Editorial: No more cop-outs

Life-and-death decisions must be removed from the hands of a single desk staffer.

By
September 1, 2010 22:10
3 minute read.
Israel police car

police car 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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If our police force were sincerely committed to protecting and serving the public, it would make Petah Tikva District Court President Hila Gerstel’s verdict in the tragic Inbal Amram case compulsory reading for every single officer.

Indeed, all policemen – regardless of rank and position – should be obliged to memorize key portions of the judge’s 39-page document.

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Gerstel’s verdict is one of the most damning indictments ever about the devil-may-care incompetence of some of our constabulary. Yet early indications don’t point to shock or heartfelt contrition. Our cops are engaged in cop-out maneuvers to whitewash their record and shift the blame. The knee-jerk reaction in police headquarters is to fault the judiciary’s laxity. Serial car-thief Mohammad Ja’adi, convicted for Inbal’s murder, had been released from detention numerous times, despite his long and sinister rap sheet.

Nevertheless, the immediate, undeniable and chief contributing factor to the avoidable death of 21-year-old Inbal over four years ago was police negligence.

Inbal was found dying inside her car, ironically soon after police had warned the public to exercise extreme vigilance due to a spate of carjacking and attempted kidnappings.

Presumably that should have put law-enforcement on alert as well. However, incredibly, as the police was later to half-heartedly admit, its officers didn’t take the young woman’s disappearance seriously. Three policemen subsequently received formal reprimands for the obtuse manner in which they treated Inbal’s distraught parents. But this insufficient rap on the knuckles was all the reproof the top command could muster. All the officers involved were subsequently promoted.

As Gerstel’s landmark verdict emphasized, Inbal’s untimely death could have been prevented by prompt police response.



THE SAGA began pre-dawn on Saturday March 4, 2006.

Inbal left her family’s Petah Tikva home to collect her younger sister from a party. She never arrived and didn’t answer her mobile phone. Her parents sought help at the nearest police station. The three officers present wouldn’t even take down the frantic father’s report or any of the missing girl’s details. In fact, they mockingly shouted him down, treated him abusively and eventually ejected him from the station.

In desperation he turned to a family member employed by the police in Tel Aviv, and it was only this relative’s intervention that kick-started the search. It proved simple enough. Police, clued in to Inbal’s movements from her cellphone, sent up a helicopter and found her car abandoned in a derelict Ramat Aviv lot.

Inbal was inside, her throat slashed and barely alive.

Paramedics were unable to save her.

It later transpired that Ja’adi had spotted Inbal entering her car, abducted her, slit her throat and left her bleeding. Speedier police action could have yielded a different ending. Yet had Inbal’s father not used his family connections, which not every citizen has, even the delayed police response, such as it was, would not have been secured.

JUDGE GERSTEL’S long and detailed document constitutes unprecedented denunciation of police recklessness, gross lack of professionalism, common decency and elementary sensitivity. Inbal was the direct and needless victim of the man who murdered her, but also, at least partially, of the indifference and incompetence displayed by successive levels of police units.

It could have been any of us. Indeed it still can be.

Only police Insp.-Gen. Dudi Cohen can reassure us.

No money or material resources are required. The police’s image and its capacity to regain a modicum of respect won’t improve until Cohen treats Gerstel’s verdict as he would the findings of a state inquiry commission into major shortcomings. This is Cohen’s opportunity to impose strict discipline, inculcate a new set of values throughout the force and take serious disciplinary action against every last policeman tainted by the episode.

To restore the public’s waning confidence, Cohen must convince us that no officer will again resort to shifty excuses and prefer his own comfort to that of urgent pleas for help.

Moreover, life-and-death decisions must be removed from the hands of a single desk staffer. When suspicion of a serious crime is referred to him, he must be obliged to pass it on to his superiors. It’s better to err on the side of caution when lives are at stake.

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