Israel’s Police Chief Boasts of Record-high Applications, but Senior Officer Says Otherwise

Commissioner Roni Alsheich contradicted remarks made a week earlier by the head of the prosecution division, Brig. Gen. Lily Baumhaker.

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich speaking in December 2015.
Olivier Fitoussi

On April 6, Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich was asked how a series of corruption and sexual misconduct scandals involving senior officers had affected the recruiting efforts of the force. He responded that job applications were soaring.

“There’s a crowd storming the recruiting office, an enormous crowd,” Alsheich told the Israel Bar Association annual conference in Eilat. “We can’t handle the load.”

But his statements contradicted remarks made a week before by the head of the Prosecution Division, Brig Gen. Lily Baumhaker.

“It’s true the Finance Ministry promised us 72 positions for the [police] prosecution alone,” she told a conference at the University of Haifa Faculty of Law. “But it’s also true that we have yet to received even one. We haven’t received [authorization] for a single new staff position; we only have a promise.”

But the failure to approve additional positions wasn’t the biggest problem, Baumhaker continued: The real problem is that there are 1,000 positions that remain unfilled “because they don’t really want to come to us, not to the police prosecution.” As a stopgap, she said, the division has “borrowed” staff from other departments.

Asked to explain the seeming contradiction, the Israel Police said in a statement that Baumhaker was talking only about the prosecution division. Approval in principle has been obtained for 72 new positions, and “even for existing slots, to be filled immediately, there’s excess demand and a great desire to serve in the police,” the statement said.

But Baumhaker’s remarks at the conference were videotaped, leaving no room for misinterpretation, and she is an extremely senior officer. Thus it seems odd that she and Alsheich should have such different views of the situation.

Moreover, other police officers share her view that the force has a recruitment problem, especially in the Jerusalem area. The wave of stabbings by Palestinians has raised interest in joining the force, they said, but not nearly to the degree Alsheich implied.

“The facts speak for themselves. There are many applications to the Israel Police’s recruiting office ... and we are indeed currently in the process of recruiting hundreds of new police officers,” the Israel Police said in a statement.