Baghdad’s 42-member Emergency Service Unit will become Iraq’s first professional SWAT team, with the help of tactical training from United States Military Police.
Under Saddam Hussein, Iraqi police never learned many of the basic techniques American police take for granted as necessary tools for a law enforcement job. Most haven’t practiced shooting since they graduated the Baghdad Police Academy more than a decade ago, mostly because guns and other equipment are scarce, and they have been trained to use techniques the United States stopped using forty years ago.
“It may sound silly, but the first day all we did here was walk,” says Sgt. Mike Routh of the 168 Military Police Battalion, who has been training the new Iraqi team since it was created last month. Learning the “duck walk,” a protective posture commonly used to search buildings, was one of the basics the group needed to learn.
It is hoped that this training will help give Iraqi police updated law enforcement skills that will allow them to take over policing in the cities and let Americans move out.
“We are realistic. We don’t want the coalition forces to leave tomorrow,” says Abdul Mohsen Abdul Hamid, a member of the U.S.-appointed governing council. But “if they want security,” he adds, “they should leave the cities and transfer the responsibilities for security to Iraqis.”
The training, which includes a stop to torturing confessions out of suspects, should do more than help the police.
“This is not just for us; this is for the Iraqi people,” says Mohammed Abdul Amir, training to be a part of the Iraqi SWAT team. “Our country is benefiting from this training.”