Judges, training seen as keys to executing backlog of warrants
MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq — More judges and a new Iraqi police task force could help streamline the issuance and execution of warrants in the area south of Baghdad, according to soldiers with the 18th Military Police Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
It now takes at least a day and often longer to get an arrest warrant issued in the outlying cities once known as the "Triangle of Death," said Capt. Jessica Donkers, commander of an MP company in Mahmudiyah.
The Mahmudiyah region, which encompasses hundreds of thousands of people, several small towns and cities, and vast farmlands, has seen little violence in the past eight months. But militant groups still move through the area and pose a constant low-level threat.
Sometimes, Iraqi authorities there struggle to get needed witness statements and then are delayed because few judges can sign off on the warrants, said Donkers, 29, of Marquette, Mich.
"I am convinced it will be successful, but it’s not going to happen overnight," she said.
Once warrants are issued, they can pile up at Iraqi police stations due to a lack of cooperation between the police and the Iraqi army, said 2nd Lt. Danielle Burro, of the MP company.
As security evolves, the police and army are feeling out jurisdictions — a process that has involved arguments and efforts to hoard responsibility.
"It is going to keep backing up until coordination improves," said Burro, 23, of Landing, N.J. "The Iraqi police cannot make an arrest without the Iraqi army present."
Burro oversees four police stations in Mahmudiyah and said performance varies.
"Certain stations can coordinate well, and at other stations we have a lot of warrants" that have not been executed, she said.
A new District Response Team, a police force fashioned on an American-style SWAT team, could bridge the gap between police and the army and help execute warrants when the new system comes online in January, said Staff Sgt. Andrew Martinez, also of the MP company.
The MP company has been training the DRT since it was formed in November and has gained an agreement from both the regular Iraqi police and army to use the group when arresting high-risk targets, Martinez said.
That could mean more cooperation and arrests. But it could also give a lighter touch to law enforcement as the war and insurgency wanes, said Martinez, 24, of Fort Bragg, N.C.
Using the DRT instead of the army, "you don’t just blow up the house," he said. "You go in there and you minimize collateral damage."
STRIPES SERIES:A new wayof doing business
Starting Thursday, American units in Iraq will be required to obtain a warrant for nearly everyone they detain. Their actions must follow terms set by the security agreement signed between the two countries. In a three-day series, Stars and Stripes examines how the military is preparing for this change.
Day One: Prosecution task forces• As New Year’s Day nears, U.S. troops prepare to hand over arrest authority to local judges• Soldiers learning the ropes of the Iraqi legal system, but some uncertainty over process remainsDay two: The Troops • ‘CSI: Baghdad’ it isn’t: High-tech gear not a lot of help in getting Iraqi warrantsDay three: The Iraqis• Iraqis taking a larger role in securing warrants