Although American officials say that 8,000 Iraqi cops have been called back to work and that cooperation with the U.S. military handling police patrols is on the rise, the perception among many Iraqis is that the bad guys rule the streets.
They point to murders, kidnappings, car thefts, illegal squatters in buildings and religious sect intimidation as some of the transgressions taking place under the noses of the Americans.
Why are criminals running rampant and law-abiding people still afraid to go out at night or stray far from their homes during the day? The Los Angeles Times visited the Mesbah Police Station in southern Baghdad for answers.
On a recent afternoon, most of the station’s 77-member force was loitering around the station, doing nothing. The policemen’s attire gave no hint that they carried badges, and the few of them who were armed had small U.S.-issued Beretta pistols that looked like toy water guns.
“The criminals laugh at it,” one cop said.
At the moment, the only leadership is coming from U.S. Military Police, who are working with the Iraqi police command and have begun to fan out across the city, posting themselves at the larger police stations.
Meanwhile, Adam Piore reports for Newsweek that the officers trying to stabilize Iraqi towns must strike a balance between force and friendship.