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A number of police officers and prison wardens who retire early go on to receive a full pension and an array of benefits through a misuse of legislation, resulting in a drain on state finances, the State Comptroller's Report charged on Tuesday.
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss accused Public Security Minister Avi Dichter of failing to scrutinize the early retirement of officers and wardens, and said Dichter's office "did not insist on receiving vital figures from the police and Prisons Service which are needed for monitoring, and did not prevent irregularities in retirement arrangements."
While the state has given security agencies - including the police and Israel Prisons Service - special retirement conditions that allow for benefits and earlier retirement than other state employees, some early retirees have been lavished with benefits that breach legal arrangements, the comptroller said.
Lindenstrauss examined retirement conditions in the police and IPS between 2003 and 2008. One piece of legislation Lindenstrauss cited as being misused was Article 15 - a law that allows for government agencies to terminate employees' positions due to worker unsuitability or internal changes.
Any officer who stops working under Article 15 is entitled to an immediate pension, in accordance with the Pensioners Law, which requires employers to specify whether an employee has retired of his or her own free will.
"It has emerged that the police and Prisons Service have for many years allowed officers to retire out of their own initiative before reaching the age of retirement as specified by Article 15, despite a need to apply the 'pension by choice' clause of the Pensioners Law... [This has resulted in] unusual benefits, which could amount to hundreds of thousands of shekels per officer," the report said.
In its response, the Israel Police said "the issue of early retirement with a pension is common in other security agencies, and therefore the police have acted in accordance with the instructions of the law to allow officers to retire. This is a procedure that is at the heart of a police officer's working conditions, and which has a critical influence on the building of a force, as well as its functionality and efficiency."
The nature of a police officer's work involves "constant friction with a difficult and problematic population" and "unusual" work hours, "and therefore the organization responds to officers' requests to complete their service before reaching retirement age," the police said.
Low salaries have long been a thorn in the side of police efforts to recruit new officers. In April, the government came under fire when a Knesset Internal Affairs Committee learned that only 31 new police officers had been hired so far out of a proposed 1,000-strong addition to the force.
In his appearance before the committee, Public Security Ministry Director-General Ra'anan Falk said the goal of recruiting an additional 1,000 police officers by the end of the year was unattainable, adding that the current recruitment target stood at a mere 200.
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