How should Israelis deal with the police?

Israel Police spokesman Dean Elsdunne, an Anglo, explains what is entailed in enforcing law and order.

 DEAN ELSDUNNE: Police want to help. (photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
DEAN ELSDUNNE: Police want to help.
(photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)

Dean Elsdunne made aliyah at age 22 from South Florida. He began his service as a Border Police officer and today is the Israel Police international spokesperson, dealing with media outlets from around the globe. 

Now fluent in Hebrew, at 27, Elsdunne represents the Israel Police in the international media for outlets such as CNN, NBC, BBC, Sky News, Al Jazeera, AP, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. 

Elsdunne met his wife, also from South Florida, on the other side of the world when he enlisted in the IDF; she had done the same. The two of them fell in love with their service and with each other. 

How do you respond to public disrespect of the police force?

It’s disheartening to witness members of the public disrespecting police officers. I myself have been called “Nazi” by the public or been subjected to derogatory comments/aggression for things that have nothing to do with me or the officers standing next to me. 

There are times when I try to speak with the other person and show them there is a person under this uniform. But there are other times when it’s clear they are using us as a scapegoat for other issues and have no intention of having a constructive dialogue.

 POLICE PATROL outside al-Aqsa Mosque amid clashes in the area. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
POLICE PATROL outside al-Aqsa Mosque amid clashes in the area. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

As compared to the US, where there is local representation, how should we, the people, work within the system to take care of local issues – for example, illegal noise or construction?

As in other democratic countries, representatives of the people are present here in Israel as well. MKs are the officials of elected parties. Mayors, council members, and community leaders are here to represent the people. 

While local issues are often dealt with by the municipality and community leaders, there are also community relations officers from the police deployed in the districts and neighborhoods throughout Israel, who connect the police and the community. 

If there is a local issue taking place that crosses into the criminal purview, the public can always reach out to the police – and, even more so, are encouraged to reach out to local law enforcement.

Who makes up the police force?

When I joined the Border Police, I was a part of it with other immigrants, not just from America but from Nigeria, Russia, all over Europe, and South America. The police is actually a melting pot of people from around the world. I went through it in Jerusalem, where there are Russians, Ethiopians, Druze from the North, and Christian Arabs. It’s crazy what a melting pot it is. 

A lot of us from Florida served at the same time. Starting with the commanders, they loved the Americans. They were the ones who wanted to do the most and boosted morale the most. As a new immigrant, there’s frustration with language and cultural differences, so if we see an immigrant or tourist, we want to see what we can do to help them. 

Should we bother going to the police?

I often hear people say, ‘I had this incident, but I didn’t go to the police.’ That’s exactly what they’re there for. In the worst case, they will tell you they can’t help. 

They want to help, but sometimes their hands are tied without evidence. Anyone who wonders if I should ask the police, go to the police and ask them if it’s something they could help with or not. 

If the issue is not an emergency, like an instance of vandalism, file a complaint online. This option is available on the police website, and you can file in various languages: Arabic, Spanish, French, Russian, Hebrew, and English. 

People have to remember [the police] really are here to help. You can reach out to them. You can get to know them on a first-name basis. When people build relationships with officers, [the police] are strengthened because they feel their work is appreciated.

How should one deal with an officer during a time of need?

I can’t speak for [particular] incidents, but generally, when you’re dealing with the police, it’s usually your worst day. You’ve been robbed or had an accident. You have to remember they’re doing their job. When you’re dealing with someone on the worst day, there’s a lot of emotion involved. Be calm and collected. It’s understandable. 

But the police are here to help. It might seem obnoxious. Why are you asking me this stupid question? They are not doing it on purpose to irritate you. It’s for a reason. Just because you bring one case does not mean yours is the only one. It could be connected to another. The officer might be understanding it in a way you yourself can’t see. This is his profession. He knows law and order. He might know of a string of things and want to get a better understanding from you. 

What if it’s not worth calling the police?

If there’s even a hint that it might be, then there’s no question about it at all. Worst case – they will guide you in the right direction. Reach out. People think officers are around to give tickets. Police are involved in so many things: suicide, criminal activity, enforcing traffic. Enforcing traffic laws saves lives. Your being stopped might have saved you from colliding into a family car. 

What to do?

The first thing you do, if it’s [something] happening to you, is get medical help. Call 100. It’s the equivalent of 911 in the US. Try your very best to stay calm and give as many details as possible to the emergency dispatch, to help. Because while that officer is on his way, they can use cameras to guide the officer. 

If you were robbed by two individuals, the closest police officer might not go straight to you but to the person they see on the camera. Sometimes there is an officer who reaches the [suspected] guy before he gets away. It might seem like it’s taking a while, but you don’t know what’s going on. 

Don’t assume the officer already knows something. Work with the officer patiently as he asks questions. If the police feel it’s an incident that needs to be followed up, go to the station and see what’s going on with the case. Be calm for that dialogue. Things take time. Not everything is immediate. Police need evidence and to do hard police work. 

What’s the next step?

You can reach legal professionals with organizations like Nefesh B’Nefesh or the Interior Ministry. They can guide you through the next steps. 


When you’re a new immigrant in Israel, familiarize yourself with the laws – traffic and public conduct. Driving. You can turn right on red in Florida, but not in Israel. Familiarize yourself with the rules. Fireworks are not OK in Israel but are legal in some US states. Issues over public drinking or marijuana usage are not always obvious. 

What if the person doesn’t speak Hebrew?

If they can come to the police precinct with someone who speaks Hebrew, that is great. Ask a family member or friend to join. And if that’s not possible, reach out to an organization that can assist. Many Israelis do speak English; and in an emergency, the dispatchers will find someone who speaks English to field the call. 

Are the police corrupt?

If you’ve had a bad experience, try not to make a blanket statement. The police are there to help people. That’s the goal. Don’t judge an entire force based on one experience. There are times when the police can’t help, but not because they don’t want to help.