The first Iraqi police academy in Anbar province has opened, with officials hoping it will serve up to 3,750 new recruits each year.

Anbar had long lagged behind Iraq’s other provinces in regard to recruiting local police cadets. In recent months, however, the numbers have grown.

In Ramadi, for instance, before sheiks began recruiting members of their own tribes to join the force, there were about 140 police in the city of roughly 400,000. By early this year, there were more than 4,000 police.

Iraq’s police academies, which have grown from five basic academies to 13 in the past 18 months, have graduated roughly 160,000 police officers and dispersed them throughout Iraq’s 18 provinces. Additionally, roughly 30,000 border police officers are working the nation’s porous entry points.

The academy in Habbaniyah is the 14th training site in the country.

While the program has made strides, it still faces problems, Army Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hunzeker, commander of the Civilian Police Assistance Training Team which oversees the training and development of the Iraqi police force, said in a recent interview with Stars and Stripes.

The police dropout rate remains higher than desired, and the public is leery of sectarian militias and insurgent infiltrators.

Insurgents continue to target and kill hundreds of Iraqi police, first responders and soldiers.

Some Iraqi police hold on to age-old tribal customs that keep them from doing their jobs, several said in various interviews.

For example, because of ancestral tribal ties, some fear killing or hurting someone from another tribe — even if done in the course of their police duties — because a member of an opposite tribe has reciprocal rights to do the same.

But, Hunzeker said, “We are making tremendous and measurable progress.”

Among those at the Wednesday opening of the Habbaniyah academy were Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq; Interior Minister Jawad al-Bulani; Anbar Governor Ma’moun Sami Rashid al-Awani; Gen. W. E. Gaskin, commander of Multi-National Force—West; and Hunzeker.

The first class of 550 recruits is to graduate Aug. 19, officials said.

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