There's no point trying to prettify the truth: The appointment of the new police inspector-general was a protracted fiasco. It did not go as planned and choices were made without sufficient forethought, perhaps to impress the citizenry with Interior Security Minister Avi Dichter's speed and decisiveness. Most candidates refused his offer outright, rendering the process one of negative selection. This is unfortunate because, even if new police chief David (Dudi) Cohen proves himself indisputably remarkable, he will always know - and so will his subordinates and the general public - that he was a last resort choice. That makes for an especially thorny start to what is already an exceedingly challenging job. Cohen will have to work extra hard to shine and excel to fend off carping comments from grudging detractors. If he does not - if he ends up merely mediocre - he'll be reminded that the only attributes to recommend him for the promotion were the fact that he was not tainted by hints of corruption and that he had attracted no notoriety. The latter aspect may arise from the fact that he is on the whole publicity-shy, which may be a good thing or may indicate absolutely nothing.
Who is Dudi Cohen?
In politics and large public organizational frameworks it often transpires that what is most required of new leaders installed after sordid episodes is that they be squeaky clean. Thus what mattered in Washington after Richard Nixon's presidency, for instance, was that his successors be spotless. Talent and leadership skills for the grueling task took a back seat.
Dichter had at first emphasized that he intended choosing a commander with reformist skills, to give the police a vital and long overdue overhaul. That's how Ya'acov Ganot's name came up. Yet even Ganot wasn't Dichter's obvious first choice. A whole firmament of ex-military stars wouldn't hear of trying their hand at restructuring the police. Then Ganot's rush nomination fell by the wayside - justifiably so, given his tarnished record.
Hence, despite Dichter's earlier declaration that the next police commissioner would not hail from police ranks, he was left with the humiliating task of going back to the very police upper echelon he had incensed. Those surprised by Cohen's long-shot win will probably be all the more astounded if he eventually succeeds in revamping and significantly improving the force. In his favor, however, it must be noted that Cohen, most recently Central District Commander, is known as diligent and hardworking. Lackluster though he may be, he is said to make up for this with tenacious attention to detail and willingness to delegate authority. His most outstanding relevant accomplishment to date was the merging of the police investigations and intelligence units, which had quite confoundedly worked apart and without cooperation for years.
On the downside is Cohen's reputed lack of stress on discipline, an area in which the police is woefully deficient. Lackadaisical controls make it easier for officers to stray beyond the bounds of the law. Lax authority often breeds disarray and such embarrassments as the escape from police custody of the country's most dangerous serial rapist and his clumsy recapture.
But Cohen's greatest challenge will be to reorder police priorities and put the safety of ordinary Israelis at the top. Given its battles against terrorist predations and burgeoning organized crime, the police often tends to dismiss so-called petty crime - from auto theft and burglaries to rowdiness and harassment - which most frequently affects members of the public.
Indeed the sometimes impatient, if not offensive attitude displayed by officers towards those they are sworn to protect must change. We should never again hear of cases such as the shameful ejection last year from the Petah Tikva precinct of Hanania Amram, who came to report his young daughter missing. She was found murdered a few hours later.
Of course, Cohen's to-do list is far longer and more multifaceted. He will need the support of his superiors, his force and the public to have any chance of success. For all of our sakes, let us hope that his performance belies the unprepossessing circumstances of his appointment.