Police patrol Sultan Sulivan Road, Jerusalem, as security forces brace for disorder, July 21, 2017..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Justice Ministry’s Police Investigations Department is under attack due to a number of high-profile cases that have embarrassed the police, the department’s annual report said Tuesday.
The highest-profile case, which has led to a rare public dispute between the PID and the police, has been the case of Yacoub Abu al-Kaeean.
Abu al-Kaeean was killed in disputed circumstances
in January 2017 when the state demolished unrecognized Beduin residences in Umm al-Hiran in the South.
Initially, the police and many politicians labeled Abu al-Kaeean a terrorist after the car he was driving ran over and killed border policeman Erez Levi.
But subsequently, the PID was called in to probe the police for possibly illegally shooting Abu al-Kaeean, in which case the Beduin’s vehicle may only have run over Levi after he was shot, and possibly already killed, while the car was in drive.
The annual report refers to the incident as a tragic one in which the two families, Levi and Abu al-Kaeean, both lost loved ones. The report refers to Abu al-Kaeean neutrally, as “the deceased” – all of the references seeming to treat him as innocent.
This probe led to fierce tensions between the PID and the police, even as the PID’s initial recommendations to the state prosecution were not to indict any policemen.
Regarding the incident, the report said: “2017 was characterized by a complex struggle in the PID arena. This was manifested by the probe of Umm al-Hiran, which started at the beginning of the year and which the PID was dealing with all year long.”
Furthermore, the report mentions a sub-dispute that also blew up publicly when the PID reopened the probe against the police in the case of Abu al-Kaeean to review a Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) document regarding the incident.
The police blasted the PID, implying that the department had tried to bury a document showing an alternative perspective to the dispute and that could have supported the police’s narrative of the incident being a terrorist attack.
To date, no explanation has been given about how or why the document was not immediately given to the PID or why they had not reviewed it sooner, but the annual report said that the document did not add any radical facts to the case that were not previously known.
ANOTHER POINT of tension between the PID and the police and discussed in the report was the probe of sexual harassment claims against Lahav 443 head Roni Ritman.
According to the report, the incident gained increased prominence “against the background of the social revolution that occurred before our eyes, regarding the international phenomenon of outing senior officials who were sexual harassers.”
Though Ritman was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, the probe led to his reprimand, while an eventual petition to the High Court of Justice forced the PID and Israel Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. Roni Alsheich to consider further consequences against him.
The PID report seemed to take partial credit for Ritman’s announcement two weeks ago that he would step down, reporting that it even pursued cases against officials of his rank, leading to them stepping down.
Top police officials, including the lead police spokeswoman, had publicly blasted the PID over this and other cases.
This unconventional public outburst led the spokeswoman to partially retract her criticism and led to the Attorney-General’s Office to issue a rare statement supporting the PID, despite police criticism.
Overall, however, the PID report described the attorney-general as generally backing the police, leaving the PID alone under fire, and some commentators said that the attorney-general’s defense of the PID had been slow and lukewarm.
The PID report also said that it had successfully prosecuted several cases against Shin Bet misconduct, though it did not specify how serious the issues were – the assumption being they were disciplinary and not criminal proceedings.