Israel promoted an Arab police officer to deputy commissioner on Wednesday, making him the highest-ranking Muslim ever to serve in the force.
In his new position, the 59-year-old Gamal Hakroosh faces an uphill battle overseeing policing in Arab communities, where residents are deeply suspicious of Israeli police. In turn, a lack of effective policing in Arab communities — where crime is rampant and often left unchecked — has fueled tensions further.
With Hakroosh’s promotion, and the approval this week by Israel’s Cabinet of a plan to step up law enforcement in Arab areas, Israel is hoping to change that perception.
“To this day, we did not grant the Arab sector equal law enforcement services. In everything related to the police, we did not act with due equality,” Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said at the Tel Aviv ceremony for Hakroosh on Wednesday.
Israel plans to add police stations and hundreds of officers to serve Arab communities over the next five years. It has also recently announced a landmark billion-dollar budget intended to improve the living conditions of the Arab community.
Hakroosh hails from Kafr Kana, an Arab town in northern Israel, and joined the police force in 1978, serving as station chief in a number of cities.
As deputy commissioner, one rank below the national police chief, he is now the highest-ranking Arab in the force.
Hakroosh beamed as he received his rank in a packed auditorium at Tel Aviv’s police headquarters. In the crowd, Arab village leaders, some wearing traditional Arab headdresses, dotted a sea of light blue police uniforms. Flanked by his family, he embraced Erdan, the minister, and police chief Roni Alsheich as the audience burst into applause.
“The police’s job is to serve the people and among the people is the Arab citizen, the Arab Israeli citizen, and he deserves service,” Hakroosh told The Associated Press. “He deserves that the police stand beside him.”