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10-05-07, 04:04 PM
Confidence is key: The evolution of the Fallujah Police Department, Part One
By Featured WriterOctober 3, 2007 6:11 AM The evolution of the Fallujah Police Department, Part One
By Featured WriterOctober 3, 2007 6:11 AM

Bill Ardolino was embedded with the Fallujah Police Transition Team and the Iraqi Police in January and September 2007. His January analysis, "On the Baby Steps" in "the Bullseye," can be found here. In the following analysis, Ardolino compares the state of the Fallujah Police Department during his two embeds.

In January 2007, Fallujah Police Headquarters was a besieged target in the middle of the turbulent city, a walled refuge for hunted police officers. The Iraqi Police, or IPs, hid their faces, guarded the station, manned their version of a 9-1-1 dispatch, and were mortared and shot on a regular basis. They rarely ventured out except to return home or pick up an occasional IED, dead body or injured civilian. There was little police patrol presence on Fallujah’s streets, thus ceding insurgents the freedom of movement to stage attacks and intimidate the population. The IPs wouldn’t patrol and the Marines couldn’t compel them past their fear. And given the steady flow of grievously injured and slain cops, it was difficult to blame them.

As former Police Transition Team (PiTT) Commander Major Brian Lippo said at the time: “For the overall success of the mission, the [Iraqi Police] have got to get out there in the streets and take a more active role in patrolling … driving around the streets in your white police car, showing the flag and letting the bad guys know that 'hey I have to get off this street corner.’"

There were hopeful signs: an increase in recruitment and new Iraqi leadership that talked the talk and fitfully began to walk the walk. But the city grew even more violent over the next two months, with attacks and casualties reaching an all-time peak in March as al Qaeda in Iraq attempted to break the will of the police. One Marine remarked on the nightmares he acquired after seeing the second-story landing of the police station covered in black bags, slick with blood and broken bodies.

But then, remarkably, things changed.