October 21, 2023

A somber conversation at our Town Hall Meeting about the attack on Israel


PERF members,

As I wrote last week, I’ve been deeply saddened by Hamas’s senseless attack on Israel two weeks ago. At our Town Hall Meeting in San Diego on Sunday, we had the opportunity to hear from Brigadier General Dror Avda, who serves as Israel’s Police and Public Security Ministry Attaché to North America, and others on the events in Israel. We introduced the topic by showing a New York Times video compilation of the attack on the town of Sderot.

Israeli Brig. Gen. Dror Avda watches video of his officers’ actions on October 7 in Sderot

Brig. Gen. Dror Avda, Israel’s Police and Public Security Ministry Attaché to North America

We lost more than 52 police officers this week. We now have more than 300 wounded police officers. Most of them are regular police officers. We lost more than nine people from the counterterror unit. We lost a lot of people from the special forces. But a lot of them were regular police officers like you and me.

They were preparing for their shift. Because it was a holiday, they were preparing to take the children to a ceremony. And they woke up to a nightmare. And they then had to decide if they’re really police officers who enlisted to guard people and lay down their lives to help the citizens survive.

The first thing an enlisted police officer needs to know is that one day we may call him and say, Okay, this is your moment of truth. You need to decide if you are going to kill or be killed to save somebody else’s life, or you can stay in bed. And this is the contract.

The relationship between police and community will one day be challenged and tested. If you look after each other, and they know you are their defenders, their partners, they will come and fight with you.

The last thing that I want to tell you is something personal. I lost more than 20 friends this week. People who were under my command. Friends.

We are going to win because we are part of a nation that has lived more than 3,000 years. And every generation has its challenge. My grandfather and grandmother came from Germany. They had a number on their hand. That was their shift. My father fought in the Yom Kippur War. That was his shift. Now it’s our shift. And we are going to win it.

MTA Chief John Mueller, who was in Israel during the October 7 attack

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chief John Mueller

Chuck Wexler: John, you were in Israel while this occurred. What was that like?

Chief Mueller: It was surreal. We went over to see how the Israelis conduct business and what we can learn from them. We were with the Community Security Initiative, and we were scheduled to go to Gaza and Jerusalem.

We got there Friday, and Saturday morning we woke up to air raid sirens. We were only 12 miles away from Gaza in the city of Ashdod. We got pounded for five or six hours. We could see smoke in the air and hear all the bombs dropping. We were in and out of the shelters.

We watched the Iron Dome, right through the balcony, and saw the success of the Iron Dome in shooting rockets out of the sky.

You could see the resolve on the face of our Israeli brother [Brig. Gen. Avda], the look of determination. That is what we saw within the Israeli people the next day. Early on it was horrifying, but I don’t think the country realized the extent of the barbarism that took place. Then the next day we saw a tremendous amount of Israeli nationalism, where everybody mobilized very quickly. So many people are in the reserves there that there were miles and miles of cars parked on the side of the road to go serve their country. So I have no doubt that they’re going to succeed in this war. They’re absolutely remarkable people who showed determination and resolve, and we have to pray for everybody in this conflict.

Elise Jarvis

Elise Jarvis, Director of Law Enforcement Outreach and Partnerships, Anti-Defamation League

The American Jewish community is incredibly shaken right now. Each year, ADL collects information on anti-Semitic incidents across the country and publishes them in an annual report. We’ve been doing this since 1979. It includes both bias incidents and hate crimes targeting the Jewish community, and it tallies assaults, vandalism, and harassment. In 2022, we saw the highest number of incidents on record.

As I’m sure many of you are aware, a few months ago we saw a surge of swatting attempts and bomb threats targeting religious institutions across the country, including synagogues and Jewish institutions. And then we woke up to this news last weekend, which was the most lethal assault on the Jewish community since the Holocaust.

So Jewish communities across the world are incredibly shaken right now. We know historically, when we have seen conflict in the Middle East, it plays out in ways here in the United States. In May 2021, when there was a conflict between Israel and Hamas, we saw a surge of anti-Semitic incidents here in the U.S. – both an increase in assaults on Jews and desecration of synagogues. Then, this past week, we have seen rallies celebrating what Hamas did.

This is coming both from anti-Zionists on the left and from white supremacists. The Jewish community is uniquely targeted from a number of different angles, by both the left and the right, by domestic extremists, such as in the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in 2018, and international terrorists, such as the hostage situation at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas last year.

All this is to say that the relationship between law enforcement and the Jewish community is now as important as ever.

Bill Bratton

Former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton

We all need to be proud of what the police were doing in that video. For a great period of time, we have been focused on efforts to de-escalate tensions and how our officers perform in the field. But in this country, because of gun violence and mass shootings, we also have to train and educate our officers that when an act of violence occurs, they have to go towards it.

As the general said, 52 police officers were killed in that small country in that one day. Most of them were community police officers armed with handguns, not the weapons we equip some of our personnel with.

In that video, we saw seven or eight officers going toward dozens of individuals armed with AK-47s, with a .50-caliber machine gun mounted on the front of one of those vehicles. And they went toward the danger. One was shot, and another comes up to drag him away while under fire. Another officer goes to rescue two young children whose parent had been shot in a car, to get them out of harm’s way.

Those officers with their handguns moving toward the danger reinforce something that I think every one of you should feel very proud of, which is that the profession you’ve chosen to commit your life to is so essential in the world we live in today, whether it’s in a country at war, like Israel, or a country supposedly at peace, like our country. But with the amount of gun violence that we experience in this country, you’re always going to have to encourage your officers to go toward the danger, as those officers did in that video.

Metropolitan Nashville Chief John Drake (right)

Metropolitan Nashville Chief John Drake

My heart dropped as I watched the events unfold in Israel. I’ve reached out to the Jewish community at home. People are scared, rightfully so, and are under a lot of anxiety. There’s also a lot of anxiety in the Palestinian and Muslim community, who are not in Gaza but are fearful of what might happen. So these are very challenging times for our profession.


Additional Town Hall Photos

PERF’s Board of Directors: Sacramento Chief Kathy Lester; Daytona Beach, FL Chief Jakari Young; Vancouver Chief Constable Adam Palmer; Metropolitan Nashville Chief John Drake; Charlotte-Mecklenburg Chief Johnny Jennings; LAPD Chief Michel Moore; Seattle Chief Adrian Diaz; and Elgin, IL Chief Ana Lalley (not pictured)

FBI Director Christopher Wray

DEA Administrator Anne Milgram and CBP Acting Deputy Commissioner Pete Flores


U.S. Secret Service Deputy Director Ronald Rowe

PERF President Adrian Diaz presents Chula Vista, California Chief Roxana Kennedy with PERF’s 2023 Leadership Award. Florida Sheriff Mike Chitwood, who also received the 2023 Leadership Award, accepted the award at PERF’S Annual Meeting in July.

Presenting an award to Mahogany Eller, the retiring Director of Public Safety Engagement at Target, for her 25 years of support to PERF

Thank you to everyone who attended our Town Hall Meeting and stopped by our booth at the IACP Conference last week. I’ll cover our Town Hall discussion about pursuit policies in next week’s column.