(photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
When alluding recently to police top brass – including Deputy Insp.-Gen. Nissim Mor – who face accusations of sexual harassment, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opined that perhaps it would be a good idea to appoint a woman as the next inspector-general.
He might have a point. That would certainly lower the odds of another male authority figure extorting sexual favors from a female subordinate.
There are plenty of other exceptionally good reasons to prefer a woman commissioner, and it is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in our constabulary that one of the anticipated benefits from such a move would be to counter the gender inequality that facilitates sexual pressure and/ or inducement. As is, sexual misconduct flourishes in what continues to be a thoroughly macho environment.
Exploitation of women officers is suspected throughout the police hierarchy. In our police the lowest and top-most ranks are in daily contact, which increases opportunities for bosses to behave inappropriately. Simultaneously, such circumstances serve as a clear disincentive for female officers to lodge complaints. They can never be sure that the higher-up to whom they turn will not take liberties himself or that he will not cover up for miscreant colleagues.
Mor, for example, is charged with using his position of power to harass a lower-ranking policewoman who came to him for help. As most often happens, this was not divulged by the victim. The policewoman in question confided in a friend who then pursued the matter.
Only days before the Mor imbroglio came to light, Asst.- Ch. Kobi Cohen, commander of the Judea and Samaria Police District, resigned from the force after admitting to improper relations with a subordinate policewoman whose career he sought to further.
Last September, Asst.-Ch. Yossi Pariente, commander of the Jerusalem District, quit after rumors that his cleaning woman claimed he had touched her indecently. Interrogators found her unreliable and the investigation was discontinued.
In 2013, Jerusalem District head Asst.-Ch. Nisso Shaham was dismissed after a slew of accusations that included sexual assault. He is currently on trial.
Other varieties of scandal also plague the police.
Asst.-Ch. Menashe Arbiv, who headed the prestigious anti-corruption unit Lahav 433, stepped down in the wake of allegations that he derived assorted financial considerations from dubious Rabbi Yeshayahu Pinto.
Central District head Asst.-Ch. Bruno Stein, another one of Mor’s competitors to become inspector-general when the incumbent steps down in May, resigned as well. His career path was obstructed by a photo that showed him at a private party thrown by attorney Ronel Fisher who is suspected of bribing police officers.
The official police line is that six rotten apples do not spoil the barrel. Strictly speaking, there is no disputing this, except that these rotten apples were of the highest echelons and a hair-breadth away from assuming overall command.
This cannot fail to damage the anyway waning public regard for the police.
The prime minister was right when he argued that “the difference between a civilized state and an uncivilized state isn’t whether crimes are committed. It is whether they are exposed and whether an independent and impartial law-enforcement framework exists.” The very fact that the police itself is not immune from investigation is “a sign of health.”
Maybe, but things look lots worse from the law-abiding citizens’ vantage point. They do not detect outstanding keenness to persist in the unglamorous, far-from-the-headlines, grinding struggle against minor offenders. Lackadaisical police responses frequently lead to exasperation and loss of trust in the system. The popular perception is that when tackling “petty crime,” the sort that ordinary folk are likeliest to encounter in daily life, the police’s crime-busting record is hardly impressive.
All too often policemen simply do not bother visiting or so much as collecting fingerprints at burglary scenes. This is a considerable disincentive for alerting the cops. Car thefts appear to be even lower on the scale of police priorities, again dissuading many victims from even phoning the station.
Hence, official statistics that point to fewer complaints may attest to public apathy rather than to reduced crime.
No matter the direction from which we scrutinize our police – from the top or from the bottom – the overall picture looks dismal. This suggests that it is time for a truly thorough overhaul