By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
July 30, 2007 - Iraq's national police are in the second portion of a four-phase program to help them become a proficient, loyal law enforcement organization that serves all of Iraq's citizens, a senior U.S. military officer said today. The 25,000-plus-member national police organization falls under the Iraqi government's Interior Ministry as a "bridge force" between regular police and the Iraqi army, Army Col. Mark R. French, deputy commander for professional development and police training for the Civilian Police Assistance Team, told online journalists and "bloggers."
"Many of these forces have fought bravely; thousands have died in fighting the insurgents," French said.
Iraq's regular police perform routine municipal duties, while its armed forces are focused on external threats, French explained. The national police, he continued, serve as an auxiliary law enforcement agency that could be engaged to address internal threats to the nation, such as militia-generated violence against the central government and its citizens.
Today, most national police officers are stationed in Baghdad, helping U.S. troops during surge-related, anti-insurgent operations, French said. Smaller contingents are serving in Samarra and Balad.
The Iraqi Interior Ministry merged commando, emergency-response and other units to create the national police in March 2006, French said.
In summer 2006, U.S. Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., then-commander of Multinational Force Iraq, decided the national police weren't performing properly and needed an overhaul.
"At that time, General Casey directed a four-phase transformation program be initiated for the national police," French said. The first phase, he said, included an overall look at operations, including personnel and supply practices.
The second phase, being conducted now, is a month-long police training program for each national police brigade, French said. About 75 percent of the curriculum teaches students how to perform law enforcement duties in a democracy, he said, while the other 25 percent focuses on tactical skills such as patrolling, cordon-and-search operations, and conducting checkpoints. The program is slated to conclude about Oct. 10.
Phase Three consists of "Carabinieri-like" police training scheduled to start around Oct. 15, French said. The Carabinieri are Italy's famed paramilitary police force.
"Right now, this training is envisioned to last about 90 days," French said. "It's a leader-centric, train-the-trainer focus." The curriculum includes public order response, advanced investigation techniques, forensics, special weapons and tactics, and urban operations, he said.
The fourth phase, which has no start date planned, will consist of distributing newly trained national police officers to posts across Iraq, French said.
In the past, the national police have been accused of having anti-government militia members within their ranks, French acknowledged. Today, however, each national police member attending phase-two police training is vetted, he pointed out.
"They're checked against a Ministry of the Interior data base for criminal records or any history of sectarian militia activity," French explained. "We've culled out quite a few."