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Home | The Sunni Heartland | The Unexpected War | Paying the Price

The Unexpected War

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Community Policing in Saddam City

Jim Steele is a Texan who usually wears a baseball cap with his flack jacket. He came to Baghdad as an advisor to train newly recruited Iraqi police.

Mural at the gate of Ramadi - photo: Tom Bullock

"One thing you can say about this country and this city is that it is an armed place and people have weapons," says Steele. "And Saddam distributed a whole bunch of them and they are out there still."

On this night, Steele is on a joint patrol in one of Baghdad's poorest neighborhoods.

A crowd cheers for an intense game of pool on the sidewalk and when the neighborhood's electricity blinks off, an American soldier shines his flashlight on the green table so the game can go on.

This is American-style community policing: Walk the beat, show the force.

In the Baghdad version, there is one Iraqi officer, four armed American military police, and two American police advisers including Jim Steele.

Steele stops to talk to a group of men gathered at a local restaurant. The translator is Newman Shubbar, an Iraqi-American who is also an advisor to the Iraqi police.

Shubbar translates, "It's still not secure, he's saying...still too many weapons out on the street...(sound of gunshots). He says people shoot in the air- as you just heard. And it's a problem. We hope that the coalition forces can fight this phenomenon."

They complain about an illegal gun market in the neighborhood and say there are still daytime robberies.

In Saddam's time, 40,000 police were on the beat. It will take years to rebuild a police force, says Bernard Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner, appointed to help restore law and order.

"Basically now, what they do is, they have to go out on patrol," says Sahhe. "They've never done this before. They don't know that patrolling is not riding up the highway (at) 40 mph... You have to know what's going on on those streets. When you hear gunfire, you have to look for the people who has the guns."

Next: Lawlessness Continues