MOSUL, Iraq (AP) - A police investigation of two of their own in
the killing of an American soldier and his interpreter is seen as a
test of Mosul's police force - the weakest link among Iraqi
security forces about to take the lead in protecting the country's
most violent city.
This city of 1.6 million people has long distrusted its police -
particularly after thousands of officers fled their posts in
November 2004, leaving the Americans and Kurdish fighters to fight
Sunni insurgents who rose up here after being driven out of
The two policemen - an officer and a sergeant - were arrested
last week by U.S. and Iraqi forces and handed over to Iraqi
custody, according to Col. Gary Volesky, commander of U.S. troops
in the province that includes Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city.
They allegedly fired on a U.S. patrol Feb. 24, killing Lt.
William Emmert of Lincoln, Tenn., and his interpreter and wounding
five others. The two policemen are believed to have fled Mosul
after the attack, returning only a few weeks ago.
Under the terms of a security agreement that took effect at the
beginning of the year, it is up to Iraqi authorities to prosecute
the policemen. The Americans want the Mosul police to conduct a
thorough and professional investigation of the shooting, a
disturbing inside job that reinforced fears of insurgents and
sympathizers possibly infiltrating Iraq's security forces.
During a recent meeting, a Mosul police commander told Volesky
the two suspects had not appeared before a judge - the first step
toward prosecution - because of doubts not only that they were the
gunmen, but that they were policemen at all.
Volesky wasn't buying it, saying the men's relatives had
"Everybody will be looking at your ability to investigate this
completely," Volesky said. "Let us know what you need from us to
Turning to another American officer, Volesky said: "We've got
to continue to coach them all the way through."
Questions about the professionalism of Mosul's police force are
becoming more urgent because of the June 30 deadline for American
combat troops to withdraw from Iraqi cities, moving to bases on the
edge of town in case the Iraqis call for help.
Under the security pact with the Iraqi government, all U.S.
troops will leave the country by the end of 2011 - including the
roughly 50,000 who will be left behind after the combat troops
withdraw next year.
Although the U.S. military made enormous efforts to train and
equip Iraq's army and paramilitary national police, it did not give
the same attention to local police.
"There hasn't been the luxury of time to focus on training the
Iraqi police," Maj. John Cogbill, the executive officer of the
Fort Hood, Texas-based 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry.
Iraqi authorities are sending more army soldiers and national
police to Mosul to help fill the void when the Americans pull back.
But in the long term, U.S. and Iraqi officials believe local police
must bear the primary responsibility for maintaining security.
That won't be easy. Volesky said the city is short 5,300
officers of the 17,000 policemen it needs.
"They are the least trained of the Iraqi security forces in
Mosul," Volesky said.
It was a point punctuated hours later when a U.S. convoy rolled
through a police checkpoint, where policemen could be seen sitting
in the shade rather than manning their sun-soaked posts. In another
location, two police officers were text messaging rather than
The Iraqi army has little respect for the police.
During a tour of a refurbished market about to reopen, Volesky
urged an army officer to use the police to protect shoppers.
"Maybe the police could guard the market," while the army
provides security on the street, Volesky said.
The officer shook his head.
"No, no good," said the officer, who refused to be identified
because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
Privately, some Iraqi and U.S. officials believe it will take
years before the police can operate effectively.
"Without the Americans, this is not good," said one police
officer, who refused to be identified because he was speaking
against his commander's policy.
"We do not have proper training, proper equipment. We do not
Another problem: Insurgents have frequently targeted Mosul
police with shootings, bombings and grenade attacks. About 225
miles up the Tigris River from Baghdad, Mosul is one of the last
bases for Sunni insurgents.
In one heavily fortified police station, policemen wore masks to
conceal their identities.
In a nearby machine shop, Mizher Fatthy perspired over a
generator in the stifling heat. Fatthy told Volesky he wanted to
join the Iraqi army but that as a former officer in Saddam
Hussein's army he was rejected.
Volesky told him Mosul's provincial government was looking for
former military officers to beef up the police. Fatthy shook his
"The Iraqi army is much better than the Iraqi police," he
said. But he fears for his family's safety since policemen are
"It is not safe for my family. They might come and kill them,
if I work as police," he said.