PUBLIC ORDER AND INTERNAL SECURITY
The Police System
Throughout its prerevolutionary history, the mission and operating
concepts underlying the Libyan police system were the same as
those in many other Muslim societies. The traditional concept
of police or shurtah was a broad one. Because the shurtah
were used from time to time by the government in power to undertake
new conquests, security force commanders often had full-sized
armies at their disposal. Domestically, however, the shurtah
were primarily responsible for suppressing dissidence and insurrections
as well as performing other internal security duties. The latter
duties typically embraced the kinds of administrative and judicial
functions often required of urban and rural police, such as the
prevention of crime, investigation and arrest of criminals, and
maintenance of public order. Some of these concepts have survived
in present-day Libya; others have been altered in response to
the changing needs of the society.
Shortly after the 1969 coup, military officers were temporarily
integrated into key police positions to guard against a countercoup.
A complete reorganization of the police followed over the next
three years. An early step in the process of stripping the police
of paramilitary status was the consolidation of the regional police
forces into a unified organization under the Ministry of Interior.
In 1971 new separate agencies to handle civil defense and fire
protection were provided for by law. Ministerial decrees established
other units, such as the Central Traffic Department, the Central
Department for Criminal Investigation, the Arab International
Criminal Police Bureau, the Ports Security Department, the Identity
Investigation, and the Police Training Department. A special police
law promulgated by the RCC in January 1972 spelled out the new
functions of the police force, which was formally redesignated
the Police at the Service of the People and the Revolution. The
police were specifically charged with responsibility for "the
administration of prisons, civil defense activities, passport
and nationality affairs, identity card affairs, and other functions
set forth by laws and bills."
Individual police units were under the jurisdiction of regional
security directorates throughout the country, with primary responsibility
for enforcing the laws and administering the police falling under
the minister of interior and his deputy. A special police affairs
council--composed of the deputy minister as chairman, the directors
of the central police department, the regional chiefs, and a legal
adviser--was empowered to coordinate activities of various police
branches and to issue decrees on police matters.
Police ranks followed closely those of the armed forces. An officer
candidate had to be a Libyan citizen at least twenty years of
age, of good conduct and behavior, in good physical condition,
and not married to a foreigner. He also had to be a graduate of
the police academy. Police work was considered a prestigious occupation,
and its attractive working conditions and benefits reportedly
produced well-qualified applicants who underwent stiff competition
for vacancies. However, standards may have deteriorated as more
lucrative opportunities in the oil industry and in government
became available for those with sufficient education.
In a counterpart to the media attacks on the professional military
in 1983, the official Libyan press targeted the police as lacking
revolutionary zeal. The press demanded greater direct responsibility
for the masses in protecting the people's security. Articles was
recalled that the police were descended from the mobile forces
of the Idris regime, headed by "fascist, bourgeois officers" who
had suppressed all manifestations of discontent with the royalist
system. Police officials were accused of engaging in licentious
behavior, of drinking liquor, and of carrying on illegal businesses.
They were charged with being "feudalistic" in their behavior,
of being ill-educated because many lacked a high- school diploma,
and often unfit for duty because of advancing age.
Declaring that "security is the responsibility of the people
as a whole in the same way as the defense of the homeland is,"
Qadhafi announced in 1985 that the police would henceforward be
known as the People's Security Force. Whether this name change
accomplished much seemed doubtful; the official press complained
that all that had happened was that signs over the police stations
now read "People's Security Station."
Data as of 1987