Former Vicksburg police officer teaching Iraqis to stand up for themselves’

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 22, 2004

[3/21/04]”I have been hired and am under contract to be an international police adviser assigned to assist the Iraqi police to rebuild and retrain their ranks. I am currently in Baghdad but that is not necessarily a permanent thing.

“I went through an interview process in late December and early January after a lengthy application process that began last June. I officially started here in February.

“I am purposely being vague with dates as they are one of those areas that affect security issues for those coming behind me.

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“A part of the application process was an in-depth background investigation, which the chief’s office and my supervisors at the police department had to be a part of. I worked with them as closely as I could and requested a one-year leave of absence to do this, but was denied. I appealed that decision to the board of mayor and aldermen and was denied that as well. I say all of this to let you know I was forced to resign my position with the department to accept this temporary position. If, when I complete my time here, I want to come back to work in Vicksburg I essentially have to start over.

“The chief’s office and the mayor’s office did say they would be willing to rehire me, although, as a patrolman again. That is how much I believe in what I am doing here, that I am willing to set aside almost 12 years of experience and seniority to come do this.

“This job is full of officers from all over the United States who feel the same way. I am working with the best and the brightest from police departments in Los Angeles and New York and state officers from Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Louisiana, Florida, Oklahoma, Arizona, etc.

“Each of us went through the same exhaustive background process, and each one of these guys is considered one of the best at what they do in their department.

“I learned of this job through law enforcement contacts I gained during training sessions. They suggested I take a look at it and see what I thought. I did, and here I am.

“I signed a contract for a year. I think this job is one of the most important jobs that anyone here is doing for the simple reason that we are teaching the Iraqis to stand up for themselves.

“The things we Americans build will be here until they fall or get knocked down, but the training we provide will last as long as there is someone to pass it on, and here they have lived for thousands of years passing on knowledge from generation to generation.

“As far as how we communicate it is an interesting situation. We have a few people who can speak English but not nearly enough so we tend to work out an understanding based on a few words here and there that we each know and hand signals.

“It takes a long time, but I found out pretty quickly that if you have a desire to communicate and the person you are communicating with has that same desire it doesn’t take much before you understand each other.

“Right now I am working as a field training coordinator helping the Iraqi police to set up training programs for their new officers. They have to learn how to police a free people. The way things are here is quite unlike anything anyone in America is used to.

“Iraqi police were kind of errand boys for the Iraqi military when Saddam was in charge. We have to teach them to step up and take charge of their local neighborhoods and protect the people there. It is a basic paradigm shift for them. They are responding well, though, and are incredibly excited about the opportunity to serve their people. I was asked to stay away from where we fit in to the military scheme of things because that is a security issue.

“I was also asked to stay away from trying to describe the dangers here. I would have done that anyway as my wife, children and mother will all read this article, and I wouldn’t want to scare them unnecessarily.

“If you do anything with this article, I would ask that you make sure that the tone of the article be positive for similar reasons. My family supports what I am doing and I don’t want them to suffer unnecessarily.

“We are doing something truly important here, are being well received and accomplishing much in a short amount of time. The people here are intelligent and excited about this new opportunity to govern themselves. We are just here to provide a guiding hand.”