Analysis: Kill the messengers

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich shows a remarkable ignorance – or dismissal – of the fear felt by victims of sexual abuse.

Roni Alsheich (photo credit: screenshot)
Roni Alsheich
(photo credit: screenshot)
Ladies, if you’re going to complain about sexual harassment, you better be prepared to spill your guts face-to-face to your co-workers, commanders, husband – really just about everyone who knows you.
You also should know that there will be a strong air of suspicion around your allegations, which, until proven otherwise, will be considered an attempt to “settle accounts.”
That, basically, was the message sent last week by Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich in comments reported by Channel 2 Sunday night.
Speaking to a group of police officers last week – on International Women’s Day, no less – Alsheich said the organization would no longer investigate anonymously submitted criminal complaints against commanders, calling them part of “a culture of settling accounts” and saying that since officers know they are required to report wrongdoing, there’s no reason to remain anonymous.
The statement shows a remarkable ignorance – or dismissal – of the fear felt by victims of sexual abuse, as well as about the history of previous police cases, most glaringly, that of former Jerusalem police chief Nisso Shaham, who was indicted in 2013 for sexual assault, sexual harassment, fraud and breach of trust following allegations by eight different female officers.
That investigation – and others – began with an anonymous complaint.
Have there been cases in which allegations were exaggerated, or perhaps even fabricated, as part of some sort of character assassination against a police official? Possibly, but it’s the job of the Justice Ministry’s Police Investigative Department – not the police – to determine the veracity of the claims and evidence to support them, and Alsheich’s statement appears to betray a lack of confidence in the state’s ability to investigate these complaints.
It also, perhaps, shows a lack of confidence in his own officers – including Deputy Chief Yael Edelman, his adviser on women’s issues. During the same conference where Alsheich made his comments, Edelman said anonymous complaints are one of the basic tools essential to sexual misconduct investigations.
Alsheich came into office last year tasked with – among many other obligations – repairing the public image of the police and ridding it of the scourge of sexual misconduct. His comments would appear to indicate that he doesn’t understand the scope of the problem, or that, at the very least, he’s more interested in protecting his senior – and almost entirely male leadership – than helping victims find justice.
This policy may not have much negative effect on the 37 senior officers appointed in the latest round of promotions – 36 of which are men – but it could have a terrible effect on women who are suffering in silence and the members of the public eager to see the police repair their tarnished image.