Think before shooting
Above all, the municipal security patrol initiative is indicative of the Israel Police’s inability to contend with the crime wave and the government’s shirking of its duty to enforce the law.
Handgun Photo: Thinkstock/Imagebank
Many consider the establishment of local patrol units a good solution to the
recent crime wave, since such patrols will provide more eyes on the ground and
more tools to deal with the problem. But before we hurry to fill the streets
with uniformed patrols, we should stop and consider whether such good intentions
won’t actually bring us more incidents of violence.
Why? Because in order
to establish local patrol units, municipalities will employ city inspectors and
private security guards, and grant them the authority of police officers. Have
we forgotten how much power a police officer wields? They can stop us, question
us, arrest us, handcuff us, and even use weapons.
Now, imagine this power
in the hands of city inspectors and private security guards who don’t pass
through police screening processes and training, including weapons training and
in depth studies of the law they are hired to enforce. Also absent in the
proposed plan are the parallel oversight mechanisms through which complaints
about excesses of authority can be lodged.
Despite these deficiencies,
various local authorities, led by Tel Aviv, have announced the establishment of
“City Security Patrols” – municipal militias of civil inspectors and private
security guards whose objective is to maintain order. The law allows this, but
does not define the authority of such officers – which means that every local
municipality will do as it pleases (as may these security patrols
Who will ensure the local patrols remain within their legal
authority and refrain from arresting us just because we look suspicious to them?
After all, once they have the power – and lack the training, checks and
sanctions of a centralized system – it will fast become a slippery
ANOTHER CONSEQUENCE of this process will be a lack of national
uniformity in the nature and quality of police protection, influenced by
regional differences in budgets and circumstances.
This constitutes a
serious problem because we are all supposed to enjoy the same personal security
throughout Israel; it is unacceptable that some places will be safer than
Obviously many local municipalities will not be able to fund this
luxury and their residents will remain exposed to dangerous crime while more
prosperous cities amply develop their militias. Additionally, the local militias
will be vulnerable to local political pressures and risk being used as tools to
disrupt political opposition or suppress those outside the fold.
all, the municipal security patrol initiative is indicative of the Israel
Police’s inability to contend with the crime wave and the government’s shirking
of its duty to enforce the law. Up until now it was clear that the police was
the exclusive agency responsible for public order, personal security and the
protection of property.
Due to the police’s decreasing ability to
adequately prevent and respond to crime, the Knesset decided last year to
undertake a pilot program to establish municipal police divisions (in
cooperation with the national police) in 13 municipalities. Until the success of
the pilot can be examined, there is no reason to rush into an ad hoc
The Israel Police is clearly in need of reinforcements –
its leadership continues to claim a shortage of officers. These should be
provided, along with additional squad cars in the city
Additionally, we must seriously consider again raising the
salaries of police officers as they are still too low and are likely to bring
about avoidance of responsibility and lack of efficiency in the performance of
Personal security and a non-violent environment are our rights as
human beings and citizens. But if in our rush to counter the problem we employ
untested and unregulated forces, it will be just a matter of time before we read
about an outrageous incident in which an innocent young person is wrongly beaten
by overzealous municipal patrolmen.
The writer, an attorney, is the
director of the Social and Economic Rights Department at the Association for
Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).