Police training in the sand box.
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WELLINGTON — Sleeping in a Baghdad trailer the size of a cell, Fred Van Dusen grew accustomed to the constant chop ...
August 15th, 2006 10:44 AM
Police training in the sand box.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
WELLINGTON — Sleeping in a Baghdad trailer the size of a cell, Fred Van Dusen grew accustomed to the constant chop of helicopters overhead, the blasts that sent his blood pressure skyrocketing, the thuds that left him lying on his pillow thinking: If I don't wake up in the morning . . .
He would thank God he made it to daylight, put on a business suit and go to work in the old Republican Guard Palace as chief of staff for the Ministry of the Interior.
Courtesy Fred Van Dusen
Saddam Hussein's bunker illustrates the brutal conditions that Fred Van Dusen endured to train police.
Audio: Professor returns home
For 13 months, the 59-year-old Wellington husband and father worked 12-hour days, seven days a week. He greeted Iraqi commanders with tea and a pleasantry — "God save your family" — then tried to teach them that police work does not require militia tactics.
He worked for the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, overseeing police standards and academies for the embattled nation's 250,000 law enforcement officers.
"I was involved in more policymaking and oversight of the Ministry of Interior, all the police for the entire country. I worked directly for the man that ran everything in that country," Van Dusen said.
Now he's back in Wellington, and he can't even stay in the stucco home he has owned since 1991.
A few weeks ago, Van Dusen returned to his quiet street behind New Horizons Elementary School and found his house ruined. The roofers who finally fixed Hurricane Wilma damage took off the tiles just in time for a major downpour.
He may be able to stay there in three months, but he's not sleeping much now.
"I go to bed at night. I'm going, 'This is quiet.' I put the air conditioning on full blast just for the noise," he said.
He's comfortable in navy shorts, a polo shirt and loafers. He is a Palm Beach Community College criminal justice professor, Vietnam War veteran and intelligence expert who moonlights as the village of Wellington's only original member of the Public Safety Committee.
Van Dusen, who ran for Palm Beach County sheriff in 2004, was urged to apply for the job in Baghdad by friends at the State Department, first as assistant chief of staff. His $100,554 salary could not compensate for the sacrifice, he said.
But he realized, "It's something I felt I had to do."
He missed his family and endured brutal conditions to play a small role in a big war. Asked about his biggest accomplishment, he answers: "I was hoping we put them on the right track of where they should be in five years. I mean, my being there 13 months is just a tiny little piece."
When he first arrived in Iraq, he carried an M4 rifle. But his bosses took it away soon after the back window of his GMC Yukon was shot out. Instead, they gave him the diplomatic security of eight officers. It was the first time the former deputy and soldier did not carry his own gun.
As assistant chief of staff, Van Dusen worked with retired Air Force Master Sgt. Tom Bishop and eventually replaced him as chief.
"We both have an Indiana Jones gene," said Bishop, who added that he relied on Van Dusen's cop instincts and vast experience in police training.
"The Iraqis loved him because he was honest," Bishop said. "What's the international language? Respect. They look in your eyes, and they want to be told the right way. He just knew to teach them good police work and training."
The way Van Dusen tells it, every step of progress was an uphill battle. Militiamen falsified names and infiltrated the police. The 10-week police academies amounted to only five weeks of actual training.
"They couldn't tolerate it," he said. "They start at 8; nothing gets going until 10. They go to lunch at noon and don't come back until 1:30. At 3:30, they would just leave. They went home.
"Take three generations of 'Do this or I'll kill you' and all of a sudden they have all this freedom. No one's telling them what to do, and they don't know what to do. That was my job: to try to keep people in order."
For a special police operation, Iraqi officers would hop on the back of a pickup with a machine gun, shoot up a building and get out.
"They would say, 'I don't understand why you spend so much time planning.' I said, 'No, you have people dying.' They said, 'So be it.'
"They would do it our way for a while and then their way. You had to keep an eye on them all the time," Van Dusen said.
He did not discipline anyone, but he did try to compel officers to do the right thing by denying weapons requests. Sometimes the military bought mortars for the police anyway — weapons that should not be used in police work because they cannot be aimed well.
That was one of many mistakes, he said.
Van Dusen said the United States should not have disbanded the Iraqi forces — only the corrupt officers. Some people should not have been negotiated with, and others should have been killed, he said.
He also said American soldiers should not stay longer than six months at a time.
"These are harsh, harsh conditions," he said.
His thermometer once read 147 degrees. He ate mystery eggs cooked by Third World contractors. He took pictures of friends just before they died, and he sat in on daily death-and-torture reports.
He now tries to decompress. His blood pressure returned to normal within days of his return. He declined several offers to go back.
He's taking a vacation to North Carolina and looks forward to returning to the classroom, buying a Glock pistol and riding his new Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
"It was a long, long tour. It's time to go home," he said.
"A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."
- Sir Winston Churchill
August 15th, 2006 10:44 AM
August 15th, 2006 01:16 PM
A good friend who ran the police academies in Eastern MA (he had been a local town police chief) left the state and was doing this in third world countries for a number of years (he may still be doing it as he left his Family and moved to Micronesia with a local girlfriend ).
One of the last times I saw him a few years ago he told me that they offered him a job to train the Iraqi and Afghani police and he turned it down. He declared that although the money was fantastic, he'd have to survive it to enjoy the money and since the local police were favorite terrorist targets, he took a "pass".
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