How to Find a New Police Commissioner

Israelis need a police force that will make policing, investigations and keeping the peace its main concerns.

1. Take the appointment away from Avi Dichter. "Is your situation better than it was four years ago?" asked the 1960s-era campaign slogan Britain's Labor Party used in the elections that ended the Tories' lengthy rule. The question Israeli citizens could ask themselves is: "Are you safer today than you were almost a year ago, when Avi Dichter was appointed public security minister?" The answer - if the question can even be heard over the explosions of missiles and gunshots being fired by organized crime rings - is obvious: Israelis need a police force that will make policing, investigations and keeping the peace its main concerns. But when Dichter searches for a police commissioner, he goes to Amram Mitzna, a mayor and former candidate for prime minister, who was demobilized from the Israel Defense Forces 15 years ago. The slap in the face can be heard from police headquarters to Yeruham. The police force is a development town crying out for rehabilitation. If that is the profile Dichter is disseminating under the headline: "Wanted: A police commissioner," salvation will not come from him.

2. Appoint a search committee. The police commissioner's centrality to the law-enforcement system is similar to that of the attorney general and state prosecutor. Thus, finding suitable candidates should not be the private purview of the public security minister, just as the attorney general and the state prosecutor are recommended by the justice minister only after being vetted by a search committee. If this were a serious committee - more serious than the one, of which former judge Vardi Zeiler was a member, that chose Eran Shendar as state prosecutor, without figuring out what the Zeiler Commission discovered later - it would conduct a thorough review of the candidates' records and grill them backward and forward in hearings.

3. Search outside the force. The appointment of a general who did not manage to become the Israel Defense Forces' chief of staff would not only mean that the police had become a second IDF, as interested police major generals are crying, but that the police commissioner would be a chief of staff-minus. An army officer brings no outstanding advantages to the job, especially at a moment when the IDF's prestige is at a low. Good candidates could include district attorneys or judges experienced in criminal cases. Veteran police officers praise the example of Yaakov Kedmi, who later went on to become a Supreme Court justice: He came from the military prosecution to head the police's investigations department, burrowed through the case files and inspired young investigators.

4. Search within the force. Major General Ilan Franco earned a promotion yesterday: His chances of being appointed police commissioner were always negligible, but now he can claim that the Zeiler Commission's report robbed him of the appointment. But other police major generals, not necessarily those whose names are suddenly and miraculously sprouting up, would be reasonable candidates. Moshe Mizrahi, currently on combined pre-retirement and paternity leave, could create a different police force. Shahar Ayalon, who made a success of the traffic police and is en route to head the Northern District, has unparalleled expertise in the police's history and what it needs for the future. The commander of the Tel Aviv District, David Tzur, would be police commissioner today had then prime minister Ariel Sharon stood firm when the public security minister at the time, Tzachi Hanegbi, proposed Moshe Karadi for the job. Neither Benny Sela's escape nor Tzur's friendship with Dichter from their days together in Ashkelon should deprive him of the appointment.

5. Send the chosen candidate to Zarnoga. The appointment of a new police commissioner ought to provide the momentum for focusing on basic, routine policing - patrols and investigations - and perhaps for the force's transfer from the Public Security Ministry (which would then oversee only the Home Front Command, the Border Police, the firefighting and rescue services and the Civil Guard) to the Justice Ministry. The next police commissioner's challenge will be to change the police both from top to bottom, by eliminating unnecessary layers of generals and division heads, and from bottom to top, by nurturing a young generation of detectives and investigators, who will be shrewd and realistic, curious and inquisitive, honest and eager to find things out (which is something that is not measured by an academic degree), with good field instincts and plenty of common sense. A former senior police officer proposed yesterday that the next police commissioner begin his preparations "in t he Zarnoga police station's investigations department" and by spending three different shifts with mobile patrols. There, he would learn how things really work - or are supposed to work.