U.S. soldiers work with Iraqi police
From Ben Wedeman
KIRKUK, Iraq (CNN) -- American soldiers and Iraqi policemen now walk a beat together in a rough area on the outskirts of the northeastern city of Kirkuk where shots have been fired before at U.S. forces.
In Fallujah, a town farther south and west of Baghdad, a U.S. soldier was killed and five others wounded early Thursday in a grenade attack. (Full story)
And in the Iraqi capital Thursday, two U.S. soldiers were wounded by two assailants with pistols while guarding a bank in Central Baghdad Thursday morning, according to the U.S. Central Command.
As of May 1 when President Bush announced the end of the major fighting in Iraq, 39 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq from accidents and attacks by Iraqis, according to Pentagon officials.
But these days, U.S. troops are getting a friendlier reception from the largely Kurdish population in Kirkuk, with one old man telling them, "If thieves come, we'll call for you to help us."
At one point, the troops and their civilian police partners stop people suspected of buying and selling black market gas.
"Let him know if I catch him here again, he's going to spend some time in our jail," a U.S. soldier instructed his interpreter.
Contraband fuel dealers usually get off with a warning. Those who do spend time in jail are in for an unpleasant experience. The cells of Kirkuk's main police station contain all types of prisoners.
They're all waiting to be tried, but the courts of this city haven't functioned since the old regime fell.
In Baghdad, about 7,000 Iraqi police have returned to duty.
But in Kirkuk every morning, Boston detective-turned U.S. Army Capt. Sean Biggins gets together with Kirkuk's top cops to discuss reorganizing city police along American lines.
"This is the policy procedure for disasters, for riots, for emergency vehicle operations -- I mean you're talking three-ring binders that are going to go on and on and on," said Biggins.
It's a lengthy learning process where every idea and every word must filter through a translator.
Kirkuk's American-appointed police chief says the most important change needed here is in the mind.
"Thirty-five years of dictatorship has had an impact on the mentality of the police," said Police Chief Salih Ahmed. "We are trying to encourage a new way of thinking and a new way of working."
Dozens of recruits have been brought on board. They have a huge job ahead of them, a job that may have a few surprises.
Police are finding more than lawbreakers. A truckload of 1,130 bars of what is believed to be gold was found south of Kirkuk by U.S. forces June 3. This is the second such truckload of gold found in this area in the last two weeks.
This mysterious haul will be flown to Kuwait for analysis, then returned to Iraq.
But back on patrol, not much glitter, just a pair of men trying to save time by sneaking around a checkpoint.
A tedious affair for both Iraqis and Americans, but in a country wracked by disorder, they are performing an essential job.