Israeli Arab community leaders learn fair policing policies in N. Ireland

Abraham Fund Initiatives for integration, equality of Arab citizens organize a trip for 15 Arab-Israeli community leaders.

By
August 26, 2013 21:52
2 minute read.
Leaders watch work of local civilian ‘Advisory Committee’ to a N. Ireland police station commander

Abraham Fund police work 370. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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The Abraham Fund Initiatives for the integration and equality of Arab citizens organized a trip last week for 15 Arab-Israeli community leaders to Northern Ireland, to learn from its police force.

The goal of the trip was to expose the Arab-Israeli participants to the drastic reforms that took place within the police of Northern Ireland which now provide more equitable services to the minority community.

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Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu, co-executive director of the Fund told The Jerusalem Post in an interview that the Arab Israelis saw how the community interacts with the police and how they need to demand better service from the police in their communities.

Be’eri-Sulitzeanu explains that until the Good Friday agreement in 1998, Catholics suffered from the Protestant-dominated police force, which viewed them as a security threat. After the agreement, reforms were made to be inclusive – the name and symbols of the police were changed along with procedures.

The police also transformed from a semi-military force to a civil service, he said, adding that an important reform was the 50/50 drafting policy into the police and affirmative action towards Catholics. It was formerly over 95 percent Protestant, until the implementation of a drafting policy that half of all recruits would be Catholics; now the force is 40 percent Catholic.

The ethnic conflict in Northern Ireland began in the 1960s and revolved around the fact that (mostly) Protestants wanted Northern Ireland to remain within the United Kingdom and (mostly) Catholic Irish nationalists wanted to leave the United Kingdom and unite Ireland.

Today there are slightly more Protestants than Catholics in Northern Ireland.

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Be’eri-Sulitzeanu said that Abraham Fund’s efforts to promote trust-based and fair policing to the Israeli Arab community began almost 10 years ago, but that so far, they had only sent Jewish Israeli police officers, not Arab Israelis. The idea is to take the lessons learned there and try to bring them here.

A key point, said Be’eri-Sulitzeanu, is that “the police need to gain the trust of the community – they cannot function without it and right now Arab trust in them is not high enough, and the police are aware of this.”

And on the other hand, he says that the Arab community needs to understand that without cooperation, the police cannot function optimally to combat violence and crime in the Arab towns.

An important aspect of policing in Northern Ireland that was learned was that of a local civilian “Advisory Committee” to the local police station commander, headed by the mayor of the local community, and which meets periodically with the police in order to discuss and solve local issues and problems.

“We brought this from Northern Ireland five years ago and both the police and Arab communities tried it and have been using it in two Arab communities,” he said noting that the cooperation in the Arab town Kafr Kara has been especially successful.

Another reform that was brought from Northern Ireland was the idea of improving communication between the police and the minority and media services to the Arab community.

This contributed to the police’s decision to recruit an Arab police media officer, he said.

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