Police Volunteers Protest New Rules They Claim Will Compromise Their Effectiveness, Safety

YERUSHALAYIM -
View of the police station in the southern city of Kiryat Gat. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Citizen’s Patrol police volunteers (Mishmar Ezrachi) has been an important feature of Israeli life, when the volunteer security force was first established, in the wake of terrorist attacks in northern Israel the year before. Today, there are over 36,000 volunteers who work in the program sponsored by police – contributing the amount of time and manpower monthly that police would have to otherwise hire another 2,000 officers in order to achieve, according to police.

In order to raise the status of volunteers and ensure that they are effective, a decision was taken over two decades ago to provide them with uniforms that were the same as regular police officers. But that effectiveness may be compromised, volunteers believe, because of a new rule instituted as of November 1. Volunteers must now wear a badge that includes their name – and the word “volunteer.” The order was issued by top police brass, who said in a letter to volunteers that the rule “will be enforced fully.”

Groups representing the volunteers told Ma’ariv that the rule could compromise their personal safety. “Police send us to scenes of crimes that could entail dealing with violence, and if we are wearing a badge that declares that we are volunteers and not ‘real’ police, it could raise the ire of the people we have to deal with, who might feel safer unleashing hostilities on us than they would against police officers. We cannot compromise our safety in order to volunteer and contribute. Even public inspectors have the same status as police officers, but now they want to reduce our status. There is no reason for this decision, and we cannot accept it, as it endangers us.”

In response, police said that according to the laws governing civilian volunteers, requiring a volunteer to identify as such is actually a requirement. “As an organization that provides many services to the public, it is important that rules enforcing proper dress and discipline be implemented. We stress that police highly value the volunteer work done by Citizen’s Patrol members, who undertake important missions. The volunteers are an important asset for police and it is important that they continue in their roles.”