Yesh Atid MK alleges ‘police treat dark-skinned people differently’

“Those whose skin color is different have been treated differently by the Justice Ministry’s Police Investigative Division,” says Karin Elharar.

(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Anyone with dark skin can expect inferior treatment by the Justice Ministry and police, Yesh Atid MK Karin Elharar said Monday, the day after the ministry announced it would close a case involving an incident that spurred a wave of protests by Israelis of Ethiopian origin last summer.
“Those whose skin color is different have been treated differently by the Justice Ministry’s Police Investigative Division,” Elharar said at a meeting of the Knesset’s State Control Committee that debated police violence against Ethiopian- Israelis.
“Police violence against Israelis of Ethiopian descent is already sick and can’t be cured with a bandage,” Elharar said.
She called the decision to close a criminal case involving Yosef Salamsa against the police, “shocking”.
The ministry said on Sunday it was shutting the case involving accusations that police officers had abused Salamsa, who committed suicide a few months afterwards in July 2014. The case dealt with the arrest and questioning Salamsa in March 2014, who was shot by a Taser gun in the stomach and arm, and police left him handcuffed and shackled outside the Zichron Yaakov station for nearly an hour until his father picked him up.
The ministry said it found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, but there were a number of incidents of misconduct including a police failure to warn Salamsa before using the Taser and lying about that in their report. The ministry criticized the decision to leave Salamsa outside the station shackled and cuffed for 35 minutes and recommended that the police disciplinary branch examine the conduct of the officers in question.
The incident was among a series of alleged cases of police abuse that helped spark protests by Ethiopian-Israelis last year.
State Comptroller Yosef Shapira on Monday submitted a report to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday with a lengthy section on police violence and the Ethiopian-Israeli community.
The report is expected to be published in about three months.
Attorney Matityahu Dror addressed the committee on Monday, and expressed the anger felt by Salamsa’s family.
“The Justice Ministry admitted that the officers violated protocol for use of a Taser, falsified their report, and left him [Salamsa] shackled and beaten on the floor and threatened his family. Despite all that the Justice Ministry decided not to charge them with criminal offenses.
Any civilian who behaved the way the police did would have faced criminal charges, but it seems there’s a different law for police,” Dor said.
Deputy Commissioner Gila Gaziel, head of the Police police personnel branch, said in response “police have rights to and as long as there wasn’t evidence of a crime – and as of now we haven’t received any – then we can’t take actions against them.”
She also mentioned improvement measures already taken by police recently, such as outfitting officers with body cameras and using Amharic speaking officers in interrogation rooms.
Salamsa’s death and mistreatment by police were highly emotional issues in the Ethiopian-Israeli community, and Salamsa’s picture and name appeared on countless t-shirts and posters at last year’s protests against racism and police brutality where many also chanted, “We are all Yosef Salamsa”.