Subscribe
British army Staff Sgt. Ian Jolley of the Queen’s Royal Hussars leads troops on a recent patrol through Basra. In mid-May, when he came upon a group of disheveled Iraqi policemen, Jolley told the men they “need to look smart and start acting like policemen.”

British army Staff Sgt. Ian Jolley of the Queen’s Royal Hussars leads troops on a recent patrol through Basra. In mid-May, when he came upon a group of disheveled Iraqi policemen, Jolley told the men they “need to look smart and start acting like policemen.” (Monte Morin / S&S)

BASRA, Iraq — There’s something about a man in uniform.

Or at least that’s the point British army Staff Sgt. Ian Jolley was trying to impress upon more than a dozen Iraqi police and security officers he stumbled upon during a recent patrol of Basra’s decrepit port area on the Shatt al-Arab waterway.

Jolley, 37, a member of A Squadron, The Queen’s Royal Hussars, was leading his patrol past the hulks of rusting ships and idle cargo cranes when he stopped at the office of port security and found a group of unarmed men milling around in T-shirts and sweat pants.

The men identified themselves as police officers and pointed to a locker containing their weapons.

The scene was particularly galling to Jolley, as British troops in Basra have been struggling to clean up a local police force that has been heavily infiltrated by Shiite militia groups that have worsened a steadily deteriorating security situation.

“You are policemen, you should be proud of your uniforms,” Jolley said through an interpreter to an Iraqi captain and a crowd of men around him.

“You need to look smart and start acting like policemen. … If a member of the public comes in here looking for a police officer, how would they know there were any officers here? I’d walk in and think there were no policemen.”

The British military’s attempts to clean up the Iraqi police in Basra have met with no small amount of resistance. Until recently, some police stations and officers refused to speak with British soldiers and commanders for nearly two months, and Basra’s police chief — who also has sought to clean up the force — was the target of a murder plot.

Jolley’s patrol in mid-May came just a few days after Basra officials announced the end of a “boycott” on communications with British troops. British commanders and some local government leaders said that the security situation in Basra had degraded during the boycott.

Currently, city officials report up to five murders each day in the city of 1.5 million. Most of those deaths, they say, are the result of a power struggle between Shiite militias.

Jolley told the captain that fielding a force of officers who were alert, or at the very least looked alert, was critical to getting a handle on the security situation.

“I know this isn’t Great Britain and that you think I came in here to give you a hard time,” Jolley told the men. “But when I come in here and find 13 people not working, I don’t think you’re carrying out your duties very well.”

The police chief, Iraqi Police Maj. Gen. Hassan Suwadi, who is feuding with Basra’s governor, said he has identified most of the bad officers, but that he can do little to oust them.

The Iraqi Ministry of Interior continues to appoint its own Shiite militia members in leadership roles within the department, he said. He also worries what will happen if he outright fires the bad officers.

“We cannot just sack them or they will become criminals,” he said through an interpreter. “Myself and the coalition forces have identified them though. We cannot sack them, but we can keep them contained.”

The same frustrations voiced by the police chief have trickled down to soldiers like Jolley. After leaving the first group of officers, he and his troops checked in on a group of river patrol officers. The men refused to talk with Jolley because, they said, they were not given permission to by their commanding officer.

“I have an order from my boss not to give any information to anyone,” the Iraqi river patrol commander said excitedly through an interpreter.

“I find you quite rude,” Jolley responded. “You are a commander and you need to accept responsibility. If you’re not willing to, we’re not going to go anywhere.”

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up