Story and photo by Sgt. Kissta M. Feldner, 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Public Affairs
AL ASAD, Iraq – A team of policemen arrived at the scene of an explosion, securing the area while others broke off to inspect the damage. The vehicle containing the car bomb still smoked from the recent explosion, and a man lay under the shade of a palm tree, bleeding and yelling for help in Arabic.
Iraqi policemen from the Hit district conducted a crime scene investigation training exercise at Al Asad Air Base, on July 6, the culmination of two weeks of training with military police from 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division. During the training, IPs were instructed on basic crime scene management, said 1st Lt. Katherine Vanier, the military police platoon leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd BSTB and a native of Minocqua, Wis. The policemen are learning new ways to secure the crime scene so as to not contaminate the area or any evidence that could lead to the conviction of the criminals involved, Vanier said.
However, this exercise was not intended to change the way the policemen conduct crime scene investigations, but to show them different methods to help improve their ability to preserve the scene.
“Ensuring that the crime scene is not contaminated allows investigators to do their job,” said Staff Sgt. Donny Timas, a 2nd BSTB MP. “We want to ensure the safety of the Iraqi police and that evidence is handled correctly,” Timas said.
As first responders, the policemen need to ensure that the scene is safe. They do so by searching for secondary explosives and contacting an explosive ordnance disposal unit to remove any ordnance from the scene. During the exercise, one policeman conducted a thorough inspection of the site, found three pieces of unexploded ordnance, and requested their removal by EOD.
After the area was safe for the policemen to enter, two provided first aid to the casualty. Covered in rubber shrapnel wounds and drenched with simulated blood, the victim was quickly bandaged to stop the “bleeding” and evacuated from the scene.
The policemen also pulled security on the area and conducted crowd control. Iraqi men posing as curious local residents were denied access to the area, and when the men became belligerent, they were cuffed, searched and questioned.
With the site cleared of explosives and secured from outsiders, Muhammed Adel Abdul Gafoor, an IP investigator, was able to safely gather evidence. Gafoor scanned the entire scene for items to be taken back to the department to be checked for fingerprints and for further inspection. He photographed the scene and, donning rubber gloves, gently placed a cell phone into a brown paper evidence bag.
When Gafoor finished gathering evidence, he photographed suspects and collected their fingerprints to be scanned at the police department.
“They didn’t rush the scene and contaminate evidence,” said Sgt. Jose Ayala, a 2nd BSTB MP and native of San Diego, CA. “They took all the proper steps.”
“The MP’s process of dealing with the crime scene is totally different than ours,” said Imad Adalan Hamid, an Iraqi policeman. Hamid said he and his peers learned new methods to secure and cordon the area and how to do their job without contaminating evidence.
“You must be sure not to touch the evidence inside the crime scene, because then your prints may be picked up and you could become a suspect.” Hamid saidHe added that the training was a good refresher for the Iraqi police, and he feels that he will be able to pass this training on to other IPs in the future.