British and American efforts to rebuild Iraq's police after the 2003 invasion were under-funded and unrealistic, the inquiry into the war heard today.
The first UK chief police adviser in Baghdad said there was an assumption that an efficient Iraqi police force would simply "rise like a phoenix" within months.
Douglas Brand, former deputy chief constable of South Yorkshire Police, criticised the lack of support he received, including the Foreign Office's failure to give him bodyguards for his first three weeks in Iraq.
He also highlighted a missed opportunity to model Iraqi intelligence on British lines because the UK would not send out an experienced Special Branch manager.
Paul Kernaghan, the Association of Chief Police Officers lead on international affairs from 2000 to 2008, said: "I do not believe there was ever a clear, comprehensive, realistic strategic plan for policing in Iraq."
Mr Brand arrived in Baghdad as the UK's chief police adviser to the Ministry of Interior in July 2003 having been briefed on a policing plan that he described as "high on aspiration but low on substance".
He told the inquiry it was "quite breathtaking" to compare the huge resources available for training the Iraqi army with the limited help for the police.
He said: "There was nothing for the police. There seemed to be this expectation that the police would just rise like a phoenix and just get on with things like they always do...
"In fact sometimes it felt quite lonely because there was nobody else recognising the fact that you don't have this quantity of trained police to do the policing job that everybody wants them to do.
"And in order to get more it's going to take an awful lot longer than the time frames that were then starting to be talked about."
Mr Brand recalled that targets of recruiting 30,000 Iraqi police in just 30 days were openly discussed in the military headquarters in Baghdad by August 2003.
He said: "I do find it rather strange that otherwise well-informed professional thinkers could imagine that you could just create a police, thinking about their own countries, thinking about the United Kingdom.
"It takes a long time to develop that skill. Yet here we were facing people just being gathered together, being called police and then pushed out, saying 'OK, you get on with it'."
Mr Brand spoke of the personal difficulties he had in carrying out his task.
He was sent to Iraq with no support staff, although he was loaned a British Army captain to help him, and was not given a protection team until three weeks after he had arrived. He also had "great difficulty" in finding someone in the Foreign Office to authorise the cost of business trips within the Middle East.
Mr Brand noted that the provision of British police officers to help train their Iraqi counterparts was "slow and fragmented", and he said South Yorkshire Police offered only "limited" support to his family while he was in Baghdad.
Mr Kernaghan, the former chief constable of Hampshire Police, said some UK police forces refused to supply officers, particularly for service on the ground in Iraq.
"Some chief constables were very supportive of their officers, whilst one deputy chief constable publicly questioned the sanity of his officers who were serving in Iraq," he said in a statement to the inquiry.
Mr Kernaghan said there were "great aspirations" to improve Iraq's police but they were under-resourced.
He also criticised the fear some UK officials had of using accurate language.
"The term 'occupying power' was both legally correct and a statement of fact, but some diplomats shied away from it," he said.
"This compounded an attitude displayed by many British officials that the master plan was working and that to raise the issue of pre-invasion planning was to question Government policy.
"There was a real sense of denial and a lack of objective yet constructive ongoing re-appraisal of the mission," he said.
A previously classified report written by Mr Kernaghan after visiting Iraq in May 2003 was made public by the inquiry today.
The document, which was sent to then home secretary David Blunkett and then foreign secretary Jack Straw, reveals the appalling state of Iraqi police stations, courthouses and prisons after the US-led invasion.
"Looting does not do justice to the level of destruction inflicted, and I can best liken the outcome to the progress of locusts across a field of corn," Mr Kernaghan wrote.
He also noted that local police had "no crimed" a murder because the victim was an "adulteress".
The inquiry, which resumed public hearings today after a break for the general election, has invited international lawyers to comment on the justification given by the British Government for going to war against Saddam Hussein's regime.
Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot also confirmed that he and his panel have met in secret with UK officials, diplomats and military officers to discuss issues such as intelligence.
A list of these witnesses will be published within a week or so, he said.
Former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix and ex-MI5 director general Baroness Manningham-Buller are among the witnesses who will appear before the inquiry over the next month.
The fresh round of evidence sessions will also hear from ex-deputy prime minister John Prescott and two former heads of the Army, General Sir Mike Jackson and General Sir Richard Dannatt.
The inquiry was adjourned until 10am tomorrow.Reuse content