Reporter's Notebook — Iraqi Police Try to Keep Pace

Editor's note: FOX News anchor Bill Hemmer is reporting from Iraq. His broadcasts can be seen at 12 p.m. ET, 9 a.m. PT.

Bill Hemmer

GARMAH, Iraq (four miles northeast of Fallujah in the Sunni Triangle) — The police station in the dusty, crippled town of Garmah is lucky to be in business. Or maybe it’s just getting better. Two weeks ago insurgents attacked it with machine gunfire. Two months ago it was hit with rocket-propelled grenades while the attackers used the elementary school across the street as their staging ground.

This is one tough neighborhood.

And yet each raid has been repelled by the police officers working here, while the U.S. military appears to be permanently “on call” to respond to attacks.

Lucky, or improving? Perhaps it’s a bit of both.

Many in the U.S. military say the Iraqi army far out paces the Iraqi police in development — and coalition forces want to change that. No country can effectively police itself without a properly trained, staffed and disciplined police force. Yet in a cramped courtyard at the police station in Garmah, progress is slow. Periods of success are thrown backward by unexpected — and often inexplicable — reactions by officers the U.S. is trying to train.

Eighty officers are listed as serving this station, yet only 37 show up for work; Three-hour patrols suddenly dropped to seven minute routes, then none at all; When talking with reporters, each cop has adopted a nickname and refuses to be shown on camera for fear of retaliation.

Yet, all admit their need for steady work and a paycheck, and most say they believe their commitment is making a better Iraq.

The U.S. Army set a goal to outfit the country with a full police force (nationwide) by February 2007. It may take until then, 11 months, before we understand where this war is headed. The U.S. Marines want to employ 6,000 police officers by September. For now, the police station in Garmah is just lucky to be in business.

Bill Hemmer currently serves as co-anchorof FOX News Channel’s (FNC) America's Newsroom (weekdays 9-11AM/ET) alongside Sandra Smith. Hemmer joined the network in 2005 and is based in New York. Click here for more information on Bill Hemmer