[Article written by DOS/INL Mayra Y. Ahern and Hessna Kendra]
Major Al-Haj Mohammed Ali, Director General of Public Relations at the Baghdad Police College gave welcoming remarks and introduced the Dean of the BPC, MG Riyadh Abdul Baqi Salman, who came to BPC as a student in 1981. MG Abdul Baqi Salman has served in the Iraqi police service for 30 years. He has an international trainer certificate, post-graduate diploma in security from the High Institute for Administrative Development. Major Mohammed Ali then proceeded to give a brief description of the history of the police college. The college was established in 1944. Since its conception, 60 police academy classes have graduated. The training period lasts 3 years and the academic year is divided into two semesters. “The Baghdad Police College mission is to provide Iraq with the best prepared law enforcement officers, namely policemen,” Maj. Mohammed Ali remarked.
BPC shifted its training strategies in April 2003. Cadets now learn and practice the essential basic police responsibilities in order to maintain and protect Iraq and the citizens of Iraq. The BPC is now far more open to international trainers provided by the coalition forces from the United States and the European Union, in addition to sponsored training outside of Iraq by either the Iraqi Government or other international friends. This new approach has opened up more doors and expanded new opportunities to expand the capabilities and expertise for Iraqi police officers. Unlike the previous 35 years, when the BPC’s focus was mainly on providing basic sustenance and rudimentary police skills, it is now very focused on providing higher level police skills and advanced training to its policemen.
During the Saddam Hussein regime, police officers were used as substitutes for soldiers. The notion of a good policeman/police officer at the time was to build on physical power rather than on mental versatilities. Back in 1981, the training was tough--the students ran everywhere they went. Today as a direct result of the human rights training and Iraq’s democratic ideals, the students are treated with respect and dignity. Officers and students realize that a great policeman is someone that relies on his brain rather than his physical capability: the policeman needs to gather information from all sources to investigate and prevent crime, to think analytically, to use powers of observation meticulously, to conduct raids and to distribute forces during duty shifts that span the entire day and are matched to the needs of specific police mission(s).
It is to be noted that the last class that graduated from the police college was in January 2010 with 1,542 cadets in comparison to the first class of 1944 which had only 8 cadets.
At each BPC training site visited by INL, presenters echoed a consistent theme: trust and respect. The students trust and respect not only the BPC cadre, but also the relationship that exists between the U.S. advisors and the instructors and leaders of the BPC. Currently the BPC has Language Labs for the cadets to learn English as a second language. The college also has a computer lab as part of the High Institute for Professional Development and a forensics’ evidence training lab (DNA and ballistics).
Another milestone at the BPC is the first all-female class of Police officers. These women, the majority with college degrees will be graduating by the end of this year. This is a step forward for the women of Iraq as the BPC is paving the way for women to advance to the higher level Police Qualification Institute, where the next generation of police commander receive leadership training under Iraqi Col. Sabah. “Because of the culture here in Iraq, we need female police commissioners to help work cases,” he said during our tour to the institute. “If a child is involved as a witness to a crime, they tend to respond more readily to females and women can get more information that can be used to develop cases.” Sabah said his female class represents a major step forward in the way Iraqis think about security forces in Iraq.
These instructors and students of the BPC face a challenging future. First they must overcome the training, learn it, absorb it, and live it. Then after graduation, they will be out on the streets of Iraq, protecting its citizens and working toward that stability and peace needed to stabilize their country. From the efforts that were witnessed of the students on this day, they are taking that responsibility very seriously.