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14 February

| 2019 | 17:00

The East Jerusalem Forum -Police Activity in East Jerusalem

  • Free
  • Invites Only
  • Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research, Radak 20, Jerusalem
  • Free
  • Invites Only
  • Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research, Radak 20, Jerusalem
The East Jerusalem Forum -Police Activity in East Jerusalem
Keynote speaker: Major General Yoram Halevi, the outgoing commander of the Jerusalem district of the Israel Police.

 

Hostile and Negative: How to Change the Way the Police Views East Jerusalem Residents and Vice Versa?

The worldview of the police determines that a response must be provided in a place where there is violence, and violence usually leads to further violence. In the past, different approaches were taken in East Jerusalem: whether to refrain from entering the neighborhoods of East Jerusalem or to enter the neighborhoods using excessive force, which sometimes created friction with the population. During his tenure, Halevy tried to take a different approach. He was a district commander from the beginning of his career, someone who knows Jerusalem well from previous positions, and promoted a different thinking that relates to the entire East Jerusalem population. According to him, only a small proportion of the population in East Jerusalem is involved in violent protest, about five-to-ten percent, which the police know how to handle. Alongside them, a larger portion of the population is also affected by the counteractive measures against the relatively small number of rioters. Until recent years, the police have identified the population in East Jerusalem as hostile and negative.

Past decisions to deal with rioters sometimes ignored the needs of the entire local population, which was harmed. For example, municipal service providers and others would be afraid to enter East Jerusalem neighborhoods and no services were provided. In addition to the arrests, the purpose of the police must be to create calm so that the service providers can enter the neighborhood. In the past, after nighttime operational activity, police forces would leave the neighborhood and the anarchic situation would return to normal. The operations of the police force will remain in the neighborhood and will allow the authorities – mainly the municipality – to enter and carry out regular operations in the neighborhood, such as infrastructure treatment, garbage and waste removal, graffiti removal, sidewalk coloring, and police lectures in neighborhood schools. Halevi noted that these activities received positive responses from residents of the neighborhoods.

Priority to Experienced Police Officers and Adults with Families

Another change that Halevy took was replacing the police forces at the friction points from Border Police officers to “blue” police officers from the Israel Police, giving priority to experienced police officers and adults with families who could cope with complex situations. This step not only led to a 90% decrease in the number of incidents in the Seam Zone in comparison to 2015, but also led to a 60-70 percent increase in calls to the police for help services from residents in East Jerusalem. In the eyes of the residents, the police are now perceived more as a community auxiliary force than the Border Guard, which is considered a military force. This change in perspective is a slow, but very important, process to continue.

Integrated Services Centers

In order to deal more effectively with the many policing challenges in East Jerusalem, a predecessor of Halevi decided to establish a new space, Consisting of three stations: Oz (in Sur Baher), Shafat (in Beit Hanina) and Shalem (in Salach A-Din). In addition, it was decided to set up five local police stations called the ‘Integrated Services Centers’ (“Mashams”), within the neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. These stations are located in Shuafat refugee camp checkpoint in Issawiya, Silwan, Sur Baher and Beit Hanina. Their purpose is to meet the needs of the neighborhood through ‘community police’ who are more experienced police officers that speak Arabic and, at the beginning of their work, only try to survey and map the needs of the neighborhood and its residents. The police officers only deal with the needs of the residents of the neighborhood in which they operate and serve the residents with a sympathetic ear.

Locations of the ‘Mashams’

Today, a ‘Masham’ operates only at the Shuafat refugee camp checkpoint, in a rented building from the army. The four other housing units have future sites, and today they operate from neighborhoods in nearby West Jerusalem, such as French Hill and Isawiya. In addition to the police, there were supposed to be representatives of the Jerusalem Municipality, the Interior Ministry, the National Insurance Institute, and the Postal Service, and until now, the rooms designated for them in the QAM building at the Shuafat checkpoint were not filled. The police feel that they can enter and work inside the refugee camp, fight the drug problem, act on violence within the family, operate in schools and more, and enable the municipality to operate within the refugee camp.

Community Center Activities Have Created Notable Decline in Crime

In addition, over the past six months, a kind of community center has been operating in the refugee camp. More than 1 million NIS has been invested in converting the building into classrooms and areas of activity. The activity in the community center that the police operates focuses on three main age groups: 12-8, 16-12, and 18-16. During the period of activity of the community center, children are showed films, given Hebrew lessons, first aid, and preparation for driving. According to Halevi, such activity prevents the need for reinforcements of patrols, violent demonstrations, stone throwing and damages. In addition, a notable decline in areas of crime can be observed in the areas of drug trafficking and possession of weapons. In order for the activities to become permanent, the police are currently working on the establishment of a community volunteer organization with the goal that the residents of East Jerusalem will eventually be the ones to man the radar.