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Iraqi Police Come Back to Work - 2003-05-14

Also in Iraq, police have begun guarding the country’s principal oil refinery in Basra after a few days of training with British troops. In Baghdad, police officers are back to work in an attempt to return law and order to the crime-ridden capital. Despite efforts by the United States military to keep peace, looters and thieves are still taking advantage of the situation. Some Iraqi police officers have stayed home because they say they don’t have weapons to defend themselves. Other police officers have been arrested by U.S. Soldiers for looting.

VOA TV’s Deborah block, who was in Baghdad recently, rode along with two police officers who hope to make the streets safe again.

Iraqi police officers Khalid Jamil (Kha-lid Jah-mill) and Muhalid Mahjet (Moo-ha-lid Mah-jet) are patrolling some of the most dangerous streets in Baghdad. They are flanked by armored U.S. Marine corps vehicles to protect them and to show the community the police are back. Officer Mahjet:

(Arabic and man translating)
“He is saying we are like a union with them now. He thinks that the Iraqi police and the Marines forces are doing the same job to support Iraq and save Iraq.”

The police have their work cut out for them. Despite U.S. military intervention in Baghdad, crime has been out of control since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Nat sot: Man pulls up car beside the cops and talks in Arabic. Then the police officer says to me there are “Ali babas at the bank.”

The man is reporting a break-in at a bank. Officer Jamil uses a popular but insulting word for thief – Ali Baba (ah-lee bah-bah) – after a children’s story called “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.”

After arriving at the bank, the Marines and police detain a suspect. The bank is in shambles from looting.

Nat sot of police trying to explain he is the cleaning man.

It turns out the man is not breaking into the bank but cleaning it and is released.

With few police on the streets, and not enough American military, however, looting, especially in buildings, is a big problem.

Stolen buses are also a problem in Baghdad. The officers stop this one because it lacks identification numbers on the outside. But after checking the driver’s papers, they determine the bus is his.

Officer Jamil knows many Iraqis mistrust the police force and consider them part of Saddam Hussein’s repressive regime.

But the officer tries to distance the police from the ousted President, saying he paid more attention to his political party and the military.

Major Andrew Pettrucci, a Marine helping the officers on patrol, says because of the mistrust of the police and excessive crime, the road ahead for the Baghdad police will be bumpy.

“It’s going to be a daunting task but I think they’re up to the challenge. It’s a very proud culture. A lot of highly enthusiastic guys that want to do well. A lot of guys are coming up and asking how can I help.”

Like many Iraqis, Officers Khalid Jamil and Muhalid Mahjet are hopeful for a better future. Once Iraq has a new government, they say, the police will be better able to control crime, in what they call, a great country.

When Deborah was with the Iraqi police they wore their traditional uniforms. Now, however, they wear white shirts with their uniform slacks and no longer don a beret associated with the Saddam regime.