There are reports police themselves were taking part in the looting:
Law enforcement efforts to contain the emergency left by Katrina slipped into chaos in parts of New Orleans Tuesday with some police officers and firefighters joining looters in picking stores clean.
At the Wal-Mart on Tchoupitoulas Street, an initial effort to hand out provisions to stranded citizens quickly disintegrated into mass looting. Authorities at the scene said bedlam erupted after the giveaway was announced over the radio.
While many people carried out food and essential supplies, others cleared out jewelry racks and carted out computers, TVs and appliances on handtrucks.
Some officers joined in taking whatever they could, including one New Orleans cop who loaded a shopping cart with a compact computer and a 27-inch flat screen television.
Officers claimed there was nothing they could do to contain the anarchy, saying their radio communications have broken down and they had no direction from commanders…
Throughout the store and parking lot, looters pushed carts and loaded trucks and vans alongside officers. One man said police directed him to Wal-Mart from Robert’s Grocery, where a similar scene was taking place. A crowd in the electronics section said one officer broke the glass DVD case so people wouldn’t cut themselves.
“The police got all the best stuff. They’re crookeder than us,” one man said.
Most officers, though, simply stood by powerless against the tide of law breakers.
One veteran officer said, “It’s like this everywhere in the city. This tiny number of cops can’t do anything about this. It’s wide open.”