American Forces Press Service
Jan. 11, 2008 - The Iraqi police were in the spotlight Jan. 9, as Iraq's Interior Ministry highlighted the growing numbers and capabilities of its police forces during its 86th annual Police Day ceremony. It was a day filled with celebrations, chanting and ceremonies to honor police across the country.
"We must prohibit partisanship and sectarianism in the ranks of the employees of the ministry," Interior Minister Jawad al-Bulani said at Baghdad Police College. "We must think of ourselves as Iraqis first."
Speaking before 2,200 people in attendance, Bulani praised the awakening councils and concerned local citizens groups for their efforts in improving security. "They were the first spark," Bulani said of the awakening council in Iraq's Anbar province. "This is the people beginning to refuse the al Qaeda concept. They patriotically rejected al Qaeda ideology and fought back against the militia groups."
The citizens' cooperation represents an important link in the security work, Bulani added. Creating this bond with the people is an important link for the police and the stability of Iraq, he said.
At the Police Day ceremony, 1,044 new Iraqi police officers graduated from Baghdad Police College -- 744 of them from the nine-month police training course and 300 from the recruit training course.
Iraqi National Security Advisor Mowaffaq al-Rubaie said the police have played a major role in security operations in Baghdad. "With even more police trained this year, the police will be strong enough to enforce the security plan and law enforcement," he said.
The ceremony included demonstrations of martial arts, police dogs searching for contraband, and an emergency response unit. New this year was a demonstration of the explosive ordnance team using a robot to render safe a suspected roadside bomb. Five years ago, the Iraqi police didn't have robots or experience in operating them.
Another demonstration showed a flag-waving and reconciliation presentation representing Shiite, Sunni, Kurdish and Christian Iraqis. At the end, the group joined hands and raised their arms to the sky, then more than a dozen doves flew into the air as a policeman waved the Iraqi flag furiously and the crowd applauded.
"I was impressed with the skills and capabilities demonstrated here today during the ceremony," Army Maj. Gen. Michael Jones, director general of the Directorate of Interior Affairs, said. The Iraqi police are making considerable progress. It takes time, and they are heading in the right direction."
Also attending the ceremony were National Security Minister Shirwan al-Waili and several members of the Council of Representatives.
At the end of the ceremony, graduates and students celebrated loudly with chants and waving the Iraqi flag.
(From a Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq news release.)