Border Police credits force's improved image for surge in recruitment

The Border Police has seen a 30 percent increase in the number of youths seeking to be drafted into the force as part of their compulsory military service, new figures showed on Tuesday. The statistics relate to the August 2008 IDF draft, in which 400 and 150 male and female recruits respectively joined the Border Police at the IDF's Tel Hashomer recruitment center. "Our image has improved," said Border Police spokesman Moshe Pinchi. "There is more awareness among young people and among the general population of the vital role the Border Police has in contributing to security," he added. But the Border Police's image wasn't always good - the force suffered from a number of high-profile incidents in which officers abused their roles and violated the rules of engagement by assaulting Palestinians. Sarit Phillipson, now the southern police district spokeswoman, represented the Border Police from 2005 to 2007, and had taken over PR for the police force during a low point in its public image. "When I was offered the position of spokeswoman, the Border Police had a number of incidents, such as an abuse of a Palestinian in Abu Dis in 2005, or in Hebron, where an officer threw a Palestinian out of a moving jeep, killing him. I came in during a very difficult time," Phillipson recalled. "But since then, the Border Police has changed. There are workshops on proper conduct. There is much tighter cooperation between officers and their commanders. There have been very few incidents of harsh violence from mid-2005 onwards," she added. "The Border Police is a massive organization. It is part police, part military. With over 8,900 members, it's uniqueness lies in the wide variety of roles it offers," Phillipson said. "Because it is situated in the most problematic areas, the Border Police has had officers who deviated from the rules. If you want to change the Border Police's image, you have to get rid of those officers, and deal with them in the most severe way," she added. Another key factor was a boost in the morale of Border Police officers, Phillipson explained. "The minute they are proud of who they are, it shows. The Border Police has some of the best units in the whole police force. Its elite units draw the best personnel with the highest records. We are a small country, and when you hear about someone serving in the Border Police who is proud of what they do, word spreads."