Egypt's Police Widely Despised, Viewed As 'Corrupt And Abusive'

02/03/2011 11:26 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

While the relationship between Egypt's people and the country's military has been mostly positive, popular sentiment toward the state-run police has been overwhelmingly negative.

Eric Trager of Foreign Affairs explains, "The police, after all, have been the most frequent point of contact between the people and the regime, and they are famously corrupt and abusive. Operating under the Ministry of the Interior, the police include the Central Security Forces, who beat protesters all last week and blanketed Cairo in a cloud of tear gas on Friday; and State Security, which is responsible for monitoring and disrupting all political opposition activity through a vast system of informants. Meanwhile, to handle the messiest of anti-dissident jobs, the police frequently hire balpagiya -- literally, gangsters, who are paid by the police to mete out punishment without dirtying the government's hands." Trager describes the police as "[President] Mubarak's first line of defense against his domestic opponents."

AP reports that in April of 2010, "Egyptian police...beat and dragged off protesters to disperse a gathering of a few dozen in downtown Cairo calling for constitutional reforms and fairer presidential elections." AP further elaborates that, "demonstrations are illegal under Egypt's three-decade old emergency law."

Over the course of this week's events, citizens protesting the government of President Hosni Mubarak have violently clashed with Egyptian police. On January 26th, according to CNN, "police turned water cannons and tear gas on protesters," and "people were being beaten with sticks and fists and demonstrators were being dragged away amid tear gas." Three days later, Business Insider described a scene reported by Al Jazeera in which police "opened fire on a crowd of thousands that were trying to storm Egypt's Interior Ministry." The same day, Reuters reported on a confrontation between police and prisoners who were trying to escape from a prison in Cairo. At the time of the report, "eight [prisoners] were killed and 123 were wounded."

As documented by The Washington Post, there have recently been cases of "undercover police loyal to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's regime committing acts of violence and looting in an attempt to stoke fear and instability."

The Egyptian police certainly present an interesting contrast with the Egyptian military, and watching the dynamics of these two forces unfold will be fascinating to watch.

Suggest a correction