Camp Ramadi, Iraq --
Over the last two years, Ramadi has seen a dramatic in the number of policemen as the city progressively moves toward the final steps in becoming fully independent.
In 2006, there were very few police in Ramadi when violence engulfed the city, the citizens lived in fear, and al-Qaeda had a firm grip on the region.
In the first two weeks of 2007, the city experienced an unexpected surge of applicants seeking to join the force. During that two week span, more than 1,000 applicants sought law enforcement jobs in Ramadi, according to Army Maj. Thomas Shoffner, operations officer for the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division. The turning point for the boost in applicants was the murder of a well-known sheik in August 2006. The murderers hid his body for 3 days denying his family the right to bury him in accordance with Islamic tradition. After the killing, tribal leaders could not tolerate al Qaeda’s lawlessness and violence throughout their land and formed an alliance against the terrorist network called, Sahawa al-Anbar, or the “Awakening Council.”
Today, the number of Iraqis seeking to become policemen remains high. This is due in part to the professionalism of the Ramadi Training Center, which trains and mentors the newly recruited policemen, and the insight provided by the awakening.
“During the awakening, many citizens of al-Anbar realized what the right thing to do was and what the wrong thing to do was,” said Sheik Haji Talib through an interpreter. “The insurgents gave the wrong picture of Coalition forces. They said Coalition forces are invaders so we should fight them. They were able to get into the people’s minds and tell us the wrong things and lies. When the people realized they were wrong, they started waking up and started doing the right thing.”
Ramadi remains safe as a result of the awakening and fully functioning police training center. The training center is run by the Iraqi Police Training Cadre, International Police Advisors and the Army’s 194th Military Police Company, offering recruits the best law enforcement schooling by international experts and specialists.
“The policemen will go to a variety of different stations within all of the Ramadi precincts almost immediately after they graduate the 11-day course or as soon as their station directs them to report,” said Capt. Gerard C. Dempster, Headquarters and Service Company Commander with 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, and direct liaison for the Iraqi Security Forces.
The city has nearly reached the desired number of policemen considered necessary to keep Ramadi safe, Dempster said. The school’s leaders will continue training recruits and placing policemen on the streets to further restrain the insurgents and their illicit activities.
“The more Iraqi Police in the city, the better the security situation will be. Their presence helps protect the city and also serves as a deterrent for the insurgency,” Dempster said.
The school accepts applicants between the ages of 18 and 35. But, the policemen also must undergo several different tests and a background check.
“The recruits must successfully complete the Recruit Basic Literacy Test, which indicates the applicant’s ability to read, write, and communicate orally in Arabic,” Dempster said. “The applicant’s military and special skills also will be taken into consideration in the hiring process, along with other factors such as the individual’s criminal record and citizenship status.”
The biggest challenge for the recruits is abandoning their civilian status and learning to become a police officer, according to Dempster.
“The training for the recruits is a challenge because it transitions them from being a basic citizen to a law enforcement officer,” Dempster said. “It’s even more challenging if they enroll in one of the specialty courses such as being a detective or dealing with logistics.”
The higher qualification specialty courses are considered more demanding because the training is further advanced and faster paced.
“The Iraqi Police Development Course is like an Iraqi Police boot camp, Dempster said. “It consists of weapons training, code of conduct, ethics classes, and patrol and traffic points, and is what every policeman must go through. A few go on to the even tougher specialty courses. The specialty courses, which require a recommendation from the leadership, are like military occupational specialty schools. They follow an advanced training that requires very specific and focused training.”
The recruits’ newly honed skills help them become professional Iraqi police officers, helping to protect and serve the citizens of Ramadi from insurgent activities, and securing the once violent streets.
The Ramadi Training Center continues to put well-trained recruits on the streets of Ramadi, as the city continues to flourish and grow.