The Police Academy will begin accepting law school graduates at the beginning of the next academic year, as it moves to phase out high school diploma holders, according to a well informed source. While the political impetus behind the decision is not clear, and although it does not address broader concerns regarding Egypt’s police force, reform advocates offer tentative approval, suggesting it may be a step in the right direction.
Under current regulations, training in the Police Academy takes place over four years in a largely isolated setting, with many recruits coming directly from high school.
According to the source, who spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity, the changes being implemented will kick off a maximum two-year transitional period, pending approval of further amendments. By the academic year 2021/2022, the academy will no longer accept candidates from its current primary pool: high school graduates. Instead, it will only accept candidates who hold law degrees from Egyptian universities.
In the coming academic year, which begins in January 2019, the Police Academy will open its doors to law graduates who will undertake six months of study, during which they will follow the academy’s curriculum and undertake mandated weapons training, according to the source. At the end of this six months, they will graduate with a second lieutenant rank.
The source’s account of the reform measures is supported by a letter between high-level members of the Policy Academy, a copy of which Mada Masr obtained last week.
In the letter, dated October 9 and addressed to Major-General Ayman Sherif, the manager of Egypt’s Police Academy, Major-General Mohamed Ibrahim, the assistant to the interior minister and the academy’s director, writes that the ministry has begun implementing steps to include law school graduates in enrollment at the academy starting next academic year.
Ibrahim also directed the academy’s legal affairs academic departments to “study the suggested amendments to the law and bylaw of the Police Academy, to allow law school graduates to be enrolled in the academy, in accordance with security work requirements and the Interior Ministry’s future needs, starting from the 2019/2020 academic year.”
The details of the proposed amendments provided by the source are not spelled out in the letter.
The political backdrop behind the decision remains unclear, especially given longstanding institutional conflicts between the police, military and intelligence bodies. The source gives a largely practical explanation, saying that the phasing out of high school students will decrease Interior Ministry expenses, as, if the decision is implemented, the academy will no longer have to fully accommodate its entire student body — which comprises some 6,000 students — for four years.
Despite the lack of clarity, some members of civil society who have been involved in police reform advocacy have offered a qualified endorsement of the expected changes to a system that has faced long standing criticism.
Karim Ennarah, the head of the police reform campaign at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, tells Mada Masr that there there could be a rights-focused reading of the decision, which would see it as improving knowledge of the law among the police force, and thus improving the ability to work within the constraints of the law and the Constitution.
“I can’t imagine this is the logic behind the decision now, however,” he says.
For Ennarah, the changes in enrollment procedures do not come about in a vacuum. “If the problem, from a reform perspective, is that the police are not committed enough to the legal constraints as they carry out their work, then the new system in itself is not sufficient to change that,” he says.
Many of the old criticisms center on the militarization of the Police Academy model, something that is not addressed under the proposed amendments, according to Ennarah.
“The aim of demands for reform is to separate police officers and military officers. So we’ve petitioned to reduce the militarization of the academy,” he says. The reform campaigner tells Mada Masr that one of the chief aspects of this militarization is that police recruits participate in closed boot camps, similar to those that the military runs.
“Reformists see the police as an institution that deals primarily with civilians. Police officers should not be isolated in a camp during training,” Ennarah adds.
“In the end, this move on its own will not make police officers more committed to the law, but it is not a bad move. In fact, it is a good move,” Ennarah says.
This approval, even if qualified, was not echoed within the police force itself. According to the source, some Police Academy leaders and teachers are dissatisfied with the decision, as they believe it will lower the quality of police personnel. They fear that law school graduates will be less attentive and less committed to police work, unlike high school graduates who have not yet had a chance to become involved in civil life.
Granting law school students the right to apply to the Police Academy was one of the demands raised following 2011 revolution, within the broader call for police reform, in order to ensure that police officers received more education, were familiar with the law, and were more respectful of human rights. At the beginning of 2012, former Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim announced that he would be looking into the demand, in order to fill the gap that emerged in the police force as a result of the security vacuum that followed the 2011 revolution.
Egypt’s police force swelled from 150,000 personnel in 1974 to over a million in 2002, representing an increase from 9 to 21 percent of state employment, according to figures cited in Hazem Kandil’s book Soldiers, Spies and Statesmen (2012). This was in addition to 450,000 Central Security Forces conscripts, 60,000 National Guards and 12,000 Border Patrol soldiers.
Taken together, these 2 million plus security personnel far eclipse the 142,000 members of the Soviet police force under Stalin, the 200,000 person security force for 142 million Russian citizens, and, as of 2009, the 2.3 million people who comprise the entirety of the Chinese military, for a population of 1.3 billion. “Counterinsurgency experts estimate the ratio of officers to citizens needed to contain insurgencies on the scale of those raging in Iraq and Afghanistan at 20 officers per 1,000 citizens,” Kandil writes. “In Mubarak’s Egypt — a stable country by any measure — the ratio was 25 security men to every 1,000 citizens.”