Egypt’s police in urgent need of reform

Egyptians traditionally tend to admire and respect their police apparatus. Like many other nationalities, Egyptians generally don’t have much esteem for their government. Yet the police profession still appeals to a large segment of Egyptians who aspire to be a part of it. However, Egyptian police officers’ understanding of their duties depends on each individual and often entails a combination of moral and immoral practices.

Culturally, our society is not a strict one; Egyptians tend to value compromise over discipline. This trait is also inherent in our police apparatus, which is not isolated from societal norms. In fact, the lack of firmness affects the police apparatus more than it does any other government entity. Strictness is an essential component for the police apparatus; its absence affects its operational efficiency – which is the case.

Egypt desperately needs to restore a healthy relationship between its police apparatus and its citizens. This will not happen unless the Egyptian State works on reforming our security apparatus, along with extensively upgrading its capabilities and equipment. Although such a bold move will certainly privilege the police apparatus substantially, the Egyptian State declines to accept it, believing that the superior status of the police apparatus immunizes it against all forms of reform.

Furthermore, Egypt is a nation that revolves around “influential connections” and members of the police apparatus are obviously the most influential State employees. Thus, many Egyptians tend to build relationships with police personnel with the aim of benefiting from their authority, a practice that can lead to deep and widespread abuse of power. In such a corrupt environment, police officers who truly want to enforce the law suffer the most.

Apparently, excelling in any given field of education is completely different from real life practices. Much of the behavior and many of the practices of Egyptian police members are in direct contradiction to what they were probably taught at their police academy. This disparity can be easily overcome by applying mandatory reforms. Numerous comprehensive studies exist explaining how to reform our police apparatus to improve its operation – but the Egyptian State is convinced that this would be a self-defeating move.

I believe that while our police people are quite intelligent, the State has placed them in an inappropriate frame.  Police officers who are accused by citizens of abusing their power may also be seen as victims of the State that prompts them to apply harsh policies – a course of action that can eventually have a negative impact on their careers and lives. When citizens are extremely frustrated, they will obviously express their rage at the government – and in the eyes of Egyptians, the police apparatus has come to represent the government. This is what happened when people attacked and burned police stations during the 25 January 2011 revolution.

The absence of justice in Egypt is due to the ambiguity of many of our laws combined with the weakness of law enforcement, which negatively affect our justice mechanism. The result is that we live in a “gray area” that prompts many citizens to break the law in the knowledge that they can easily get away with their crimes, anticipating that our police apparatus may be reluctant to enforce the law. This should prompt us to urgently revisit the rules of engagement between Egyptian citizens and their police.

The Egyptian police apparatus could maintain its supremacy while also applying gradual reforms that would empower it to function as a fair and efficient entity (which is what Egypt desperately needs). The reality is that the Egyptian State doesn’t want to either reform the police force or expand its authority (this could lead to police power exceeding that of other State entities). Therefore, I anticipate that the controversial engagement between the two parties and the deficiency of our justice system will maintain the rift between police and civilians for years to come.

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