't want to go in there," Boyd says. "It has some mold in there that will kill you quick."

An hour later, the 42-year-old patrol supervisor heads down the road for a briefing at a mobile command post, where the morning shift change takes place among a group of officers, some on loan from other agencies around the country.

There is no talk of drunken driving checkpoints, drug stings or speed traps. They discuss looters and flaring tempers as people cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. One officer, for example, reports that workers doing repairs had been caught stealing from homes.

Up and down the Mississippi coastline devastated by Katrina's winds and storm surge on Aug. 29, hobbled police departments like Waveland's are struggling to uphold the law.

Small departments have had to scrape together gear to replace waterlogged boots, uniforms, guns, radios and patrol cars.

At least four departments - Waveland, Pass Christian, Long Beach and the Hancock Sheriff's Office - saw their headquarters destroyed. Other coastal towns, like Bay St. Louis and Ocean Springs, sustained lesser damage to their buildings and vehicles.

"We just patrol and deal with people trying to walk off with other people's property," says Pass Christian Police Chief John Dubuisson.

In Waveland, Katrina also washed away officers' homes. Twenty-seven of 30 employees lost their homes, and 33 department cars were ruined.

Katrina has humbled the department. Officers have no direct link into the National Crime Information Center to check criminal histories, a crucial step in most investigations. They have to rely on other agencies to get the data.

Boyd is one of the lucky ones. For the most part, the storm spared his house. He moved 10 miles inland about 18 months ago to a rural dot on the map called Kiln, the hometown of NFL quarterback Brett Favre. Boyd lives there with his mother, wife and 8-year-old son Cody.

Boyd was among more than two dozen officers, dispatchers and a park ranger trapped at the Waveland station the day Katrina smashed ashore. As the water overcame the station, they clung to a small tree for hours before they were able to climb to safety on the roof.

As his cold body began to cramp and sewage washed over him, Boyd thought of his little boy constantly. "He's my best friend, Codyman," Boyd recalls.

Everybody with Boyd survived. Some of the officers, however, were presumed dead when their families didn't hear from them.

It was more than two days before Renee Skinner knew that her fiance, a narcotics investigator with the department, was safe. She married Jeremy Skinner the following week.

"I knew in my heart he was OK," she says. "I knew God wouldn't do that me."

It took Waveland police days to regroup. They commandeered pickups from a local Dodge dealership and fished their guns from the water.

Boyd now has a used police car with no siren. The flashing blue lights are not very effective - a work crew made him stop as it cleared a street.

Street signs have disappeared, but that doesn't much matter. Boyd, who joined the force eight years ago, knows every corner of Waveland. He points out structures reduced to steel beams and shattered lumber that once belonged to friends.

He remembers where many victims were discovered. "Right down here is where they found the body. It was pretty ripe," he says.

Boyd swings by the Hancock County Sheriff's Department. The concrete jail and offices are deserted. Pools of water still stand on the floor. A deputy is inspecting computers to see if any work. Crucial information has disappeared forever.

The number of auto wrecks has shot up with the influx of contractors, and the complaints and questions for the police never cease.

"People call about FEMA trailers," Deputy Eddie Jennings says while eating a donated lunch of fried catfish. "We ain't got a dog in that race."

Jennings says the sheriff's department lost more than 50 vehicles to Katrina. At least his weapon works. Gun maker Glock donated it.

At 62, he sometimes wishes he gave up policing before it came to this.

"I should have retired long before the storm," he says.
 
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