From Twin Tow­ers to Iraq: Ex-N.Y. cop aids po­lice force

The Washington Times Weekly - - National Security - BY RICHARD TOMKINS

MUQ­DADIYAH, Iraq | Seven years af­ter al Qaeda´s at­tacks in New York, a par­tic­i­pant in that drama is part of the ef­fort in Iraq to thwart ex­trem­ist vi­o­lence and help es­tab­lish sta­bil­ity.

Don­ald Young, a re­tired New York City po­lice­man, gives ba­sic law en­force­ment train­ing to para­mil­i­tary po­lice near the mar­ket town of Muq­dadiyah and, in do­ing so, uses pho­to­graphic im­ages of the hor­ror at ground zero in a slide pre­sen­ta­tion to catch their at­ten­tion and es­tab­lish rap­port.

“I wanted you to see th­ese pic­tures,” he tells a class of Iraqi po­lice re­cruits in the Muq­dadiyah area of Diyala prov­ince. “I was there. I had friends killed.

“This is when Amer­ica was at­tacked. This is why we are here. Some say Iraq had noth­ing to do with this, and that can be ar­gued, but the bot­tom line is we´re fight­ing the same kind of en­emy.

“We’re a team. We have to be united,” he says through an in­ter­preter.

Mr. Young, 49, isn’t a sol­dier, al­though he wears a uni­form and car­ries a weapon. He’s a se­cu­rity con­trac­tor with MPRI, a Wash- in­g­ton-based firm. He works with the Army´s 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cav­alry Reg­i­ment in Diyala prov­ince.

He has been in Iraq sev­eral months, the lat­est stop in a jour­ney that be­gan Sept. 11, 2001.

“I was work­ing street crime in Mid­town Man­hat­tan,” he re­calls. “I was on my way to court when the planes hit and rushed to the scene. I was 100 me­ters away when the North Tower dropped.”

Like other po­lice­men that day, he did his job, try­ing to res­cue al Qaeda’s vic­tims and get­ting peo­ple out of the area. In the months that fol­lowed, he helped sift the de­bris from the Twin Tow­ers.

In Fe­bru­ary 2002, he re­tired af­ter 20 years on the force and moved into se­cu­rity work as a con­trac­tor.

His first stop was Asia, where he per­formed du­ties on con­tract for the U.S. State Depart­ment. Two years fol­lowed in the Congo, where he han­dled se­cu­rity in and around the in­ter­na­tional air­port in Kin­shasa for the United Na­tions while train­ing po­lice­men there on his own time. The next stop was Afghanistan as a po­lice trainer, and now he is in Iraq as a se­cu­rity spe­cial­ist at­tached to the Army.

“I had other op­por­tu­ni­ties at home af­ter Afghanistan, but when I saw that help­ing train lo­cal po­lice would help our troops in the field, I had to keep do­ing it. If I can help one sol­dier get home sooner, get home safe — no mat­ter how goofy that sounds — then it´s been worth­while.”

Mr. Young be­gan train­ing po­lice re­cruits in Diyala prov­ince´s “bread­bas­ket” agri­cul­tural area last month at the re­quest of Lt. Col. Rod Cof­fey, the com­man­der of the 3/2 Stryker reg­i­ment.

Diyala prov­ince con­sists of a volatile mix of Sunni and Shi’ite Arabs. How­ever, af­ter Sun­nis boy­cotted elec­tions in 2005, the Shi’ites took con­trol of the gov­ern­ment and its agen­cies.

The ma­jor­ity of po­lice, un­der the au­thor­ity of the Min­istry of In­te­rior of the Shi’ite-dom­i­nated na­tional gov­ern­ment, are Shi’ite.

They in­clude many who are thought to be — or have been — mem­bers of Shi’ite militias that fought fierce bat­tles in 2006 and 2007 against Sunni Arabs af­ter al Qaeda and its sym­pa­thiz­ers af­ter ter­ror­ists de­stroyed a Shi’ite shrine in Sa­marra and nearly ig­nited a sec­tar­ian civil war in the coun­try.

Mr. Young’s ap­proach to the sec­tar­ian di­vide is to re­peat­edly stress pro­fes­sion­al­ism.

“You’re po­lice­men,” he tells a gath­er­ing of re­cruits at a U.S. com­bat post out­side Muq­dadiyah. “You have to act pro­fes­sional. You have to put what­ever feel­ings you may have to­ward other groups out of your mind on the job.

“We hear [the po­lice] have been in­fil­trated [by ex­trem­ists],” he says later. “I think they’re be­ing weeded out daily, but it’s still a prob­lem. You have to build pride in them­selves and in their units so the de­cent ones will step for­ward and turn in the bad ones.”

Mr. Young’s teach­ings are ba­sic — how to dis­arm a per­son, ar­rest a per­son safely, the tell­tale signs of a sui­cide-vest bomber, how not to dis­turb pos­si­ble crime-scene ev­i­dence, how much force to use and how to work with the courts.

“If you’re try­ing to ar­rest a man and he starts fight­ing you with his fists, is it OK to shoot him?” he asks.

“Yes” was the near-unan­i­mous re­ply from the re­cruits. “No, No, No,” Mr. Young says with a look of shock on his face. “Your force has to be pro­por­tion­ate.”

Mr. Young ac­knowl­edges that his short classes are no sub­sti­tute for those at an Amer­i­can po­lice academy, but that sort of in­struc­tion could be months away for re­cruits in Diyala prov­ince, who are sim­ply given a uni­form and a gun and sent to work.

“You have to give them some­thing in the mean­time,” he says. “The po­lice in Iraq take the brunt of [ter­ror­ist] at­tacks. They take the knocks but haven’t been sup­ported enough” in com­par­i­son to the Iraqi army.

“They’re in the back seat” on train­ing and sup­port, he says.

“The po­lice here aren’t like the po­lice in the States or in Europe. They re­ally are a para­mil­i­tary force. [. . . ] But I truly be­lieve we are all law en­force­ment broth­ers.”

Re­tired New York City po­lice­man Don­ald Young teaches Iraqi po­lice re­cruits how to dis­arm and search sus­pects for weapons and con­cealed ex­plo­sive vests in Diyala prov­ince, nor th­east of Bagh­dad.

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