On the 28th of January 2011, police presence on the streets was strong and felt. Many of us did not just see them on the streets, but clashed with them, felt their wrath or even lost their lives because of them. The police used all known brutality tactics to subdue the masses, who were peacefully protesting on the streets of Egypt. After miserably failing at containing the abundance of people, they fled away in their blue and dark green cars and trucks, leaving behind a security vacuum.
More than a month later, the police is still contemplating going back on the streets under the pretense that they are afraid of being attacked by the public as retaliation. Come on, they are the attacker, and now they are playing victim. This is unbelievable, I have never seen a Ministry that should be held accountable for its actions, act as if it is a kid that starts a fight in Kindergarten and complains of being afraid that the other kid will hit back. Just get on with it and issue a public apology, then we can start talking. Appearing on public television and denying getting orders to shoot at people, denying physically attacking protesters and pretending not using torture against detainees, will not help mend the situation. I for one, had my own drama with the police that day, and am still trying to physically and emotionally recover from it. So, maybe considering admitting to have hit, injured, tortured and killed people would put them on the right track.
As for the argument, that the police might get attacked once they spread their forces back on the streets, I recommend they should start by bringing justice to the families of those who lost their lives during the revolution and putting the souls of our martyrs to rest. The General Prosecutor needs to extensively investigate the Minister of Interior, and present a strong case against him for breaching the constitution by ordering his subordinates to use live ammunition against the protesters. Moreover, the police needs to put its corrupt seniors and officers accused of abuse under internal investigation, while suspending them until proven innocent or guilty. This means that the officers back in duty have a clean record, hence the public will not have any reason to doubt their integrity.
Last but not least, the police needs to change its attitude and demonstrate good faith to the public. This could simply become evident by changing the general attitude and respecting the average person walking on the street by not resorting to verbal or physical violence. Also, for more transparency, every police station and prison should have video cameras installed, and a human rights officer appointed to report any violation.
This is a process that will take time to reach its maturity. Yes, there will be some sensitivity to start with, however the Ministry of Interior needs to demonstrate to the public that it realizes that its old ways will not work anymore. The police needs to prove that they understand where they went astray. To conclude, I cannot expect the officers to protect me after shooting at me, and not even bothering to admit so. Therefore, as long as they are in denial of their brutality, I cannot find it in my capacity to trust them.
List of immediate steps to restore trust with the MOI:
- Issue an official apology to the people of Egypt for killing and injuring many of us during the revolution
- Bring those responsible for ordering use of violence and live ammunition during the revolution to court
- Hold officers following orders of killing civilians accountable for their actions
- Investigate who is responsible for mass prison breaks
- Address cases submitted against corrupt officers accused of abusing their posts
- Suspend all officers being investigated for corruption, brutality, or abuse until investigations are over
- Install video cameras in all police stations
- Appoint a human rights officer in every police station
- Refrain from using obscenities on duty
There is an even longer list to follow during the process of reconstructing the system; on top of that extended list is appointing a civilian to head the Ministry of Interior.