One man's trash another man's treasure

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— A group of Iraqi police officers have exemplified the old adage that one man's trash is another man's treasure.

Blue police uniform shirts -- some of which sat in a Steamboat Springs Police Department storage room, unused, for more than 10 years -- are being put to good use by Iraqi policeman.

This summer, while cleaning out a storage room in preparation for the remodel of the Steamboat Springs Public Safety Building, Public Safety Director JD Hays came across a closet full of the shirts.

He immediately thought of Dwight Murphy, a Steamboat Springs police officer who took a year off to train Iraqi policemen in Baghdad.

"There was a closet full of things we needed to get rid of," Hays said. "We had uniforms we couldn't use anymore, and I had an idea (that) maybe Dwight would be able to use those with the Iraqi police."

Hays estimates the police department had at least 100 shirts that were no longer needed. The police department packed the shirts into four large boxes and sent them to Iraq.

The patches with the Steamboat Springs logo had been taken off the shirts, but they were the same light blue color that officers wear today.

"The police were extremely happy to receive them," Murphy wrote in an e-mail from Iraq. The newly trained police officers were amazed at the zipper in the shirts and the Velcro on the pockets, features rare in Iraqi clothing, Murphy wrote.

"Although these guys get uniforms, they are few and far between," he wrote.

Murphy is a longtime Steamboat Springs policeman who worked for years with GRAMNET, the Grand, Routt and Moffat Narcotic Enforcement Team. He volunteered to go to Iraq for a year to help train police officers through the private company DynCorp International.

His position in Baghdad is deputy commander of support operations. He oversees the commanders within his region who cover internal affairs, information management, Iraqi ministry of interior logistics and staffing, community relations, the International Zone Police, Baghdad Chief of Police, Iraqi Highway Patrol, airport police, traffic police, major crimes, organized crimes and all of the police adviser programs.

With the help of e-mail and a cell phone, Murphy stays in frequent contact with his family, friends and co-workers in Colorado.

When Hays mentioned the shirts, he said Murphy jumped at the opportunity to have them. Murphy oversees the International Zone Police, which has about 60 officers.

"So a hundred shirts come in handy," Hays said.

In his e-mail, Murphy, who is expected to return to Steamboat in March, thanked the city and police department for thinking of the Iraqis and what he called their continuing struggle to survive.

"This gesture only helped solidify my interaction with the police as we continue to rebuild," he wrote.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or email cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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