Effort to recruit 1,000 cops falls flat

Low wages result in only 31 new hires.

police 88 (photo credit: )
police 88
(photo credit: )
The government came under fire on Monday when a Knesset Internal Affairs Committee learned that only 31 new police officers had been hired so far out of a proposed 1,000-strong addition to the police force Public Security Minister Avi Dichter said would be in place by the end of the year. In his appearance before the committee, Public Security Ministry Director-General Ra'anan Falk said the goal of recruiting an additional 1,000 police officers by the end of the year was unattainable, adding that the current recruitment target stood at a mere 200. Budgetary constraints meant police could only take on 60 new officers at this time, and so far only 31 had actually been hired. Falk's presentation drew bewildered responses from the committee's members. "I don't know whether to laugh or cry. We've descended from 1000 to 200, from 60 to 31. This isn't the way to build a police force or fight crime," Knesset Member Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beitenu) said. "At this rate, years will pass before 1,000 police officers are recruited," committee chairman Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor), remarked. "The public feels unprotected and unsafe, and the government is not allocating the basic resources needed to strengthen the police. This is amateur, and looks more like a PR campaign than a real step to improve personal security." Paz-Pines added that "31 additional officers will not provide anyone with a sense of security." He said he would work to promote a private law proposal by MK Shai Hermesh (Kadima), which calls for a 10,000-strong addition to the police force, resulting in a 4:1000 police-civilian ratio. But an aide to Dichter said that despite the slow start, "A thousand police officers will be recruited by the end of the year. Two hundred officers will be hired by the end of May, and the pace will increase." "The target will be met," Dichter's aide vowed. Some 400 police officers were supposed to have been enlisted by now - 200 in March and further 200 in February, according to the original proposal. Two months ago, Olmert and Dichter released a joint statement in which they announced a decision to hire "1,000 additional police officers in order to deal with crime. This will form a significant increase to the operational power of Israel Police," the statement said. "Following the decision, the enlistment of the officers will begin soon. The emphasis will be on field positions in areas that suffer from high crime rates," it continued. Most of the new officers would be sent to northern Israel, according to the plan, while 820 of the planned recruits would be sent to police stations, Falk said on Monday. On Monday, the Internal Affairs committee accused the government of making grandiose statements which it failed to back up, noting that the earlier commitment for the increase in police numbers was based on little more than an informal agreement between Dichter and Olmert. One of the major sticking points in police recruitment efforts is the wages earned by new recruits. In a conversation with The Jerusalem Post on Sunday, former Tel Aviv District police chief David Tzur said starting police salaries stood at around NIS 4,000 a month, and called on the government to raise police wages so as to retain new recruits.