Iraqi Police Rapidly Gain Proficiency, U.S. General Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 22, 2007 Iraq’s police officers are rapidly acquiring experience and proficiency as they contribute to the establishment of law and order across the country, the senior U.S. military policeman in Iraq said today.
“The majority of the police officers are doing the job they’ve been paid to do,” Baghdad-based Army Brig. Gen. David D. Phillips said during a conference call with reporters today. Phillips is the deputy commanding general of the Civilian Police Assistance Training Team in Iraq.
Phillips said there are more than 200,000 regular Iraqi police on the rolls. He praised the professionalism evidenced by Iraq’s police, noting the 50,000-plus regular and national police operating in Baghdad “could go toe-to-toe” with any like-sized police force in the Middle East region.
Iraq’s Ministry of Interior oversees the country’s police forces, including the national police, who receive specialized training much like that of special weapons and tactics police units in U.S. police departments and perform especially dangerous duty, such as confronting heavily-armed criminals and terrorists.
And, all of Iraq’s police are now being trained by Iraqi police officers, Phillips pointed out, noting U.S. personnel serve as coaches and mentors to the trainers.
Interest runs high among Iraqis to become police officers, Phillips said, noting that recent recruiting efforts in places such as Anbar province have been very successful.
Maintaining law and order in Iraq is a dangerous profession, Phillips acknowledged, noting more than 100 Iraqi police officers are being killed on duty each month. However, this statistic demonstrates that the Iraqi police are “standing and fighting,” the general pointed out.
In fact, Iraqi police recently beat back insurgent-staged attacks on several police stations in the city of Mosul, Phillips said. Although they found themselves running low on ammunition, the Iraqis held their ground against the fierce assaults, the general said.
“They did very, very well,” Phillips said of the Mosul police, adding that their supply system provided them the needed ammunition.
Yet, no police force is perfect, Phillips acknowledged, noting Iraqi police are just as susceptible to corruption and other types of misbehavior as any other law enforcement organization worldwide. However, the Iraqi police forces’ director of internal affairs, he said, is actively engaged in rooting out corruption anywhere it appears.
“They’ve got police officers that ‘police the police,’” Phillips pointed out. While instances of corruption occur, it is not a pervasive practice across the Iraqi police forces, he said.
Iraqi police officials “are trying to root out that corruption,” Phillips said. Infractions can range from traffic police accepting bribes from motorists to more serious incidents, he said. However, most Iraqi police are honest and earnestly go about their business as they serve the public as enforcers of the law, he said.
Iraq’s policemen and women continue to perform their law and order missions even as their government is engaged in a violent struggle against insurgents and al Qaeda terrorists, Phillips said.
Iraq’s police officers often are attacked by heavily-armed insurgents, the general said. And, during such encounters, the Iraqi police “are significantly out-gunned,” he said.
The Iraqi police are trained “to be police officers, not soldiers,” Phillips noted. Warfighting “is the Iraqi army’s responsibility,” he said.