Contractor Tries To Avert Repeat Of Bosnia Woes
Sex scandal still haunts DynCorp
By John Crewdson, Tribune senior correspondent
Hoping to avoid a repeat of a sex scandal that marred the presence of American police officers in Bosnia, U.S. law-enforcement personnel recruited to help reorganize Iraq's shattered police forces must acknowledge in writing that human trafficking and involvement with prostitution "are considered illegal by the international community and are immoral, unethical and strictly prohibited."
The new acknowledgment was instituted in February by DynCorp International, the private Washington-area company that recruited peace officers for Bosnia-Herzegovina on behalf of the U.S. State Department and is now rushing to hire new officers willing to spend the sweltering summer as police advisers and trainers in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.
A senior State Department official, Paul Kelly, assured U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde
(R-Ill.) this week that his department has been working with DynCorp to prevent a repetition of the revelations by Kathryn Bolkovac, a former Omaha
police officer hired by DynCorp for a UN-administered International Police
Task Force that played the same advisory role in Bosnia now being envisioned for Iraq.
Bolkovac recently won a $173,000 judgment against a DynCorp subsidiary in
Britain after an employment tribunal there ruled she had been wrongly fired
for blowing the whistle on what she alleged was the sexual misbehavior of
DynCorp, which later dismissed seven of its employees in Bosnia for what a
spokesman described as "unacceptable behavior" is appealing the judgment.
Despite the Bosnian incident, the State Department recently informed Hyde
that it had decided to pay DynCorp $22 million to recruit an initial
contingent of 150 retired or former police officers for Iraq. Kelley later
told Hyde the department hopes to send an additional 1,000 police advisers
to Iraq if Congress provides funding.
In a letter to Hyde, Kelly referred without elaboration to "reforms in the
contractor's procedures" designed to prevent a recurrence of the events in
Asked what the reforms entailed beyond the new written statement, a DynCorp spokesman said the company has always conducted "extensive" personnel background checks and that it had improved the psychological tests it will administer to prospective police recruits for Iraq.
"If there is any blemish in their work histories, any internal affairs
investigations that indicate a problem or any other indication of a problem,
the applicants are rejected from the program," said the spokesman, Chuck
According to a DynCorp Web site, the company is seeking U.S. citizens with
"unblemished backgrounds" and at least 10 years of experience as sworn
police officers who have not been out of uniform for more than five years.
"We are looking," the company says, "for 150 sergeants and above with
supervision in specialized fields [K9, investigations, traffic, narcotics,
administration, etc.] for placement in Iraq when the dust settles, with an
additional 500 positions below sergeant later on down the road."
The tax-exempt salaries being offered range from $63,000 to $74,000 a year,
with the State Department paying for housing and food.
None of the DynCorp recruits is intended to take the place of "cops on the
beat," according to State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. "We're not going to do the policing of Iraqi cities," he said.
DynCorp reportedly is telling callers that it plans to have police officers
"on the ground" in Iraq within a month. Some staff members of the House
International Relations Committee, of which Hyde is chairman, expressed
concern that a hasty recruiting effort might fail to identify officers with
less than unblemished records.
"Rushing in contractors might undo some of the good that we have created,"
one aide said, suggesting that the misuse of alcohol or sexual misbehavior
by American police officers in Iraq could do significant damage to the
reputation of the U.S. in other Islamic nations.
However they're selected, the advisers are urgently needed. In recent days,
allied forces have had their hands full with looters and general civil
unrest in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.
Before the war there were an estimated 80,000 police in Iraq--one for every
300 Iraqi citizens--an enormous number of officers to protect an essentially
unarmed population. The police disappeared when the U.S. military arrived,
and not many have rushed to regain their old jobs, most likely because they
were involved in repressive acts.
DynCorp, which last year was bought by another giant government contractor, the California-based Computer Sciences Corp., holds contracts with more than 40 federal agencies including the Pentagon, State Department, Drug Enforcement Administration, Department of Energy and the Justice Department.
Public records show that DynCorp, which hires former Special Operations
military personnel and CIA operators and contracts them back to the
government, is linked to at least 50 subsidiaries and satellite companies
across the U.S. and around the world. Some of the scores of lawsuits brought
against DynCorp over the years suggest that it also has worked through
companies whose ownership and connections cannot be traced, possibly on
behalf of the CIA.
DynCorp hires the pilots, mostly retired U.S. military flyers, who defoliate
coca and opium poppy crops in Colombia as part of a U.S.-Colombian operation called Plan Colombia. In Peru last year, a plane carrying an American missionary was accidentally shot down when a DynCorp pilot misidentified it as a drug-smuggling flight.
The company also provides the former U.S. Special Forces personnel who
currently guard Afghan President Hamid Karzai and some U.S. ambassadors
abroad, and many of the mechanics who maintain Air Force jets and Army
helicopters in the Balkans and the Persian Gulf.
Until it was purchased by CSC, DynCorp was the nation's 13th-largest
military contractor, with about 23,000 employees and $2.3 billion in
revenue. The combined company is among the top 10 government contractors, with nearly $14 billion in annual revenues.
The DynCorp name was tarnished after Bolkovac, assigned to work with a Human Rights team in Sarajevo training local police officers to investigate
human-rights abuses, sent an e-mail to colleagues and UN officials, alleging
that, among other things, that UN staff and some of her fellow officers
patronized houses of prostitution that employed women as young as 13.
Bolkovac was reassigned, demoted and then fired for what DynCorp said were improper expense claims she submitted.
In June 2001, Bolkovac sued a DynCorp subsidiary in Britain, saying she had
been wrongfully dismissed in retaliation for reporting the behavior of her fellow officers. In November, the tribunal concluded Bolkovac had been
"knifed . . . in the back" by senior UN staff and awarded her $173,000.
Within hours of the Bolkovac ruling, DynCorp settled out of court with
another former employee, Ben Johnston, hired as a helicopter mechanic in
In a separate suit Johnston alleged that DynCorp employees and supervisors
had been "engaging in perverse, illegal and inhumane behavior [and] were
purchasing illegal weapons, women, forged passports and [participating in]
other immoral acts."
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