Monday, October 20, 2003

Yesterday The Boston Globe did what the government wants it to do -- it ran a Good News From Iraq front-page story, about American GIs who are training an Iraqi police force. But I don't think this is quite what the administration had in mind:

...occasionally [Sergeant Mike] Routh's pupils slip into the authoritarian law-enforcement methods ingrained in 34 years of dictatorship. One officer, Ahmed al Kareem, a 250-pound bruiser nicknamed ''Tiny,'' apprehended a fellow trainee and slammed him to the floor, demanding: ''Give me your money!'' The officers laughed as Routh rolled his eyes in exasperation.

''We're also trying to teach them that even though he's a suspect, he still has rights,'' said Routh, of Hannibal, Mo. ''Some things have been hard to translate.'' ...

...achieving a deeper understanding of the principles of a police force in a democracy could be a problem.

[Captain Ahmad] Shihab indicated a steel door in his station marked ''D ROOM,'' where he said several members of a kidnapping gang were being held.

''These suspects here have all confessed that they are guilty,'' Shihab said. ''But we still have to take them to court. Can you believe that?''

But not all their problems are cultural:

Mistreatment of suspects was not the only deficiency of Iraq's police under Hussein. Training, said Captain Ahmad Shihab, one of several fluent English speakers in the Major Crimes Unit, was ''worthless.''

''As a captain with 11 years on the force, I may have practiced shooting for all of six days,'' Shihab said, pointing to a bottle on a desk a few feet from his. ''I couldn't hit that bottle if I shot at it.''

Then again, that may be a moot point:

Like Iraqi police units everywhere, they lack police radios, squad cars, protective gear, computers, and precision weapons.

''We've put in a wish list of equipment,'' Routh said. ''Now we're waiting.''

Meet the new boss -- about as committed to professionalization as the old boss....

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