Viewpoint / The Police Are Dead

A concerned citizen called one of the reporters on the police beat a few months back, and related a story he'd heard. The story was about an elderly lady who returned home in her car one afternoon, only to find a strange car in her parking space. Without missing a blink, the lady used her auto to block the other car, which turned out to belong to thieves burgling her home.

Instead of fleeing and leaving their car behind, the thieves chose to get into their car and wait. The lady called the police, who replied, "Sorry, there's no patrol car available in the area." After a few hours, she gave up waiting and released the burglars' car.

That is the story. Its details were never officially confirmed. It could be an urban myth or it could be true. We may never know, because the reporter never followed it up. He never thought it worth the effort. "It happens all the time," he told the astonished concerned citizen. "The police don't hide it. It tells us, the reporters on the police beat, that we should write they that don't have enough patrol cars or enough cops, and that they can't handle routine complaints."

Israel's police rolled over and died long ago, even though its chief of police and the force won't admit it. How do we know it's departed this mortal coil? Because for years, it hasn't supplied the service for which it was founded: making citizens safer. We know it's lifeless because it doesn't even pretend to supply the most basic of police services, namely handling complaints about minor and moderately serious crime, which constitute the absolute majority of transgressions. The police, openly and frankly, do not handle such complaints, and people, openly and frankly, don't bother to file them any more.

We know the police force is dead because it it is no longer an address civilians go when they need help. People know that if a crime is committed against their property or person, there is no succor at the police station. They just have to muddle along as best they can.

If the police was a private corporation, it would be in liquidation because of its proven inability to fulfill its goals. If the chief of police was a CEO, he'd be shown the door. In the private sector, a CEO is supposed to achieve the company's goals using the resources available. He has to manage the company based on a given budget, or quit if he can't. There is no third option.

Except at the Israel Police, where the chiefs have been living the third option for years: They wear the badge and utterly and completely refuse to take responsibility for the force's dysfunctionality. "No budget," they shrug, viewing that as a catchall excuse for openly and frankly not getting the job done.

Now the police really have a great slogan - "Giuliani Program" - named after renowned New York mayor Rudi Giuliani - which strengthened that great city's police and eradicated crime on the streets.

Giuliani achieved that by significantly increasing the police budget and expanding the police's power to fight crime.

Those are the two fundamentals of the Israel Police plan to fight the rising wave of crime breaking over Israel.

But in fact, these were not the only two elements in Giuliani's program. There was a third one, a very important one. It was the part where Giuliani divided New York into four sections and placed a responsible officer at the head of each. Each month, that regional police chief had to report directly to Giuliani about the crime in his quarter-city, and if it had gone up or down, and explain what he meant to do to make it go down.

Meaning, Giuliani forced the police to develop tools to measure its performance and compare it on a competitive basis. Only things that are measurable can be managed, and without management you can't make progress. That is true for police work too. And defense.

Israel has giant public systems, and each and every one is a budgetary black hole. There is no measurement, no transparency and no follow-up. There is no management.

So now the police are demanding 2,000 more cops. They might as well demand 7,000, or fire 1,500. When the police have no clear goals, when there is no pretense of trying to achieve goals, and when the chief doesn't think he should quit if the goals are not achieved, the additional force won't do a thing to make Israel's citizens feel safer. It's just throwing good money after bad.