The Knesset Interior and Environment Committee on Wednesday approved greater powers for Civil Guard volunteers to arrest suspects and perform searches while they are out on patrol.
There are currently tens of thousands of volunteers serving in the Civil Guard, far more than the 28,000 officers in the Israel Police. They are not required to carry out the same training as police, and do not have the same jurisdiction to arrest or perform searches.
Under the newly approved measure, Civil Guard volunteers will now have the right to arrest a suspect who refuses to wait for police to arrive at the scene of a suspected crime, and will also be able to search a private residence if they believe there is “a suspected threat of harm falling to a person or a disturbance of peace,” the Public Security Ministry said Wednesday.
The ministry did not highlight what exact limits there would be to the search rights, or if they would include offenses as minor as noise violations.
Across Israel several dozen cities have Civil Guard units that carry out patrols alongside actual police, but are not allowed to make arrests and have limits on their jurisdiction.
For the most part, they are sent to handle quality of life offenses like vandalism or noise complaints, though they have also taken part in investigations outside their jurisdiction. In recent months, the auxiliaries have helped increase police manpower in patrol against “lone wolf” attackers across the country.
The expanded use of Civil Guard and private security firms has been the subject of criticism from Israeli human rights groups, which say the officers are given the same rights as police but not the same training.