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1st Marine Division

Camp Pendleton, CA
Military Police train Iraqi officers

By Cpl. Matthew R. Jones | | September 27, 2004

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Marines recently looked beyond their gate to see more than 150 Iraqis waiting to enter.  The instructors for the Al Asad Iraqi Police Academy see this type of gathering once a month.

The Iraqis arrive to receive formal police training from eight members of Military Police Company C, Regimental Combat Team 7, 1st Marine Division, who conduct the course at the academy.

Last year, the interim Iraqi government granted police chiefs the power to make police officers without formally training them.  To assist the police chiefs in bringing new officers up to speed, the Marines have set up a three-week course teaching the basics of policing. 

Local police stations are notified about upcoming courses.  The stations then submit names of recruits they want to send to the academy.

"When they get to the gate, I ensure we get the people whose names were submitted," said Gunnery Sgt. Matt D. Gorski, staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the Al Asad Police Academy.  "After that, we line them up and count off.  Once we reach 100 students, we have to send the others back. This last class had 172 people at the gate wanting to get a spot."

The course lasts three weeks. It begins with one week of classroom instruction and is followed by two weeks of practical application.   

"In the (United States), police recruits have to go to a local police academy to learn how to be an officer," said Gorski, 39, a native of Hookstown, Pa. "We are trying to conduct a similar academy here.  We are also in the process of ensuring that all the current police officers, as well as new recruits, get proper training."

The academy teaches the students a mix of military police techniques and civilian techniques used in the United States. The Marines also show the recruits the human side of policing.

"Their basis for how a police officer operates is what they have seen on television and in movies," said Lance Cpl. David E. O'Neil, 27, an instructor at the academy and a civilian police officer.  The Monaca, Pa., native went on to say, "we teach them how we do our jobs, both as military and civilian police officers."

Police officers under Saddam were often puppets of the Ba'ath Party Regime and were feared by civilians for their brutality.

We want to instill in them that a police officer is not a ruthless authority figure, according to Gunnery Sgt. Chris E. Sims, chief instructor at the academy.  A police officer is there to protect and serve the people, not scare them.

Some of the classes taught include, the Iraqi Penal Code, how to properly fill out a police report, the rights of the accused, leadership traits and ethics. The class also conducts physical training every morning.

The students are taught the skills they will need for their daily operations. They learn how to interview suspects, witnesses and victims; determine appropriate force, apprehend a suspect, conduct personnel searches, provide first aid and conduct beat patrols.   

"We are trying to build up their patriotism," said Gorski.  "They seem really motivated to be here and eager to learn."

The Marines have noticed the willingness and enthusiasm of the recruits throughout the training process.

"They really try to learn as much as possible and ask us countless questions after each class," said Cpl. Christopher C. Cochran, 27, a native of Houston, Pa., and an instructor at the academy. 

The students leave the academy equipped with the knowledge necessary to successfully police their communities. The Marines hope this knowledge and the motivation of the newly trained officers will translate into a safer and more stabile Iraq. 

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