Israel Police Expanding Use of Social Media for PR

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Police chief Roni Alsheich talks with reporters after terror attack in Jaffa, Tel Aviv, leaves one dead.
Police chief Roni Alsheich talks with reporters after terror attack in Jaffa, Tel Aviv, leaves one dead.Credit: David Bachar

The Israel Police’s 100-person media division is expected to add 70 new positions, including three officers with the rank of chief superintendent, in an effort to improve the force’s image following the bad publicity generated by numerous recent cases.

The new group will be focused on social media networks, where police can reach the public directly, without the mainstream media as an intermediary. Some of the new employees may be employed as civilians under contract to the police, while others may need to be drawn from spokesmen’s units in the field. The expanded division will be stationed in the Har Hotzvim industrial zone in Jerusalem.

Brig. Gen. Yuval Gat, who is responsible for the new project, was recently recruited as head of the population and spokesman’s division, though until now few people in the police could explain exactly what his job was. Within the next week he will present Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh and other senior officers with a plan formulated with police spokesman Cmdr. Merav Lapidotto to overhaul the police public relations apparatus. Alsheikh has seen an outline of the plan and has given it a green light.

The objective is to monitor social networks to find articles and posts that portray the police negatively or criticize the police and try to conduct conversations with the responders. The policemen will also try to uncover positive stories at the various police stations and talk to residents who’ve had positive experience with the police, offering them technical and professional support to post positive things about the police.

Gat recently conducted a tour of police stations and tried to explain the move to police station commanders, but the latter argued that what he was asking would not always be possible, given the stations’ workload.

Supt. Sharon Yeminha, the head of the police’s new media unit, is eventually expected to take over the expanded division and be promoted to chief superintendent. Yeminha recently posted “We don’t buy in a supermarket whose workers hit policemen,” on his Facebook page, in an apaprent attempt to encourage a boycott of the Super Yuda supermarket in Tel Aviv where an Arab worker was beaten by border policemen last month.

The expansion is the latest in a series of moves Alsheikh has made to try to bolster the police’s image. Earlier this year, a public relations firm was hired without a tender and given an 800,000 shekel ($208,000) annual contract, while the Tandem consulting and training firm is being paid 400,000 shekels for its services.

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