Serving the public

Scandal follows scandal in the police’s upper echelon.

Israeli Police (photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
Israeli Police
(photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
On Sunday, Jerusalem District commander Asst.-Ch. Yossi Pariente abruptly took himself out of the race to succeed Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino. Pariente cited “personal reasons.”
“I don’t have thick enough skin,” Pariente told Israel Hayom. “I know what sort of mudslinging is in store. I’m not built for the confrontations that drive the race [to become police chief]. I don’t want to be part of the game of picking people apart and exposés based on anonymous testimonies.”
There may be truth in what Pariente said. But we are more inclined to believe that good people have no reason to shun public service. Not everyone has something to hide. Honest civil servants can derive satisfaction from not having to live in fear that their past will catch up with them. Will attempts be made to find dirt on them? Of course. Should they be dissuaded as a result? Not if they did nothing wrong. Occasional public scrutiny is inherent to public service.
The problem is that too many senior police officials seem to use their positions as public servants for personal advancement. They appear to have a finely honed sense for searching out powerful rabbis, media figures, attorneys and business people who can provide them with money, influence and a cushy job after retirement from the force. (Two former chiefs of police have found jobs in one of Israel’s largest real estate companies.) Others use their power to extract sexual favors.
Just two weeks ago, Central District commander Asst.-Ch. Bruno Stein – who was also a contender to succeed Danino on May 1, 2015 – announced his resignation.
He did so after it was discovered that he had been consorting at a party with Ronel Fisher, a well-connected attorney embroiled in corruption charges. Fisher is accused of bribing police officers.
Two more high-ranking police officials were forced to step down as well. In July 2012, Asst.-Ch. Nisso Shaham, then-commander of the Jerusalem District, was suspended in the wake of charges brought by female officers that he had sexually harassed them. In October 2013, he was fired after an indictment was brought against him.
Last February, Asst.-Ch. Menashe Arbiv was forced to step down as commander of Lahav 443 – the Israeli FBI – after allegations emerged that he and members of his family might have received illicit benefits from Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto.
Police officers who reach the highest ranks are of necessity highly motivated people. But why is a strong drive to succeed given expression so materialistically? Why must so many of our senior officers be motivated by sex, money and personal benefits? Why should men responsible for maintaining law and order be so close to powerful rabbis, attorney and businessmen? We need public servants – not just in the police force but also in the Justice Ministry, the Treasury, the IDF and other public institutions – who refrain from developing intimate ties with powerful figures in a way that creates conflicts of interest. Instead of striving to become a part of an elite group whose members are the richest and most influential individuals in the nation, public servants should remember that their job is to faithfully serve the vast majority of the people – the poor and the middle class.
Scandals have caused tremendous damage to Israel Police’s image. Public faith in our law enforcers has deteriorated. The situation is so bad that Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch has been advised to bring in someone from outside the force to succeed Danino. Maj.-Gen. (res.) Gadi Shamni, former head of IDF Central Command and former military attaché to the US, was named as a possible candidate.
But this would inevitably demoralize an already battered police force and would meet with strong opposition.
More likely, Aharonovitch will appoint a younger officer. Doing so would shake up the police force. Older officers who were passed over for the job of inspector- general would resign. And this could give the police an opportunity to make a new start. But for this new start to succeed it must be accompanied by a change in top-ranking officers’ priorities that put the interests of the wider public before self-advancement.