As It Wields Power Abroad, U.S. Outsources Law and Order Work
As It Wields Power Abroad, U.S. Outsources Law and Order Work
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Two days before American troops stormed into Baghdad last April, Harry Gillway, a small-town Arizona police chief, got a job offer. On the telephone was DynCorp International, a Texas company that recruits police, pilots and bodyguards for often-risky overseas work funded by the U.S. government.
Asked if he'd like to work in Iraq as a police adviser, Mr. Gillway said he was interested but had to consult his family. "Are you in or are you out?" the recruiter responded. Mr. Gillway said he was in -- and called his wife to say he'd be leaving soon for Baghdad.
But like so much of America's project for the Mideast, Mr. Gillway's small role in shaping Iraq's future hasn't followed the script. Delayed by bureaucratic roadblocks and mayhem in Baghdad, his mission stalled. He finally got to Iraq in November, seven months after the city fell.
Shortly before he arrived, a Toyota Corolla packed with explosive raced toward the Baghdad Hotel, DynCorp's base here, and blew up when the guards opened fire. Five Iraqi security staff died. Last month, insurgents fired rockets at DynCorp's hotel but missed. "You read the news and watch TV," says Mr. Gillway, a 46-year-old father of four and veteran of police work in Bosnia, Southeast Asia and Central America. "But it doesn't quite hit home until you get here."
Mr. Gillway is part of America's answer to an urgent question: how to police a chaotic foreign land whose government the U.S. overthrew. As a contract worker for a corporation, he embodies an unusual aspect of America's superpower status: An ambivalence about some of the burdensome work that reshaping foreign countries requires.
The U.S. faces some of the same responsibilities as Europe's colonialists did at the height of their imperium: keeping order in distant lands. The British empire, for one, ran a vast overseas police apparatus, from the Indian Police Service and Royal Hong Kong Police to the Iraqi National Police.
The U.S., by using private contractors for policing abroad, avoids cumbersome state institutions such as Britain's Colonial Office. But America's outsourcing approach -- "imperialism lite," some have dubbed it -- also means that policing, a bedrock of global power in the past, gets only fitful attention from leaders in Washington. That and the U.S. system's quirks and risks are evident in a look at the biggest policing challenge abroad: Iraq.
The U.S. government once trained overseas police forces, in Latin American and Asian client states. Congress shut down the programs in 1974, alarmed by the brutality of some the U.S. schooled.
The past decade's turmoil in fragile states got the U.S. back into the business of training foreign police, but indirectly. America became a big provider of money, men and material to United Nations police missions, from the Balkans to East Timor. Then Afghanistan and Iraq added greatly to the security chore. The result is a curious division of responsibility. The U.S. pays the bills. But, crimped by legal restrictions and a wariness of messy foreign entanglements, it entrusts much of the actual work to contractors.
Each morning in Iraq, DynCorp's Mr. Gillway -- former police chief of Kearny, Ariz. -- puts on a flak jacket, loads a Kalashnikov and goes by convoy from the Baghdad Hotel to Iraq's police academy. His main task so far is selecting Iraqi police trainees and getting them aboard military transports bound for Jordan. There, DynCorp has built a U.S.-funded training camp, whose classes are run by another private contractor. The first 466 cadets graduated last week.
The classes are a vital part of U.S. strategy both for Iraq's future and for America's exit: teaching Iraq to keep order by itself. In a cramped office overlooking the swimming pool of Saddam Hussein's main palace, Steven Casteel, the federal overseer of the effort, says success in creating an Iraqi democracy depends on police, not soldiers. "If you want to build a banana republic, build the military," he says. "If you want to build a republic, build a police force."
In contrast to the gargantuan Defense Department, America's overseas police operation is run from a small unit inside the State Department. It is the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, or INL. Known by its staff as "drugs and thugs," INL controls an air wing with 270 planes to fight drugs in Colombia and elsewhere. Since 1994, it has dispatched contract police to Haiti, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, Kosovo, southern Serbia, Macedonia, East Timor, Liberia, Afghanistan and now Iraq.
They've mostly served alongside U.N. peacekeeping efforts. Currently overseeing outsourced police missions in a half-dozen countries, INL has 166 full-time staff, just a handful of whom work on policing. It pays DynCorp to find, feed, house and, in the case of Iraq, arm police officers such as Mr. Gillway.
This frees the government from the logistical burdens of employing the officers and moving them and their equipment overseas. Keeping foreign policing at arms' length also has largely kept it off Washington's policy agenda.
Tariq Saleh, an Iraqi exile who once had advised his country's police, worked last winter on plans for a possible new Iraqi police, penal and justice system. His work, part of a Future of Iraq Project sponsored by the State Department, called for swift training and deployment of police after a Hussein overthrow to prevent chaos. But "everything we did was ignored," Mr. Saleh says, blaming State Department-Pentagon feuding.
The Pentagon heard similar recommendations from a policing expert and former Justice Department official, Robert Perito. He told the Defense Policy Board that America "needed a special police force to cope with widespread disorder" in a postwar Iraq. "I don't know what they did with the information, if anything," Mr. Perito says.
A month before the invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon invited military and civilian officials for a daylong review of plans. It became clear "the biggest problem we would have was security," says George Ward, who attended as a member of a planned eventual team of civilian administrators. During a coffee break, Mr. Ward says, he suggested to a State Department official that DynCorp be told to mobilize men for a police mission in Iraq. He says he was told it wasn't possible because no money had yet been allocated. "Bureaucrats were in a bureaucratic crouch," Mr. Ward says.
An official of the Defense Department says it drew up detailed plans for postwar Iraq that incorporated State Department and other advice.
As U.S. troops barreled toward Baghdad last spring, the State Department scrounged some cash from other programs and gave DynCorp $20 million to get started. DynCorp called officers on a roster it keeps, planning for what may become a 1,500-strong corps of advisers.
Set up in 1947 by some World War II pilots, DynCorp, first known as California Eastern Airways, flew cargo for the military in the Korean War and later moved into information technology. It gets most of its $2.3 billion or so annual revenue from the government. The U.S. has paid it to service the vice president's aircraft, defoliate coca fields, upgrade Federal Bureau of Investigation computers, guard the president of Afghanistan and maintain Pentagon hardware such as tanks and helicopters. DynCorp was acquired last March by Computer Sciences Corp. of El Segundo, Calif., which is also in information technology.
Since 1994, DynCorp has had a contract to handle all of America's big civilian overseas policing jobs. (The State Department recently took bids for a new contract and is likely to divide future policing work between DynCorp and some rivals.) DynCorp's extensive work for the government has brought it profit and experience but also controversy.
Trouble in Balkans
After DynCorp got the Iraq contract in April, a New Jersey congressman wrote to the State Department citing "documented involvement of some DynCorp employees or agents in prostitution, human trafficking and sexual misconduct" in Bosnia and "retaliation against those who endeavored to bring such conduct to light." Republican Rep. Christopher Smith voiced concern that the government, by using contractors, avoided accountability for the conduct of American police abroad.
DynCorp in 2000 had fired a female police officer from Nebraska, working in Bosnia's International Police Task Force, after she went public with accusations of sexual misbehavior by colleagues. The company said she had falsified her time sheet. She later won an unfair-dismissal complaint. A British employment tribunal, which handled the case because a British unit of DynCorp was involved, awarded her the equivalent of $200,000.
DynCorp settled out of court in Texas with another ex-employee, fired from a job repairing U.S. military helicopters in Bosnia. He had complained that co-workers were paying an alleged local hood to provide women, some underage, for sex. Pretrial submissions included an e-mail from a DynCorp manager boasting that the company had been able to calm the scandal and "turn this into a marketing success." An internal U.S. Army investigation cleared DynCorp of involvement in "white slavery" but found that two employees "could have been charged ... with procuring and pandering," according to the lead investigator.
All DynCorp staff involved in the alleged misconduct were brought home. No one was prosecuted. A spokesman for the company says that "neither DynCorp nor its employees were involved in the trade of 'sex slaves.' DynCorp was extremely cooperative and helpful in the investigation. Fewer than 10 out of more than 1,000 employees were involved. The implicated individuals were terminated."
In a reply to the congressman, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said the U.S. was "fully aware of past allegations" and had a "zero-tolerance policy regarding trafficking or related activity."
When Baghdad fell on April 9, the city slipped into an orgy of looting. U.S. troops looked on, the Pentagon having ruled police work wasn't the Army's job. Police stations, the police academy and the Interior Ministry were ransacked. For two weeks, a planned team of postwar civilian administrators headed by retired Gen. Jay Garner stayed in Kuwait watching the turmoil on TV.
Gen. Garner asked the State Department's INL bureau to arrange a meeting for him with Iraqi police leaders. Rushing to Baghdad, an INL official found that most Iraqi police had vanished and the allegiances of those who hadn't were unclear. No meeting was arranged.
As the disorder continued, the Pentagon turned to Bernard Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner. While shopping for clothes in Manhattan, he got a call on his cellphone inviting him to Washington. The next day he met with officials including L. Paul Bremer III, who'd been named to replace Gen. Garner. Mr. Kerik left for Baghdad as senior adviser to the Interior Ministry.
Instructed to get Iraqi cops back on the street, Mr. Kerik found an enthusiastic partner in Ahmed Kahdim Ibrahim, a former low-ranking cop who offered his services to American troops on their way to Baghdad. Mr. Ibrahim became police chief and started calling himself general.
A rambunctious man with a taste for purple ties and night operations, he bonded with Mr. Kerik, who shared his yen for action. Some U.S. military people, aghast at raids they saw as publicity stunts, urged Mr. Ibrahim to focus on organizing the force. Shot in the leg during one raid, he slowed down for a few days but was soon on the street again.
At the end of May, a U.S. team headed by the Justice Department drew up an ambitious program to train and reform Iraqi police. It proposed bringing in 6,500 advisers from America and allied countries to create a professional force. The project sputtered. Even Britain balked: The British police association visited and declared Baghdad too dangerous.
Moreover, before any program could start, it needed a green light from Mr. Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority, which held the purse strings. The CPA reviewed several proposals but dawdled on a decision. Mr. Kerik had reservations about using private contractors. He didn't want "unemployed security guards," he said in an interview, adding that contractors "are in such a hurry to get people out and make their money ... they sometimes circumvent the rules."
Frustrated by the gridlock, the U.S. military began organizing its own training for Iraqi police. It also set up an Iraqi force to protect buildings, pipelines and such, and later a paramilitary police unit called the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.
Offered a 100% pay raise, Iraqi police drifted back to work. By late last year, 34 of Baghdad's 60 police stations had reopened. Iraq now has 66,900 police on duty across the country, says the Pentagon, but few have received training beyond what they got under Mr. Hussein. Unlike elite security forces he pampered, the Iraqi National Police force has little loyalty to the old regime. But it also had scant experience of actual policing. Secret police had created so much fear in the populace that ordinary cops often had little to do besides seek bribes.
DynCorp, still waiting for a go-ahead, leased the Baghdad Hotel, just down the road from where U.S. troops had toppled a large Hussein statue. U.S. soldiers took up positions on the roof -- and banished the landlord after he reached for his pistol during an altercation in the lobby. False rumors swept Baghdad that the hotel housed the Central Intelligence Agency and Israel's Mossad.
In August, lethal attacks on the U.N.'s Baghdad compound and other sites spurred a growing sense of crisis, and a new push to get a large police program going. Mr. Kerik announced that Hungary had offered to let Iraqis train at its Taszar Air Base. Hungary said it hadn't. A diplomatic rumpus followed.
Mr. Kerik returned to Washington, reporting back to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz. "I briefed them on how much progress we had made," he says.
Police officer Gillway, still in Arizona, grew impatient. DynCorp contacted him several times to announce departure dates, only to scrap them. Convinced he'd never get to Iraq, he resumed police-chief duties he had largely wound down.
In September, the police project finally started to move. Mr. Bremer sought $2 billion for police, border services and other law enforcement, as part of a bigger request to Congress. Mr. Rumsfeld called the police funds "a critical element of the coalition's exit strategy."
Policing shot to the top of Washington's agenda. Mr. Casteel, who replaced Mr. Kerik as adviser to Iraq's Interior Ministry, says he began having so many teleconference sessions with Washington he had "more air time than Jay Leno."
King Abdullah of Jordan offered his country as a site for the aborted training camp in Hungary. The U.S. plan now is to give nearly 35,000 Iraqis an eight-week training course in Jordan, teaching human rights, firearms and basic forensics, and to set up three police academies inside Iraq as well. DynCorp says the contract to build and operate the police-training center in Jordan is valued at $27 million. This is in addition to a Baghdad operation, which it says is currently funded by the U.S. at $22.6 million. Many of the classes in Jordan are taught by another contractor, Virginia-based Science Applications International Corp.
America's foes have also homed in on police. Bombs and gunfire have killed over 200 Iraqi officers since Baghdad fell. To steady nerves, America ordered 50,000 flak jackets and started distributing 50,000 9mm Glock pistols. On Saturday, a car bomb outside a police station in the city of Mosul killed nine people, five of them Iraqi police waiting for their pay. In Baghdad the same day, a bomb exploded under the car of a police colonel.
At Baghdad's Sadoon Street station in December, Hadi Mahdi, a deputy precinct captain, fidgeted nervously on a new swivel office chair provided by the U.S. He also had a new filing cabinet. But he was still waiting for his Glock, and said he worried constantly about being attacked as a collaborator. Four of his colleagues were already in the hospital.
When Iraqis came to file a crime report, Mr. Mahdi told them to get some paper: Looters had stolen his stationery.
Also frustrated are American military police, who've borne the brunt of training Iraqi police so far. "We sit here at the bottom hearing about all the wonderful things that are going to happen. We just want to get out of here," said Marcus Friedman, a California reservist serving in the 18th Military Police Brigade. To increase the number of "trained" Iraqi police quickly, the military cut its three-week course for them to one week.
In early October, DynCorp told Mr. Gillway in Arizona that his mission was finally ready to go. He headed for rural Virginia for physical and psychological screening by a subcontractor DynCorp had hired to handle orientation. Three recruits failed the tests. A fourth vanished from his hotel just before a bus arrived to take the group to the airport.
Mr. Gillway and 23 other police advisers were flown to Kuwait. There, they boarded a military transport for a stomach-churning flight to Baghdad. Arrival in the city brought more turbulence. Some of the newcomers griped that their pistols weren't big enough. Others complained about their salaries. One man was sent home for grumbling too much.
In the Baghdad Hotel, there were several instances of cops' pistols being accidentally discharged. The group became know as the "hole in the wall gang." To relieve stress, DynCorp set up a weight room and showed war movies. A Coalition Provisional Authority official came by, and caused offense by calling the police advisers a "bunch of mercenaries."
"I detest the word mercenary," says Mr. Gillway. "Call us patriots. We were asked by our country to be here. This is not for the money. If it were for the money I would be paid better." He gets $50,000 a year plus a 50% hazardous-duty bonus. The money is tax-free, but Mr. Gillway calculates he earned more, with benefits, as a police chief in Arizona.
On the parade ground of the Baghdad police academy, Mr. Gillway struggled to form hundreds of young Iraqi cadets into orderly lines ahead of registration for flights to Jordan. It took a whole day.
Asked about America's stated goal of bringing democracy to Iraq, freshly processed cadets giggled and pointed to the nearby Ministry of Oil, the only big ministerial building U.S. troops saved from looters. "They want our oil," said Hassan Muhned, 20. "We have no democracy now. Maybe we will have it if the Americans leave." But, he added, the U.S. should not leave until he was paid.
Paul Carter, DynCorp's Baghdad manager and a veteran of jobs in Saudi Arabia, Singapore and the Balkans, returned to Baghdad after a meeting late last fall with company executives in Fort Worth, Texas. "I told them Iraq is unique. It's not like any other mission," he says. He advised company recruiters not to oversell Iraq as they make a pitch for hundreds more American police advisers.
Mr. Gillway says he had hoped to do more than put Iraqis on planes out of the country, but adds: "You have to keep your expectations reasonable. This is the key to sanity in a place like this."