Israel Police Launch PR Campaign in Bid to Improve Image After Sex Allegations

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Police chief Yohanan Danino.Credit: Rami Shllush

The police have hired a public-relations firm to help fill hundreds of vacancies following sexual-harassment allegations against senior officers and a hit to the agency’s image after the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teens in June.

“Damage to the organization’s image is so significant that we’ve come to a situation where people don’t want to be part of the force,” a senior police official said. He said the problem needed to be understood in terms of “exactly what crisis we’re in and what the public expects us to do to regain its faith.”

The PR agency that won a government tender is Le’omek Hatoda’a. The police said the bidding had been launched “to continue the recruiting campaign via the media and other channels, and to narrow gaps in the organization’s human resources by the massive recruiting of quality young men and women.”

The police already failed in a PR campaign before the West Bank kidnapping by men with links to Hamas. The abduction and murder proved particularly damaging to the police’s image; a call by one of the teens to a police emergency hotline was not acted on immediately.

One new effort to draw new recruits is to increase the police’s high-tech profile.

“We established a cyber unit with the most advanced technology, just like units in the army have. This should be able to attract the highest-quality people,” a senior official in the Public Security Ministry said.

“We’ve prepared an economic plan to bring in new officers, instead of these people going to the high-tech industry,” the official said, adding that the police aimed to attract veterans of the Israel Defense Forces’ 8200 signals-intelligence unit.

Meanwhile, a new plan has been approved to beef up forces in East Jerusalem by between 500 and 600 officers, who were to begin training around now. But police human-resources experts say recent events are deterring young people from joining.

Even perks for new recruits such as rent subsidies and salary increases for starting positions have not helped. The problem is affecting all districts and all jobs.

According to the Public Security Ministry, the fire and rescue service and the prison service have all the new applicants they need, and applicant numbers are on the rise. But amid the sexual-harassment affair, the police are having a hard time hiring new officers for the first time in decades.

In investigations against former deputy police commissioner Nissim Mor and coastal district commander Hagai Dotan, dozens of female officers have been summoned to provide information.

Senior officials say that even now the crisis is not being properly managed. The order is for the police to promote Commissioner Yohanan Danino’s plan, Turning Point, for bringing down crime rates.

Earlier this month, for example, after a suspect was arrested at the airport, a spokeswoman for the police’s investigations and intelligence branch made a statement about the arrest that has become standard for the police.

“It joins a long series of arrests, exposures and indictments issued during the years of Turning Point, which improves deterrence based on the risk that an offender will be caught,” she said. “It’s further proof that time and place do not impact the operations of the Israel Police.”

The arrest actually had nothing to do with Danino’s plan; it was simply mentioned in keeping with policy.

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