Israel’s nascent community policing program Turning Point, unveiled by Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino in 2012, was heralded Thursday by a celebrated US crime expert as a model for effective community policing internationally.
The program, which emphasizes heightened communication between officers and local communities, while addressing “traditional crimes” most afflicting residents – including assault, burglary and car theft – has lowered crime throughout the country since its inception.
Robert R. Friedman, director of the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange and professor emeritus of criminal justice at Georgia State University, said the program is exceptional because it emphasizes greater cohesion among officers themselves and the communities they serve.
“This turnaround program has put into place a comprehensive organizational mechanism that shows how to provide the public with a greater sense of security,” said Friedman by phone from his US office Thursday morning.
“In the US, police departments are decentralized, resulting in confusion due to a lack of communication and accountability,” he said. “In Israel there is a centralized force, which is a more efficient model because communication among all departments is clear, resulting in higher standards.”
As a case in point, Friedman said in Atlanta there are 60 local police departments that generally work independently of each other, hindering efficiency and performance; while Israel’s national police force ensures all developments are centrally coordinated, rendering better results.
The professor said it is Turning Point’s unique 10-point model that has led to its success.
The elements include centralizing police activities, improving public service, fighting crime more efficiently, imposing stricter traffic enforcement, making officers more accessible and relatable, enhancing professional readiness for all forms of emergencies, using a community- based approach, and developing advanced technology – including crime labs and forensics techniques.
“When you take all 10 elements and combine them it creates a powerful model of how to turn a police force into an efficient resource within the community,” he said.
Most important, Friedman said, is Israel’s preemptive approach to crime.
“Most people look at crime in a reactive way, but by looking at it proactively, Israel proves that less crime is committed,” he said. “This does not suggest that police do not respond to crimes – it focuses on minimizing the likelihood of crimes happening in the first place.”
Indeed, Friedman said he is so impressed by Danino’s Turning Point program that he regularly flies senior members of US police departments to Israel to study it.
“I think this program should be studied by police departments from around the world,” he said. “Virtually every department I have brought to Israel has adopted a number of elements in Israel’s model with great success.”