By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
WASHINGTON, Oct. 6, 2006 – The decision to pull an Iraqi police brigade off the streets for intensive retraining is part of the Iraqi government's overall reform plan and will improve the professionalism and confidence within the national police, the U.S. general in charge of training Iraqi police said today. The Iraqi Ministry of Interior announced Oct. 3 that the 8th Brigade, 2nd National Police, was being recalled to go through intensive training in anti-militia and anti-sectarian violence operations, due to poor performance and possible complicity with sectarian violence.
"I really believe that the decision to withdraw the 8th Brigade from their current mission in Baghdad and to put them in a training status is very, very positive. And it will grow confidence, not only in the (Ministry of Interior), but also its forces," Army Maj. Gen. Joseph Peterson, commander of the Civilian Police Assistance Training Team in Iraq, said in a news conference from Baghdad.
The pulling of this brigade is an isolated incident, Peterson said, and the Iraqi interior minister remains focused on eliminating the problem of corruption and sectarianism in the police forces. He acknowledged that some people join the Iraqi security forces but maintain loyalties to militias.
"That is an issue, and the minister, again, is focused on that and trying to weed out any individuals that can still be aligned with militias and sectarian violence," he said.
The decision to pull the 8th Brigade was made due to an inspection of the unit in August, Peterson said. The brigade displayed poor performance on specific missions within the Baghdad security plan, the brigade commander had been relieved of his responsibilities, and the commander of the 2nd Battalion was arrested for possible complicity in the raid of a meat processing factory where more than 20 individuals were kidnapped, with seven of them later found killed, he said.
Despite these complications, the majority of Iraq's police force is committed and loyal, and is continually making progress, Peterson said. Since Sept. 2004, 4,000 Iraqi policemen have been killed, and about 8,000 injured, he noted, but the Iraqis keep coming back to sign up to serve their country.
"It really talks to their commitment, their resolve to be a part of this new government and to support their constitution and their commitment to wanting to be self-reliant and to have a democracy," he said. "I think that's a great thing."
All national police are going through the second phase of a national police assessment, Peterson said. This phase includes three weeks of transformational training, which is focused on leader training, civil policing skills and training on key collective tasks required at the small-unit level. Every member of the national police who completes this transformational training will receive a bonus from the Ministry of Interior, he said.
This second phase is focused on improving the quality of the police forces, after an initial push this year to recruit and initially train enough police officers to fill the government's requirement, Peterson said. The Civilian Police Assistance Training Team now is about 99 percent complete on its mission of training 188,000 security forces, and those forces are about 82 percent equipped, Peterson said. The team expects to exceed this goal by about 10,000 by year's end, he said.
The coalition has about 6,000 personnel, including U.S. civil police officers, serving as liaisons to the Iraqi police around the country to improve community policing skills, Peterson said. In addition, 100 personnel are embedded in the directorates and the deputy ministries of the Ministry of Interior, working with them to improve their capabilities and their capacity, he said.
The development of the police force in Iraq depends not only on training an adequate number of forces, but also improving those forces' skills and teaching them about democratic and community policing, Peterson said. The Ministry of Interior improves every day in its ability to manage, administer and support the police forces and the people of Iraq, he said, and the police themselves also improve, showing more commitment and competence.
"If you put together this equation, where we have a more functional ministry that is capable and then capable forces that we are continuing to grow, continuing to mentor, teach and coach down in their police stations," he said. "And I see great progress, and I believe you should be optimistic about that."