Police academy graduates ready to patrol Karbala streets

26 Jul 2003 | Army Spc. Benjamin R. Kibbey

In the heat of the day, local police stood motionless inside the courtyard of the Karbala, Iraq police academy July 26, marking the last class to graduate from this police academy before it transfers over to the Iraqi police.

The class is the result of months of work by Marines and Army military police to build service-oriented police force in Karbala.

The officers attending the two-week course have received comprehensive classes in police techniques, physical training, and ethics.

The next class to attend the academy will be trained by a cadre composed completely of Iraqi police officers trained specifically for that task by Army MPs from the 870th Military Police Company from Pittsburgh, Calif., which is augmenting the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines Regiment in Karbala.

"They've learned a lot being here in the academy, and it is our hope that they will take this training and knowledge out and use it," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Gary Cooper, the academy coordinator, who is from Eureka, Calif.

Cooper is confident that academy standards will be met after the Iraqi cadre takes over.

The Iraqi cadre who will teach all subsequent classes in the ongoing academy are not academy graduates themselves, but are hand-picked, exemplary officers who have gone through an intensive instructor's course, and will be using the curriculum designed by Army reservists who are police officers in their civilian jobs, said Army Capt. Curtis White, a Willingboro, N.J.-native and member of the 304th Army Reserve Civil Affairs Brigade of Philadelphia, Pa.

White is the public safety team chief for 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines.

"The curriculum is a combination of what the MPs put together, and what I added in.  For instance, the code of conduct, as well as human rights training," he said.  "They try to do some of that at the end of each day."

The training pays off and really stands out when the graduates return to the streets to keep the peace, Cooper said.

The academy is a two-week course of instruction that trains and prepares the minds and bodies of the Iraqi police officers, Cooper said.

The cadets begin the morning with physical training at 7 a.m., joining the MPs in their daily morning exercise program.

After a brisk physical workout that includes some job-oriented exercises such as riot control training, the cadets move into the classroom where they receive instruction on techniques and requirements of a police officer until 2 p.m.

"There's no lunch, " Cooper said.  "We take a ten-minute break every hour, on the hour."

The schedule was one suggested by some of the first cadets in the program, and is designed to get them home before the worst heat of the day.

The classroom instruction is both fundamental and comprehensive in its lessons.

"We teach them everything from search techniques to arrest techniques to building searches, to self-defense techniques," Cooper said.  "It's a lot of areas to be covered in two weeks."

Even with the cramped schedule, the instructors leave nothing out, ensuring that graduates are as well trained as possible.

"Everything we do for our riot control we train them to do," Cooper said.  "Weapons safety is something we stress very much here.  Some of them have had no formal weapons training."

The instructors make sure they cover every aspect of handling a weapon.

"Assuming the weapon is always loaded, keeping your finger off the trigger, how to handle the weapon, how to move with the weapon, how to move with that weapon so they don't shoot themselves or their fellow officers," Cooper said.

The training is paying off. White recounted examples of how the training and professionalism instilled in the cadets is coming out in their regular duties.

"I feel the officers themselves are a lot more confident, a lot more aggressive, but more importantly, they are being respected by the people of Karbala," he said, noting that the public perceived the police as corrupt and ineffective under Saddam Hussein.

The police now do patrols 24-hours a day, something they had never done at night before, White said. They do foot patrols around the markets and mosques to keep people from selling contraband items such as weapons.

"They're picking up more patrolling aspects where the coalition is pulling back.  In addition to more patrols, they're doing them around the clock, and they are more of a force in the community," Cooper said.

"They're going to schools and talking to children about staying in school, stealing, staying away from bad people," he added. "They didn't do that before."

Those steps are going a long way in capturing the public's trust.

"The public's confidence in the police has increased," Cooper said.  "The people also are willing to not only report the crimes, but make statements.  The victims are not afraid, not afraid of retribution anymore."