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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
On Friday, less than three hours after serial rapist Benny Sela's escape from police custody, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter pulled rank on Police Chief Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi, canceling an internal inquiry launched by the top cop in favor of an external inquiry run through Dichter's office that would be led by "at least a retired [police] commander."
Sela's escape was yet another embarrassment for the beleaguered Israel Police and it seemed that Dichter's patience was wearing thin.
Fuming, the minister called for an urgent meeting on Friday afternoon with Karadi and Israel Prison Service head Yaakov Ganot to conduct a special situation assessment.
In an unusual public disclosure of discontent, the minister's spokesman said that the minister had spoken to Karadi and expressed his "dissatisfaction" at the prisoner's escape.
Later in the afternoon, Dichter sent further shockwaves through the law enforcement community when he announced that the committee would be led by Gen. (res.) Amos Yaron. The committee's assistant chairman was also a military man - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Mickey Barel, the former head of the Military Police. Even the committee representative from the Internal Security Ministry was also a former general, Brig.-Gen. (res.)Udi Shalvi. Only police liaison to the Internal Security Ministry Lt.-Cmdr. Bentzi Sau and one representative of the IPS - TT Gondar Yaakov Halfon - would offer insiders' perspectives in the committee.
The minister gave the committee, which will meet for the first time Sunday morning, thirteen days in order to reach their conclusions and make recommendations.
Only a day before Sela's escape, Dichter, who entered his ministry with a policy of improving "service to the consumer," and restoring Israelis' sense of security, held a meeting with top police officials in which he asked them if they believed that they were providing adequate service to the public.
That meeting was called following the latest police promotion scandal, involving allegations against Amakim Subdistrict Commander Asst.-Cmdr. Yaakov Zigdon and two other police officers. In recent months, the Israel Police have been rocked by a series of promotion-related scandals, as well as headline-grabbing cases in which police officers have failed the public.
Earlier this week, police officers at the Petah Tikvah station failed to understand a Russian-speaking man with a battered face who complained that he had been subjected to abuse at the hands of his stepson. Hours later, the complainant stabbed the stepson to death. During the same week, police were captured on film watching a fight break out outside a nightclub - and getting into their patrol car and leaving.
One week earlier, an inexperienced teenage police officer was assaulted by five people after she had been put n patrol - against regulations - with a municipal inspector rather than a police officer. And two months before that, police were found to have failed to respond appropriately to civilian reports of a reckless driver, who later caused a collision in which five people were killed.
And Dichter - who backed up Karadi even during the darkest days of the Zeiler Commission - is losing patience quickly with the boys in blue.
When asked on "Meet the Press" on Saturday night if he was confident in the police's ability to carry out their mission of returning a sense of security to Israel's streets, he answered simply that "the Israel Police is the only policing body in Israel" but refused to say whether or not he believed that the organization was carrying out its duties.
Refraining from offering even the smallest word of support to police, Dichter said instead that he was willing to do whatever it takes to reform the system. "If there is no choice and the only way is through upheaval, then that is what we will do," he said, adding that "unfortunately, there is no one switch that we can raise and then the police will work differently."
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