Same old ‘cop stuff,’ entirely different beat
BAGHDAD — Policing Baghdad’s International Zone is like policing a big city.
Except for the mortar and rocket attacks.
And keeping tabs on potential insurgents within its walls.
And the fact that everyone carries guns — not just the cops.
So says the U.S. Air Force unit that protects and serves the seat of the U.S. occupation.
Their “beat” is a maze of concrete bunkers, checkpoints and blast zones, but they also do regular “cop stuff,” said International Zone policeman Staff Sgt. Kawi Blake.
“It could be a traffic stop or an indirect fire,” said Blake, 28, of Hilo, Hawaii. “You never know what kind of call you’re going to get.”
Since 2004, the Air Force has provided a 45-person unit to keep law and order in the zone — with the exception of the Marine-guarded U.S. Embassy. The zone, also called the Green Zone, includes the Convention Center, Iraqi Governing Council, several military bases, servicemember and civilian housing and contractors’ headquarters, and is home to thousands of Iraqis.
The current police unit is from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas; Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D.; Ramstein Air Base in Germany and the Royal Air Force in Mildenhall, England. Its numbers have gone up so more police officers will be out and about, Blake said.
It was a “slow” morning Sunday when Blake and Senior Airman Jeff Wright, 21, of Danville, Va., walked the residential area of Qadisiyah, also known as the “215 Apartments.”
Zone residents must carry identification badges on them at all times; nonresidents and unescorted people are removed. Escort violations make up the majority of the infractions, said Army Sgt. Darek Dabbs, 29, of Virginia Beach, Va., who tracks trends and analysis for the police. He counted 1,370 escort violations in the last year alone, he said.
But resident Rammah Fouad, who was stopped for a badge check, said he feels safer in the zone than outside it.
“If I lived there (in the Red Zone) now, my family may not be alive,” Fouad said through the International Zone police interpreter. “But on the (personal) freedom side, we can’t do everything we want.”
Iraqi infractions are usually given over to the Iraqi police, though they often have problems getting gasoline and can’t come, Blake said. If civilian contractors are involved, police call their supervisors. Those in the military fall under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
While the police get the usual array of domestic violence calls, brush fires and car thefts, there are far more gun violations. Every family is authorized to carry a weapon, to say nothing of the armed forces and protective service contractors in the area.
Police in the zone confiscated 438 weapons, Dabbs said, though no time period was available.
Meanwhile, more than 240 attacks — rockets, mortars, small-arms fire — have hit the zone in the past six months. And while the rest of the zone runs for cover as the alarm bells sound, police start looking for the impact site before the “all clear.”
Consequently, police rendered first aid on 120 casualties in recent days, Dabbs said.
Wright said he likes this part of the job and took combat aid training this week.
“You can really see yourself making a difference here,” Wright said.