Arabic Courses for Police Officers Soon, Officials Say

Israeli Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Police are interested in setting up Arabic courses for officers – that will be a required component of the training officers get in order to qualify for a job on the force. Police officials in recent weeks sent an official request to the Public Security Ministry for the institution of a department that would teach Arabic culture and language to police – in order to enable police to better understand Arabs in Israel, and more easily question suspects.

While nearly all Israeli Arabs speak Hebrew to some extent, only about 10 percent of Israelis understand Arabic, and that percentage holds true in the police force. Unlike the average Israeli, however, police have much more occasion to require Arabic language skills, since the percentage of crime in the Arab sector is higher – as much as three times higher than in the Jewish sector – and more cases and suspects need to be pursued there.

According to Israeli law, suspects need to be questioned in their native tongue, which means that many Arabs who are not fluent in Hebrew require translators – who can be hard to come by, given the demand. To alleviate that demand, police are seeking the establishment of courses that will give more officers the relevant skills.

Officials expect that the plan will be approved, as current Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has pledged to integrate Israeli Arabs into the law enforcement community. Erdan has already established a police division to deal specifically with the Arab population, headed by a Muslim Arab. In addition, the Ministry has generously provided funding for new police stations in Arab towns. More Arabic-speaking officers would fit in well with this program, police officials say.