March 9, 2006:
As Iraq rebuilds its police forces, some of components come out looking much better than they were under Saddam. One of the best examples of this is the Highway Patrol. In Saddam's time, the ownership of automobiles were controlled, and the various secret police and intelligence organizations kept an eye on traffic. Back then, the Highway Patrol had only 600 men, and a shabby collection of cars and trucks to patrol with. They operated out of decrepit buildings, mainly near the borders. It was embarrassing.
With Saddam gone, the economy is booming, and there are a lot more cars and trucks on the roads. All but a few of them have nothing to do with terrorists. So the Highway Patrol has been turned into a real highway patrol. The highway patrolmen and women have new uniforms, training and blue and while four door pickup trucks. New radios, weapons and buildings as well. The force is now over five times as large as the Saddam era one was. Most of the patrolman live and work out of new station houses that, eventually, will be located every 50-60 kilometers on the main highways. Each station will have administrative offices, jail cells, vehicle maintenance facilities, firing range, as well as dormitories for 60 male and ten female officers. There's a dining hall, plus a back up generator. Larger stations are found at the main border crossings, where there is heavy truck traffic in both directions. Several hundred patrolmen are at each of these stations.
It's a dangerous jobs, not just because of the occasional terrorist, but more because of the smugglers (who are often armed and dangerous), other criminal gangs and warlord militias who don't want any their turf. There's also the problem with Iraqi drivers, who consider driving rules to be a challenge, not something to be obeyed. On top of all that, there is the difficult task of trying to prevent the highway patrol from becoming corrupt. It's a worldwide problem, highway patrolmen shaking down drivers and taking bribes to look the other way. There's no guarantee that the new Iraqi Highway Patrol won't evolve into a clear and efficient force.