The army will need to stay on the streets until a disgraced police force recovers from the heavy damage inflicted by Egypt's turmoil -- an uncomfortable burden for a military designed to fight foreign enemies, not crime.

A quick redeployment of the police, which largely dissolved in the first days of the unrest, is a priority for the military command that took control from former President Hosni Mubarak on Friday. It will not be easy.

One of the simpler tasks is repairing the many police stations burned in anti-Mubarak protests fueled by deep hatred of the Interior Ministry, which employs over a million people.

While some traffic police are back on the streets, large sections of the police force are not. Some policemen have gone on strike, like many other state employees, and morale is low.

So is public confidence in a force that was seen to play a leading role in Mubarak's failed efforts to crush the revolt.

Police branches regarded as political tools of the ousted president's administration face an uncertain future. Their reputation for brutality helped ignite the uprising.

The military may purge or even scrap the most reviled branches -- state security intelligence and the secret police. Anything less risks a backlash from the protesters.

The fall of the regime is a turning point because, perhaps for the first time, this security apparatus can be restructured, said Safwat al-Zayyat, a retired Egyptian army officer and an expert on security affairs.

The military would begin to restructure and reorder parts of the security forces that were the focus of popular anger, especially the secret police and state security apparatus.

With their political masters gone, rank-and-file policemen are worried they will be made scapegoats.

Habib al-Adli, interior minister for 13 years under Mubarak, was one of the first heads to roll. Mubarak sacked him in the early days of the protests. He is now banned from travel and faces official investigation on accusations of corruption.

Low-ranking police who struggle to make ends meet on meager wages have gone on strike, further complicating the job of Adli's successor, Mahmoud Wagdy. Hundreds of police in uniform and plainclothes protested at the Interior Ministry on Sunday.

We don't have rights, bonuses, or anything. We are not treated as human beings. We work for 12 hours or 24 hours and if we don't like it we get put on trial, said Yasser Ferghali, a police officer at a sit-in at a police station on Saturday.


He listed seven police stations where strikes were under way the same day. Junior officers worry that they will be blamed for the recent violence and face military prosecution.

Our lives are over, that's it, finished, we'll all be sent to a military court, Ferghali said. We can barely feed our children.

In a protest in Ismailia, police conscripts with the same demands told passersby they had been ordered to fire on protesters by their commanding officers. Showing some sympathy, Egyptians watching their protest said it was time for a fresh start in relations between police and the people.

The military council, in a statement on Saturday, called on Egyptians to cooperate with the civilian police. Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the council, met Wagdy and discussed the need for a prompt redeployment of the police.

With the resources he has, one of Wagdy's first tasks is to round up 13,000 prisoners still on the run out of 23,000 who walked out of jails in unexplained circumstances early in the uprising. Wagdy has said that 10,000 have been recaptured.

Omar Suleiman, vice president for two weeks until Mubarak was toppled, said the escapees included top security detainees, including members of Al Qaeda and other militant Islamist groups.

Beyond the political unrest, Egyptians are taking pride in the extent to which basic law and order has prevailed, thanks mainly to the civic spirit of people who formed neighborhood watch groups to deter looters who ran amok only for a few days.

But there are concerns that as euphoria over Mubarak's departure dissipates, crime will increase.

On Friday, in Cairo, some 10 million people were in the streets celebrating, without police to arrange the traffic ... with no internal security force presence, Zayat said.

With tanks and other armored vehicles at every major junction, the army may reduce its presence in the streets, he said. It will be present, but perhaps not like this.