Police and Policing

Years of Activity: 2013

Research Status:


Prof. Sara Ben-David, Rina Cohen-Moreno, Dr. Eran Israel, Dr. Baruch Leshem, Naomi Levenkorn, Prof. David Levi-Faur, Prof. Hilik Limor, Prof. Yoav Maze, Dr. Yoav Mehozai, Prof. Arye Rattner, Dr. Erella Shedmi, Dr. Inbal Vilamovsky, and Dr. Laura Wharton

Policing is part of the social oversight that has become institutionalized in the modern state, in which the police serves as the enforcer of the rules of the game defined as “maintaining public order.” In practice, the police, like other bureaucratic organizations, has vast authority that exceeds its formal definition and accords it a role in framing the rules of the game. The definition of the role of the police as “responsible for maintaining public order” fails to address the tensions and contradictions inherent in its work. In a complex reality of social and economic tensions, the definition of the role of the police, the legitimation it relies on, and the patterns of its daily work are inseparable from the struggles within the society. The task of the police to protect and serve, on the one hand, and the clash between the police and civilians, on the other hand, reminds us again and again of the centrality of the police in daily life and the power granted to it. Nevertheless, there is relatively little research on police and society in Israel, and there is little public discussion of the issues of police and policing. This research group aims to fill the gap and to deal with various aspects of the police and policing and the dilemmas in the relations between police and society.

In Israel, the work of the police intersects with the society’s main rifts and most charged issues. The Or Commission studied the issue of the police and Israel’s Arab citizens following the events of October 2000, but the policing of other groups in Israel―including women, Ethiopian and Russian migrants and immigrants, labor migrants, and ultra-Orthodox Jews―deserves thorough and comparative theoretical and empirical examination. An effective and legitimate police force is a vital need of every society for protecting individual rights, property rights, and the values of democracy. However, the efficacy and legitimacy of the police is bound up with broader social questions of justice and civil rights in general and of weak and disadvantaged groups in particular. These questions include the price of maintaining public order, which involves inequality, harsher treatment of groups defined as violating public order, and neglect of disadvantaged groups by not providing the security they need. In addition to conducting a critical and theoretical discussion of policing as a tool of social control, the research group is also discussing concrete questions related to police reforms and various models of policing in Israel and abroad.