Photo by Tal Dahan, ACRI
In August of 2011, the Knesset passed the “Municipal Policing Law,” in which municipal inspectors were granted special powers to prevent acts of violence; including the authority to demand identification from individuals and conduct body searches. Due to concerns regarding police privatization and violations of equality and human rights, the project was deemed a temporary pilot in which only 13 local authorities participated to enable a thorough examination of its effectiveness, necessity, and any difficulties that emerged.
Despite many reservations regarding the law, the temporary order was repeatedly extended over the years, and the list of local authorities included in the "pilot" was expanded from 13 to 71. All of this was conducted without legally prescribed supervision and inspections, despite the fact that various difficulties arose from the project and criticisms was raised against it – as seen in the State Comptroller's report; the opinion of the Internal Affairs Committee’s legal advisor; position papers by social justice organizations and the public defender's office; and media publications.
On June 9, 2020, we appealed to the Knesset's Internal Affairs Committee, ahead of a discussion on a bill that sought to extend the pilot once more. In the appeal, Attorneys Debbie Gild-Hayo and Anne Suciu called on the committee to stop automatically approving the project each year without seeing through the original aim to conduct a thorough inspection of the project. Alternatively, ACRI called on the committee to solely extend the project by six months (contrary to the requested year and a half), throughout which the committee would conduct a series of discussions to examine the project and its inherent failures. The pilot was ultimately extended for one year.
On July 1, 2021, we appealed to the Knesset’s Finance Committee ahead of a discussion on the government's request to turn the temporary order into a permanent law. We maintained that extension of the project from time to time, the addition of many authorities, and now the government's request to make the law permanent, has trivialized the experimental nature of the project. We noted that at no point was the effectiveness, necessity, or success of the project proven, but that many criticisms and difficulties materialized instead over the years. We posited that the concerns associated with the project from its inception – namely violation of human rights, increasing inequality, and privatization of policing powers – still exist. We asked the committee not to allow the municipal policing project to become a fait accompli, nor to automatically approve the project without conducting a significant in-depth inspection.
In the discussion that took place on July 5, 2021, the Finance Committee decided not to turn the temporary order into a permanent law, but rather to extend it for another year, over the course of which the government and new Knesset could evaluate the issue. Nevertheless, in December of 2021 the Ministry of National Security published a legal memorandum seeking to make the municipal policing pilot a permanent arrangement.
In our comments on the legal memorandum, we reiterated our position that the transfer of power to municipal inspectors reflects acceptance of police incompetence in contending with the phenomenon of violence, and the state's abdication of its duties in this realm. We insisted that there is no clear data indicating the effectiveness of urban policing, and referenced the discrimination created by the program between well-established and impoverished local authorities.