Cultural Competence in Police

Cultural Competency in the Police – Mentioned in Ha’aretz National Daily

We’ve been working with the Israel Police since 2015, and you can read about our work here and here. And it was covered on the Walla! Internet news site here.

Title of article about police

Title of article about police

Now, we’ve been mentioned in the national Ha’aretz daily newspaper, as the driving force behind developing cultural competency training in the entire Israel Police Force. Here’s the link to the article, and you can download a .pdf of the article here.

And here’s the full text:

Are Israel’s Police Really More Violent Toward the Ethiopian Community?

Are police in Israel and the U.S. inherently racist, or are they part of a bigger problem? A series of reforms undertaken by the Israel Police indicates a desire to change

Nomi Levenkron Sep 02, 2017 8:06 AM

Police officers aren’t born racist – they become racist in a society where racism is more deeply rooted than people will ever dare admit. The frequent violent encounters between police and minority groups – in Ferguson and Los Angeles, in Paris and London, in Tel Aviv, Jaffa and Jerusalem – all stem from  the same thing: a racist society that tries to conceal its racism with condemnation of the police. We scapegoat the police while taking pride in our own clean hands.

The encounter between police and minorities has been volatile since modern policing began, amid the many groups based on ethnicity, religion and sexual preferences. Processes of nation-building marginalized the Native Americans and Aboriginal Australians. European colonialism was disguised as a “civilizing mission,” which continued when the residents of the colonies arrived as citizens in the lands of the colonizers. The U.S. Civil War led to the de jure but not necessarily the de facto liberation of millions of slaves.

And the tens of millions of immigrants to the West at the end of the 19th century weren’t welcomed warmly since they were perceived as carriers of four kinds of undesirable baggage: dubious morals, crime, disease and imbecility. Many immigrants had problems finding work and housing, and therefore crowded into struggling neighborhoods. This geographic and employment segregation made it even harder to break down cultural barriers.

These processes led to mutual suspicion and sometimes hatred between minority groups and the police in Western countries. The police’s central role in protecting the regime and public order, especially during demonstrations, increased the potential for friction. The police’s perception that crime among minorities stemmed from cultural traits, not socioeconomic traits and discrimination, sometimes led to over-policing — as seen in unnecessary arrests and violence. And it also led to under-policing, stemming from neglect and indifference.

Police methods did not arise in a vacuum but rather in a society that was racist in innumerable ways, among them the restriction of groups’ access to jobs, welfare, education and health. Police activity was harsher in terms of the damage it caused to the bodies and freedom of minority people, but police racism was no different from the racism in the wider society.

This is the background for understanding the many violent disturbances among minorities against the police. These groups were sitting on a powder keg and were fed up with hegemonic society’s treatment of them. The police only lit the fuse.

At the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan, the LGBT struggle began after police known for their homophobia raided a gay bar. The 1992 Los Angeles riots erupted after the police who beat up Rodney King were exonerated in court. The 2011 London riots began after the police opened fire on a 29-year-old black man, and at the beginning of this year in Paris a similar wave began after a young man from a banlieue complained that the police had arrested him for no reason, beaten him and raped him with a baton.

Often the police know they’re the scapegoat, even when they admit responsibility, as with the events that ignited the most recent riot. But that accompanies the underlying racism and socioeconomic discrimination. At a Milwaukee police press conference in August 2016 after the police’s shooting of a young black man provoked riots, Sheriff David Clarke said: “Police use of force serves as an igniter — there’s no doubt — but to an already volatile mix of urban pathologies, failed urban policy that exacerbates inescapable poverty, failing public schools, inadequate parenting . Stop trying to fix the police. Fix the ghetto.”

In Israel, similar things happened after the establishment of the state, and the pretenses of creating a melting pot dissipated rapidly. We loved the immigration, not the immigrants. The Moroccans became an object of fear, the Germans scorn, the Yemenites pure paternalism (as in the kidnapping of Yemenite children).

Immigrants demonstrated in cities and transit camps against their treatment, but it was only the encounter between stevedore Yaakov Elkarif and two policemen in Haifa’s Wadi Salib neighborhood in 1959 that provoked a revolt by immigrants from North Africa, which included violent demonstrations, the blocking of roads and the setting of cars on fire. The appointment of a commission of inquiry and symbolic amendments to legislation were to no avail, and beneath the surface the embers continued to hiss.

The flames flared up again in the ‘70s when Israel’s version of the Black Panthers, representing Jews with roots in the Middle East and North Africa, demanded equality in education and employment. The racism against groups perceived as dangerous toward Jews was even harsher. The police stuck in the map flags dipped in the blood of members of the “minority” — the Israeli euphemism for Arabs. The 1956 Kafr Qasem massacre, the October 2000 riots in the Galilee and the 2017 Umm al-Hiran demonstrations are among the most notable incidents, but by no means the only ones.

A drop in the turbulent sea

If we probe our memories honestly, we must admit that Ethiopian Israelis’ problems neither began nor end with the police. The supreme heroism attributed to the bringing of this community to Israel stood in harsh contrast to the attitude toward them here. We labeled them “quiet and nice,” but we didn’t want them living near us. We refused to acknowledge them as Jews and put them in separate school programs. When they donated blood, we threw it in the garbage.

In a lecture by a policeman of Ethiopian origin in a law course I teach, a woman in the class asked him whether he feels safe enough to drink beer in the street after he goes off duty and dons civilian clothes.

The policeman smiled and said: “Are you asking me whether the police are racist? When I arrived in Israel I said that I would not live locked up in the Ethiopian community. I would have Israeli friends, an Israeli girlfriend, and an Israeli life. So yes, I did have an Israeli girlfriend. We went out for two years. But do you know what ‘we went out’ means? It means that not once did she invite me to her home.

“She was embarrassed. She didn’t want her parents to see her with an Ethiopian. After two years I understood what was going on and we split up. So are you asking me if the police are racist? I’ll answer you in the simplest way: You started it. We deal with the results.”

“A man is nothing but the image of his native landscape,” wrote poet Shaul Tchernichovsky, and by the same token, the policeman is the litmus test of Israeli society. Over-policing and under-policing developed gradually and led to a long series of clashes. More than once, a request to see an ID led to violence that at worst ended in an indictment for insulting public servants or interfering with a police officer. At best it ended with hard feelings of discrimination.

A 2016 Justice Ministry report noted that a large number of Israelis of Ethiopian origin – mainly minors – were being arrested and tried. For example, in 2015 the percentage of indictments against people of Ethiopian origin was 3.5 percent, compared with their 2 percent representation in the overall population. The report also showed that 18 percent of those held in the Ofek Prison for minors were of Ethiopian origin. The Tebeka legal aid organization for Ethiopian Israelis has received scores of complaints about police violence, but the group’s 2014 appeal to Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch elicited only the laconic reply that “the police are not familiar with a phenomenon of police violence toward people of Ethiopian origin.”

Yet the community remained composed. Its young people joined the police but even there they didn’t find protection from the racism. Outside, police of Ethiopian origin encountered curses like “black zero” or “get out of here, it’s too bad you immigrated to Israel.” Inside the police, they came up against the glass ceiling that’s so familiar to every minority group. Joining the police, it seems, didn’t improve the police’s attitude toward the Ethiopian community.

The relative quiet ended in April 2015 when a video came out of the police beating Israeli soldier Damas Fekade and the attorney general closed the case. That event was preceded by a number of incidents, most notably the suicide of Yosef Salamseh; his family said he was abused by the police when he was arrested.

The video, however, was the last straw. In the days after its release, more than 1,000 people demonstrated in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, blocking main roads. The demonstrations got out of control, especially in Tel Aviv: Dozens of demonstrators and police were injured, store and car windows were smashed, and the police used stun grenades and tear gas.

Why did the protest erupt then? There are a number of possible explanations. The members of the generation born in Israel no longer agreed to bow their heads to racism, and the police violence was against a soldier in uniform – a symbol of the consensus and integration. Apparently Black Lives Matter in the United States also influenced the nature of the protest.

Conspicuous by their absence were other Israelis. During the following week smaller demonstrations took place in Kiryat Gat, Ashkelon and Haifa, where there are many Israelis of Ethiopian origin. The fact that there was no protest in Netanya reflected the success of the police there. Still, it’s doubtful the last word has been spoken.

Many faces of racism

How is racism eradicated? Quite simply, it isn’t. Racism is too deeply imprinted in individuals and society; at most it’s possible to decrease it. But in the Damas Fekade affair, the seeds of change were sown. From the outside, community activists demanded from the police an acknowledgement of over-policing, an apology and preventive action.

From within, an officer of Ethiopian origin, Superintendent Shai Yasu, a lawyer, contacted the police’s head of human resources, Maj. Gen. Gila Gaziel. Yasu suggested that he be appointed the liaison to the community. Similar requests by him in the past were refused, but the police saw the attack on Fekade as a warning sign, while the need for a change was clear to the top command. The police academy, which had been established just a few months earlier, was part of the change; all training processes were reexamined, and the question was asked: What kind of policing is needed in a multicultural society?

Despite the harsh criticism of Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich after he said it was natural for the police to be more suspicious of Ethiopian Israelis, he has been the first commissioner to launch an extensive program for multicultural policing. Many changes have taken place over the past two years. For example, 29 community police officers, most of them of Ethiopian origin, have been assigned to heavily Ethiopian neighborhoods; they arrange meetings between community leaders and local police commanders. They also create unofficial bridges such as paint ball and soccer games with teens.

Cases that were filed in 2014 to 2016, some of them possible results of over-policing, underwent reviews. All police stations and commanders have taken courses on cultural appropriateness, which were developed with the Jerusalem Intercultural Center [emphasis ours]. This year the number of police officers of Ethiopian origin (1,085 out of about 30,000) is larger than their percentage in the overall population, and there is an increasing number of officers (27 in 2014 and 51 in 2017).

The glass ceiling is also melting a bit; two Ethiopian Israelis are now chief superintendents. Police are regularly briefed on multicultural policing before they go out on duty, and there are plans to enlarge the pilot project in which police wear body cameras and at every station someone is responsible for cultural appropriateness. Surveys in the Ethiopian community indicate a steep rise in trust in the police, from 18 percent in 2015 (versus 48 percent in the general population) to 25 percent in 2016 (also versus 48 percent). The main tool is a joint steering committee of the police and the community.

One member of the steering committee is Issachar Makonnen. He was Israel’s first Ethiopian lieutenant colonel, and he heads an organization that helps the community and prepares its young people for the army. In this respect, he lauds the police’s head of human resources, Gila Gaziel.

“But let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” he says. “There is still a gap between the orders from above and the field, and there is police violence. And there are police officers who beat someone up and then run to complain that they’ve been attacked. But I’m telling you unequivocally that it’s getting better. Today we have possibilities that we didn’t have before. I have an open door at the station commander’s office, at Gila Gaziel’s office and at Alsheich’s when necessary.”

When I recently completed a long day of interviews at the police academy, an officers’ graduation ceremony was going on. On stage stood 138 excited cadets; it was obvious that considerable thought had been invested in creating a culturally diverse cadre: seven of Ethiopian origin – four times their representation in the general population – as well as 10 Druze, one Muslim and two Christians. The speeches stressed the importance of diversity and multiculturalism. In the audience sat families and friends of every religion, origin and color – all of them shedding a tear of the same color.

At the end of the day, there seems to be reason for cautious optimism, even though there is still a long way to go. Are the police less racist than in 2015, the year Damas Fekade was beaten? It’s possible to say for certain only that the police are trying and investing money, manpower, thought, time and effort – which is a lot more than can be said about Israeli society. And anyone among us who has never committed the sin of racism has the honor of casting the first stone at the police.

Nomi Levenkron is a doctoral student at the Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law.

While this is a national program, we owe our deep gratitude to the Jerusalem Foundation, which has been our strategic partner in developing Cultural Competency in Jerusalem for the past decade.

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2016 – What a Year!

As we jump head-first into 2017, we wanted to take a minute to reflect on 2016, and what a year it’s been! Overall, a year of unprecedented growth and development, and we can’t wait to get started in 2017. Here are some highlights:

Cultural Competence

  • The Jerusalem as a Culturally Competent City conference in May 2016, organized jointly by the JICC and the Jerusalem Foundation as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations, was a turning point for the JICC. Attended by hundreds of professionals, from Jerusalem and throughout Israel, the conference presented strides that have been made over the past 10 years, and set the stage for the next step of meeting diverse residents’ diverse needs, in all areas of life.
  • Continued work in the health care system, in Jerusalem and as a model throughout Israel, training in-house coordinators and facilitators to increase sustainability and adaptability within individual institutions. For the first time, work included a national network of hospitals and clinics.
  • Expansive work in the Israel Police Force, reaching most police stations and present and future commanding officials, and continuing to expand training in 2017.
  • Groundbreaking work with the National Insurance Institute (NII), East Jerusalem branch, the first NII branch in the country to undergo a process of cultural competence.
  • In the Jerusalem Municipality, the entire Community Services Administration, which includes welfare, public health, immigrant absorption, and more, is undergoing training, as well as the Auditor’s Office which will be able to look at the entire Municipality’s operations through the prism of cultural competency and sensitivity.
  • Santé Israël, the first web site to make Israel’s health care system accessible to French speakers, celebrated its first birthday. 
Ms. Uzma Shakir, Keynote Speaker

Ms. Uzma Shakir, Keynote Speaker, Jerusalem as a Culturally Competent City conference

Paramedical Professionals

Making healthcare practitioner exams accessible to Arab residents of east Jerusalem

2016 was an important year for us to take stock of the past four years of this program. Our conclusions show that:

  • The number of certified Arab paramedical professionals in East Jerusalem has grown significantly.
  • The program has enabled the JICC to more clearly map the situation of different paramedical professions in east Jerusalem, contributing to the knowledge of training in the Jerusalem area.
  • The awareness both among Palestinian institutes of higher education and health care institutions in east Jerusalem as well as Israeli Ministry of Health has been raised significantly.
  • A large window of opportunity for Arab women paramedical professionals to improve economic opportunities has been opened.

Nurses studying to pass their Israeli certification examinations

Talking Coexistence – Arabic Language Instruction

Both 2015 – 2016 and 2016 – 2017 broke enrollment records. In 2015-16 there were 180 students in 12 classes, over 5 levels. In 2016-2017, there are 240 students in 16 classes, also over 5 levels. We also held several cultural evenings to enrich students’ understanding of Arabic culture. Here’s a short video about the program:

Atta’a Assistance Center for the Rights of East Jerusalem Residents

The Atta’a Center has been in existence since 2004, and in 2015 it came under the aegis of the JICC. In 2016 we have seen:

  • 70% growth in number of requests
  • Ballooning of its Facebook page to over 7,100 ‘likes,’ and launching of its web site.
  • Publication of a widely-referenced booklet on the Ministry of Interior
  • Expansion of network of partners in action, both from NGO’s and advocacy groups as well as municipal and government agencies.

Atta’a Presenting workshops

MiniActive for Arab Residents of East Jerusalem

  • For the first time ever, MiniActive activities led to a change in policy. After months of campaigning, MiniActive led the way toward the addition of 3 million NIS to the annual municipal sanitation budget for east Jerusalem, and 16 million NIS for the purchase of additional equipment for sanitation. As a result of this work, the entire Municipality is focusing their attention on garbage collection throughout
  • In January 2016, MiniActive organized the first ever Arabic language Horticulture Therapy course in Jerusalem for special education teachers, in cooperation with the David Yellin Academic College of Education.
  • Bus stops in entire neighborhoods were repaired and replaced, thanks to MiniActive.
  • 210 women – including 50 youth – are studying Hebrew through a volunteer NGO to improve the effectivity of their activism. This is a record-breaking number, which broke last year’s record of 150 women.
  • In MiniActive Youth for the Environment, teenage girls learn leadership skills while participating in major environment-improving public art and other projects in neighborhoods throughout east Jerusalem.
  • MiniActive became a model for international work, hosting a delegation that works with the Roma population in the Czech Republic in November 2016.

Take a look at MiniActive’s own year in review. It’s pretty easy to understand, even if you don’t know Arabic:

Emergency Readiness Networks

In 2016 we expanded the network to include 14 communities throughout Jerusalem. In addition to training new volunteers, the program included training of existing networks to maintain ability to respond and increase sustainability.

Planning on map

Planning strategy on map

Multicultural Participatory Democracy

In 2016 we mentored community center staffs in Gilo, Kiryat Menachem, Givat Messuah, Baka’a and south Talpiot. For the first time, residents – especially the Ethiopian community in Kiryat Menachem and the highly diverse community of south Talpiot –felt that they were able to influence issues that affected their everyday lives. Training included using Facebook as a community-building tool key to increasing residents’ engagement in community processes.

Writing and submitting objections

Writing and submitting objections in Gilo

Promoting Tolerance in the Public Sphere

Since the summer of 2014 the JICC have been at the forefront of promoting tolerance in Jerusalem. 2016 accomplishments include:

  • A Different Day in Jerusalem celebrated Jerusalem’s diversity through 50 coordinated events, affecting tens of thousands of people on Jerusalem Day. It was the first time such a broad effort has been made to celebrate Jerusalem’s diversity.
  • JICC-mentored Speaking in the Square and other tolerance initiatives that came in their wake led to the redesigning of Zion Square, to be called Tolerance Square. The initiative’s Effective Dialogue methodology spread, and is now being presented in national frameworks.
  • 0202-Points of View from Jerusalem are now liked by nearly 80,000 people and reach some 150,000 people weekly on Facebook and the Internet. The network now includes pages that translate from Arabic to Hebrew, from Arabic to English and one which brings news from the Ultra-Orthodox world to the awareness of the general population.
  • The JICC was asked to be one of the leading organizations in the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations to Promote Tolerance, formed by the Center for Young Adults and the Municipality’s Young Authority.
  • The JICC is continuing to develop Tolerance Network Teams (TNT’s), a series of neighborhood-based and theme-based grassroots initiatives that seek to advance tolerance in Jerusalem.
Elhanan Miller Haaretz article

Haaretz article about A Different Day in Jerusalem

Window to Mount Zion

Since October 2015, Window to Mount Zion has bridged inter-religious and inter-community gaps that have festered between Jewish, Christian and Muslim groups for centuries. As a result of its activity over the past year:

  • In unheard-of cooperation, religious Jewish and Christian groups have issued joint statements condemning hate crimes on Mount Zion.
  • Christian ceremonies, which in the past have caused inter-religious tension, proceeded without incident.
  • The celebration of Christian and Jewish holidays that coincided simultaneously, which in the past had been the source of conflict and tension, also proceeded smoothly.
Window to Mount Zion volunteers

Window to Mount Zion volunteers

Asylum Seekers

The JICC, together with the Jerusalem Municipality, sponsor the only paid public servant in Israel to help asylum seekers, outside of Tel Aviv. We are also part of a consortium of organizations and agencies that seek to meet the needs of asylum seekers living in the city.

Tour of Nahlaot neighborhood

Families of asylum seekers on tour of Nahlaot neighborhood

Thank You!

Many many thanks go out to our partners in action and our donors. You can read about our activities in more detail either by clicking on the hyperlinks above, or by clicking here.

Looking forward to making 2017 even better!

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System-wide Cultural Competency Training for Israel Police

It might just be our largest – and most wide-ranging – project in Cultural Competency to date. This September, we, together with Mosaica – The Center for Conflict Resolution by Agreement, were tasked – by the Police Force Education Unit, under directive from the Minister of Internal Security and the national Police Commissioner, (!) – with providing 200 cultural competency training  workshops in five out of the seven police regions throughout Israel. When finished, the project will reach most of the tens of thousands of police officers and commanders throughout the country. This process began at the beginning of September and will run through December.

Police in training course

Police in training course

The directive is a direct result of our ongoing work with the police force and its Education Unit, which began last year.  You can read about this previous work with the Israel Police Force, with both officers and trainees, at the National Police Academy and at different police stations, here and here. Indeed, the Israel police force realizes that having culturally competent and culturally sensitive officers can improve their professionalism and their ability to resolve incidents more quickly, more effectively, and hopefully, with less violence.

But this training marathon was on an entirely different scale. Our first step was to hold a 3-day ‘train the trainers’ workshop for the 30 professional facilitators, social workers, community mediators, and more. Their job has been to facilitate the training seminars in police stations throughout the country.

In our work we’ve found that there is already a massive amount of knowledge and awareness of cultural competence and sensitivity – both intuitive and learned – across the different layers, different branches and different locations of the police. One of the main goals of our work with the police is to utilize the knowledge and experience that already exists and teach it in a structured way so that it can become even more widespread, standard practice throughout the 35,000-strong police force.

Much of the 5-hour introductory training taught through case studies. Here is one, from northern Jerusalem:

During the Muslim month of Ramadan, border police noticed a marked increase in violent behavior by Palestinians going through the checkpoints. This was unusual, since Ramadan is a happy time, and even charged places such as a police checkpoint are usually affected (positively) by the month-long holiday. In response, officers from the border police held a meeting with local Muslim leaders, to try and get to the bottom of the problem. The leaders noted that this year, the border police were using police dogs as part of their routine checks, and that there was a special sensitivity to these dogs, especially since the people were hurrying to the Mosque. The border police stopped using the dogs, and the situation was much calmer at the checkpoints.

At other times, case studies are used to spark discussion:

A man of Ethiopian descent calls the police hotline, “Help! Someone left a sunny-side-up egg outside my door!” (This means he’s been threatened with murder.) What do you do? How do you respond?

An ultra-Orthodox woman calls the police hotline, complaining of domestic violence. The patrol that is closest includes a female officer, who is supposed to confront the ultra-Orthodox man. How should this be handled most effectively?

Each station focused on a particular population group, often one with which they have specific contact. Thus, for example, one station in the Jerusalem city center chose to focus on the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish population. Another, in northern Jerusalem, focused on the Palestinian population. (We’d worked with them before, and then they’d undergone a special workshop on the Ethiopian-Israeli population, since there is a large concentration there.) A station in Natanya focused on French-speakers.

Learning the principles of cultural competency

Learning the principles of cultural competency

In addition to the standard workshop content we also invited expert lecturers to provide a more in-depth understanding. For example, in Natanya the director of the Elem organization, himself a native French-speaker, was brought in to speak about the Francophone youth in the city, their approaches toward the police, and ideas of how to improve connections with the police in order to improve the public order.

We understand the challenge of integrating these principles into the everyday work of tens of thousands of police officers who face a myriad of complex situations every day. But we’re excited to be part of the process.

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Our Cultural Competency Training for Police Makes Walla! News Site

Did you hear about the time when the police came into an tempestuous situation involving Ethiopians/Haredim/Arabs, and they succeeded in calming the waters, without incident and without anyone getting hurt?

Not usually your top headline. However, that is what we, together with the Israel Police Force, are striving for. We’ve been working with the Police over the past year to instill principles of cultural competency into the everyday training. You can read about this work with both officers and trainees, at the National Police Academy and at different police stations, here and here.

Recently, this ongoing training was covered by Walla! news in Hebrew, a major Internet news site in Israel. Click here to for the link to the entire article and accompanying video in Hebrew.  Click here to view a PDF version of the article.

Walla article

Walla article

How will this training affect police officers’ responses to everyday incidents? David Shoshan, one of the officers in the training course, noted in the video above, that:

The training basically opened my eyes to the different populations we serve. That, when we’re called to an incident, I might need to act a little differently, try to respect the people’s particular customs. Our main goal is to try to ensure that the incident is over as quickly as possible, that it’s been dealt with in the most professional manner as possible, in the calmest way possible, so that we can do our jobs as best as possible.

Thanks David. Let’s hope the other tens of thousands of police officers throughout Israel were paying attention as well.

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JICC Completes Training Course for Police Commanders

What is it like to be a police officer, and be responsible for keeping order and enforcing the law?

Police officers everywhere are on the front lines of law enforcement, bringing them into contact with a vast diversity of people. All too often, as we’ve recently seen in the USA as well as in Israel, events can get out of hand very quickly.

Protesting police treatment in Israel

Protesting police treatment in Israel July 3, 2016

The Israel Police understands the complexities of working with Israel’s different – and sometimes conflicting – population groups, and for the past year we at the JICC have been working with various ranks and groups in cultural competency training.

Israel police officers

Israel police officers

Last week we finished a course for police officials at the National Police Academy. The 50 course graduates, Superintendents and Chief Superintendents, represent the next generation of commanding officers in the Israel Police. Each will command soon a police station or a large police unit. The JICC has been mentoring the course for the past six months, from introducing them to the concept, to integrating cultural competency into different areas of the training course, and in writing a module in the unit commander’s file – on how to operate a culturally competent unit. We, together with the course participants, edited the comprehensive file. In the summary meeting of the course that was held with the Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh, the entire course’s work was presented. This included recommendations and tools on how to manage and operate a culturally competent police unit. The JICC, together with the officers of the course and the staff of the National Police Academy, will continue to work to advance the use of these recommendations within the Israel Police.

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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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