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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
On his first day of command, overshadowed by the publication of the Winograd Committee's interim report, new Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen took the reins of a troubled organization Tuesday, and promised a return to traditional police roles.
"We are living in a difficult reality of lawlessness and violence, one of chewing away at respect for the law, of social and security tensions. These processes influence the missions of the police, who are the fortress of correctness, stability and public order."
In a morning ceremony at the Prime Minister's Office, Cohen repeatedly emphasized the role of the "classic" police force, distancing himself from the anti-terror image of the police cultivated during the years of the Intifada.
Instead, the former Central District commander chose to highlight the role of the police as the front line in the war on crime. Cohen cited just one example - the January 7 incident in which policeman Shlomi Asoulin was stabbed in the head by a car theft suspect. Since that assault, Asoulin has remained comatose and in critical condition. Asoulin's wife and parents attended the Tuesday ceremony as personal guests of the incoming chief, serving as a powerful symbol of the new direction.
"The Israel Police under my leadership will turn most of its resources toward improving the personal security of the residents of Israel," Cohen said, adding that under him, the police "will fight criminality in all its forms, from public corruption to property crimes, and including the plague of vehicle collisions."
Cohen also addressed the need to strengthen the public's faith in the police force, after a number of blistering scandals have rocked the ranks in the past year.
He did, however, warn that despite "the stream of civilians and police officers" who had expected him to make "quick and immediate changes," he expects the transition to be a "long process" dependent on cooperation.
Only when Cohen thanked departing police chief Moshe Karadi did he mention police achievements in the "war on terror."
Public Security Minister Avi Dichter echoed Cohen's new direction when he said minutes later that "the weakening of the public's sense of personal security, accompanied by the disintegration of the level of public trust in the fairness of public procedures - constitutes a strategic threat to the society and economy of Israel."
Some light was shed on Dichter's reasons for choosing the former Intelligence and Investigations chief to lead the police force when the minister emphasized that he was "certain in Cohen's talents and convinced of his abilities to lead the organization to a significant improvement in the Israeli public's feeling of security, and to manage a war against crime and corruption and to fight an unyielding struggle against traffic criminals who murder us day after day on the nation's roads."
Although change will be gradual, the picture of how the police force will look in coming years will become significantly clearer after Cohen announces his selections for key positions that have recently opened.
A line of police commanders are waiting for Cohen's word to find out who will fill Cohen's shoes as Central District commander. In addition, the Northern and Tel Aviv Districts are awaiting replacements. Cmdr. Shahar Ayalon barely completed a month as Northern District chief before he was tapped to serve as Cohen's second-in-command.
Cohen's choices for nominations will give a sense of the way he plans to run the police organization. Some likely candidates for top posts - for example current Operations Chief Cmdr. Bertie Ohayon - are considered team players who will emphasize the "classic" aspects of police work.
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