By Army Sgt. Daniel T. West
Special to American Forces Press Service
Oct. 3, 2008 - Police in Iraq's Wasit province are transforming their force from a paramilitary Police force to a more traditional one, changing an organizational climate left over from Saddam Hussein's regime. The restructuring, a directive from the Iraqi Interior Ministry, aims to place police officers in positions that exploit their greatest strengths.
"We assign [police officers] with military backgrounds to the special response teams and the checkpoints," Brig. Gen. Alawy Hussein Alsaray, of the Iraqi Police, said. "Those who have been trained solely as police officers are assigned to the community police stations. That way, those with a military background work in the areas that are most military-like. The others are assigned to investigations and other traditional Police roles."
This method is effective because many of the police officers are former soldiers, said Army Sgt. Peter Klementowski, 511th military Police Company, an Iraqi police trainer.
"Placing the military minds in the [special response teams] is effective because they play a more military role, are heavily armed and [are] trained in urban warfare tactics," Klementowski said. "The traditional role, the neighborhood stations, is to be visible every day and to interact with the population. These should be roles for new officers, those brought up in the Police system."
Army Capt. Jess Traver, 511th military Police Company commander, said he and his soldiers are helping the Iraqi Police change their image, focusing on community policing, interacting with the community and developing a visible values system that emphasizes duty, commitment and honesty.
"Under Saddam, the Police were a paramilitary force that enforced the will of the executive branch," Klementowski said. "When people look at them, they see a remnant of Saddam's regime, responsible for terror and torture."
To change the way they are viewed by the community, the Police have reached out to the community by increasing their patrols and their visibility at the checkpoints, Traver noted.
"They are also participating in community policing events," Klementowski said. "They are reaching out to the community through soccer [and] expositions showing their work, and some stations are inviting people into the stations to show them what it's like to be [police officers]."
Traver praised the police officers' efforts to change their image with the people they serve. "They are making progress, and their leadership is making the push to change the community's perspective," he said. "They are on the right track."
(Army Sgt. Daniel T. West serves in the Multinational Division Center Public Affairs Office.)