[Washington Babylon ]Jerry Burke on Iraq’s Corrupt Police Force | Harper's Magazine

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[Washington Babylon]

Jerry Burke on Iraq’s Corrupt Police Force


Yesterday General David Petraeus spoke before Congress. “Iraq’s armed forces are improving,” the Washington Post said in summarizing Petraeus’s remarks. “Overall violence is down. Sunnis are turning against Al Qaeda in Iraq, and many Baghdad neighborhoods are more peaceful.” Petraeus said there were 445,000 individuals employed by the Interior and Defense ministries, a figure he expected to grow by as much as 40,000 by the end of the year.

So it would seem things are looking up. But it’s not so, according to Jerry Burke, a retired major in the Massachusetts state police who served for two years as a senior advisor on police affairs to the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior. Burke, who is also a former director of the New England Institute of Law Enforcement Management, served two terms in Iraq; his most recent assignment ended in March 2006.

Burke takes a dim view of the Iraqi army and of the National Police commanded by the Minister of the Interior. In planning for 2006, he told me, U.S. officials assumed a daily KIA—“killed in action”–of 10 Iraqi policemen. It was further assumed that 15 police per day would be injured so seriously that they would be forced out of service. Burke says Petraeus is partly responsible for the situation. Here’s what he told me:

After nearly four years of training, the Iraqi Army should be much more capable and prepared. Instead it is riddled with cronyism and corruption. There are large numbers of ghost employees. When the ‘surge’ began the U.S. asked for support in Baghdad from a number of Army units. It turned out those units had a lot more personnel on paper than in reality. Payrolls are padded and officials within the ministry skim off the extra money allocated to pay and equip ghost employees.

Within the Ministry of Interior there are two large Police Services. One is the Iraqi Police Service (IPS)–traditional street cops. I still hold out some hope for this force. The other is known as the National Police. It has been created, trained, and advised solely by the U.S. military and is supposed to be a counterterrorism force.

Many of its members were recruited directly from Shiite militia groups like the Badr Brigade. It was formerly called the Special Police, but the name was changed because the group was associated with human rights abuses. The National Police is not salvageable. It should be disbanded and many of its members should be prosecuted for criminal human rights violations, war crimes, and death squad activities.

A lot of the problems with the National Police are due to poor training. There is no vetting or pre-employment screening and recruits only get eight weeks police training. There is no emphasis on refresher training for any of the police, as there is in the United States, and there is almost no supervisory or management training.

Petraeus bears some responsibility for this state of affairs. He was commander of the Multinational Security Transition Command in 2004 and 2005. That organization was responsible for training the army and police services. That was also the time the National Police was created and expanded. He should be well aware of problems surrounding the various security forces, but he’s in a hard position to be critical because he was instrumental in the training programs.

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