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Much to digest from Israel trip, Cook says

Thirty senior police leaders from across Ontario and I recently returned from a successful week-long mission to Israel.
Thirty senior police leaders from across Ontario and I recently returned from a successful week-long mission to Israel. I believe the insights and lessons learned on the mission will be beneficial to all of the participants and ultimately help improve community safety and security throughout the province.

Israel has a long history of dealing with serious security threats and acts of terrorism. This mission allowed me to get a first-hand look at how the police and the people of Israel are meeting these challenges. Through necessity, Israeli law enforcement agencies and their community partners have had to develop unique technologies and innovative strategies to deal with security, trauma management, critical incident stress, emergency planning, rescue and response.

It is important to note that while in Israel we also took the time to meet with officials from the Palestine Authority to discuss law enforcement issues of importance to the Palestinian community. This provided us with some balance as we heard from both sides specific to the ongoing conflict and how they were attempting to deal with it.

Our group met with Lt.-Col. Shawn Myers, Canadian commander of UNDOF at Mitzpeh Hashalom. He briefed us about the strategic importance of the Golan Heights and the role of the United Nations Peacekeepers stationed there.

We attended a number of presentations on the latest law enforcement technology courtesy of the Export Institution in Tel Aviv.

As well, we attended a presentation from terrorism expert Boaz Ganor, director of the Counter-Terrorism Institute of the Interdisciplinary Centre and author of The Counter-Terrorism Puzzle.

He provided us with an overview of terrorism in the Middle East and spoke to what government and law enforcement had to do in order to combat terrorism. The need for International cooperation and the sharing of intelligence were key points raised during his extremely insightful presentation.

We were privileged to meet with Vice-Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert who addressed the group regarding the newfound optimism in Israel regarding possible peace between Israel and Palestine. He also touched on the disengagement process and a multitude of issues associated to Prime Minister Sharon’s decision to relocate Israeli citizens from Gaza and the West Bank.

We attended a presentation from Itamar Marcus, Director of Palestinian Media Watch. Mr. Marcus’s organization monitors Palestinian media in an attempt to identify broadcasts, which glorify terrorist suicide bombings and incite hatred towards the people of Israel. To say that some of Marcus’s presentation was very disturbing would be an understatement.

We met with Brig.-Gen. Dov Lutzky, director of education and training, Israel Police. Gen. Lutzky’s presentation focused on the many challenges faced by the 26,000 members of the Israeli Police whose day-to-day duties were divided between dealing with terrorist threats and traditional police work. He also spoke to the importance of police volunteers and the duplication of resources thanks to community policing initiatives. His presentation also dealt with issues such as operational readiness, planning, training, the national coordination of various agencies including private security companies, information sharing, ongoing communication between agencies, and public education and awareness.

We toured Mabat 2000, Israel Police’s Monitoring Station in Jerusalem where police officers make use of 129 security cameras to monitor activities in the old city. We also spent time with one of their 36 explosive technicians, whose section deals with between 2,000 and 3,000 suspicious package calls per month.

Our next speaker, police volunteer Maj. Yael Bar-Shuv was one of the highlights of our mission. She spoke to our group very passionately about community policing. As mentioned earlier the Israel Police have 26,000 members, and 70,000 police volunteers assist them. According to her, this is the largest volunteer organization anywhere in the world. Major Bar-Shuv made it very clear that the police volunteers were there to assist the police to keep the citizens of Israel safe and secure.

In 1827 Sir Robert Peel wrote, “Police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interest of community welfare and existence.”

We attempt to incorporate Peel’s ideology into many of our community policing and crime prevention initiatives such as Neighbourhood Watch and Block Parents. In Israel, through necessity, every citizen believes he or she plays a role in the security of the state and the people. As a result of this 70,000 citizens volunteer their time to assist the police on a day-to-day basis. This is truly unbelievable when you stop to think about it.

During one afternoon we met with Ja’acov Edri, Deputy Minister of Public Security, Eliezer Rosenbaum, deputy director general and Prof. Israel Brak, chief scientist at the ministry. They briefed us regarding the functions of the ministry.

Our group visited Hadassah Hospital, where we received briefings from hospital staff regarding the unique trauma and emergency situations faced by staff. While visiting the hospital, two Israel Border police officers were rushed into the emergency department after being ambushed and shot by a terrorist while they were guarding a holy site in Hebron.

During our mission we heard from two Israel police officers who were the victims of terrorist attacks. Supt. Ronit Tubol was the victim of a terrorist who blew himself up on a bus that she was on. Miraculously she survived this ordeal. Police officer Adam Garfield also shared his story with us. Adam was shot twice by a terrorist who killed his partner and seriously wounded another Border police officer when he ambushed their patrol vehicle. Both Tubol and Garfield were treated for their injuries at Hadassah.

We toured the Seam Line with Israel Police officials and we also attended Beit Horon Border Police Training Base where we were treated to demonstrations put on by their anti-terrorism unit.

We heard from Staff Col. Mohamad Jayausi, a senior leader with the Palestinian Authority Security Force and Yasser Adjani, an adviser to the Palestinian Authority. Unfortunately neither of these gentlemen shared Vice Prime Minister Olmert’s optimism in relation to possible peace between Israel and Palestine.

Our last keynote speaker was Dr. Reuven Hazan, of the Hebrew University. Hazan shared his views on the peace process, including disengagement and the steps he felt both sides would have to take in order to put a stop to the violence in Israel and Palestine. His presentation was both insightful and informative.

During my initial press release I described this mission as, “a once in a lifetime learning opportunity.”

Now that the mission is completed I can say that I wasn’t disappointed. In fact I believe I may be suffering from 'information Overload.'

Every police leader who participated in this mission is in a better position to deliver police services that meet the rapidly changing needs of our communities, especially in the post-911 era.