Cop Tech Key to Iraq Fight?


All the talk is about more U.S. troops. But if there's going to be a shot in hell of winning the war in Iraq, it'll be up to the Iraqi police, argues Bing West in the current Atlantic. And those cops will need to be equipped with the latest crime-fighting gear.police_car_computer.jpg

In the United States, a cop who pulls you over calls up your record and finds out where and when you were last stopped, and what the charge was. The Chicago police [well, some of 'em - ed.] carry a device that takes fingerprints and transmits them over the radio, with the results of a database search received in minutes.In Iraq, the police have no detective equipment; no reliable identification system has been widely fielded. As a result, American soldiers on patrol futilely call in [if they can even call -- ed.] the phonetic spelling of Iraqi names on whatever ID card they are handed...) A few enterprising American rifle companies have conducted their own independent censuses, employing rudimentary spreadsheets and personal digital cameras. But no central information system exists.This is the greatest technical failure of the war. For all of our efforts, we have ignored one of the most fundamental axioms of counterinsurgency warfare: an insurgency cannot be defeated if the enemy cannot be identified.
Now, of course, tech alone isn't a solution. There needs to be a major upgrade of the Iraqi police, which West calls "among the most wretched in the world. New York City cops send some 26,000 criminals to prison every year; in Baghdad, with twenty times the murder rate, that number is at best 2,000." And the local cops are often in bed with militias like the Mahdi Army.But "when U.S. military manpower and technology work hand in hand with" competent Iraqi cops, "the combination can be effective," West says.
Every day, aerial cameras hover over Anbar; some are mounted on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and others on helicopters; some are infrared, others stream down video in sharp, brilliant colors. I was in a company operations center in Haditha when Captain Bert Lewis, the air officer, pointed at a screen showing a video feed... On the screen, we watched a man in a white dishdasha hastily scooping dirt over a boxy package, while cars passed by without slowing down."FedEx delivery," Lewis said, to general laughter. "I don't believe this dude." The Nissan drove away as the man finished packing dirt around the improvised explosive device, or IED..."Nail that sucker," Lieutenant Joshua Booth said... The man looked up and down the street, and then ran south. The picture tilted, then zoomed in, holding him in the center of the frame. A series of black numbers scrolled along the right edge, updating the GPS coordinates. The target, solidly built and in his mid-thirties, had left the road and was now running along the riverbank...As a Quick Reaction Force patrol closed on the GPS coordinates, the fugitive sat down in the shade of a palm tree, beckoning to someone on the river. Just as a square-nosed wooden skiff punted up to the man, the QRF, mounted in two Humvees, converged on the riverbank. The man scrambled to his feet, saw he had no place to run, and half-raised his arms to show he had no weapon.
(Big ups: PC)
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