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Police System

The principal agencies devoted to internal security and law enforcement are the National Police and the gendarmerie, both headquartered in Ankara and both administered by the Ministry of Interior. Broadly, the National Police handles police functions (including traffic control) in the cities and towns, and the gendarmerie serves principally as a rural constabulary. In times of crisis, the prime minister can direct the chief of the General Staff to assist the police and gendarmerie in maintaining internal security. The gendarmerie is regarded as a military security force; during wartime or in areas placed under martial law, it functions under the army.

National Police

The territorial organization of the National Police corresponds roughly to Turkey's administrative subdivisions (see Provincial and Local Government, ch. 4). Below the general directorate are police directorates in all of the country's seventy-six provinces and police posts (district commands) in most of the administrative districts. Despite their wide territorial distribution, a very large proportion of the police are clustered in the major cities. No reliable data are available on the size of the police force, whose members are believed to number more than 50,000. Regardless of its size, the force does not appear large enough to keep up with the need generated by Turkey's urban growth and ordinary crime and traffic problems.

The laws establishing the organization of police at the provincial and local levels distinguish three categories of functions: administrative, judicial, and political. In this context, the administrative police perform the usual functions relating to the safety of persons and property: enforcement of laws and regulations, prevention of smuggling and apprehension of smugglers, quelling of public disorder, fingerprinting and photographing, public licensing, controlling traffic and inspecting motor vehicles, apprehending thieves and military deserters, locating missing persons, and keeping track of foreigners residing or traveling in Turkey. Film censorship is also considered an administrative responsibility. In some cases, municipalities provide all or part of the funding for administrative police functions in their localities.

The judicial police work closely with the administrators of justice. Attached to the offices of public prosecutors, the judicial police assist in investigating crimes, issue arrest warrants, and help prosecutors assemble evidence for trials. The political police combat activities considered subversive and deal with those groups whose actions or plans are identified as contrary to the security of the republic.

To carry out the police's broad and sometimes overlapping functions, specialized squads focusing on such problems as smuggling and the narcotics trade are located in the larger commands. At the other end of the scale, the police employ unskilled auxiliaries in many towns and in some neighborhoods of larger communities. These are selected local men, not armed, who are engaged to prevent local theft and to give the alarm in case of emergency.

Police ranks range from constable through sergeant, lieutenant, captain, superintendent second and first class, and several grades of police chief. A commissioner of police commands each of the seventy-six provincial directorates of police. Provincial directorates are divided into district police commands headed by superintendents.

In earlier years, an entrant to the lowest police grade was expected to have completed junior high school. But police authorities recognized that the low education level of the force contributed to violations of legal rights and mistreatment of prisoners. Thus, recent recruits have been required to have completed secondary school. Training consists of a six-month basic course at one of five police schools. Candidates for higher rank are sent to a police college (equivalent to a senior high school offering university preparation) and then to the Police Institute at Ankara, from which students graduate as sergeants after a three-year course.

The performance of the Turkish police has been the subject of persistent criticism for violations of fundamental human rights. These problems, which have received growing international and domestic attention, involve torture during questioning, incommunicado detention, politically motivated disappearances, "mystery killings," and excessive use of force. Successive governments have repeatedly promised to curb abuses by the security forces, but little if any improvement has been recorded (see Individual Rights, this ch.).

Data as of January 1995

Country Listing

Turkey Table of Contents