Roni Alsheich was sworn in as the Israel Police Commissioner in a Thursday morning ceremony at the Prime Minister’s Office, ending months of delays, and with officials expressing hopes the appointment would bring an end to a tumultuous era for the force.
The police have been without a permanent chief since July, and have been rocked in recent years by a string of corruption and sexual harassment scandals.
At the ceremony, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he hoped Alsheich, a former deputy head of the Shin Bet security service, would oversee a new chapter in the police’s history.
“There is need for serious reforms in order to move the police force forward,” he said, expressing confidence that Alsheich “will heal” the flaws in the force, “and we will help you.”
Upon receiving the rank and title “commissioner,” Alsheich thanked the public for their support and said it was an honor for him to accept the “mission placed on my shoulders.”
“We are here in order to serve,” he said. “Our role is to serve the law abiding citizens of this country, to guarantee them personal safety and to do what we can to increase obedience to the law.”
Alsheich hinted at planned reforms to the force, as well as expected opposition to such changes, saying many officers have told him there is a need for new thinking.
“I have found real partners to help create a determined a plan which is needed in order for us to succeed together,” he said.
Alsheich replaces acting commissioner Bentzi Sau, who has served in the role since former police chief Yonahan Danino stepped down in June. Sau announced last week that he would retire from the force once Alsheich takes the position.
Alsheich thanked Sau for his dedication, professionalism and the “honorable” way he fulfilled his duties during the overlap period, which saw a wave of Palestinian stabbings, shootings and car-ramming terror attacks throughout the country.
Alsheich also thanked Sau for his willingness to remain in the post several weeks beyond his original retirement date after Alsheich broke his leg two weeks ago and was hospitalized.
Alsheich tripped over the steps of his Givat Shmuel home on November 15, a day before he was expected to officially start in his new role. He was hospitalized in Tel Hashomer hospital near Tel Aviv and his swearing in ceremony was pushed off two weeks. “Evidently, I took the advice to ‘break a leg, too literally,” he quipped at Thursday’s ceremony. He had been so determined to start on the right foot that he’d broken the left one, he also joked.
Alsheich, 52, a married father of seven, lived for many years in a settlement not far from the West Bank city of Ramallah, but moved several years ago to a religious community in central Israel.
Alsheich did his military service in the Paratroopers Brigade and commanded the brigade’s engineering platoon. His successor in that role, coincidentally, was Gal Hirsch, the man who was previously tapped as police chief. Hirsch’s candidacy was pulled amid heavy opposition inside the force, as well as reports of misconduct.
In the late 1980s, Alsheich joined the Shin Bet, where he served in several roles. He has been deputy chief of the organization for the past year, a role which includes filling in for the commander when the latter is away.
Reportedly nicknamed “The Fox” and considered a top performer in the intelligence agency, Alsheich had been expected, until his nomination as police chief, to be the leading candidate for Shin Bet chief when current chief Yoram Cohen steps down. Cohen will conclude his five-year term in May 2016.
Alsheich reportedly turned down the offer to run the police force once before, but changed his mind after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told him he would not be considered to head the Shin Bet.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.