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Kerik: Retraining to police a free society

Former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik
Former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik

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(CNN) -- Former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik is in Baghdad to advise the U.S. and Iraqi officials working to rebuild the country's police force. He discussed with CNN's Bill Hemmer on Friday the issues the new force will face.

CNN: Can you tell us anything about the claim that Saddam Hussein was engineering the series of attacks on U.S. forces that have killed five soldiers in the last week?

KERIK: Well, I can't talk about whether it's Saddam engineering. I look at this way, the more freedom prevails throughout Iraq, the more we're going to see these people --the last of what's left of them -- fighting, popping up with areas of resistance.

I think that's what we're seeing now over the last several days. You do notice as you get around Baghdad, at night, there is much more electricity. During the day, the shops are open more. The gas lines are coming down in size. Baghdad is opening up. There is a lot more freedom here. I think people are seeing it.

There are people out there that are resisting, they've lost their fight and this is sort of their last chance.

CNN: When Saddam Hussein was in power in Baghdad, the police force was about 20,000 strong. It's my understanding the force now has about 9,000 officers. Part of the huge challenge you've talked about is retraining these police officers, who are used to things like torture and human rights violations. How do you change that?

KERIK: Well, the first thing we're doing as per Ambassador (Paul) Bremer, we're deba'athing and eliminating people who have had history of human rights violations -- the senior elements of the police force.

Also, the numbers. The numbers depending on who you talk to range from 16,000 to 25,000. You have to remember the police department here was constantly augmented by the military, who wanted to control and be the power of the police for Saddam. They will be eliminated.

They will not be a part of the new police service. And we have to reach down into the police department and teach the police officers just as we will show the Iraqi government, the Iraqi people, that this is now a free society. We have to teach them how to police in a democratic and free environment.

CNN: Lt. Gen. David McKiernan said yesterday that the war has not ended. A new plan that will be initiated by the first of June, I believe, to try and get the massive amount of weapons off the streets and out of the hands of Iraqi people. Again, you come back to the same issue of culture and what's been done for the past decades. How is this possible there now?

KERIK: Well, basically, the ambassador and General McKiernan are putting out a weapons policy and we're going to be taking beginning to taking all of the weapons off the street that we can. AK-47s are going to be outlawed. It seems as though they are a big ticket item throughout the streets now. They're going to be taken off the streets.

There will be certain exemptions and licensing, processes for people that have to maintain firearms. But, for the most part, you're not going to be able to ride around, carry a firearm unless you're licensed. If you do, you're going to be arrested. So there is a two-week process to let the people turn in their weapons and get them off the streets and from that point on, anyone found carrying, concealing weapons, machine guns explosives, RPGs, those things will be confiscated and they will be arrested.

CNN: When can U.S. soldiers stop becoming policemen and go back to doing their job as soldiers there?

KERIK: I think it's premature to say. For right now, they are augmenting and assisting the Iraqi police and teaching the Iraqi police. Only time will tell, but it's only going to get better from here.

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