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Calif. Police, U.S. Troops Equip Iraqis
By Seth Robson
Stars and Stripes
European Edition

March 4, 2004

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 counterparts.

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, he said.

"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 Middle East."

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This article is provided courtesy of Stars & Stripes, which got its start as a newspaper for Union troops during the Civil War, and has been published continuously since 1942 in Europe and 1945 in the Pacific. Stripes reporters have been in the field with American soldiers, sailors and airmen in World War II, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Bosnia and Kosovo, and are now on assignment in the Middle East.

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Copyright 2004 Stars and Stripes. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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