(photo credit: Israel Police)
Even after comments by Northern District chief Cmdr. Shimon Koren condemning the actions of the four policemen and one officer accused of planting explosive devices against two underworld figures, others in the police found it difficult to offer such scathing responses.
Many veteran cops reiterated Thursday that while they condemned the actions taken by the six members of the Northern District police, they understood the level of frustration that led them to take such drastic measures against criminals who had threatened their lives and their families.
"What they did was serious and should be condemned, but one also needs to ask how they came to a situation in which they need to be afraid of the criminals, and not a situation where the criminals were afraid of them," said former chief of the Tel Aviv Central Investigative Unit Mordechai Liber.
Liber, who during his tenure as CIU chief was responsible for investigations against some of the most famous heads of the Israeli criminal underworld, said that the feelings of frustration were understandable.
"First, one should ask all of the 'heroic' police commanders who are condemning these policemen when was the last time that they arrested a criminal, chased a criminal or was beaten up or threatened by a criminal," Liber said, emphasizing he was speaking as someone who had "both received and delivered punches."
Liber also added that the very fact that these cops felt threatened by the gangsters meant that they were - in practice - good, conscientious police. "Nobody threatens lazy police officers who do the minimum required and don't care. They threaten the good police officers who are making efforts to get the bad guys."
He said the solution was for the Justice Ministry to work harder to ensure that criminals were put in jail - and that they stay in jail. He called on legislators to issue mandatory sentences for criminals found guilty of threatening police officers.
Other police officers recounted cases in which they or their comrades had received direct threats against themselves and their families. One said he had packed up his family, fled the town in which he lived and transferred his children to different schools out of fear that criminals would track him down. In another story recounted to this reporter, a mother of multiple policemen had her tires slashed in retaliation for her childrens' actions.
Even Israel Police chief Insp.-Gen. David Cohen seemed reluctant Thursday afternoon to portray the five officers merely as hardened criminals. While condemning their actions, he also reiterated that each one of them was a devoted police veteran and that they all had clean disciplinary files prior to this incident.
"There can't be a situation in which a police officer is scared to send his child to preschool because of threats issued against him," said Cohen.