Chief thanks all for a job well done

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 26, 2003

Hurricane Isabel has served to be the topic of discussion for various reasons, some good and some not so good. I would like to take a few moments to share some of my thoughts on this event. On Sept. 17 at 4 p.m., the Emergency Operations Center for the City of Suffolk on White Marsh Road was activated in preparation for Hurricane Isabel. As the storm began to approach and reports of fallen trees, downed power lines and power outages were relayed to the EOC, I became very anxious.

I am a lifelong resident of Suffolk and have experienced the effects of hurricanes in years past, however this was before accepting the responsibility and welfare of over 70,000 people. In addition to those concerns, my thoughts turned to the safety of my officers and their families.

The wind gusts blew from 50 to 55 mph during the early hours of the storm, but our police and firemen continued to perform their jobs flawlessly. Prior to the onset of the storm, our police officers were instructed to seek shelter when the storm’s wind reached 50 mph for safety reasons. During the height of the storm when wind gusts were recorded from 65 to 68 mph, some of my officers were hampered in seeking safety at our predetermined locations because numerous trees had fallen, blocking our major roadways. Some of the officers were equipped with chainsaws, but we never imagined the magnitude of the wind damage to trees that we would experience.

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When the storm began to diminish, we enacted a curfew to ensure we maintained law and order. The curfew’s success was not due to anything we (police) did, believe it or not. The curfew worked because the majority of our citizens willingly complied with our request in a spirit of cooperation. I felt very proud to a chief of police serving in a community that truly exemplifies the word, &uot;partnership.&uot; The city of Suffolk did not experience any looting during this entire event. We did have a few reports of criminal activity, but that was carried out by people who are always looking for opportunities to take advantage of tragic events.

Hurricane Isabel brought on new challenges that this city had never experienced before. The police department’s mission statement is, &uot;Law Enforcement Excellence and Public Service through Partnership with our Community.&uot;

The community stepped up to the plate and, in my opinion, showed its true character. The cooperative efforts of our citizens standing in the gap beside police offices working toward a common goal, was inspiring. I have heard numerous stories of ordinary citizens displaying acts of kindness, working together with strangers, helping to remove trees from the roadway and clearing a path for resources to enter our city. The officers of the Suffolk Police Department are proud to be public servants in a city where the community cares, not by quoting a cute philosophical phrase, but by demonstrating a commitment with actions and deeds. Our response to this event will be reviewed, critiqued and second-guessed by many people and that’s all right. During Hurricane Isabel, we all did the best we could do as one community. I would like to commend the citizens of Suffolk for a job well done!

W.A. Freeman

Chief of Police

City of Suffolk