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Academics and police brass, Americans and Israelis, sat side by side in Jerusalem this week, hoping that a symposium two years in the making would help them pave new roads on the path to confronting terrorism in civil society.
The joint symposium - organized by top Public Security Ministry researcher Dr. Yisrael Barak and his counterparts at the US's National Institute of Justice and convened under the banner "To Serve and to Protect: Police and Policing in the Age of Terror," paired up American-Israeli research duos who had worked together to formulate position papers.
Starting in November 2005, the teams examined various aspects of the impact of terrorism on police strategies in a democratic country and on society, culminating in the six position papers being discussed at the Jerusalem forum.
"We are working on the assumption that terror will continue to be a factor, although of course we hope otherwise," Barak said.
The symposium's goal was to report, examine and debate the position papers, and to agree on a course of action, ministry officials said.
The binational teams researched the connection between terrorism and "classic" crime; societal problems arising from terrorism; the role of the police in preventing and responding to terrorism; inter-organization cooperation and divisiveness in terrorism prevention; technological strategies developed by police to confront terrorism; and the impact of terror-driven changes on the relations between police and community.
The research is part of a larger cooperation agreement between the Public Security Ministry and the National Institute of Justice. Signed in 1998 and up for renewal in 2009, the agreement deals with cooperation in research, development, planning, and identifying policy and technological developments in the war on terror.
Approximately 50 law enforcement officials and academic experts took part in the two-day symposium, as did Public Security Minister Avi Dichter and US Ambassador to Israel Richard Jones, who both addressed the opening session on Tuesday.
Jones highlighted his experience in Iraq, reflecting on the role of imprisonment in the war on terror.
"The real atrocity at Abu Ghraib prison - if there was any - was the crowdedness," said Jones, describing the difficult choices US officials had to make on whether and how to release suspected terrorists and insurgents.
Participants in the symposium included Prof. David Weisbord, head of Hebrew University's Criminology Institute, as well as professors from George Mason University in Virginia, the University of Haifa, Herzliya's Interdisciplinary Center, the University of Maryland, the John Jay College for Criminal Justice in Manhattan and the University of South Carolina.
In addition, National Institute of Justice acting chief David Hagy, NIJ researchers Dr. Thomas Poicht and Lois Mock, and three US police chiefs participated in the sessions.
Israel Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen attended some of the working sessions Wednesday, and his No. 2, Cmdr. Shahar Ayalon, addressed the symposium members early Tuesday afternoon.
A steering committee of symposium organizers is set to meet on Sunday to process the conclusions and recommendations of symposium participants and their applicability to policy.