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Egypt Index


Cairo street scene with traffic police officer
Courtesy Susan Becker

The Nasser and Sadat administrations initiated a number of police and law-enforcement reforms. They strengthened police organization and improved public security. According to official statements, the incidence of serious crimes decreased because of these changes. Nevertheless, the tight political security enforced under Nasser created a police state. Although controls were greatly eased by Sadat, widespread dislike of the police persisted.

Egypt's national police had a wide variety of functions and responsibilities. The national police was responsible for maintaining law and order, preventing and detecting crime, supporting the court system through the collection of evidence, and other police duties, including processing passports, screening immigrants, operating prisons, controlling traffic, guarding special events and celebrities, suppressing smuggling and narcotics trafficking, preventing political subversion and sabotage, guarding transport and utility installations, preventing black marketing, and participating in civil defense.

Turkish and French systems influenced the organization of Egypt's police force until the late nineteenth century, when the British modified the system. The national-level police force, set up in 1883, was trained and staffed by British officials and became the basis for the system that was still used in 1990. In 1922, when the British, with reservations, relinquished sovereignty to the Egyptians, the police became a virtual private agency of the monarch, and police administration became even more highly centralized. After the 1952 Revolution (which was supported by the police), all police functions were placed under the direction of the Ministry of Interior.

As of early 1987, the size of the regular police force was reported to be about 122,000; an estimated 40,000 positions were unfilled because police jobs paid poorly and offered few benefits. A typical policeman in 1986 earned between £E60 and £E70 (US$30 to US$35) a month. Salaries in real terms were lower in 1986 than in 1976. According to one Egyptian analysis, police salaries were low in part as a result of excessive allocations of funds for other purposes. The Ministry of Interior's budget had increased 400 percent over an eight-year period, but much of this money was spent on equipment used primarily for controlling riots.

The low salaries encouraged many police officers to accept small bribes (in exchange for overlooking traffic citations, for example) to compensate for their unrealistically low wages. At a higher level, police corruption took the form of complicity in drug smuggling. The creation of law-enforcement bodies within the ministries of supply, transportation, and finance, and within the customs service diminished the authority of the police. According to one source, Egypt had thirty-four separate police forces as of 1986.

Data as of December 1990

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