RONI ALSHEICH, the deputy Shin Bet head who has been named to lead the Israel Police.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
Anonymous complaints have been a “sick phenomenon” used to settle accounts and scuttle promotions, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich said at the Knesset on Tuesday, weeks after he was criticized for saying police would no longer field anonymous complaints against officers.
“When I entered the organization, one of the things that very much bothered me was the high rate of anonymous complaints and I realized there is a very ugly phenomenon wherein people try to settle personal accounts by way of writing these letters,” Alsheich said.
Speaking during a hearing by the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women to discuss sexual harassment in the Israel Police, Alsheich said such anonymous letters can harm the reputations of a large number of people even if the accusations are baseless.
Such complaints, he said, “usually appear before someone is about to get a promotion and involve things that happened years earlier,” calling the complaints “sick.”
Alsheich said his earlier comments – made during an event held by police to mark International Women’s Day – were taken out of context and misrepresented by the media, claiming they never meant that anonymous criminal complaints would not be passed on to the Justice Ministry’s Police Investigative Department (PID), which is responsible for investigating criminal cases against police, rather that anonymous disciplinary complaints would no longer be fielded within the police.
He did stipulate, however, that he would encourage women complaining about sexual abuse to not do so anonymously, but to use their real names and police would give them their backing.
Committee chair MK Aida Touma Sliman (Joint List) responded that, “It is impossible to have a policy of not accepting anonymous complaints, which doesn’t respect the difficulties women face in complaining from within this organization.”
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Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Monday night that anonymous complaints do get checked by the Justice Ministry, and that this would continue. The statement followed a report on Channel 2 that showed a letter Erdan had sent to Sliman that said that the ministry and police had reversed their decision to no longer pass on anonymous complaints.
MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) said she was bothered that there wasn’t a “clear moral statement” from Alsheich regarding the difficulties women face in issuing complaints, and that she encourages Israel’s top police commander to “tell female police officers in a clear direct manner – come forward and complain, we will back you up.”
Amir Peretz (Zionist Union) referred to Alsheich’s former career as the deputy head of the Shin Bet, saying: “In your former position, you used anonymous information to prevent terrorist attacks. Preventing sexual harassment is also important, and the message you put forward makes its way to all women in Israel.”
Attorney Uri Carmel, the head of the PID, said their investigations had shown a deep problem within the organization that will take a long, complicated process to fix, and not one specific step or another.
“It is a very complicated thing when a woman submits a complaint, even more so when it involves the workplace, and a complaint issued from within the police faces almost impassable obstacles. There aren’t women coming and knocking on our door to complain about their commanders, this is impossible. Therefore, we need to create an atmosphere of support and anonymous complaints have been the only way to handle them,” Carmel said.
Alsheich’s statements on International Women’s Day were met with widespread condemnation from women’s groups and female MKs, largely in light of the fact that they came after a series of widely publicized sex crimes scandals involving some of the highest-ranking commanders in the Israel Police.
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