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Troops help Iraqi police do their jobs in ‘hell’

U.S. firepower gives the Iraqi police the protection to patrol. They need it. Some 119 Iraqi policemen were killed in October alone. NBC's Richard Engel reports.

The soldiers from the 615th Military Police Company rolled out Thursday morning into a neighborhood they call "hell."

The neighborhood is Ghazaliya, a Sunni insurgent stronghold in West Baghdad. Once wealthy, now empty, streets flooded with sewage and trash.

The platoon's mission is very dangerous and basic. Their firepower gives the police the protection to patrol. They need it. One hundred nineteen Iraqi policemen were killed in October alone.

At a local station, it's obvious why. Their cars aren't armored.

Lt. Jeff Salzano's platoon has been working with Iraqi cops for 10 months and feels torn about pushing them on patrol so ill-equipped.

"I wish I could give them just some little armored plating on the side of their trucks," Salzano says.

More compassion is on display at another station — MPs treat an Iraqi policeman wounded in a bomb attack.

Every one of these cops tells us he’s been injured. There were 120 police at this station three months ago. Now only 30 show up for work. The rest were killed, injured or quit.

They show me empty weapons, no bullets — they have to keep track of every round they fire and pay for the ones they can't account for.

But there are reasons U.S. forces keep a close watch on the ammo. Some of the police still on the force are tied to Shiite militias.

Does Salzano trust them?

"Some of them," he says. "Not all of them."

Suddenly, Salzano receives a call. A body's been found, but the police want American protection to pick it up.

"And we don't have any fuel," a policeman says.

So the MPs escort them to fill up. The police are still a long way from going it alone.