On 19th October 2012, Tunisian Institutional Reform (Reform) organized a press conference in Belvedere Hotel to present a study about the relationship between police and citizens. These data were collected between 18-23 July 2011 by questioning 401 Tunisian citizens in the area of Greater Tunis. The respondents were chosen randomly and were representative in terms of age, sex and population distribution in the four districts of Greater Tunis according to the latest data from the National Institute of Statistics.
Through an empirical study, Reform demonstrated that 40% of Tunisian families have a security officer among its members and more than 25% of Tunisian citizens have been exposed to violence by a security officer. The study also showed that 81% of those who were subjected to violence from security officers did not submit a complaint for several reasons including the fear or lack of confidence in the security apparatus as a whole. This study also revealed that 22% of Tunisians do not trust the security sector.
Furthermore, the study proved that “75 % of Tunisians believe that the primary role of the security agent is limited to the protection of the Government’s interests” and that 60% of Tunisians approve of the use of violence by police officers. This attitude is surprising considering the high number of citizens who have experienced police violence and abuse. These findings reveal a larger problem of accepting police violence and require a change in citizens’ attitudes. These data also showed that citizens ignore their own rights as well as their duties toward security officers.
Mariem Mziou, a member of the Executive Office of Reform used these statistics as a starting point to discuss the problem between citizens and police officers. Currently, Tunisians considers the relationship between the citizens and police officers more problematic than corruption within the police.
Issam Dardouri, the Secretary-General of the Airport Security Union argued that security sector reform requires adequate working conditions for security officers and accountability for the leaders that previously oppressed Tunisian citizens. According to Dardouri, accountability is compulsory, but nowadays Tunisia is going through a reconciliation even though the country should deal with corruption. Issam Dardouri also claimed that different members of the security unions are victims of harassment. For example, eleven security officers have been charged with insults. Dardouri encouraged all civil society actors as well as political parties to participate in the security sector reform efforts and to guarantee the independence of the security from politics.
Emna Ben Jimaa, the Secretary-General of Reform emphasized that this press conference was an attempt to break with the old methods used by security officers, and to restore trust and respect between citizens and security officers in order to enforce the law and protect citizens.
Moreover, the Conference included a presentation about Institutional Reform Association, its objectives and the programs to be adopted in an attempt to reform the Security Sector including awareness campaigns and training sessions in international human rights, communication techniques and conflict resolution, not only for civil society but also for security forces.