More than 1,000 law enforcement officials and first responders have gone to Israel for joint training and exercises with their Israeli counterparts. With the United States on constant terror alert since the events of September 11, 2001, Americans are taking advantage of Israel’s expertise in various facets of counter-terrorism and first response to better protect the American people.
In 2002, Los Angeles Police Department detective Ralph Morten visited Israel to receive training and advice on preparing security arrangements for large public gatherings. From lessons learned on his trip, Det. Morten prepared a new Homicide Bomber Prevention Protocol and was better able to secure the Academy Awards presentation.
In January 2003, thirty-three senior U.S. law enforcement officials - from Washington, Chicago, Kansas City, Boston and Philadelphia - traveled to Israel to attend a meeting on “Law Enforcement in the Era of Global Terror.” The workshops helped build skills in identifying terrorist cells, enlisting public support for the fight against terrorism and coping with the aftermath of a terrorist attack.
“We went to the country that’s been dealing with the issue for 30 years,” Boston Police Commissioner Paul F. Evans said. “The police are the front line in the battle against terrorism. We were there to learn from them - their response, their efforts to deter it. They touched all the bases.”
“I think it’s invaluable,” said Washington, DC Police Chief Charles Ramsey about the instruction he received in Israel. “They have so much more experience in dealing with this than we do in the United States.”
Also, in 2003, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security established a special Office of International Affairs to institutionalize the relationship between Israeli and American security officials. “I think we can learn a lot from other countries, particularly Israel, which unfortunately has a long history of preparing for and responding to terrorist attacks,” said Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) about the special office.
A 2007 publication by the Police Executive Research Forum said, “We must embrace, in particular, our Israeli and British counterparts, to whom we can turn for lessons learned.”
In November 2011, a delegation of senior American law enforcement officials, including police commanders, security experts and FBI agents, went to Israel for a joint training seminar with Israeli counter-terrorism officials sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League. Israeli Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the program provided the visiting officials with an opportunity to “learn from each other and their Israeli counterparts. “The program covered topics such as border security and media response during crises as well as overviewing strategies for treating mass casualties, performing rescue operations, and establishing command and control at the scene of a terror attack.
Col. Robert Quinn, commander of the New Hampshire State Police, was part of the delegation. “It’s really been an eye-opener,” says Col. Quinn. “We attend various training in the states on terrorism and counter terrorism issues but never have I ever learned as much as I have just by looking and observing as I have been in [Israel].”
In early September 2012, the New York Police Department (NYPD) opened an Israeli branch at the Sharon District Police Headquarters in the Israeli coastal city of Kfar Saba. The NYPD decided to open an Israeli branch because the Israeli police is one of the major police forces with which it must maintain close work relations and daily contact.
In September 2013, a special team of bomb squad members from cities along the U.S.-Mexico border travelled to Israel to improve techniques and tactics for dealing with illegal immigration and IED attacks. Sgt. Chris Rogers represented the Pima (Arizona) Regional Bomb Squad - “We engaged the Department of Defense and the technical support group to sponsor the trip so we could get first hand training and experience from the Israelis who have been dealing with cross border IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) for some time now.”
Some of the training for the group included going to a West Bank military outpost with the Israeli National Police bomb squad and visiting an Israeli port of entry to learn about port inspections as they relate to counter explosives and counter IED operations.
Fifteen members of U.S. Security agencies and police departments travelled to Israel in September 2015 to engage in counter-terrorism training sessions, led by Israeli counter-terrorism officers. The trip was sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League, and according to the organization’s director, the participants, “learn[ed] lessons from Israel in terms of tactics and strategies and the evolution of terrorism.” Officials hailing from the U.S. Marshalls Service, U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, as well as the Chicago, Las Vegas, Austin, Seattle, Oakland, and Miami-Dade police departments, participated in this training exercise.
A diverse group of 52 law enforcement officers from 12 U.S. states visited Israel and participated in joint training sessions with their Israeli counterparts during September 2017. This program, known as the Police Unity Tour, has been held periodically since 1997.
The Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) regularly takes delegations of law-enforcement officials from Georgia and other southern states to Israel for peer-to-peer training programs. The Cleveland Jewish News reported on a 2018 trip that included 21 senior law-enforcement officials from Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee: “The delegation studied Israel’s best practices and advances in community policing; recruitment and deployment; counterterrorism; emergency management; advanced technologies; homeland security policies; mounted police; use of K-9 services for drugs, explosives and missing persons; and crisis negotiations.” They were also briefed by Maj. Gen. Jamal Hakroosh – the first Muslim major general in the Israel Police and met with Arab cadets in the police academy.
GILEE founding director Robbie Friedmann said the sessions emphasized “a policy and a strategy aimed at achieving more effective and efficient crime control, reduced fear of crime, improved quality of life, improved police services and police legitimacy, through a proactive reliance on community resources that seek to change crime-causing conditions,” explained Friedmann. “It assumes a need for greater accountability of police, greater public share in decision-making, and greater concern for civil rights and liberties.”
Another participant on one of the trips, Major Michael Lindstrom of the Sandy Springs Police Department said, “I think one of the most important lessons I learned from our time in Israel was how important it was to connect with the community that the officers were working in.”
Similarly, Chattanooga Police chief, Celeste Murphy said, “We learned a lot about community policing, how they are able to bridge the gap between multiple cultures and religions, in a very careful way.” She added, “It shows they have a compassion for the people they serve, and that’s a lesson that we could of course refresh on,” she said.
“Over the years, hundreds of Israel police officers have had the distinct honor to participate in GILEE delegations and exchange information and best practices in almost every law enforcement area imaginable – including counter-terrorism, forensic sciences, bomb disposal, community policing, and more recently, leadership training,” noted Insp. Gen. Roni Alsheich, Commissioner, Israel Police. “These exchanges have undoubtedly increased the knowledge and professionalism on both sides and the personal relationships between law enforcement personnel have proven to be invaluable.”
In 2022, Prof. David Weisburd, a Hebrew University criminologist, conducted a course for police officers in Houston, Texas, Tucson, Arizona, and Cambridge, Massachusetts based on a model known as “procedural justice. According to Haaretz:
The participants were assigned to high-crime areas and Weisburd monitored their activities for nine months and found their behavior changed. Officers listened more attentively to the people they interacted with and treated them respectfully. The public’s attitude toward the police also improved. During the period, arrests decline by 60%.
Sources: Near East Report, (March 3, 2003);
Arieh O’Sullivan, “US law enforcement chiefs learn counter-terrorism Israel,” Jerusalem Post, (October 31, 2011);
Yaakov Lappin. “US police in Israel for counter-terrorism program,” Jerusalem Post (November 1, 2011);
“NYPD opens branch in Kfar Saba,” Times of Israel, (September 7, 2012);
Ben Hartman. “American law enforcement learns anti-terror tactics from Israeli experts,” Jerusalem Post (September 9, 2015);
US Police Train in Counterterrorism in Israel, Attend 9/11 Memorial, Jerusalem Post, (September 5, 2017);
Eliana Rudee, “Senior police and public-safety officials boost their many skills in Israel,” JNS, (July 5, 2018);
Lisa L. Spahr with Joshua Ederheime and David Bilson, “Patrol-Level Response to a Suicide Bomb Threat: Guidelines for Consideration,” Police Executive Research Forum, (2007);
Robbie Friedman, “Partnerships Teach Society Lessons,” Atlanta Jewish Times, (September 11, 2015);
Robbie Friedman, GILEE: Jews, Public Safety and the BDS Threat, Atlanta Jewish Times, (September 13, 2017);
Lea Speyer, “Atlanta Mayor Flatly Rejects Demand From Local ‘Black Lives Matter’ Group to Cut Ties With ‘Apartheid Israel,’” Algemeiner, (July 19, 2016);
Steven L. Pomerantz, “I am the architect of the U.S.-Israel police exchange. Don’t believe the lies,” Forward, (June 19, 2020).
Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE).
Itay Mashiach, “What Happens When Israeli Researchers Train U.S. Cops on Respectful Communication,” Haaretz, (July 23, 2022).
Photo: 29th delegation at the Menorah near the Knesset courtesy of GILEE.