By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2006 – Iraqi police forces now are trained and equipped to almost 100 percent of the level promised by the coalition and are improving in quality and capability every day, the U.S. general in charge of training the police said today.
About 128,000 of the 135,000 planned Iraqi police have been trained and equipped, and the 135,000th police officer is in school now and will graduate in mid-October, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Joseph Peterson, commander of the civilian police assistance training team, said in a news conference from Iraq. The coalition will meet and probably exceed the planned levels by December, Peterson said.
Now that training and recruiting goals are being met, the coalition is focusing on improving the quality of the police force at an individual level, Peterson said. About 185 police transition teams, including civil police officer and international police officers, are embedded with police stations at all levels, he said.
"From the standpoint of training police officer, we have been looking at and focusing on improving community policing," he said. "And so in order to do that, you have to get into the units, into the stations where police officer work as collective elements, units or organizations."
By the end of this year, Iraqis will take control of the 12 police academies in the country and will run the academies on their own, Peterson said. Also by the end of the year, the first two professional development classes for police supervisors will begin, he said.
"The capabilities of the police force (have) improved significantly, and in addition to just ... quantity, we're also working on quality now," he said.
Iraq's Ministry of Interior also has made great progress in its ability to manage, administer and support the police forces, Peterson said. The minister of interior has signed his vision statement and also has drafted a five-year strategic directive that will implement his vision, which is focused on loyalty, accountability and operational performance, he said.
The Ministry of Interior also has established a national information and investigative agency and drafted a comprehensive national maintenance and logistics plan that will be essential to their ability to sustain operations in the future, Peterson said. In addition, the national command center is operational and functioning, working on a daily basis with the provinces and provincial joint coordination centers throughout Iraq, he said.
In the last month, coalition forces have targeted death squads and militias in Iraq and through those efforts have made many arrests and stopped sectarian killings, Peterson said. In these arrests, the coalition has seen no evidence that the Ministry of Interior was involved in any militias or death squads, he said.
"We continue to query our leadership of the police forces to make that a concern and to ensure that we do not have militias operating within their organizations," he said. "Certainly, the ministry, the coalition members, the national police transition teams, the police transition teams (are) all focused on that issue, and it's certainly part of improving loyalty, accountability and the operational effectiveness of the force. So it remains a focus for the ministry and the coalition."
The coalition will meet its quantitative goals for Iraqi police this year and will continue to work on the quality of the force, Peterson said. The police force will be essential to reducing the violence in Iraq and putting the country back into the hands of the people, he said.
"The Ministry of Interior is the people's ministry, and (Interior Minister Jawad Bulani is) the people's minister," he said. "And he's doing a great job to put in place the forces and the leadership of those forces that are needed to carry Iraq into its future."