Sgt. Britton worked above and beyond for his city

Published 11:18 am Friday, September 29, 2017

By Colleen Harrison


Patrick Britton was born and raised in Port Arthur, so when Tropical Storm Harvey came to town, he wasn’t about to go anywhere.

Britton, a sergeant with the Port Arthur Police Department, was out on the night Harvey started to bear down on the area.

As the water started to rise to dangerous levels, Britton saw a man with a flatbed truck carrying a boat, looking like he was trying to launch the boat in the middle of a flooded street. Britton asked the man to use the boat, as he said there was a neighborhood full of people needing help. He would later learn that man was with the Cajun Navy, and was in the area to help people flee their homes to safer ground.

Eventually, more and more boats started showing up in the area, manned by people just looking to help others get out of a dangerous situation. In just the section of Port Arthur that Britton was covering that night, he said there were probably 50 to 60 boats and about 10 jet skis going around to help people get out.

As boats were filled, passengers would then be transferred to city dump trucks that would take them to shelters or other areas where they’d be safe.

Britton worked 36 hours straight during and after the storm, with about 15 of those hours being spent on a boat, as he helped rescue people from their flooded homes. He said the water felt like it was freezing. That first night, Britton said the department was inundated with rescue calls, and there were around 3,100 boat rescues just that first night. He would do more water rescues for the first three days of Harvey’s aftermath.

In the near-month since Harvey hit the Port Arthur area, Britton said he has been working on the ground in the field, and has yet to work out of his office. Britton has been at the tent city shelter in the parking lot of Robert A. Bowers Civic Center since its opening. When other agencies came in to help coordinate recovery efforts, Britton was asked to stay on at the shelter since he had a rapport with many of the people staying there.

Britton said tent city is the last remaining shelter in Port Arthur for those displaced by Harvey, and that it will stay open for as long as people need it. He said the shelter is still accepting inhabitants.

“If you come up and you’re displaced, we’ll provide you with a place to stay,” he said.

Britton, who has been with the Port Arthur Police Department for about 10 years, said people have been working well together within the shelter. Organizations such as the American Red Cross and FEMA have been on scene, trying to help shelter inhabitants find housing solutions.

“We’re a community in here,” he said. “Everyone’s getting along. Considering the circumstances, people are doing better.”

While Britton said he was eventually able to go back into his own home following the storm, there are a number of officers who lost their homes and have yet to take a day off to repair them.

Britton said it has been “very refreshing” to see people pay attention to the positives and to the efforts others have made to help each other and go above and beyond to make a difference.

This past year has been a humbling one, Britton said. In June he was named Officer of the Year, before having a Patrick Britton Day declared and being promoted to sergeant.

“To know that the community is glad you’re here for them and that they see what you do, they pay attention to the heart and the hard work, it’s very humbling,” he said. “This whole hurricane experience has been very humbling.”

While Britton said he’s touched to be recognized by his fellow community members, the response to Harvey’s effects on the area have been a major group effort.

“Everyone showed incredible amounts of courage to help,” he said. “They pulled together for one common goal — to help the city of Port Arthur and its community. That’s what’s amazing.”