Palestine Has No Police Force at All but a Department Says Palestine Police Commandant: at Bottom of
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Palestine Has No Police Force at All but a Department Says Palestine Police Commandant: at Bottom of

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Major R. G. B. Spicer, the Commandant of the Palestine Force, speaking in Jerusalem on the work of his Force said that when he arrived in the country he saw to his horror on his notepaper “Department of Police and Prisons”. I sent for my Quarter-Master, he went on, and told him to take them away and get them headed “Palestine Police Force”. We are a Police Force and not a Department, I said. If we are a Department then I shall have much pleasure in issuing an order that from 1 p.m. on Saturdays until 7 a.m. on Mondays there shall be no crime and all traffic shall cease. If I made such a foolish order you could rightly compare me to King Canute.

I suggest that the job of the Police is to enable the public to sleep soundly in their beds while we protect you. Things have admittedly occurred recently on the Ramallah and Jericho roads to which I plead guilty. But when you look at the record of the Palestine Police, I am amazed that you have got any Police Force at all, the Commandant proceeded. I have had precis drawn up of the changes in the Palestine Police since the milltary administration changed in 1920. It is the most horrifying document I have read. When the Administration ceased and the Civil Government was established, a Police Force was formed in July 1920. It was under the Director of Public Security. Then for some extraordinary reason nine months went before it was changed in the fourth month of 1921. It carried on for two months and in the sixth month of 1921 there was a new body called the Palestine Gendarmerie arrived.

They had just settled down and learned the difference between “Aiwa” and “La” when there were riots and again a change took place in 1922. They then had a run of luck and for twelve months they ran without change. After that came the British Gendarmerie (44 officers and 700 other ranks) from home and having gone through an amazing period of twelve consecutive months, of course, come retrenchment and so in 1923 we disbanded companies of gendarmerie and mounted squads and there were various other changes. Exactly twelve months later again came the axe-the Palestine Gendarmerie reduced by 282. I am pleased to say there was no change in the British Gendarmerie. Then we ran on to 1925 when the British Gendarmerie were reduced by 15 officers and 81 other ranks against retrenchment. Then in 1926 the British and Palestine Gendarmerie were totally disbanded and the Transjordan Frontier Force was formed. We then ran on to 1928 when the Police again came under the axe and were retrenched, British Gendarmerie having been disbanded and the British Police were also reduced. We now come to 1929. Then of course there were riots and police occupied every passage on the boats to Palestine and now we stand at 135 officers, 1,466 Palestinian other ranks, and 650 British Police.

When you criticise the police, let me ask you to carry these changes in your mind. I. as Commandant, take off my hat to them for the efficient state they are in to-day when they have been messed about as they have been. For the most part of the time, may I say in defence of those very excellent lads, the majority of the Palestine Police rank and file work some 14 hours a day on average.

Sir Herbert Dowbiggin, who came to inspect this Force a year ago, and I consider Sir Herbert the greatest Colonial policeman to-day, Major Spicer continued, says that the Palestine Police Force have been playing on a very bumpy wicket. He compares the Force which he wished reorganised to a young boy learning to play cricket for the first time. It is the duty of the Government to present him with a fair wicket to play on.


Palestine is a very difficult and a very trying country, the Police Commandant said. You have your Frontiers and proximity to places that make it difficult to police.

You have the most astounding list of murder in this country as compared with others, he declared. Your police are always on the run, investigating cases of murder.

For three years in Kenya (where Mr. Spicer was before he came to Palestine) the figures for Murder and Manslaughter were 25, 43 and 39, whereas the comparative figures for Palestine were 200, 260 and 200. That is a very big difference and a very alarming figure. I give you that to show that the Palestine Police are up against a difficult problem.

I do not know that we are very generously policed and I have never met Sir Michael O’Donnell, who seems to think that we are generously policed, but I can prove that we are not. The proportion of police to public here is 1 to 467, in London 1 to 367, in the Federated Malay States 1 to 335 and the Straits Settlements 1 to 279. You have an abnormal number of murders.

I maintain that the rock bottom of our difficulties in Palestine to-day is that we are not being kept to our own last. We have quite enough to do to keep the public free from criminals and in maintaining public order without being the handmaids of anybody else; we have got to stand on our own.

Sir Herbert Dowbiggin said that the Palestine Police have got a 24 hours day and 365 days a year working full time all out without doing anybody else’s work. We cannot do anything else but our own job if we are to be efficient in the future and we cannot do extraneous jobs.

Our language difficulty is also a striking one. Sir Herbert Dowbiggin realised this. He comes from a Colonial Police Force where 41 per cent, of the rank and file can read and write English. My figures are 8 per cent.

People talk about the cost of the Police Force, he concluded. The morale of any country is beyomd the price of police. You are not so terribly over-taxed with regard to your Police Force. The London policeman costs £363 a year and the Palestine police per capitation costs £177 a year or a cost per head of the population of 7s.9d.

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