Can Israel’s Police Force Become Culturally Competent?

Can Israel’s Police Force Become Culturally Competent?

The news is full of stories of the police’s treatment – appropriate or not – of civilians. Just recently Americans marked the one-year anniversary of the shooting of a young, black, unarmed man by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, USA, which led to riots and civil unrest for some time.  In May of this year Israeli police officer were shown beating a soldier of Ethiopian descent, which led to a wave of demonstrations of the Ethiopian community in Israel, and unrest in the streets.

Israel’s police force – and any police force – are under constant and almost unbearable pressure to keep law and order, working among a vastly diverse population. Educators in the Israeli Police Force recognized this complexity, and requested to begin working with us to develop a cultural competency training module for police cadets. To their credit, planning work actually began before relations between the police and the Ethiopian community made headlines. But the light shown on the police during the full-force demonstrations of the Ethiopian community this spring underlined the necessity of this kind of training. As a result, we began to working with all new police cadets, as part of their 14-week basic training course. At the same time, we are beginning an in-depth process with 23 police stations throughout the country.

At this first stage we are implementing introductory workshops to different training courses – basic policing, detectives, border police, cavalry, advanced policing – all are undergoing the basic 1 1/2 hour workshop. Since the beginning of June we’ve held 40 seminars, with 20 – 30 police cadets in each group. That’s  already 1,200 cadets! After this, we will be organizing a Train the Trainers course for the regular instructors in the police academy, so the principles can be fully integrated into their training regimen.

More in-depth processes will be taking place in 26 police stations throughout the country that have high concentrations of Israelis of Ethiopian descent, including two in Jerusalem, Moriah in the south and Shufat in the north. In this process we are partnering together with the Gishurim project. The first step of this process will be a half-day seminar on cultural competency, using facilitators that we’ve trained. We will begin training the facilitators in September; they will then lead 150 seminars throughout the country.

And what do the police think about these training sessions? We’re finding that many, especially Jerusalemites, are already very in-tuned to the cultural complexities of our city, and make every effort to consider the effects that cultural sensitivity has on the residents with whom they come into contact. We are honored to be part of a process that seeks to bring law and order to all residents of the city.

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