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Kerik to help restore order to Baghdad

BAGHDAD, Iraq—Former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who gained wide respect for his response to the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attack, will lead a team of policing experts in an attack on rampant street crime in Iraq's capital.

Kerik has been appointed senior adviser to Iraq's Ministry of Interior, whose duties include law enforcement, said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Dave Andersen, a spokesman for the U.S.-led Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance.

Kerik "was just a no-nonsense, get-it-done person who was looked up to" after 9-11, Andersen said. He will lead at least 40 people with experience in crime and justice matters, many of whom have arrived in Baghdad in the past few days, Andersen said.

Kerik's team includes experts with police and military backgrounds who have helped set up law enforcement in places like Kosovo and Panama, said another ORHA spokesman, who asked to remain anonymous.

"They seem very enthusiastic about getting things going," the spokesman said.

Kerik, who has not yet arrived in Baghdad, could not be reached for comment about his plans.

He has an extensive police and military background, as a military policeman in the Army, an undercover cop in New York, a prison warden and commissioner of the New York Department of Correction.

Kerik was named New York's 40th police commissioner by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in August 2000.

Stemming a wave of looting, car-jacking and violent street crimes in Baghdad has become the most pressing problem in post-war Iraq. The lack of security has hampered efforts at rebuilding the country.

A key step in the crime-fighting effort should occur Monday when Iraqi police are expected to begin night patrols for the first time since the war ended. The Iraqis will accompany U.S. military police units that have already been patrolling after dark.

"That's the message that we're going to get out there—that the Iraqi police are back in charge," said Capt. Steve Caruso, with the 18th Military Police Brigade, who oversees the largest police station in the city of 5 million.

The patrols will target areas plagued by car-jackers and looters.

The initial joint-patrol plan calls for at least eight units, each with nine heavily armed MPs in Humvees and nine to10 Iraqi officers in patrol cars.

Caruso said it would not be surprising if the patrols see tracer rounds from small-arms weapons that have become common on Baghdad's streets.

Establishing an effective police force continues to be a daunting task. Following the U.S. attack, looters ransacked and burned most of the city's police stations. Police returned to work only about two weeks ago. It took time for the force to obtain enough cars, fuel and weapons for patrols.

To win people's trust, Iraqi police will have to overcome a reputation for corruption and human rights abuses. Some officers in units with close ties to Saddam Hussein's regime have been prohibited from returning.

Meanwhile, criminals have taken advantage of the fledgling police force and a lack of electricity, which continues to darken streets.

The war on crime also is trying to appeal to looters' consciences. In the past few days, thousands of leaflets have been distributed on the streets, with a message that looters only hurt themselves, by delaying efforts to rebuild their country.


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.