By Staff Sgt. Attila FazekasSeptember 1, 2009
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq -- Shaded by an awning from the scorching afternoon sun, the first class of seasoned Iraqi police officers graduated from a 40-hour course on basic forensics offered by the new Police Center of Excellence located on Camp Liberty, Aug. 20.
The isolated building, which was once a hunting lodge of Saddam Hussein and most recently the initial reception area of alleged terrorist detainees, received renovations over the past few months.
Servicemembers of the 91st Military Police Battalion, 39th Military Police Company refurbished the structure to become the home of the Police Center of Excellence, where advanced crime scene and investigative techniques are taught to Iraqi police.
"These guys are already police officers," 1st. Lt. Larry T. Brink, Commander, 39th Military Police Company, 91st Military Police Battalion, 8th Military Police Brigade, Multi-National Corps-Iraq, and Commandant of the Police Center of Excellence said.
"This is an advanced academy that offers 40-hour training blocks under the concept of in-service training," Brink added.
In-service training offers refresher or additional training only to police officers.
"We offer four weeks of training with specific topics covered each week. At the end of each 40-hour week, the officers receive a certificate of training with a larger certificate given to those officers that complete all four weeks," Brink said.
The police officers were taught post incident of a vehicle-borne explosive device, what is considered evidence and what is not. They also studied a murder scenario and what to look for, as well as an apparent suicide and how to secure a crime scene.
During the first week, the instructors explained how to preserve a crime scene and why overcoming some cultural aspects is necessary to preserve evidence. This was achieved with training through partnership.
"A crime scene would be destroyed due to cultural aspects like quickly removing the body or washing the blood out of the street," Brink added. "We teach them not to clean a crime scene prior to the investigation."
In the west Americans do things a certain way, here the Iraqis have been doing things a certain way, Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Booker, 39th Military Police Company said. "When you meet, the most important thing is, you want to meet on a good foundation so you have a friend in the long run as opposed to making an insurgent."
"It is a partnership with the Iraqi police to train them on basic policing skills," Booker said. "We're taking all of our experience and giving them the best quality experience that's (available) anywhere in theater right now."
Prior to graduation, the Iraqi police officers were given all three crime scene scenarios to work. Staff Sgt. Jerald H. Croft III, Police Center of Excellence, a role player in a scenario, was caught by surprise.
"These are the same guys we trained to become police officers," Croft said. "When they saw I had an improvised explosive device trigger in my hand, they grabbed my thumb and cranked on it."
"At first it made me mad," Croft added. "But then I realized that they were doing what they were supposed to do, what we taught them to do. I thought for sure he was going to rip my thumb off."