President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has approved amendments to the Police Law paving the way for a new rank of low-level police personnel with arrest powers, the state-owned Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported on Monday.
People aged 19 to 22 years old with at least a middle school education would be eligible for this new “security assistant” position.
“The amendments target youth with health and psychological abilities that they are willing to utilize for the police,” presidential spokesperson Alaa Youssef told MENA.
“The new recruits will undergo well-developed and modern training programs to enable security capabilities to fight crimes of all sorts,” Youssef further explained.
The decree complements a State Council-approved bill that would establish a new “community police” division in the police forces. Observers have speculated that the new security assistants would serve in this community division.
That bill would allow civilians to join the force following an 18-month training period. The community police would have powers of arrest, though the scope of their powers has yet to be fully determined.
Nabil al-Shahed, a security analyst who proposed the community police program to government officials, told Mada Masr earlier that the bill aims to tighten the relationship between communities and the police.
The new system would essentially formalize the network of cooperation already in place between the people and the police in criminal cases, according to Shahed.
However, some have voiced concerns that bill would create a legal framework for the informal networks in place between the police and civilian informants, which could worsen human rights abuses.
Former police Lieutenant Mohamed Mahfouz, who is involved in police reform initiatives, told Mada Masr that a new division of non-commissioned officers could exacerbate existing problems within Egypt’s police force.
While the idea of creating a connection between the police and the people is essential, there are better ways to achieve it, he argued, such as by involving civil society, which is more equipped to play that role.
Mahfouz maintained that a multiplicity of factions within the police has created several problems, like classism and the rebellion of the lower divisions, namely the non-commissioned officers (NCOs). While the proposed system would increase the number of NCOs, as it only requires middle school education to join, Mahfouz argued that that the long-term restructuring of the institution should actually focus on increasing the percentage of officers, not subordinates.
Furthermore, the initiative won’t solve the force’s lack of human resources, Mahfouz asserted.
“The solution is to improve the technology used and focus on training, rather than add a new division that would increase classism within the force,” said Mahfouz. “If the ministry adds personnel, it should start at the top not the bottom, with a focus on the quality rather than quantity.”