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St. Paul officer part of complex contractor industry

When a roadside bomb killed St. Paul Police Officer Kyle Kaszynski Thursday morning in Baghdad, Kaszynski died in the line of duty. But his duty at that moment was to a private security firm, Crucible Inc. The 39-year-old Kaszynski took a leave-of-absence from the St. Paul force in October to pursue a patriotic -- and likely lucrative -- tour as one of the tens of thousands who make up an armed, non-military force in Iraq.

St. Paul, Minn. — The sheer complexity of the private security industry in Iraq is evident in the details of Kyle Kaszynski's death: Kaszynski worked for Crucible, a subsidiary of the Kroll Corporation, which in this case was a subcontractor for DynCorp International. DynCorp, in turn, was hired to provide security for U.S. Justice Department officials working for a U.S. military program to train Iraqi police.

Kaszynski was riding in the rear of a convoy transporting officials from Baghdad to the town of Baqubah to inspect the operations of a prison there.

Greg Lagana, a spokesman for DynCorp International, says to his knowledge the vehicles were not passing through a notoriously dangerous stretch of road.

"It was an IED (Improvised Explosive Device), a roadside bomb. I'm not sure of the strength of it -- all I know is that it exploded on the passenger side of the last vehicle in a four-car convoy," Lagana says.

A spokeswoman for Kroll, Jodie Rosenbloom, says Kaszynski was the third Kroll employee to die in Iraq. Two others died in the same incident in January, also while guarding vehicles on-the-move. She offered the following statement:

"The work we are doing in Iraq is of great importance to the country. Our staff understands the risks involved. We are constantly reviewing the protection of our people in Iraq, and there are bound to be lessons learned from this incident."

Rosenbloom says it's too early to say what those lessons might be.

Steven Schooner, a George Washington University law professor and an authority on the growth of private military contracting, estimates Kaszynski was among more than 20,000 armed, non-military contractors in Iraq.

"The government's need for arms-bearing contractors -- whether you want to call them security contractors, private security or, in the vernacular, "mercenaries" -- the government's appetite for these types of services has basically been insatiable in Iraq," Schooner says.

Schooner says military policy in Iraq leaves large holes to be filled by private contracting. While he is unfamiliar with details of the attack that took Kaszynski's life, Schooner says it is no secret many security contractors do not have access to the same level of weaponry and protective equipment as the military. But they are well compensated for the danger.

"It is reasonable to expect that people would make at a minimum three, four, five times as much as they'd make (in civilian life), and there's the potential to make 10 times as much," Schooner says.

Kaszynski's employer, Kroll, declined to discuss compensation. The company Kroll subcontracted for, DynCorp International, is currently recruiting for positions in Iraq starting at $121,000 dollars a year, plus all housing and meals.

Officer Pete Crum, a spokesman for the St. Paul police, says he is aware of one other officer currently on-leave with a private security company in Iraq. Crum says the financial incentive is not a consideration when Police Chief John Harrington decides to grant a leave-of-absence.

Nor is the fact that the department is more likely to lose an officer by sending him to Iraq.

"It is more dangerous," Crum says. "He is the first person we've lost, actually, like that. But police departments are set up to take losses, and it's a fact of life."

DynCorp International's Lagana says police looking for a new experience and a change of pace remain among the company's recruiting targets.

"We go to chiefs of police (to recruit), we go to police meetings, union meetings -- we really have to promote it," he says. "There's a financial incentive, but I have to say being familiar with some of these guys, they really do have a sense that they're doing something good."

In short comments to the media on Thursday, Kaszynski's family said he believed private contracting was his way of doing his part for the U.S. in Iraq. They also said he hoped to gain an experience he had missed by never joining the military.

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