ects in the three
groups towards the three measures of legitimacy towards
excessive police force, the research also examined the
relationships between the attitude’s three components
and between them and the subjects’ age.
Table 3 reveals that the older the police officer or the
citizen, the lower his or her support for use of excessive
force, and for strengthening the professional autonomy of
the police officer in the field. The findings show that
subjects who favored increasing the police professional
autonomy also expressed the greatest opposition towards
external supervisory mechanisms, referring incidences to
the Department of Police Investigation under the author-
ity of the Ministry of Justice, etc. There was also a sig-
nificant positive correlation between support of profes-
sional autonomy for police and the legitimacy accorded
to the use of excessive force in civilian policing situa-
tions. A significant positive correlation was also found
between the legitimacy towards excessive force and op-
position to the external supervision mechanisms whose
function, among other things, is to control and regulate
the use of excessive force in policing activities.
4. Discussion
For over six decades the Israeli society has endured a
very high level of security threats and one of the main
bodies combating those threats is the police force. The
involvement of police units such as the Border Guard in
fighting terror, and the constant threat on Israeli society
might explain the high level of support for the use of
excessive force in civil policing activities found in this
Table 3. Correlation between age and various attitudes to-
wards use of force.
Age Legitimacy Supervision
Legitimacy 0.24**
Supervision 0.13 0.58**
Autonomy 0.18* 0.66** 0.71**
**p < 0.01; *p < 0.05.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. BLR
The Legitimacy of Using Excessive Force during Civil Policing among Israel’s Border Guard Police Officers
study among police and civilians alike. The formal
mechanisms developed in Israeli society to regulate and
supervise the use of excessive force by police are seen by
the vast majority of the police officers in this study and
by at least half of the civilians, as interfering with the
officer’s ability to do his job effectively. Nearly three-
fourths of all the respondents in this study agree with the
claim that obeying the laws limiting the use of force re-
stricts the police officers’ ability to fulfill their police
tasks effectively. It seems that our data shows support
with the basic assumptions of the “crime control model”,
which considers efficiency and economy as the key val-
ues in law enforcement, rather then the “due process
model”, which elevates the values of credibility and
safeguarding civil rights (Lernau, [28]). The “crime con-
trol model” enjoys greater support from the research
subjects in general and police personnel in particular.
The three values examined in this research—legitimacy
of use of excessive force during police activity, oppose-
tion to external supervision for police activities, and the
granting of professional autonomy to the police—show a
significant positive correlation. Together they reflect a
professional sub-culture and intra-organizational norms
that prioritize crime-fighting and the use of excessive and
violence as legitimate and efficient means, to be left to
the discretion of the officer in the field (Goldsmith, [17];
Amir, [14]). Comparison between the attitudes of the
ordinary police officers and those of the Border Guard
Police officers shows that the professional affiliation of
units working at the juncture where civilian policing
meets military defense results in the greatest support for
the Crime Control Model. More than any of the other
respondents, the Border Guard officers tended to view
the laws and regulations limiting the use of force as an
obstacle to be bypassed in order to effectively perform
their job. These findings augment the previous findings
of Carmeli and Shamir [15], indicating a high level of
legitimacy among Border Guard police for the use of
force in civilian policing.
Although, civilians gave the least legitimacy to the use
of excessive during civil policing, nevertheless half the
civilians who took part in the study expressed support for
the use of physical force against citizens. The use of
physical force is also viewed by a considerable propor-
tion of the civilians as necessary for efficient crime-
fighting, while the need for supervision and restrictions
of excessive use of force, a derivative of the due process
model, is mainly perceived as an expression of how cut
off the decision-makers are from the bleak reality in the
field. About half of the civilians think the need to worry
about the legality of the use of force prevents police of-
ficers from effectively doing their job. Carmeli and
Shamir [15] note that three hindrances to effective crime-
fighting exist in Israel: the shortage of tools for dealing
with crime, inadequate backing by the courts and the
police senior command, and the divided opinions among
police personnel as to the limits of use of force. These
hindrances combine to reinforce support even for force
that is excessive to cope with crime.
The prevalent assumption that men are more militant
than women (Kamir, [30]) was not borne out by this
study. In all measures examined, there were no differ-
ences found between men and women in the degree of
legitimacy for the use of force or in the perception of the
law and the supervisory mechanisms deriving from it as
interfering with crime-fighting and hampering the ability
of the police to do their job properly.
5. Conclusions
The broadening of the Israel Police’s ethical code in
2004 and the various criticisms of the use of excessive
force in policing during the past decade (State Comptrol-
ler, [5]) do not seem to have fundamentally changed how
police in general, and particularly those of the Border
Guard, relate to the use of force. Considering the rela-
tively broad support found among police and civilians for
use of force and violence, the ethical code is likely to
continue to serve nothing more than a declarative pur-
A scrutiny of the fluctuations between the different
forces shaping the professional culture of the police in
Israel and the personal and professional attitudes of the
police who operate within this culture reveals that the
belligerent ethos and the increasing involvement of po-
lice units in the fight against terror attacks Are, to a great
extent, shaping the perceptions of the police. The atti-
tudes of the police, especially those of the Border Guard,
who are fighting a constant battle against security threats
alongside the war against crime, are to a great extent in-
capacitating the basic assumptions of the community
policing model, which transforms the civilian from po-
tential suspect to partner in the solution of problems.
These attitudes are also greatly restricting the power of
the external and internal supervision mechanisms to ef-
fectively supervise the use of unreasonable force in the
activities of civilian policing.
From the findings of this paper and other works re-
garding the use of excessive force by police officers
(such as Gimshi, [3]; Yechezkeli, Shalev & livni, [31]),
we concluded that in order for the ethical code to become
feasible and operable, it is necessary to anchor it to the
disciplinary regulations and to create a system of internal
laws within the organization. To avoid a situation in
which the ethical code regulating use of force remains
nothing more than an ideological notion, it is necessary
to promote public and organizational discussion regard-
ing the use of excessive force, with punitive ramifica-
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. BLR
The Legitimacy of Using Excessive Force during Civil Policing among Israel’s Border Guard Police Officers
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. BLR
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