Saturday, August 29, 2009


Israel has been policed by a national police force. Its government is now planning to establish local police departments like those in the United States. Is that a good idea?" I don’t think so. Israel is a tiny nation well suited for having all of its entities protected and served by a national police force.

The system in America, where every little town has its own police force, has some real drawbacks. Foremost among them is the politicization of local police agencies. Even large cities are not immune from undue political influence. It appears that one of the main goals of the Houston Police Department is to make the city’s mayor look good in order to enhance his chances of securing the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchinson.

Canada has a much better policing system. There are the metropolitan area police departments such as those for the Toronto, Montreal and Hamilton areas which include the smaller cities and towns bordering on or surrounding those entities. And many of Canada’s cities and towns contract either with the Provincial Police or with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for their policing needs.

In the United States some of the best policing, and the least politicized, is found in the regional or metro police agencies that have been established in many parts of Virginia and Maryland, and in some parts of Florida, Tennessee and several other states. These regional police agencies eliminate the fragmentation and duplication of police functions and services found throughout the country. And regional police agencies are much more cost efficient and offer a much higher quality of police services than the traditional local police departments.

So my advice is that Israel stick with its current national police setup and forget local policing. The report on the Israeli government’s proposal follows:

by Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
August 28, 2009

The Israeli government is planning to establish a system of local The Israeli government is planning to establish a system of local city police forces, dedicated to exclusively serving specific urban regions throughout the nation. The question remains as to under whose authority they would operate, their respective mayor's or that of the national police. On Tuesday, the issue was debated in a forum for municipal government leaders and security chiefs, attended by Police Commissioner Dudu Cohen and Public Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitch.

Shlomo Bouhbut, chairman of the Union of Local Authorities (ULA), told the gathering, "There is a need for thousands of more police officers and we are prepared to pitch in and assist the Public Security Minister. In our view, the proper approach is the American model, making the police subject to the mayor."

In full agreement with Bouhbut was the chairman of the ULA's Security Committee, Avi Naim. He explained the union's position further: "Only the mayors are familiar with the situation from up close, with all of its problems: vandalism, violence, reckless driving, a lack of security guards in the educational institutions, alcohol abuse, and all such problems at our doorsteps. We - the mayors, the security officers, the city hotlines, the patrolmen and the inspectors - deal with them every hour of every day. The mayor must head the local police in collaboration with the [national] police department in order to solve the citizens' daily problems. If he fails to do so, he won't be reelected."

Minister Aharonovitch rejected the proposal to incorporate the local police forces into the nation's municipalities.

"I have full confidence in you, mayors, and I think that with today's level of violence only the mayors will be able to bring about a strengthening of personal security for the citizens of Israel," he said. "On the other hand, I was in America, and the American model is not appropriate for us. We need a large-scale local police force that will learn about the needs of the municipalities. The Israel Police Department has made a great effort and allocated many resources to the start of this learning process."

Israel Police Commissioner Cohen agreed that the local police departments must be a strong force in the nation. However, like the minister, he called for maintaining "one military, one Israel Security Agency, and one national police force."


Naim said that the local police forces could theoretically be deployed as early as next year. "Then we'll see a significant improvement in the public's personal security situation. People will be able to enjoy a walk on the promenade," he said enthusiatically.

The chairman of the Union of Regional Councils, Shmulik Rifman, expressed opposition to the idea of local police departments altogether. He doubted that it would help drive down crime in the country, saying, "Only a strong police and judges unafraid to hand down punishments will deter criminals and cause them to think twice."

Rifman was echoing the point of view expressed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu earlier this week. At the weekly cabinet meeting, he said, "For a long time I have thought that the punishment for violent crimes in Israel is not strong enough, that there is not enough deterrence." Netanyahu has not staked out a position on the issue of authority over the local police departments, but he is thought to support a national oversight.

In contrast, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, who has discussed the budegtary issue with Minister Aharonovitch, has said that the American model would be the most effective under current circumstances.

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