A POLICEMAN is swapping his rural beat for the heat and dust of post-war Iraq.

PC Kevin Woodcock, from Bishop Auckland, flies out to Basra next month on a United Nations mission to improve conditions in the country.

His team will spend a year acting as tutor constables for new recruits to the Iraqi force, who have recently graduated from the police training school in Jordan.

PC Woodcock, who is married with teenage stepdaughters and two young sons from his first marriage, is confident he will be safe during the secondment after reading news reports and trawling the Internet for information.

He said: "It will be hard work, I don't think for a moment it is going to be a cushy number. But while I am not on any sort of crusade, I do think the people over there have nothing, and unless others go across and help they will stay with nothing."

Although he was an authorised firearms officer earlier in his career, PC Woodcock has to take a firearms course before starting the new post.

He was born in Darlington and started his police career in London with the Met before returning to County Durham in 1994.

After four years as a beat officer in Evenwood and Toft Hill, he has recently been Acting Sergeant in the south communications room at Bishop Auckland.

Chief Inspector Tim Wilson, who works in personnel and development for Durham Constabulary, and DC Mick Elsom, from the major crime team, are the next officers in line to be seconded abroad.