police lecture a class of elementary students.
(photo credit: COURTESY ISRAEL POLICE)
On Sunday police officers visited seven Israeli-Arab schools in an attempt to conduct outreach to Israeli-Arab youth.
Police met with around 2,100 youth in the Shefa Amr, Tamra, Kabul, Ibillin and Bir al-Maskur schools. Israeli police have long had a strained relationship with Arab citizens and Arab youth who are underrepresented in the force, but overrepresented in crime statistics.
In a statement police said they spoke with students about drugs and alcohol, general “hooliganism” and social media usage.
Police are seeking to increase outreach to the Israeli-Arab communities in multiple ways. As part of its 2016-17 police recruitment campaign, in cooperation with the Public Security Ministry, the police issued a “personal and unique call to recruitment for men and women from Arab society in Israel.” The campaign has more than doubled Israeli-Arab applicants for the police force.
Many Israeli NGOs representing Israeli-Arabs contend that the police routinely violate the rights of Arab citizens through profiling, mistreatment, and heavy-handed practices. According to Suhad Bishara, acting general director of Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel – the recruitment campaign is “misleading.” “The police continue to violate rights,” Bishara told The Jerusalem Post in September. “The Arab community does not trust the police. Without a change in attitude I don’t think this will make any changes.”
According to data released by the Central Bureau of Statistics in September, 69% of Arab citizens had a negative view of the police.
Approximately 2% of officers are Arabs, while around 20% of Israelis are Arab. Arab citizens are vastly overrepresented in crime statistics, according to 2015 figures; 59% of murders take place in the Arab sector.
In February, police appointed Jamal Hakroush, 59, as assistant chief. Hakroush is the first Muslim to reach the force’s second-highest rank.
He heads a unit tasked with fighting crime in the Arab sector and dealing with the unique needs of its communities.
Police say they are planning to hold more meetings with Israeli-Arab youth in the coming months.