Police under fire for 'brutal treatment'

State attorney: We don't have the manpower to suspend all indicted cops.

By DAN IZENBERG
September 21, 2006 22:56
2 minute read.
border police arrest anti-disengagemetn protestor

border police arrest 298. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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About 75 policemen are indicted on criminal charges each year, the state informed the High Court of Justice on Thursday. Of these, about five are suspended and five others are kept away from contact with the public until the court rules on the charges against them. The figures were presented during a hearing on a petition demanding that the police department suspend Chief Superintendent Yehiel Amsalem, who has been indicted in Jerusalem Magistrate's Court with assault causing substantial injury. After the indictment was filed, the police decided to take disciplinary measures against Amsalem by removing him from contact with the public. However, they did not suspend him and he has continued to serve on active duty. The petitioners, including the victim of the assault, Avishalom Levy, and the Human Rights in Judea, Samaria and Gaza organization petitioned the court demanding that Amsalem be suspended. The state's representative, attorney Ofira Dagan, told the court that the police could not afford to suspend all 75 policemen who are indicted each year because they are short of manpower. The incident for which Amsalem was charged took place during an anti-disengagement demonstration at the entrance to Jerusalem on May 16, 2005. According to the petitioners, represented by attorney Mordechai Minzer, Levy, a protester, had allegedly witnessed brutal treatment by Amsalem and wanted to get close to him so that he could read the officer's identifying tag. "Chief Superintendent Amsalem noticed what [Levy] was doing and ordered him with a shout, 'Get down immediately,'" the petitioners wrote. "Levy, who had been witness to Amsalem's violence, decided he had better do so. But to his shock and surprise, even before he turned around, he saw the angry police officer kick him in the head with all his might. Levy… was thrown by the force of the kick into the highway." The petitioners said Amsalem broke Levy's jaw and that since then he has suffered severe pain. Levy filed a complaint against Amsalem one week later. After investigating the case, the Police Investigations Department (PID) filed an indictment against the officer on February 7, 2006. The police then held disciplinary hearings to decide what to do with Amsalem in the meantime. On April 1, 2006, the police decided to remove him from his post as head of the patrol unit in the Zion police district and keep him away from contact with the public. The petitioners claimed that the disciplinary punishment was insufficient and that it contradicted police orders and a High Court ruling handed down in February. The state has rejected these arguments. One reason the police gave for taking lesser disciplinary action was the fact that Amsalem was an outstanding policeman. The petitioners demanded that the PID present the officer's file to the court. The state did so, but did not include complaints lodged against Amsalem that had been closed without any action taken. The petitioners asked the court to order the police to include such complaints. The court granted the request. Now the petitioners are demanding that the police allow them to see Amsalem's record for themselves. Orit Struck, head of Human Rights in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, charged that there were at least three complaints that she knew of against Amsalem for violent behavior that had been closed.

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