A man wears a sign that says ‘I am also Yosef Salamsa,’ an Ethiopian Israeli believed to have killed himself after alleged abuse by police..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Months after a series of protests against police brutality and racism, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has approved a number of recommendations to improve police relations with the Ethiopian- Israeli community, the ministry said on Tuesday.
At the center of the recommendations are the recruitment and promotion of more Ethiopian-Israeli policemen and the deployment of more Amharic speakers, who can better service the community.
As part of this effort, the ministry said it approved the employment of Amharic-speaking operators at police hotline centers at all hours.
In keeping with the goal of increasing their representation in the police force, the recommendations include taking steps to make sure that at least 3 percent of recruits each year are from the Ethiopian-Israeli community. The ministry said that this year 185 members of the community have enlisted in the force, 4% of all recruits. Police will also take steps to increase the number of Ethiopian Israelis in command positions from the current total of 27 to at least 70, within four years.
They will also deploy seven Amharic-speaking juvenile crimes investigators, who will be able better communicate with the parents of Ethiopian-Israeli juveniles who are brought in by police for questioning, the ministry said.
Another step includes formulating a special complaint form for police brutality, which will be translated into five languages, including Amharic. They will also look at ways to recruit more Ethiopian Israelis into the National Fire and Rescue service.
In addition, police will begin holding monthly meetings between commanders at 26 police stations and Ethiopian-Israeli community leaders, in order to “map out challenges facing the community and find cooperative policies and strategies,” the ministry said.
The committee – which included leaders from the Ethiopian-Israeli community – was set up by police in April, following an incident caught on video in which a police officer assaulted a soldier of Ethiopian descent. The incident led to protests by Ethiopian Israelis, including one in April that descended into violence as protesters at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv threw rocks and bottles at police, who fired stun grenades and charged the crowd on horseback.
During the riot, police arrested many protesters and dozens of police and protesters were injured.
In June, the special committee issued its findings on a number of issues raised by Ethiopian Israelis. It stated that out of around 300 cases involving juveniles who complained of police mistreatment, there was no evidence of discrimination or infringement of rights. They added that in 64 of the cases there was found to be no reason to continue the criminal proceedings against the juveniles.
The committee also determined that police must employ more Amharic speakers at police stations in areas with high numbers of Ethiopian- Israeli residents. It also set a goal to increase the number of Ethiopian Israelis serving in the police force by 50%.
According to police figures at the time, there were only 663 officers from the community, 2.3% of the total manpower of the police force. Ethiopian Israelis represent around 2% of the population.