It happened some years ago. A friend of mine was driving down a narrow street in Tel Aviv and accidently scraped a parked car. The owner, who was sitting in the car, got out and started loudly cursing him. My friend tried to calm the guy down. He apologized for the damage and said he would report it to his insurance. But the car owner wouldn’t calm down. He kept on shouting, threatening and shoving my friend, and brutally smashed the side mirror of my friend’s car. My shocked friend managed to photograph the license plate of the thug’s car and then went to the police and filed a complaint of assault and causing damage. Months went by without any word from the police.

My friend tried calling periodically until he finally gave up. But then, three years later, he suddenly received a letter from the police informing him that the case was “closed for lack of public interest” and that must report to the police station. When he went there, a policewomen handed him a paper bag with a small hand mirror inside. She told him, “We closed the case after he returned the mirror that he broke.” My friend stood there speechless. What did the little mirror he was given have to do with his car’s side mirror? And what about the assault complaint? But then he thought of the Louis de Funes’ film “Le gendarme de Saint-Tropez” and told himself he might as well laugh rather than cry.

But not everything can be laughed off. There is a constant stream of hair-raising television reports about police failures, about how the police force is avoiding its primary job of guarding citizens’ security. A week ago, a Be’er Sheva resident discovered that his expensive jeep had been stolen. He quickly called the police but no one showed up. Then he tried to set up another meeting point with the police, near Nevatim, but once again the police were no-shows. So he set out alone to search for his car, in the middle of the night, in a dangerous area, amid Bedouin encampments and sheep pens, until he found it. The official police reply was that it “is waging a determined and uncompromising battle against serious crime in the area.” This is the same uncompromising determination Louis de Funes displayed in the many films in which he portrayed a bumbling and ridiculous cop.

Police failures can also put lives in danger. Two weeks ago, the police received a call about a neighbor in an apartment building who was yelling and making threats. The dispatcher promised that a squad car was on the way, but it didn’t come, and that person murdered a neighbor. And the police? It issued a statement saying that it had solved the murder. Hercule Poirot has nothing on them. Nor, of course, have we forgotten the murder of Yoel Lehanghel in Nof Hagalil, a murder that could have been prevented, had the police officers who were called to initial altercation done their duty properly and not left the scene with characteristic haste. It also bears noting that had there been no cell phones or surveillance cameras around, the police would not have managed to solve what little it did in this case.

This police dysfunction is not confined to the periphery. A few days ago, a soldier doing his compulsory service exhibited model citizenship when he separated to groups of teens who were violently fighting in Ramat Aviv Gimmel. One group wasn’t happy about the soldier’s intervention. It mustered its forces, returned to the scene of the event and viciously attacked the soldier with teargas, an electric taser, kicked him all over and sliced his head wide open with a box cutter, so that he nearly died from blood loss. A neighbor called the police which, as usual, took a long time to arrive.

The police are also not fond of complaints about scam artists. Dealing with such cases is complicated and labor-intensive, so it simply avoids opening investigations. It also has been helpless to stop the protection epidemic and has been unable to prevent the never-ending crimes against farmers in the north. Good thing there is Hashomer Hahadash, which has essentially replaced the police there.

Overall, Israel has a seriously ailing police force that has adopted a policy of “sit and don’t do anything.” The police do as little as possible, intervene as little as possible, flee from responsibility, evade investigations, don’t open new cases and don’t chase after criminals. Their ultimate goal is just to go home at the end of the day. Louis de Funes would have made a fine movie about it.

QOSHE - The Tragicomic Gendarmes of Israel - Nehemia Shtrasler
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The Tragicomic Gendarmes of Israel

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25.01.2023

It happened some years ago. A friend of mine was driving down a narrow street in Tel Aviv and accidently scraped a parked car. The owner, who was sitting in the car, got out and started loudly cursing him. My friend tried to calm the guy down. He apologized for the damage and said he would report it to his insurance. But the car owner wouldn’t calm down. He kept on shouting, threatening and shoving my friend, and brutally smashed the side mirror of my friend’s car. My shocked friend managed to photograph the license plate of the thug’s car and then went to the police and filed a complaint of assault and causing damage. Months went by without any word from the police.

My friend tried calling periodically until he finally gave up. But then, three years later, he suddenly received a letter from the police informing him that the case was “closed for lack of public interest” and that must report to the police station. When he went there, a policewomen handed him a paper bag with a small hand mirror inside. She told him, “We closed the case after he returned the mirror that he broke.” My friend stood there........

© Haaretz


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