Israel Police's new WhatsApp policy will lead to anarchy, disaster - opinion

And if the state is throwing up its hands in despair, then it is time to start thinking about replacing this out-of-touch national policing system with a local police force.

 PRIME MINISTER Yair Lapid holds a working meeting with Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev in Jerusalem. (photo credit: Prime Minister’s Office)
PRIME MINISTER Yair Lapid holds a working meeting with Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: Prime Minister’s Office)

Psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung, a student of Sigmund Freud, once wrote, “In every chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.” 

The recently announced new policy of the police to no longer go to the scene of the crime or to visit a victim of a crime of “low-violence,” such as theft or auto theft, etc., but to instruct victims to simply send a WhatsApp with a complaint form is malpractice

It is creating civil chaos that will produce a hidden, violent, uncontrolled order that will likely lead to anarchy in Israeli society. The silence of the public security minister and the prime minister is guaranteeing a social disaster.

And if the state is throwing up its hands in despair, then it is time to start thinking about replacing this out-of-touch national policing system with a local police force under the authority of the local municipality that is more accountable to the citizens it is protecting. This is a critical conversation that needs to be addressed during the upcoming elections.

 General view of the Lahav 443 police unit headquarters in the city of Lod on November 4, 2019.  (credit: FLASH90) General view of the Lahav 443 police unit headquarters in the city of Lod on November 4, 2019. (credit: FLASH90)

The anarchy that can come when there is no faith in the police

Almost 30 years ago, in a certain town in the center of the country that suffered from a plague of break-ins and thefts, the residents initiated their own community watch group. One night, the burglar was caught. He was stripped, tied to a tree, painted, and after a day he was sent home to tell others what would happen to whoever was caught. This act was a direct result of residents’ lack of faith in the police. Residents did not feel that the police were present. They didn’t trust them to provide proper protection or to respond quickly. 

From the moment the burglary suspect was caught, the residents became police officers, investigators, judges and members of the jury. I don’t know if the suspect was innocent or guilty. But any reasonable person would agree that he should not have been humiliated, interrogated while he was naked, beaten or threatened. But when the citizenry lose faith in law enforcement, then this type of anarchy is to be expected.

The mission of the Israel Police states: “We will act out of a mission and out of commitment to provide personal and civil security to the citizens of the country, its residents and guests, to provide them with quality and equal service and to improve their quality of life, along with our determined activity to enforce the law.” 

The organizational mission continues: “We will work to strengthen the public’s trust in the police, while safeguarding the rights of the individual, his dignity and his freedom, and we view the community and its leaders as partners in our efforts to strengthen the resilience of Israeli society.” 

In addition, it states that the police and other security providers will work for the “protection of human life, safety and property: the officer will protect human life, safety and property with determination, courage and understanding.” 

Personal security is undermined when in the middle of the night, you suddenly realize that your house was burglarized, that your jewelry and wallet are gone

Personal security is undermined when the police protocol requires that when a police officer arrives at the scene of a crime, his role is to merely scan the home to ensure that the suspect is not still threatening the victims. At that point the procedure is merely to instruct the homeowner to await for a WhatsApp message with a link to file a complaint. The presence of a police officer who can actually provide some level of protection for a victim of crime is a significant part of providing security.

When police stop providing security

IN OCTOBER 2021, new policies were issued to police and volunteer citizen patrols in the Central District that even in the case of suspected theft they were not to “block a road or thoroughfare.” Not surprisingly, many volunteers immediately turned in their volunteer badges. Why spend time away from their family if the volunteers are being handcuffed from creating actual security, as they would almost always be forced to allow a suspected criminal to flee. The document distributed this week that defines so many crimes as non-urgent, and prohibiting a qualified response, shows the complete disconnect between the police and the citizens that they are charged with protecting.

The radio silence of the relevant minister and the prime minister highlights their complete detachment from the people. The upcoming elections present a perfect platform for issues of personal insecurity to be discussed and debated. The collapsing existing police system and the need to find a new organizational structure to keep us secure is a paramount issue that affects the quality of life of Israelis throughout the country.

While the average citizen doesn’t come into regular contact with the police, they do expect an engaged policing system to provide protection when their own security has been compromised. He expects that if his car is stolen, a policeman will come to the scene and check some cameras or try to find some evidence and expend effort to find the perpetrator and to return a sense of security to the community that has just been violated. The people want to feel that the police care and that they are being protected.

The decision of the police to delist 50,000 offenses to lower the burden on the policing system will not bring security to Israeli civilians, but will just play games with crime statistics. It will also likely cause chaos that will lead to the creation of private police forces that are guaranteed to fall short of the values that Israeli society seeks for itself.

This new policy instituted by our national public security minister is unacceptable. If the state declares that it cannot provide a proper response, then there should be an orderly process that gives power to local authorities to operate local police with appropriate powers, defining when they are in charge and when cases must be handed over to the national police

If not, this “disorder” will surely lead to a much worse “secret order.”

The writer is mayor of Efrat.