They patrol the breaches in the West Bank separation barrier in the unbearable heat, help cover Border Police in East Jerusalem and protect checkpoints across the country at a constant risk of being ran over by a criminal evading law enforcement. They put their life on the line for a meager salary, and they can't go on like this.
Last year saw the Knesset set up a special committee, dedicated to public security. MK Meirav Ben-Ari took charge of the issue and examined thoroughly what's going on inside the Israel Police. Her findings were dire, and they have consequences on the lives of all of us. If we fail to understand the impact of poor working conditions on our police and act to change them, Israel will be reminiscent of Argentina or Colombia - the rich will have private security, and the poor, as always, will be left to their own devices.
MK Ben-Air’s findings show the police has three sectors that carry the weight of the entire force: patrol officers, investigators and detectives, some of whom make as little as NIS8,000 (2,300$) per month. It’s ridiculous, and concerning. While we’re asleep, we place our security in the hands of people who are willing to give up sleeping at all in exchange for a measly salary.
I recently spoke with a retired investigator of the police’s Lahav 344 unit, the one known as the Israeli FBI. The conditions, she said, were insufferable, including constant stress and an unwelcoming working environment. So, she left and moved to the hi-tech sector, quickly doubling her pay.
Naturally, police officers are the front line of every major security or criminal event, with latest data showing that more than 2,500 officers were wounded in the last year and a half alone. The last two months alone saw three officers being run over during checkpoint patrols.
Israel treats police officers as if they were soldiers. But there should be a big difference. Officers are older, have families, joined the police willingly and can leave at any time. And they do. The number of officer resignations increases every year: 2017 saw 324 cops resign compared to 631 in 2021. As of June 2022, 456 officers have quit so far, and at that pace we'll see nearly 1,000 resignations in one year.
But, who can blame them? The officers don't get paid for extra hours, no bonus payments for working on holidays or during massive events, such as the recent visit by U.S. President Joe Biden - which turned the daily lives of thousands of police officers upside down.
What can one expect from a person that receives a pitiful pay for such a job? The expectations, meanwhile, remain as high as ever. We expected Major Barak Meshulam to stand in the middle of the night at a checkpoint and be ready for the possibility of being run over.
We expect our officers to put their lives on the line in exchange for conditions that make one wonder how Israel’s cops are willing to accept the job at all.