The Israeli public tends to view the police with a critical, largely dismissive
eye, usually seeing the military and the security services in a much more
positive light, according to a study by an American think tank released on
At the same time, the national police force must wear a number
of different hats, performing roles that in the United States, for instance, are
the purview of several bodies – such as the FBI, Drug Enforcement
Administration, Customs and Border Protection, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco
According to Steven Popper – senior researcher and director
of the Israel Initiative at the RAND Corporation – this negative perception has
been encouraged by classic Israeli police slapstick comedies like Hashoter
Azoulay, and the general Israeli culture of suspicion toward
On Tuesday, RAND – an American global policy research
institute – released a report it had compiled, entitled “Effective Policing for
21st-Century Israel” and focusing on the central question of how the Israel
Police can provide effective policing in the country today.
emphasizes that such policing “depends not solely on the activities or
efficiency of the police, but also on the connection between the police and the
community being served.”
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post
on Monday night
in Tel Aviv, Popper said that while Israelis whom RAND researchers had
interviewed over the past three years had commonly expressed negative
perceptions of police, the picture was not that black and white.
thing, the researcher said, respondents did not describe police as corrupt when
asked for their opinions of the force, and also said they believed that police
had been successful in fighting different forms of crime in the
That said, the issue of professionalism came up again and again,
including among police themselves, according to Popper.
This view comes
through in the report, which states that “the perception persists that the
police do not always appear to behave in a professional way and do not
adequately provide safety and security.”
The report adds that people
don’t feel police have a “customer service” approach to dealing with the public,
and that officers have biases toward certain sections of the
The overarching recommendation of the report – which the
Public Security and Finance ministries commissioned in conjunction with the
Israel Police during the tenure of previous police chief David Cohen – is that
the police adopt what is known as a procedural justice model, which involves
increasing transparency and accountability for their performance.
report also found that like elsewhere, even when Israelis receive a ticket from
an officer, when the interaction is fair, people are more likely to have a
positive assessment of the officer’s performance.
A positive public
perception could be boosted by the use of fair and just procedures that do not
change according to citizens’ race or ethnic background, as well as by a
demonstration of public accountability and a sense of fairness in the way police
deal with themselves, the report states. It also calls on police to shift from a
policy of crime deterrence to a more data-driven and community- oriented
strategy of focused deterrence.
The report drew many of its findings from
28 focus groups that took place in Israel, as well as interviews with “opinion
leaders” across the country and an analysis of Israeli media coverage of police.
It also analyzed videotaped interactions between police and civilians, gathered
from footage shot by officers who agreed to be deployed wearing visible cameras
on their uniforms.
In their interviews, the authors of the study found
that Israelis believed the police were often rude and unconcerned about everyday
crime, and did not look authoritative. They said the public saw inequality as
common among the police, with police viewing Arab citizens mainly as criminals
and not victims of crime.
The study also found that much of the Israeli
distrust of law enforcement is linked to a general disregard for
While the local media is often perceived as being hostile to
the police or to the state, an actual examination of the media showed that the
picture was more complex.
The study found that of 6,000 articles
examined, most were neutral and did not have a detectable tone. It found that
overall, 12 percent of articles in the national news were positive toward
police, while 18% were negative and 78% were neutral.
The stories were
more often positive in the local, haredi and religious press, with 26%, 13%, and
20% of the stories appearing positive, respectively. In the Arab and Russian
press, the figures greatly differed, with only 7% of the stories seen as
positive toward police. The Arab press also had by far the highest percentage of
stories that were negative toward police – 31% – though their percentage of
neutral stories – 62% – was not much different than the national average of
The study also found that ethnicity and religious observance had an
effect on the perception of police, with Israeli Arabs saying that people’s
ethnicity, vehicles and behavior affected how law enforcement treated them.
Whether a person was haredi or national religious played a role in their
perception of police as well. However, Israeli Arabs were the only sector that
expressed the belief that a citizen’s ethnicity played a role in the treatment
he or she received from police.
The camera experiment showed that while
police were seen as being in control in 75% of interactions, in 25% they were
viewed as engaging in some sort of argument with the member of the
Only in 60% did they appear to be trying to solve the
According to the study, the camera footage showed that “even
when police are respectful, interactions frequently become argumentative and
In a press release that RAND issued on Tuesday, the
deputy head of the Police Planning Department, Brig.-Gen. Jacob Mevorach, said
that following the recommendations of the report, police had established two
working groups, examining the police’s professionalism and
“The working groups are formulating their recommendations,
which are to be presented to the police commissioner in the near future,”