By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
Feb. 7, 2007 – Developing a modern, professional police force that enjoys the confidence of all Iraqis is critical, a senior U.S. military officer based in Baghdad said today. "Our primary focus is on supporting (Iraqis) in building their political and security institutions," Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, told reporters at a news conference in Baghdad.
The eight Iraqi police brigades will be integral to security, Caldwell said.
"There are still challenges to be overcome in the training and equipping of the Iraqi Police Service, National Police, and Department of Border Enforcement," Army Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hunzeker, the commanding general of the Civilian Police Assistance Training Team, said during the same briefing. "(But) there are tens of thousands of people in the Ministry of Interior and Iraqi police who are courageous, well-trained, and committed to defending all of Iraq's citizens," he said.
Hunzeker briefly explained Iraqi police force's recent history.
"Before the war, many assumed that because Iraq was a police state, that the police under Saddam (Hussein) were professional and efficient, merely serving under bad political leadership," he said. "Instead, we found that Iraqi police had no concept of active patrolling or community policing."
Hunzeker described Saddam's police force as "hopelessly corrupt."
"A bribe was typically required in order for an investigation to be launched," he said. "In fact, bribes were required to gain a job as a police officer.
"One of the most lucrative jobs in Saddam's Iraq was to be a traffic cop with the ability to arbitrarily pull over motorists and invent fineable offenses," he said.
Hunzeker said that today's Iraqi police force -- with more than 200,000 trained policemen and women -- is on its way to becoming its predecessor's polar opposite.
A week ago, Hunzeker visited the Numaniyah National Police Training Academy with the National Police commanding general, Maj. Gen. Hussein.
"We watched three battalions conducting simultaneous operations in an urban setting, an exercise similar to the training American brigades go through at the U.S.-run combined readiness centers," he said. "This brigade will again be part of the Baghdad Security Plan after four weeks of training.
"This kind of professional training was almost unthinkable just four years ago," he said.
Training more mid- and senior-level management will also reduce the "unacceptably high levels of violence plaguing their nation," Hunzeker said.
"2007 will be the year of leadership and logistics," he said. "We will be training mid- and senior-level within the (Ministry of Interior) and helping to put in place an Iraqi logistics and sustainment system."
Hunzeker said that one way to help the Iraqi people is to "give them the tools to solve their nation's problems. We have done that with the police," he said.
"Perhaps no tool is more important to a burgeoning democracy than a well-trained police force capable of establishing the rule of law in Iraq and of protecting the Iraqi people," he said.
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