J’lem police chief accused of sexual assault

Nisso Shaham forced to take leave pending probe into alleged misconduct.

Nisso Shacham 390 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Nisso Shacham 390
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Jerusalem police head Asst.- Ch. Nisso Shaham was forced to go on leave beginning Thursday morning, following reports of sexual assault against a policewoman.
The Justice Ministry’s Police Investigations Department said Shaham was questioned on Wednesday on suspicion of sexual harassment, indecent assault and improper sexual relations, after an undercover investigation.
Cmdr. Nissim Edri, the head of the capital’s Zion precinct, was also placed on administrative leave due to the suspicion that he was aware of Shaham’s actions and did not take appropriate action as required by law.
The details of the investigation are under a partial media gag order. Police Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino appointed Manny Yitzhaki to the position of temporary head of the Jerusalem district. Yitzhaki was Shaham’s deputy until he left about a week ago to oversee the Lahav 443 special investigative unit. Shaham did not appoint a new deputy in the interim.
Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby declined to comment on the issue.
In a statement released by his office, Danino said he had “full faith” in the Jerusalem Police, and urged officers to concentrate on the issues at hand such as security during Ramadan and the annual gay pride parade rather than the ongoing investigation.
Shaham was appointed Jerusalem district head in May 2011, and during the past year he has focused his efforts on haredi neighborhoods. Some of his major victories include ensuring that Egged buses can drive through Mea She’arim and that sidewalks are not separated by gender during Succot.
Shaham captured headlines in 2005, when he was the deputy head of the northern Negev district during the disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Shaham was filmed while briefing subordinates about the evacuation of protesters from Moshav Kfar Maimon, during which he told police officers to use batons against anyone refusing to evacuate and said “let them all burn, those [expletive] settlers.”
Shaham was fined for the incident but did not issue a formal apology until 2007.
Since 2005, right-wing activists have considered Shaham an enemy of the settlement enterprise. When he was tapped to be deputy head of the Jerusalem district in 2007, the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel petitioned the High Court of Justice against the promotion based on his comments during the disengagement.
“We said the public wouldn’t have any belief in him, and we thought that if someone acts this way it is clear that he’s not suitable to be a commander,” Legal Forum spokesman Shmuel Klein said on Thursday.
Far-right activist Itamar Ben- Gvir said it was “symbolic” that Shaham was forced to take leave on the eve of the anniversary of the 2005 disengagement, which is on Sunday.
“Only the police and the public security minister didn’t internalize the fact that they’re talking about a rude man who is involved in crime and should not be a candidate for inspector- general,” MK Michael Ben- Ari (National Union) said.
MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) praised the police for “sending a message of zero tolerance for sexual harassment, even if it involves senior officials.”
The 54-year-old Shaham is married to Asst.-Ch. Varda Shaham, the deputy head of the police’s Investigation and Intelligence Unit. The couple have three children.
Shaham grew up in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood and started his career as an undercover police officer in his own backyard. He has been in the police force for 30 years.
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.