BAQOUBA, Iraq — American police officers and U.S. soldiers delivered hundreds
of bulletproof vests and other equipment last week to
Iraqi police in Diyala
Province, north of Baghdad.
The police officers from Fresno and Madera, Calif., who brought the donated
equipment to Diyala police headquarters were accompanied by soldiers from the
4th Infantry Division's 588th Engineers Task Force.
The Iraqi lawmen smiled as they unpacked dozens of boxes containing 300
bulletproof vests, 125 two-way radios with chargers and batteries, 250 helmets
and various other items. Soon, they were trying on vests and helmets and
getting on-the-spot lessons on using riot sticks from their American
Detective Michael Harris of the Fresno Police Department, who helped collect
the gear, said the 5-year-old bulletproof vests are past their use-by date but
work perfectly. If they had not been donated to Iraq, the Californian police
departments would have to pay for their destruction, he said.
"I'm going to collect bulletproof vests all over the U.S. and ship them to
Iraq. I'm going to shoot for 100,000," Harris said.
Given the number of attacks on police stations in Iraq, the Iraqi police
officers are going to need the vests and helmets.
Shortly before the California police officers arrived, an improvised
explosive device detonated under a police car only a few hundred meters from
the Diyala Police Headquarters, killing an officer on his lunch break.
In October, a suicide car bomber hit the Baqouba police station in Diyala,
killing four people and wounding 38. A short while later, another car bomber
hit the Khan Bini Saad police station in Diyala, killing seven and wounding 26.
The tattered flag from the Khan Bini Saad station is on display at the Diyala
police headquarters alongside portraits of some of the officers killed in the
line of duty last year.
There are 4,000 police in Diyala Province.
Staff Sgt. Kenneth Carlson of the 649th Military Police Company, a native of
Fresno, has worked with the Diyala police since last May and helped organize
the donated gear.
Gen. Waleed Khalid, commander of the Diyala police, said Carlson taught his
men the ABCs of investigation.
Khalid said his officers had to learn to investigate terrorism from scratch.
Under Saddam Hussein, intelligence and security agencies were responsible for
anti-terrorist investigations with police concentrating on homicide inquiries,
"I hope we will stay on track and you will hear good news about us when you
go home to the USA," he told the California police and the soldiers.
After meeting and talking to the Iraqi police, Harris said they appeared
committed to success.
"From what I have seen they are up to the challenge of putting a democracy in
place," he said. "This will be a free country and probably a superpower of the
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