Uniformed officers say that at least the Saddam Hussein regime would usually provide the family of a slain officer with land and a large cash grant to secure its future. Now, there are no provisions for the families of those who die in the line of duty.
"Up to now, the families of those who died have received nothing," said Capt. Ali Kamal, a dispatcher at the emergency response unit, in an interview prior to the attack.
In addition, officers frequently are described as collaborators by opponents of the U.S. presence, a charge that occasionally is accompanied by death threats to the police and their families.
"It's much more dangerous now," Kamal told a reporter visiting the unit last week. "We feel a little unnerved, but we're still doing our job."
Khadam, the police commander, insisted that the high casualty rate reflects the courage and determination of his men and that these traits are an important reason for the sharp drop in crime over the past few months. Improvements in essential services -- especially electricity -- have also helped cut robberies, carjackings and other violent crimes as more neighborhoods are more consistently lighted during the night. As proof, he noted that Baghdad's main open markets, which for the first several months after the war closed at 4 p.m., now stay open past dark, often until 8 p.m.
At one level, the Iraqi Police appears to have time on its side.
Despite the high death toll, the dangers and frequent threats, Khadam said recruitment remains strong and only a few men have left the force. And senior officers say that protective vests, better cars and more weapons are on the way.
The occupation authority's assessment of needs over the next five years called for allocating more money -- $5 billion -- for police and other security services than to any other sector except the country's crucial oil industry. Most police stations have been repainted and provided with new furniture, fans and air conditioners.
Salaries have also increased substantially.
Lt. Col. Haithan Ali Azzawi, a senior officer in the emergency response unit, said he earned the equivalent of $17 per month during the Hussein era but now pulls down $180. Despite the problems they face, most officers interviewed said life is better and the future looks brighter.
The number of officers has grown steadily from near zero following the collapse of Hussein's regime in April to between 35,000 and 40,000 today -- a figure roughly half the target strength of 65,000. In Baghdad, station house commanders consistently said they need about twice their existing strength to regain the initiative in the fight to restore law and order.
Khadam said the new force is already drawing heavily on national police veterans, after screening out those who had been prominent members of Hussein's Baath Party. Western military police units have done much of the retraining.
Veterans of the old force have faced major changes. In most cases, officers called back take a three-week crash course on fundamental principles such as rules of evidence, suspects' rights and crime prevention.
For most serving in the new Iraq, for example, just walking a beat is a novel experience. During Hussein's time, officers tended to wait at their police stations, either for someone to come in to report a crime or for the telephone to ring with orders to arrest someone.
Iraqi officers -- even at the senior level -- seemed baffled about what they see as an American preoccupation with the rights of criminal suspects. At the Sulaikh district station house in northern Baghdad, officers still talk about the grilled chicken dinner an American MP brought two months ago to two women arrested on suspicion of plotting to kill a family member.
"Here they were, accused of murder, and the Americans brought them a meal I'd be proud to have on my own table at home," said Lt. Col. Saadi Razuqy Qaysi. "That's just wrong."
Such sentiments are born of the conviction held deep down by many here that, as a people, Iraqis tend to mistake tolerance and leniency for weakness and therefore need a tough -- though fair -- hand.
Col. Teddy Spain of the 18th Military Brigade, head of U.S. military police in Baghdad, explained the U.S. approach.
"I've heard them say, 'You guys are too soft.' And we've seen the way they treat detainees. Sometimes it's get-a-confession-at-all-costs. This is not a matter of wanting them to do it the way we do it in the U.S. We're not trying to turn them into NYPD or LAPD. It's a matter of abiding by international standards."
Times staff writer Edmund Sanders contributed to this report.