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police al aksa pretty 311 AJ.(Photo by: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Low pay is the No. 1 complaint expressed by police officers
Long hours without overtime means many are earning less than the minimum wage.
Low pay is the No. 1 complaint expressed by police officers and prison guards in Israel, according to a report presented to a Knesset committee on Tuesday.

The report was compiled by the Israel Ombudsman for Police and Prisons Service Personnel, an office that operates within the Public Security Ministry, and which is headed by Cmdr. (ret.) Hanna Keller. The report, which was presented to Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and the Knesset Interior Committee on Tuesday, shows an 18% increase during 2009 in the number of complaints by policemen and prison guards, especially in regard to salary.

The report also found a 29% rise in the number of employees seeking consultation over whether to file a complaint.

According to the report, the leading complaints in the Israel Police after salary issues involved relations between officers and their subordinates. Such complaints were highest among junior officers and non-commissioned officers. In the Prisons Service, the leading subjects of complaint were pay and conditions of service, followed by officer-subordinate relations.

A glance at Israel Police and Prisons Service salaries show that by virtually any standard, officers and guards are earning salaries that make supporting a family extremely difficult.

A regular service police officer (one not serving in special units or the Border Police) and a standard prison guard earn NIS 4,400 in gross pay per month, while an officer serving in a special unit such as Israel’s counterterrorism Yamam unit makes NIS 5,000 per month. Israel’s minimum wage is NIS 3,850 per month.

When one factors in the long hours that police officers and prison guards work and the fact that they don’t receive overtime pay, the amount they make per hour becomes less than the minimum wage and significantly less than most service industry employees in Israel make.

As the officers climb in rank their pay rises, but the promotions take much longer than they do in the IDF. For instance, a non-commissioned officer makes NIS 6,200 per month; while a first-sergeant major earns NIS 9,500 per month.

Unlike in the army, where such ranks are achieved by soldiers as young as 20 or 21, in the police and Prisons Service an officer only achieves such a rank after the age of 31, when most of them have families to support.

Officers’ courses also take until an advanced age to complete, with the rank of inspector, (which pays NIS 9,500) usually only being achieved by the age of 29 or 30. Police officers and prison guards typically serve in this rank, until the age of 36, at which time they are eligible to become a superintendent. This rank, equivalent to the army rank of captain, pays NIS 12,000 gross per month, but is often reached in the army by the age of 23.

A spokesman for the Public Security Ministry told The Jerusalem Post that not only does the low pay harm the ability of police officers to perform their job; it makes it difficult for the police to recruit new officers and to retain those who have signed up.

“It’s not that they can’t recruit people, the real problem is that so many of them have no choice but to leave after a year or two,” he said.

Following presentation of the report Aharonovitch vowed to push for higher pay for police officers and prison guards, saying “officers can not carry on without the ability to provide their families with the means to celebrate holidays, to buy gifts for their children, or take vacations with their loved ones.

“The report shows the forlorn state of the soldiers fighting the war on crime,” Aharonovitch added.

The Public Security Ministry also issued a statement noting that the problem puts the public more at risk.

“A police officer or prison guard who is frustrated and has no way to remedy it, works in an unsatisfactory way. Such officers do not initiate actions and are lack motivation.”
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