WASHINGTON- The Iraqi National Police once owned an unenviable reputation for unreliability, but that has all changed, a senior U.S. military officer posted in Iraq said today.
“The National Police, a force that had an unacceptable reputation and performance less than 15 months ago, is now the Iraq police force of choice,” Army Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick told reporters at a Baghdad news conference. Helmick commands Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq, which, through its NATO component, trains Iraqi police and soldiers.

The National Police, once considered a corrupt, inefficient organization tainted by ethnic, religious and sectarian politics, has been remade into a “professional, competent and reliable police force,” Helmick said. Today’s National Police force, Helmick told reporters, is no longer an ethnic, religious or sectarian organization.

“It is a security force composed of Iraqis for Iraqis,” Helmick said, noting the Iraqi Interior Ministry has hired and trained more than 70,000 new police officers since June 2007. Thousands of other Iraqi police already on the beat, he added, have benefited from increased training.

The overhaul of the National Police force “is illustrative of the commitment made by the government of Iraq to provide security and stability to their citizens,” Helmick said.

Helmick credited Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bulani for the National Police’s dramatic improvement. The Iraqi minister had recently returned to Iraq from a trip to the United States to meet with senior U.S. government officials. Bulani “is leading the way for all Iraqi police forces,” Helmick said, “so that they continue to be well-trained, well-equipped … [and serve as] a professional and credible force that Iraqi citizens can count on.”

Reforms implemented across the National Police force have led to better officer vetting, training and replacement systems, Bulani, who accompanied Helmick at the news conference, told reporters.

“These measures [and] policies are continuously developing,” the Iraqi interior minister said. Meanwhile, he said, the National Police and other Iraqi law enforcement agencies continue to improve.

Helmick said he is optimistic about the National Police’s continued development in capability and professionalism.

“Together, we will build on the successes of the past, so we continue to progress in the future,” the three-star general said. “I am grateful to Minister Bulani for his leadership in this endeavor.”

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