Police want to bring Negev Beduin 'into the force'

Police launch initiative

Police in the South have launched a campaign aimed at improving relations with the Beduin community and increasing the number of Beduin officers. One of the biggest challenges facing police when dealing with crimes within the Beduin community is figuring out how to confront the custom of holding sulha reconciliation ceremonies between individuals and clans following violent incidents. The custom has traditionally taken the place of law enforcement. "Our first step was to make sure that the reconciliation ceremonies do not take the place of law enforcement. The ceremonies can accompany legal proceedings, but not come in their place," a Southern District police source explained on Thursday. "We enforce the law in the Beduin community to the same extent that it is enforced everywhere else in the country," the source added. "There cannot be acts that are permitted to the Beduin that are forbidden to others. This way, police have increased their role in the community." At the same time, police have brought Beduin communities into the City Without Violence program, which seeks to coordinate the efforts of police, social services, the central government and municipalities, to prevent violent offenses. The initiative has seen Beduin teens attend organized activities in the afternoons, and rehabilitation programs to help juvenile delinquents break out of the cycle of crime. Police have also opened a recruitment drive to beef up the numbers of Beduin officers. One possibility now available for Beduin youth is to to serve in the police as part of their national service. The option is open to both men and women, and those who serve in the police can continue to work in the force for a living after completing their national service. "Many have begun opting for this path," the police source said. Southern Police chief Cmdr. Yohanan Danino has also created a preparatory program to increase the number of Beduin applicants who pass their police entrance qualification exams. The program has already quadrupled the rate of Beduin passing the test and becoming police cadets in recent months. "The problem was that before the program, two out of every 15 applicants would make it. Now, eight become cadets," said the police source. Police are also concerned about road safety standards in the Beduin community. In recent months, community police officers together with volunteers from the Or Yarok road safety NGO visited 35,000 Beduin homes to hand out brochures on safe driving. The pamphlets emphasize road awareness and provide instruction on safe ways to drive in reverse. The steps were taken after a number of children were accidentally run over by family members outside their homes. "This is about bringing the Beduin into the police and into society," the police source said.