Forces mark anniversary with parades and celebration

Iraqi police at 102: A century of resilience or adaptation?

964NEWSROOM, January 9, 2024 — Formed in 1922, following the establishment of the modern Iraqi state under the British mandate, the Iraqi police have been an integral part of the state’s fabric, adapting and evolving through various political and social upheavals.

The police force’s early years were marked by efforts to establish a unified law enforcement body in a newly-formed state. Trained and initially overseen by British advisors, the force aimed to maintain internal security and public order. During the monarchy era (1921-1958), the police were instrumental in implementing the policies of successive governments, while also confronting challenges like rural banditry and tribal disputes. The police also played a significant role in dealing with political and social upheavals.

The 1958 revolution, which overthrew the monarchy, marked a significant shift. The police force underwent substantial changes as the new republican government sought to reshape state institutions. This period saw increased politicization of the police, with the force often being used to suppress dissent and maintain regime control, in a pattern that continued under various governments.

Under the Ba’athist regime (1968-2003), the police force was heavily influenced by the ruling party, often being employed as an instrument of state control. This era was marked by the use of police for surveillance, intelligence gathering, and the enforcement of regime policies, often through harsh measures.

Following the 2003 invasion and the subsequent fall of the Ba’athist regime, the Iraqi police faced one of its most challenging phases. The rebuilding of the police force was crucial for national recovery. Efforts led by various international actors, focused on retraining and restructuring the police to serve in the new state. However, this period was marred by sectarian violence, internal corruption, and the struggle against insurgent groups, posing significant challenges to the effectiveness and credibility of the police.

In recent years, the Iraqi police have been engaged in the fight against terrorism, particularly against groups like ISIS. This period has seen the police take on a more militarized role, participating alongside the military in counter-terrorism operations. Efforts have also been made to depoliticize and professionalize the police force, although challenges remain in terms of corruption, sectarian biases, and human rights issues.

The 102nd anniversary of the Iraqi police is a reflection on a century of change, challenges, and adaptation. The future of the Iraqi police will likely continue to be shaped by the country’s evolving political landscape and the ongoing efforts to ensure stability and security in Iraq.