Sex Scandals, Regaining Public Trust: Challenges Await Incoming Israel's New Police Chief

Brig. Gen. Gal Hirsch is taking the helm of a police force in crisis. Here are some of the major challenges he will face when he assumes his post.

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Brig. Gen. Gal Hirsch, whose appointment as new Israel Police chief is under fire.Credit: Alon Ron

Israel Police chief designate, Brig. Gen. (res.) Gal Hirsch, is taking the helm of a police force in crisis. Public trust in the police was shaken by its response to the kidnapping of three Israelis in the West Bank last year and by sex scandals and other affairs that forced high-ranking officers to resign. These are only some of the challenges Hirsch will have to face.

First and foremost, a police force that lacks the public’s confidence cannot function. Surveys show that up to 70 percent of the public has lost its faith in the police, which means people are less likely to complain about crimes committed against them or those they may witness.

The sex scandals that have forced out several senior commanders; the faulty performance of the police hot line during the kidnapping of the three teenagers in Gush Etzion last year; the murder of two young Bedouin sisters shortly time after their mother had complained to police about their father, who has been charged with their death; the corruption in the cases of Ronel Fisher and Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto; all have led the police to lose the public’s respect.

Rebuilding the senior command echelon: When a new commissioner is chosen there are always senior officers who resign because they understand the top job will never be theirs. This time, however, the resulting void will be more extreme than ever because of all the commanders with vast operational experience who were forced out by scandal. Not all those who were hurriedly promoted to replace them were the best possible choices.

What’s more, the public is desperate for some new blood to be injected into what is widely perceived as a failed old boys’ network. To build a solid senior command, Hirsch will have to recruit commanders from outside the police; people who are professionals in the intelligence, investigations, and legal fields. 

Recruitment: For the first time in years, the Israel Police has over 1,000 open positions that it is having a hard time filling. Whereas it was always difficult to fill posts in the financial or cybercrime units, because good people in those fields prefer to stay in the military or in the private sector, today the police are having trouble recruiting people for classic police work.

Putting cops on the beat: A police presence is a crucial part of restoring public security and confidence, but people rarely see policemen on the street except during times of high tension. This has been discussed endlessly over the past several years, but little change is evident. That most people only meet a policeman when they’re pulled over and issued a traffic ticket is a situation that has to change.

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