The Yaron Commission on Thursday submitted its findings on the law enforcement errors that led to the escape of serial rapist Benny Sela. And while the report seemed unlikely to cause heads to roll, the commission offered a further push to Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter's policies concerning the handling of prisoners.
While presenting his findings, Gen. (res.) Amos Yaron blasted police and the Israel Prisons Service (IPS) for "the culture of 'trust-me'" that he said prevailed in both organizations. Yaron added that police officers had "demonstrated a lack of training and a serious discipline problem" when they violated basic protocols in transferring Sela.
Most of the commission's recommendations concerned the communication - or lack thereof - among the Israel Police, the IPS and the courts. One of the commission's recommendations was that IPS and police commanders sit together and build a joint procedure for dealing with custody transfers. More importantly, however, the commission recommended that the entire responsibility for dealing with convicts, including transfer and detention, be given to the IPS.
This recommendation followed the policy outlined by Dichter in June, shortly after taking office, in which he recommended that the IPS become the sole government body responsible for imprisonment and care of prisoners in Israel.
While the IDF completed its transfer of prison facilities to the IPS's authority two months ago, police have dragged their feet in transferring responsibility for prisoner transport and detention facilities. Police have complained that such a transfer would harm their ability to conduct thorough investigations.
But now, following the report of the Yaron Commission - which was asked in its mandate to discuss the issue of transfer of authority - Dichter's policy has received a very public push forward, and both Dichter and commission members expressed their expectations Thursday that the transfer will be wholly completed by December 2007.
But onlookers who might have anticipated public pillories of police officers deemed responsible would have been disappointed by the commission's final report Thursday. Commission head Yaron cited the confluence of legal concerns and a desire to come to a quick conclusion for the commission's decision to refrain from issuing conclusions against specific IPS and police officers.
Instead, the commission published a list of nine policemen and officers and four IPS officers and wardens whose behavior the commission members believed should be reviewed by their respective organizations. Decisions as to whether and which punitive actions should be taken against the 13 would be made within the police and the IPS.
All of the police officers cited by the commission were members of the Tel Aviv District, and District Chief Cmdr. David Tzur was the highest-ranked officer cited by the commission on their list.
Tzur said that he would review the report to the smallest detail together with his senior staff and that he intended to operate in coordination with the national command to fully carry out the commission's recommendations.
Tzur said Thursday that he was "saddened" by the failures that enabled Sela's escape and expressed "deep sorrow about the scandal that hurt many faithful police officers who work night and day to maintain the personal security of Israel's residents."
"Tel Aviv District will continue to do its work faithfully," Tzur said, expressing his hope that Karadi would "consider all of the personal aspects which were raised in the report as quickly as possible to put an end to the circus and enable the Tel Aviv police to go back and carry out its public mission in accordance with the values that characterize the people who wear blue and green uniforms of the Israel Police."
Police Chief Insp.-Gen Moshe Karadi expressed his support for the embattled Tzur during a ceremony later Thursday afternoon, calling him "one of the most valued and talented officers in the Israel Police," adding that the commission's findings did not conclude that Tzur was directly to blame for Sela's escape.
The police chief said that he and his senior officers will hold their first discussion on the commission's findings on Sunday to discuss the conclusions and find ways to apply the commission's recommendations. Only after that discussion, Karadi said, will he publish his decisions "with regard to the necessary personal conclusions made about the about police officers who were mentioned in the report, in accordance to their levels of their responsibility."
Meanwhile, in the IPS, Chief Warden Yaakov Ganot appointed his assistant, Warden Daniel Avidan, to check the level of involvement of the four IPS members whose names were listed in the commission's findings. Senior IPS officials added Thursday evening that they would "help the Internal Security Ministry to fulfill Dichter's decision to immediately advance the topic of handing over police detention centers and the prisoner escort system from the Israel Police to the IPS."