- The Washington Times - Friday, May 9, 2003

TIKRIT, Iraq — Iraqis working with American officials reopened the local police station yesterday, but there will be no money to pay the returning officers until U.S. troops blow the lock on a vault in the city’s main reserve bank.While the troops have secured and retrieved accounting records from the bank, an estimated 23 million Iraqi dinars — worth about $12,000 — remains stuck in the vault, which apparently was damaged by frustrated looters during the war.”The vault is broken and we’re gonna blow it. … It’s like a ‘B’ movie,” said Col. Don Campbell, of the 1st Brigade of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, which is in charge of rebuilding the government in Tikrit and the surrounding province of Salah ad-Din.But the action was put on hold late yesterday at the request of Tikrit’s newly appointed mayor, Jasem Mohammed al-Jbouri, who wanted to bring in a lock specialist from Baghdad to take a closer look before resorting to explosives, military officials said.Despite the lack of cash in the government’s pay system, local police say they are eager to get back to work and crack down on looters.”We want to catch all the thieves in the city,” said Salih Walleed, an excited young police lieutenant who was standing outside the police station yesterday in a clean green uniform with white stars on its shoulder pads.”We work with [U.S.] Military Police, no problem,” he said. “When there was no police here, people did not respect us and they thieved the government buildings.”Maj. Kathleen Perry, a civil-affairs officer attached to the 4th Infantry Division who met yesterday with the chief of police, Maj. Gen. Tensin Hamid, said the force will start out at about 200 strong.Each of the officers, who will be allowed to carry a sidearm but not a military-style rifle, was required to sign a contract disavowing any loyalty to Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party. Maj. Perry said joint patrols with U.S. Military Police will begin this weekend.However, some of the local police officers already were in action yesterday. At least one officer was seen confronting a man apparently trying to steal something from a lot in front of Saddam’s main palace complex in Tikrit.Several Army Humvees, including one carrying Col. Campbell and another carrying Lt. Col. Gian P. Gentile, swerved to a stop shortly after driving past the scene yesterday afternoon.The two colonels jumped out with their 9 mm pistols drawn and ran toward the suspected looter, who had broken free of the Tikrit police officer and was running barefoot into a burned-out field across the street from the palace complex.Col. Campbell and Col. Gentile fired warning shots but the suspect scrambled away through an alley and into a thickly settled block of sand-colored buildings.The incident illustrated the need for a serious police presence on Tikrit’s streets, which have been described at times by U.S. officers as something akin to “the Wild West.”In addition to the banks and stores, looters all but destroyed the central police headquarters for Salah ad-Din province. The province consists mainly of villages and towns in a 50-mile radius around Tikrit, which sits on the Tigris River 90 miles north of Baghdad.”Initially, I just want to get police on the street,” Col. Campbell said this week. In addition to cracking down on the looters, he said, “there are still a lot of [Saddam] loyalists” in the city.Samad Hamid, a construction worker in Tikrit, said he was relieved that the new police force was taking form. “In Tikrit, people are afraid when U.S. soldiers are in the street,” he said. “When you see the Iraqi police, it’s OK … not afraid.”

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