Imagine that your bicycle was stolen. You call the police. They show up several hours later and ask rudely, “What do you expect us to do?”
Now imagine that they show up promptly, and take down all the details about the bike and its loss. They explain that stolen bikes are rarely recovered and listen sympathetically to your frustration. They tell you what they will do to try to get your bike back.
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In this second scenario, you’re still angry about the bike, but feel that at least the police are doing their job.
“The outcome is precisely the same but there is a completely different character to the interaction,” Steven Popper, co-author of a newly released RAND Corporation report about Israel’s police force, told The Media Line. “There is more information and more engagement.”
The study, which consisted of 26 focus groups held in Hebrew, Arabic and Russian, was commissioned by the Israeli government and funded jointly by the government and American philanthropies. RAND says it has worked with many other police forces, but in most cases, a court has ordered them to do so.
“It is rare for a police force to actively reach out to an external body such as RAND, to allow strangers to review their sore points, and to be willing to have a mirror held up to their faces only because they themselves actively seek to improve their ability to serve the citizenry,” Popper said. “It is rarer still to find a police force willing to consent to open publications of the findings from such research. The Israel Police did all of those things.”
Unlike in the United States, the Israeli police, which is a national rather than local organization, must fight both crime and terrorism. Popper said that makes their job more complicated, but spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told The Media Line that Israel’s police can effectively do both.
“The Israeli police are very experienced in counterterrorism,” Rosenfeld said. “They’ve made hundreds of arrests and prevented dozens of terrorist attacks over the past few years.”
The RAND report found that even though crime rates in Israel are relatively low, the public still perceives threats to their personal security and expresses concern over the quality of the police service. It said that many Israelis believe the police do not always behave in a professional way and do not adequately provide safely and security.
The report suggests what it calls “procedural justice” as a model of policing to affect public support. It calls for increasing transparency of police activities and accountability for police performance.
It also recommends surveying the public about satisfaction with their encounters with police and using cameras or other methods to review interactions between police and civilians in the field.
Brigadier General Jacob Mevorach, the deputy head of the police planning department, said that the police commissioner has already established two working groups in response to the report: one addressing issues of professionalism and one the other dealing with matters of transparency.
“This report gives us a vision of the direction and how to get there,” Rosenfeld said. “All the brainstorming is being done together to continue to improve and serve the public and get support from the public.”
Even before the report was issued, Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino began implementing a program called “Turning Point,” aimed at increasing public trust in the police. In the RAND study, most focus group members said the police needed to do better in maintaining public order, decreasing crime, treating people fairly, and responding to calls pursuant to criminal complaints.
The report found a unique way to investigate how the police were doing their jobs. Researchers attached cameras to the uniforms of six officers, who were allowed to turn the camera on and off at their discretion. In 65 percent of the cases recorded, the research team members found the officers treated the citizens with respect. In about 25 percent of the cases, the interaction was judged to be negative.
Popper explained to The Media Line that comparing Israel to the United States is difficult. In the US, there have been incidents with racial overtones or excessive use of force. But overall, police are objects of respect. The situation is starkly different in Israel.
“In Israel, there is an informality and a willingness to get more confrontational with police than in the US,” he said.
Written by Linda Gradstein, courtesy of The Media Line
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