Military, local police providing Al Hillah security

27 Jun 2003 | Sgt. Colin Wyers

Sitting behind his desk at the Al Hillah's main police station, where he oversees the police force for all of Babil province, Kadheen Jabar Maloh wears a Philadelphia Police Department patch bearing the motto "Honor - Integrity - Service."

While he likes the patch, which was a gift from an Army civil affairs reservist who brought it from his civilian police job, it's the motto's message that Maloh is trying to bring to Iraq's new police force.

Forced into retirement by Saddam Hussein's regime in 1991, Maloh returned to the force at the request of the local community in order to bring law and order to the liberated Iraq.

Working with the 372nd Military Police Company, an Army reserve unit based out of Cumberland, Md., the Babil police force has grown from just seven cops to 2,050 Iraqis who conduct joint patrols with the 372nd's MPs.

"Most police officers get a four-day class," said Army Staff Sgt. Sean Davis, Bravo Team Leader, 2nd Squad, 2nd Platoon.  "Some of them -- the older ones -- are good.  The newer kids are difficult to work with.  It's going to take a while."

According to Capt. Scott Steva, officer-in-charge for the city's main station, the local citizens are bringing their problems to the reformed police department - sometimes literally.

"Some people have phones," Steva said.  "Mostly people walk up, like an old-style New York City police station."

Steva and an interpreter handle such a walk-up at the main doors to the station - a young Iraqi who had been threatened and attacked with a concussion grenade, gesturing with a bruised and cut-up hand as he described the men.

After some discussion, Steva referred the young man and his family to one of the nearby police substations.

"The city's divided up into three zones," said Steva, drawing a map in the air with his finger.  "It's confusing, but it works."

It has worked well enough to have 250 prisoners locked up in jails throughout Babil, including 120 in the main prison located in the main police station.  Some are locked up overnight for fighting.  Some are former Ba'ath Party members.

The Maryland reservists, attached to the First Marine Expeditionary Force, work to keep the criminals of Al Hillah in those prisons and off the streets.

"Our most common task is serving warrants with the Iraqi police," said Army Spc. Mark Roush, a military policeman with the 372nd.  "We do that every other day."

Every day finds the MPs patrolling, showing a presence and keeping an eye out on the activities of the town such as demonstrations outside of city hall by former members of the Iraqi army asking to be paid.

"They usually do that twice a week," Roush said.  "So far, they haven't gotten out of hand."