Knesset State Control Committee chairman Amnon Cohen on Monday slammed the police for “leaking” allegations “against suspects in order to improve its image.”
Cohen said that the widely discussed phenomena of leaks of exact statements and allegations from supposedly secret interrogations emerging consistently in almost real time in the press “harms citizens suspected” of crimes as well as “their families, their job security and their reputation.”
He called on the Justice Ministry to crack down on the leaks and to refer the issue to State Comptroller Joseph Shapira for a broad systematic investigation.
Also, the committee chairman said “there is a feeling that commanding officers in the police are whitewashing” the leaks of their rank-and-file police.
MK Boaz Toporovsky (Yesh Atid), who initiated the hearing, said that he was not out to get the police and thought they do excellent work in many areas.
However, he then went on the attack, saying “especially because we are talking about a body whose duty it is to enforce the law, we need to demand of them to follow the laws.”
Toporovsky said that even if many investigations end with no indictment, the police invite the media to send photographers to take pictures of suspects leaving the police station, which causes irreversible damage to their reputations.
Though there are countless examples of real-time leaks of police interrogations to the media, three famous instances that were repeatedly referred to were the interrogations of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and singer Eyal Golan (who ultimately was not indicted, but whose career has been significantly harmed).
Ometz lawyer Pinhas Fishler completely took off the gloves, saying, “I have fought the phenomenon” of leaks already “for 16 years, and there is evidence of police leaks in the possession of the state comptroller, the state attorney and the attorney- general.”
He said that sometimes the police were not even careful to cover their tracks, and that “every protocol of interrogations in the Avigdor Liberman case made its way, week after week, to the website of reporter Yoav Yitzhak. [Reporter] Ilana Dayan got the footprints in the Asharneko murder, even before the indictment was filed.”
He also said that the police put pictures and evidence up on their website before filing indictments, which they agree to take down when confronted, claiming unintentional error.
MK Pnina Tamnu-Shata (Yesh Atid) said that, on one hand, she believed that prosecutors, defense lawyers and court clerks were also to blame for leaks, and that the police should not be exclusively blamed. On the other hand, when the police later denied any blame and put all of the blame on other players, she got annoyed and pointed out that many leaks come out at the stage of the interrogation when no one knows about the interrogation except the police, so that only they could be responsible for certain leaks.
Dep.-Ch. Uri Machlof, head of the police’s interrogations, and Dep.-Ch. Uri Yafeh, head police spokesman, said that the police have zero tolerance for leaks, regularly fight against leaks and issue gag orders to protect their investigations and suspects’ privacy.
Machlof added that the allegations against the police were “not based on facts but speculations which we cannot compete with, and this causes injustice against the police and the interrogators.”