Tel Aviv to launch 200-strong municipal policing force, citing 'special challenges'

Program to be paid for out of added monthly cost on arnona for every city municipal tax payer; joins programs in 55 other cities.

Tel Aviv beach  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Tel Aviv beach
Citing “special challenges” facing the city, Tel Aviv is set to launch a city-wide municipal policing force of 200 officers working day and night, joining over 50 other towns and cities that have launched similar programs in the past few years.
It will be paid for by a municipal tax of NIS 2 per sq.m. per year on every city property, which will appear on municipal tax bills beginning in January.
“Because of the variety of challenges in recent years, the city hall has decided to launch a new security patrol that will help keep the peace,” the municipality said in an email to The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
City hall said it is part of their efforts “to increase the personal security of residents and keep the peace across the city, in particular in the southern Tel Aviv neighborhoods.”
Officers won’t have the same rights as police, but they will have the ability to detain suspects until police arrive, and carry out searches on people who they suspect of carrying a weapon, and enter any place that is not a private residence.
These rights have caused concern about abuses of power and threats to civil rights, according to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
Speaking to the Post on Thursday, ACRI attorney Anne Suciu said “these people are separate from the police, they haven’t gone through the same training as police and yet they are another authority who can use force against us.”
She added that it was problematic because it is unclear who will investigate ethical complaints against the municipal officers, who don’t have an internal affairs unit like the police. In addition, Suciu said that when these officers are given the right to perform certain actions but not others, it creates the potential that they will exercise powers that they are not afforded by law.
The program is an extension of a law passed in 2011 that allowed for the launch of municipal policing units in cities across Israel. Concerns were allayed at the time by limiting the program to only 13 cities, but has since then consistently expanded to a total of 56 such programs, including the one in Tel Aviv.
In addition, a police internal affairs report found serious failings in the operations of the civil guard units, according to a Haaretz report from earlier this year.
It stated that the municipal patrols were handling crimes that were outside its jurisdiction, and becoming involved in actual serious crime investigations – as opposed to their usual realm of noise complaints, vandalism, underage drinking, and similar violations.
When asked if municipal officers would be able to make arrests, city hall responded that patrols would be carried out in conjunction with regular police officers, who will make any necessary arrests.