Iraq's Police Force Draws Recruits Despite Dangers

Abdul Zahara Finjan is training for what may be the riskiest job in Iraq: a police officer.

The country's burgeoning police force is a primary target for insurgents seeking to undermine the country's security services.

Insurgents have killed hundreds of police officers and intimidated countless others -- the result of assassinations, bombings and kidnappings.

Finjan -- who was a truck driver before the war started -- acknowledges the inherent dangers but says he wants to do it "for [the] defense of my country and my brothers and my kids."

His biggest fear is that insurgents will target his wife and seven children.

"Kill me, OK," he said. "But not kill my family."

Undeterred by Dangers

Despite the risks, Iraqis keep signing up to serve. The Baghdad Police College says it has no shortage of recruits. In a country with unemployment well over 50 percent, a police paycheck -- about $200 a month -- is simply too tempting.

The cadets interviewed by ABC News insist their motives aren't financial.

Faisal Ghazi gave up a higher-paying job in the private sector and joined the force to avenge the death of his cousin -- a police officer who was beheaded by insurgents.

"Me [and] my uncles joined the police force in order to capture the terrorist who killed him," he said. "With God as my witness, I will sacrifice my life to capture his killers."

Sub-Par Performance?

Whatever their motives, there is reason to doubt the quality of some of the recruits.

Since January 2004, more than 8,000 Iraqi cadets have completed the eight-week training course. But their Western trainers are quite candid about some cadets' low level of education and maturity. Having lived under a tyranny, many are unaccustomed to the newfound independence and responsibility.

Iraqi officers have frequently failed to perform under fire and have been accused of rampant human rights violations.

Officials at the police college say if the training period were longer, they could mitigate some of the problems. A similar training program in the United States lasts 12 to 26 weeks. But with the insurgency raging, the first priority is getting more officers on the streets.

While Finjan agrees the quality of some recruits is sub-par, he says he is proud to be part of any force not controlled by Saddam Hussein.

As for the risk, he said, "Whether [I die] now or later, I'd rather do so honorably."

ABC News' Dan Harris filed this report for "World News Tonight."

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