Yochanan Danino and Bentzi Sau.
(photo credit: BEN HARTMAN)
After months of leading the Israel Police on the front lines of one of the worst waves of terrorist attacks in years, acting commissioner Asst.-Ch. Bentzi Sau announced Sunday that he would retire on November 30, bringing to an end nearly four decades of service.
Sau said that he is “grateful to have had the privilege to serve the citizens of Israel for 38 years in a series of jobs and challenges,” and “proud of the thousands of police and Border Police officers and volunteers I commanded during my service.”
Sau will remain in the organization until the end of the year in order to help incoming commissioner Roni Alsheich – the former deputy head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) – with his transition to the new post, which he takes up on Monday.
On Sunday, the Israel Police announced that Northern District commander Asst.-Ch. Zohar Dvir will be the new deputy commissioner once Sau steps down. Dvir, 50, is the former head of the Yamam anti-terrorist unit of the Border Police, widely believed to be the best unit of its type in Israel.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Sunday that “over decades of service in the Israel Police, Assistant-Chief Sau carried out a series of central roles in the organization and contributed a great deal to the security of Israel,” adding “in recent months Sau has exceptionally led police in the uncompromising fight against terrorism.”
Sau was made deputy-commissioner in February, when then deputy-commissioner Asst.-Ch. Nissim Mor was forced to resign over a sexual harassment investigation. When former commissioner Yohanan Danino retired from the police in June, Sau was made acting commissioner during what was expected to be a routine – if difficult – search for Danino’s replacement.
Sau, 54, was mentioned as a strong candidate for the post, but was passed over as Erdan offered the position to a number of former security officials who turned down the offer. In August, Erdan offered the job to Brig.-Gen. (res.) Gal Hirsch, only to withdraw the nomination a month later over questions about Hirsch’s business dealings.
Sau’s time heading the Israel Police came as a wave of terrorist attacks spread in Jerusalem and beyond, beginning earlier this fall. The police were on the front line facing the new threat of daily stabbing attacks, and Sau oversaw their deployment and strategy.
Sau began his career in the Border Police, where he served from 1977 to 2006. He was the divisional brigade commander for the Northern Command of the Border Police from 1996 and 2001, including during the October 2000 riots, when 13 Israeli Arabs were killed by security forces during protests on Land Day. Sau was later found by a state committee of inquiry to have violated police guidelines.
After leaving the Border Police, Sau joined the operations branch of the Public Security Ministry in 2006 and in 2010 became head of the Central District, the largest in Israel and responsible for some of the most crime-ridden and complicated cities for policing, including Lod, Ramle, the Triangle region, and Netanya. In 2013, Sau was appointed to the second most prestigious position in the Israel Police, when he was made head of the Tel Aviv police, traditionally seen as a stepping stone to becoming commissioner.