Recruiting Drives Paying off for Iraqi Police, Auxiliary Forces
November 27, 2007
BAGHDAD (Army News Service, Nov. 27, 2007) -- As violence against the coalition and Iraqi Security Forces dropped significantly, recruitment drives throughout Baghdad in November had residents lining up to join Iraqi Police forces.
As part of an effort to increase the police force across the Iraqi capital, a recruitment drive was held in the Karkh security district Nov. 15 thru 18.
The four-day event, which drew thousands of potential recruits, was conducted in two locations in central Baghdad. A recruiting station was set up in Sadimiyah for the first day, and then moved to the Olympic stadium complex in Salhiyah for the final three days.
"Part of the Baghdad (Iraqi Police) expansion program is to hire 12,000 IPs across all of Baghdad, and every district is running its own recruiting drives," explained Maj. Kurt Ritterpusch, the provost marshal officer for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. "In Karkh, the goal is 415, but we're actually allowed to recruit up to 30 percent more than that, so about 540."
According to Capt. Keith Miller the assistant operations officer for 4th Squadron, 2nd Striker Cavalry Regiment, which is attached to the 2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div., there was expected to be more than 1,000 applicants during the recruiting drive, and he credited the large turnout in part to a major advertising campaign conducted over the past several weeks that included meetings with local leaders and Soldiers passing out handbills and applications while on patrol.
"Every time we go out on patrol, we talk to individuals and tell them this is coming up, and a lot of them are very receptive," the Sumner, Wash., native said.
"The young men in Baghdad want and need jobs, and joining the Iraqi Police is a good way to make a living while protecting your city and neighborhood," Maj. Ritterpusch said. "The young men that I saw being interviewed showed a sincere eagerness to be IPs."
Recruiting drives are also paying off for the Iraqi Police Auxiliary forces. Though paid less than IPs, auxiliary force members, who are tasked with protecting their own neighborhoods or muhallahs, may one day become full-fledged police officers.
Troops from 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment, along with their Iraqi Security Forces brethren held recruitment drives Nov. 17 and 19 to sign up volunteers in the Hateen and Yarmouk neighborhoods.
At the Nov. 17 drive, sponsored by Battery A, more than 175 recruits volunteered, while 47 went through the recruitment at the Battery B drive in Yarmouk.
"We are giving back to the Iraqi people," said Sgt. Michael Webb, a petroleum supply specialist from Btry. A, 2nd Bn. 32nd Field Artillery, who manned the final out-processing station at the event. "It is very important for them to help take care of themselves."
Before they were allowed to join IP or IPA forces, volunteers had to undergo screening processes and tests.
"The concept of the screening is the same for all of the brigades in Baghdad, but execution of the screening differs slightly from brigade to brigade," said Ritterpusch of Harker Heights, Texas. "In Karkh, we have a relatively small requirement (540 IP recruits) and can tighten the requirements to ensure that the best candidates become IP."
Those hoping to become police officers had to be male and between the ages of 18 and 35. After entering a secure area and being searched, candidates were checked in, screened via biometric means and fingerprinted. Next, they were moved through a series of stations beginning with the basic literacy test.
"An educated Police Force is very important in the administration and enforcement of law and security," Ritterpusch, said. "Basic literacy is to be able to read to a paragraph out loud; there are five different paragraphs to insure that no one can cheat. The paragraphs are taken from the newspaper, which is at about a sixth-grade level. So they have to be able to read at about a sixth-grade level, and they have to be able to write a sentence that is given to them orally."
Illiteracy proved to be the number-one disqualifier for most of the applicants. Maj. Ritterpusch said roughly 1 in 3 volunteers cannot pass.
"Unfortunately a lot of these guys can't read or write, so they weren't able to be used for the IPs although they really wanted to be part of the police force," Capt. Miller said.
Applicants who were able to demonstrate a sufficient reading level were then moved through a health assessment station, where both U.S. and Iraqi medical personnel checked them out for any disqualifying conditions, such as an irregular heartbeat, before they moved outside to take a physical fitness test.
"It is very likely more medical care was provided to these young men than they have had in their lives," Maj. Ritterpusch said.
During the physical fitness test, candidates were tested on the number of pull-ups, sit-ups and push-ups they could perform, as well as timed during a 200-meter run.
"The physical fitness standards are not the same as the U.S. military standards, but they're enough to demonstrate that they're in good shape," Maj. Ritterpusch explained. "Sixty points is the maximum for the test, and there's no extended skill. It's two points per repetition for push-ups and sit-ups, and four for pull-ups.
"Anything below 30 would disqualify them, but everyone who has passed the physical has passed the physical fitness test."
Maj. Ritterpusch said that all of the standards were put in place by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and we're being used across Baghdad.
Potential recruits who were able to meet all of these requirements then moved on to the final step of the day, an interview with the police force's district commander.
"When they walk up, he looks at their appearance, their confidence, if they look like an IP, and if they carry themselves in such a manner that they're able to have some type of authority," Capt. Miller said. "From that point, he (evaluates) the pile, and from there it goes to a committee where local leaders in the Karkh security district will sit down with Coalition Forces and IP leaders and look at these different applications and then forward them to the MOI."
According to Maj. Ritterpusch, those chosen by the MOI will then be scheduled to attend the police academy in Baghdad beginning in mid-January. He said that training at the academy lasts for five and a half weeks, and the new police officers will be put right to work as soon as they graduate from the academy.
Capt. Miller added that those applicants who are not chosen for the January class may be chosen for a seat in a later class.
"The people who don't make it into the academy the first time around, they're held on file so they can go to the next one and this will basically increase the force as time goes on," he said.
Auxiliary force recruits also had to pass through a security checkpoint, a brief medical screening, a biometrics check, an interview with local ISF commanders and a physical fitness test before they could get their final processing.
One of the most important steps in the process was ensuring no recruits had a suspicious background.
"We do biometrics checks to see if they come up on any list," said Staff Sgt. Steven Guiffre, a military policeman with the 401st Military Police Company who oversaw the taking of fingerprints and retinal scans. "This helps eliminate those you don't want as a policeman."
The data gathered is put into a computer database which checks to see if the person is who they claim to be and if they are suspected of criminal activity.
To ease any sectarian tensions, any male over the age of 17 was allowed to volunteer regardless if they were Sunni or Shia.
"Everybody is allowed to volunteer as long as they live in the area," said Bloomington, Ind. native, Staff Sgt. Patrick Whaley, the battalion's Civil Military Operations platoon sergeant. "This is a good step in the right direction for the Mansour area, especially Hateen. It gets the locals working with the (Iraqi Security Forces) as they police their communities."
"Coalition participation in recruiting and security events brings a level of credibility that does not exist in Iraqi-only operations," Maj. Ritterpusch said. "Our participation creates parity for we create an environment in which most qualified candidates advance. The process we underwrite is fair to all."
The 37-year-old father of a 19-year-old private said during the Hateen recruitment drive that a few months ago the idea of this many people showing up would have been laughed at.
"We had over 175 people show up today," he said. "Six to seven months ago you wouldn't even have had half that many."
While the numbers seem small compared to larger neighborhoods like Saydiyah or Doura where the numbers reached up into the high hundreds, the IPA will soon hit the streets to help rid the city of criminals.
"You don't have a totally free society with the Iraqi Army pulling security," said Staff Sgt. Guiffre, a Waterbury, Conn. native. "Let the police take care of the towns and let the Army take care of the country."
"We've really had a lot of interest with this recruitment drive and the Iraqis have come out and surprised me quite a bit," Capt. Miller said. "I believe we're going to get some good Iraqi police out there."
(Sgt. 1st Class Robert Timmons serves with the 4th IBCT, 1st Inf. Div. Public Affairs. Sgt. Robert Yde serves with the 2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs.)