June 18, 2009:
The Iraqi Police are moving from perfecting their basic law enforcement training to undertaking more sophisticated preparation. Beyond improving their SWAT tactics and basic criminal investigation procedures, the security forces are now tackling advanced building protection. This is absolutely vital since suicide and car bombings are the favored terrorist tactics among Iraqi terrorists and much of the time government infrastructure is targeted, police stations being a favorite target.
All of this is pretty much standard fare in the US, where agencies like the Secret Service and the US Marshals specialize in building and dignitary protection. For most American cops, facility protection is seen as a secondary role, with criminal investigation being the first. In Iraq, however, protecting police stations, power plants, and other vital assets rank right alongside flushing out and arresting terrorists, since attacks against buildings occur with more regularity than even in Northern Ireland during the height of the "Troubles".
The entire facility protection course runs for about six weeks and is separate from the standard police academy instruction given to Iraqi police recruits. In most European countries, rarely are there more than a few thousand police specializing in guarding buildings. Unfortunately, the threat level in Iraq, coupled with the need to secure the entire area of the nation, means that many times that number are needed to realistically prevent most major attacks.
The importance of this is demonstrated by the recent graduation of over 1,000 Iraqi police officers from Facility Protection Service (FPS) training. This brings the entire number of recruits that have completed the training to over 17,000. The training includes advanced weapons techniques and close quarter battle (CQB), conducting vehicle and building searches, ethics, and public interaction. Ethics are being particularly stressed since, although the force is large and well-trained, the dangers of corruption and possible infiltration by insurgents and militias is still very real, making "inside jobs" a major concern. Despite this, the FPS is functional and appears to be doing its job. Whether that continues once the Americans are gone remains to be seen.