Iraqi police unit that was suspected in deaths will begin retraining soon
ARLINGTON, Va. — An Iraqi police brigade taken off the streets earlier this week because of its suspected involvement with death squad activity is scheduled to start retraining within the next five days, according to a top U.S. official.
Army Maj. Gen. Joseph Peterson, commander of the civilian police assistance training team in Iraq, said Friday the 1,000-man 8th Iraqi Brigade will be sent through a three-week “transformational” retraining program in Numiniyah that emphasizes basic policing skills, including investigations, interrogations and the rule of law.
On Sunday, gunmen stormed into a meat packing plant in Baghdad’s Amil district, shot two workers and kidnapped 24 others. The bodies of seven of them were found later, but the other 17 are still missing.
The leader of the 8th Brigade’s 2nd Battalion was arrested on suspicion he was involved in the crime.
For the past year or more, many Iraqis and some outside analysts have suggested that Shiite militias have infiltrated the Iraqi police.
But Peterson said that he considers the situation surrounding the 8th Brigade “an isolated incident,” rather than a marker that there is a larger problem within the Iraqi police forces.
Trainers had indications that there could be problems with those police back in early August, when two of the brigade’s three battalions “barely passed the inspection,” Peterson said. At that time, the brigade commander was removed from his job.
And Peterson said removing the brigade after the latest incident demonstrates how determined Iraq officials are to root out militia influences in the police forces.
“I really believe that the [Interior] Minister’s decision to withdraw the 8th Brigade from their current mission in Baghdad and put them in a training status is very, very positive,” Peterson said. “It will grow confidence, not only in the ministry, but in its forces.”
Despite the 8th Brigade’s issues, Peterson said the Iraqi police forces are taking positive steps forward, including their willingness to stand up and fight insurgents.
Since the force was stood up in 2003, about 4,000 Iraqi police have been killed and another 8,000 wounded, U.S. officials said.