Police appoint team to examine mishandling of distress call from missing teens

Team set up to review two-minute-long call which was ignored for 5 hours on night of abduction; police play tape of call to families of kidnapped teens.

Yochanan Danino 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Yochanan Danino 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Israel Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino on Wednesday appointed a team of seven officers to examine how police, on the night of the abduction, handled a distress call from one of the kidnapped teens that was thought to be a prank call and ignored for five hours.
The announcement was made shortly after police played the tape of the call for the families of the missing youths.
Police said the committee will be headed by Dep.-Ch. Moshe Barkat of the Operations Branch. It is expected to issue its findings in the coming days.
“I am aware of and understand the public criticism of how police handled the 100 call on the night of the kidnapping,” Danino said, although he called some of the criticism “cynical in nature and inappropriate.”
The police commissioner’s announcement came a few hours after Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said the public and press were justified in their criticism of the police for their failure to take the distress call seriously.
“The criticism is justified, but I’ve also said that we must examine what happened and apply the lessons learned,” Aharonovitch said.
Aharonovitch and Danino have visited the families of the missing teens in the past two days.
Aharonovitch said the tape “is very hard to understand” and that at some point it will be released to the public. Others who have heard it, including Channel 10 reporter Roy Sharon, said it was clear and not difficult to understand.
Earlier this week it was leaked to the press that at around 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, one of the three teens called a police dispatch center using the 100 call line and twice told the operator, “We’ve been kidnapped,” before the call was cut off. The operator, a teenager performing national service with the police, passed the call to a supervisor who ruled that it didn’t require follow-up or need to be handed over to the security services.
The police notified the security services only five hours later, when the father of one of the boys called and it became understood that the two calls were connected.
Once the story broke and public and media criticism soared, the police moved to damage- control mode.
Police have released figures saying they receive about 10 million calls per year and that around 20 percent are prank calls. Each dispatcher has to deal with hundreds of calls a night. In addition, around 30% of the dispatchers are youths doing their national service.
On Wednesday, Judea and Samaria police issued a statement saying they had deployed some 1,000 officers across the West Bank to man checkpoints, control traffic and carry out forensic searches in an attempt to find evidence that could shed light on who might have taken the teens and is holding them.
“We are doing everything to bring the boys back, and all of the units of the district are working day and night to find them,” the statement quoted District Commander Kobi Cohen as saying.