Despite overwhelming odds, Jim Hammond is hopeful that the hundreds of cadets he has trained to be Iraqi police officers will make a difference in Iraq’s transition to democracy. Hammond, a UT Chattanooga alumnus, urges the cadets to put aside political and ethnic differences. He believes, as his cadets do, that together they can help create better lives for everyone in a country ripped apart by violence.
When an Iraqi man decides to become a police cadet, his government recognizes steps must be taken to ensure his safety. To train for a law-enforcement career in Iraq’s currently hostile environment, the cadet leaves Iraq to train in Jordan. He must be a quick study, however, because there is not much time to learn.
More than 40,000 cadets have trained at the Jordanian International Police Training Center (JIPTC) near Amman, about 100 miles from the Iraqi border. Since the center opened in 2003, Hammond, a longtime Hamilton County (Tennessee) law enforcement professional and adjunct professor at UT Chattanooga, has served as chief of training for the U.S. Department of Justice. He says the Iraqi cadets train for just 2 months before they return to their country as police officers.
“They only get eight weeks’ training,” Hammond said. “I wish we could provide more. The first four weeks are spent on classroom theory, where they learn the basics. The last four weeks are all hands-on practical-skills training–firing range, learning patrol skills, all the things they need to actually go out on a beat.”
American police officers are prepared differently before they are sent onto the streets. In Chattanooga, for instance, cadets get 16 weeks’ basic training, followed by 6 months’ training under the direct supervision of a sergeant or ranking officer. Then for the rest of their careers, they take annually administered specialized classes.
Training cadets at JIPTC is only one of the financial obligations of the American effort toward advancing democracy around the world, according to Hammond. “In the world of politics, everything has to be rush-rush. You always feel uncomfortable with the level of training you are able to give them. But it is better than nothing,” Hammond says.
Unfortunately, Hammond’s fears are reasonable. Approximately 2,000 of the cadets who were trained at the center have died after returning to Iraq–the highest death rate for police officers in the world. “With that said, there is a passion among these young men to make a difference in their country. They have always lived in danger, even under Saddam Hussein, so it is something they are used to. They are a bit fatalistic, but they are very stoic about their jobs, and they just go at it and don’t give it a whole lot of concern, like we would in our country,” said Hammond.
Hammond’s career has prepared him well for this endeavor. For 30 years, he worked in law enforcement, spending 17 years as the chief deputy sheriff in Hamilton County. For the last 12 years, he has done international training in Haiti, Russia, Romania, and Jamaica, working for an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice that helps emerging democracies learn democratic policing.
In Jordan, at any time there may be as many as 3,500 cadets training under 320 international instructors from 18 countries. They are required to speak English, but Hammond says, some do not speak it well.
“We have more than a hundred and fifty language assistants who do nothing but translate English to classic Arabic, because that’s what the cadets speak. Very few cadets speak English. Among the cadets, we also have several dialects of Kurdish, so it can get a little bit confusing when you have that many people with that many accents from that many countries speaking many different languages,” Hammond said.
Surprisingly, he says the cadets get along quite well with each other: “They are there for one purpose–to train to return to their country with a good job and a good career, so they can put their issues aside for what they see as an opportunity to earn a living for their family and make a difference for their country,” Hammond says.
Hammond believes that it is important to continue America’s presence in Iraq. “If you don’t fight terrorism in that part of the world, you will fight it in your own country,” he said. Hammond’s assessment is based upon his observations of a place where murder and tribal wars have become part of the culture for many, a situation that Americans have a difficult time comprehending.
Despite the tension Americans often feel when they visit the Middle East, Hammond is not overly concerned about his own safety, saying there are good security methods practiced throughout Jordan, especially at JIPTC. Hammond’s wife, Jeannie, has accompanied him on his international missions and lives with him in Jordan. The two live in a metropolitan area with access to restaurants, theaters, and amazing sights, including the Dead Sea and beautiful deserts.
According to Hammond, Jeannie has networked in Jordan to use her skills effectively as a makeup consultant. “She has consulted with the ambassador’s wife and the mother of King Abdullah, Princess Muna, who is British,” Hammond said. “People everywhere can find common ground, and that doesn’t change, no matter what country you visit.”
Hammond says there is a marked difference in the U.S. government and the average Middle Eastern perception of it. “They don’t necessarily realize that the American government is, as Abraham Lincoln put it, ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people,'” Hammond says. “In their system you have a monarchy or absolute dictatorial rule, so they don’t understand that in a democracy like America, the government represents the people.
“It is easier for them to criticize President Bush or the U.S. Congress because they never think of them as the American people,” he says. “They think of them as a big machine that stands against the average American person, so it is hard for them to grasp our form of democracy.”
For now, those feelings may spare Americans from being individually targeted, according to Hammond. As a guest in Jordan, he is considerate of his acquaintances’ feelings, in much the same way as he would be with friends in the United States, avoiding political and religious discussions.
Hammond’s role at JIPTC was scheduled to conclude in December 2006. He has been proud to play a part in Iraq’s emerging democracy and to have had a hand in training police officers who stand in the gap between criminals and the innocent.
“I feel very strongly that my background in training, both from my education at UTC and my ability to be part of the adjunct faculty in the Criminal Justice Department, has certainly laid the groundwork for where I am today. I greatly appreciate what the university has meant to me,” Hammond said.
Dr. Roger Thompson, associate professor in the UTC Department of Criminal Justice, has enjoyed knowing Hammond and watching his career develop. “Jim Hammond and I go back about thirty years in friendship and association,” he says.
“We have worked together in the law enforcement community. It is indeed a credit to UTC that a person from our community serves in the top leadership position in relation to international policing efforts. Suffice it to say we are very proud of his character and contributions to the criminal justice system.”