Israel looks to root out police culture of corruption, sexual harassment

Justice Ministry Police Investigations Department head Uri Carmel spoke out on the issue.

Israeli Police (photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
Israeli Police
(photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
Investigations into police scandals – from illegal relationships with power-brokers to sexual harassment – are close to causing the “collapse of the dam” that protects bad behavior, Justice Ministry Police Investigations Department head Uri Carmel said Tuesday.
Speaking at the PID annual ceremony, Carmel discussed the intense pressure on the police due to revelations of problematic behavior at the organization’s highest levels.
“Once the dam breaks, and it is in advanced stages of breaking, the work environment for young women in the police will transform to being more secure, higher quality and clean of sexual harassment” and the “phenomenon” of male superiors taking advantage of their rank, he said.
Still, he complimented most of the police’s 30,000 officers as being of high quality, and gave high marks to the national chief, Insp.-Gen. Yochanan Danino, for cooperation – even if some of the discussions “were complex.”
The PID announced on Monday that a senior officer, identified widely in the media as Asst.-Ch. Nissim Mor, the deputy inspector-general, was questioned over allegations of sexual harassment and indecent sexual acts, opening up yet another top police figure to scandal.
Reports circulated Tuesday that Mor had sought to quit but that Danino rejected his resignation, telling him to wait until the end of the probe. Danino’s spokeswoman said Tuesday night she knew of no such request by Mor.
Possibly, the time has come to appoint a female chief, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech on Tuesday.
“It could be the right thing to do, and possibly the time has come to appoint down the road a female chief of police,” Netanyahu said. “I want to advance this idea. It would be a refreshing change, a female chief of the Israel Police.”
The fact that these cases are coming to light and are being investigated indicates that Israel is a law-abiding state with transparency, the prime minister added.
Earlier on Tuesday, Danino met with Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch in Jerusalem, where they reportedly discussed the damage the scandals had caused to the image of the police and sought to find ways of preventing future cases, Aharonovitch’s office said.
“This incident is a severe one, and the latest in a series of cases that involved senior officials in the organization. These incidents deal a blow to public faith in the public [sector] and call for a root canal [operation],” Danino said Monday, using an Israeli expression to denote something done in depth and with thoroughness.
If Mor resigns due to the investigation, he will be the seventh at his rank to do so amid scandal in a little more than a year, and the third because of a sex scandal.
Danino twice has stressed the importance of the police to Israeli society before adding that he would not compromise on the values he expected from officers.
As in other campaigns, such as police actions against corruption, the more investigations of senior police officials, the more deterrence there is for other officers, he said.
“I’d like to say to the citizens [of Israel] – you have a police force that you can trust, despite these recent events, and we have our way of dealing with them.”
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, meanwhile, sent a letter of support to Danino, even slightly rebuking him for his somber quotes to the media and urging him to keep his head high. He complimented the chief for his cooperation with PID investigations.
The allegations against Mor are that he sexually harassed and committed indecent sexual acts against a policewoman of junior rank who needed his help, using his seniority to take advantage of her. Eight other women also were possibly harassed.
According to the PID statement, the investigation was opened on a referral from another high-ranking police officer who learned of the allegations and “fulfilled his duty” by reporting the suspect.
In October 2013, then-Jerusalem District chief Nisso Shaham resigned after he was indicted for sex crimes against female officers who worked under his command. A few months later, former Northern District commander Roni Atia resigned after a State Comptroller’s report found fault with his handling of the 2009 Carmel Forest fire.
The following month, Menashe Arbiv, head of the elite serious crimes unit LAHAV 433, resigned in a highly-publicized scandal involving suspicions he had accepted bribes from Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto in exchange for information about a US police case against the rabbi.
Bruno Stein, former commander of the Central District, resigned in September 2014 after Haaretz published pictures of him at a private event held by attorney Ronel Fisher, at the time the main suspect in a major bribery case. Yossi Pariente, head of the Jerusalem District police, resigned the same month due to unnamed “personal reasons.” And on Saturday, police announced that Judea and Samaria District commander Kobi Cohen was leaving his post amid suspicion that he had maintained a sexual relationship with a female officer.