AL HILLAH, Iraq -- Though police of Al Hillah, Iraq had once earned a reputation for being corrupt and ineffective among city residents, graduates of a new coalition-sponsored academy are ready to set foot into a new beat and reclaim the public's trust.
Five classes of the newest members of the city's police department were recognized at a graduation ceremony held Aug. 6.
The graduates are members of a renovated police force that along with help from coalition forces and the Human Rights Association of Al Hillah are trained to a higher standard of ethics, knowledge of the law, and basic police techniques.
The ceremony was held in the newly renovated headquarters of the Human Rights Association of Al Hillah in Iraq, an advocacy group that champions for human rights in Al Hillah.
The top graduate of each class was recognized and given a gift. Fadel Abass Jabbar, who is also law school student, was recognized as the individual with highest overall score and was presented with a set of handcuffs.
The 125 police graduates completing the four-day course received a new leather pistol holster and a certificate of training, said Lt. Col. Edward J. Fullmer Jr., the public safety team chief for the 358th Civil Affairs Brigade, an Army Reserve unit from Norristown, P.A.
"Of that, a select 50 were at the ceremony," said Fullmer, a native of Stratford, N.J.
The local policemen had all gone through a training curriculum covering four consecutive days, eight hours per day, and included instruction on patrolling, weapons familiarization, and basic investigation.
The instruction, which will be expanded to include advanced police procedures and techniques, is meant to strengthen graduates' abilities to handle everyday situations.
In the future, Fullmer said, Al Hillah police will undergo this advanced training every year.
"Every policeman will go through this course," Fullmer said.
The final lesson the recruits learned during their four-day academy was one that had never been taught to Iraqi police in depth: the law.
Police were perceived as their most corrupt during Saddam Hussein's reign when law and order were traded for Iraqi dinars. The 358th has worked with five local lawyers associated with the Human Rights Association of Al Hillah to reconfigure a working law manual and reestablish more contemporary laws, which are based on a criminal code dating back to 1969, before Hussein took power.
Relying on their individual expertise, five lawyers focused on several facets of local law, including rewriting outdated codes for juvenile law, as well as rules regarding criminal procedure. In addition, they reworked the crime codes pertaining to offenses committed against persons and property.
Fullmer, who outside the Army is a police chief, said that the public safety team worked with the lawyers for eight or nine weeks.
The five lawyers not only recreated the law book, but also educated the new policemen on that law which "covers all crimes from lowest to highest," said Fullmer.
During that same period, the new laws were refined and transcribed into program of instruction. The program will be distributed to other governances around Iraq to spur order by providing a better-trained police force, Fullmer said.
After most of the U.S. forces leave, a multinational force, in this area led by the Polish army, will be in charge of continuing reconstruction efforts, including maintaining law and order.
Lieutenant Col. Janusz Marozsek, a Polish officer who will be assuming responsibility for many of the roles currently held by the 358th, spoke at the ceremony expressing his congratulations and offered words of encouragement to the police graduates.
Fullmer gave a speech to the new policemen expressing that it is an important job for these men to enforce the laws of their country and to keep her people safe and importantly, that at the end of the day, they return safely to their families.