Policing the Iraqi police


ips.jpgBritish-led forces in Basra are speeding up an effort to reform the city's troubled police force with a heightened awareness that they are running out of time, as I explain in yesterday's The Washington Times.

Operation Sinbad, begun in August, has seen as many as 1,000 British soldiers backed up by 2,000 Iraqi troops "surge into Iraqi police stations and raise standards," said Brig. James Everard, senior commander of coalition forces in southern Iraq.
To prepare the ground in this sweltering, hostile city, first British and Iraqi engineers launch small reconstruction projects in a target neighborhood. These, plus ongoing employment generation schemes managed by officers including Captain Steve Morte, are intended to win some short-term consent that should buy time for the police reformers to do their jobs.
Weeding out the most corrupt police and death-squad members means first conducting a census of a force that, in recent years, has eluded the oversight of outnumbered and overstretched coalition forces. Just 8,000 coalition troops, most of them British, are responsible for four southern provinces with a combined population of more than 5 million.On the morning of Oct. 1, a small team led by Royal Military Police Cpl. Stacey Jackson, 27, visited a Basra police station to register 300 Iraqi officers and their weapons and to administer a written test intended to measure literacy and knowledge of basic policing.Two Iraqi officers sat side by side on an exposed bed frame, openly reading each other's answers, their brows furrowed in confusion. A grinning Cpl. Jackson explained that, anticipating efforts to cheat, she had prepared 10 different versions of the exam.
Police reform has taken on greater urgency in the wake of recent events in nearby Al Amarah, where militia forces took on the corrupt police force, killing around a dozen people in a two-day battle -- and demonstrating that if Western forces can't reform the cops peacefully, militias will do it their way.--David Axe

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