Bill would extend police’s powers to search people

Proposed legislation calls for searches without reasonable suspicion.

Newly proposed legislation will extend police officers’ authority to conduct body searches on people to various locations not included in the current law, and permit them to do so even if they lack reasonable suspicion that the person being searched is illegally in possession of a weapon or intends to make illegal use of it, the Justice Ministry announced Sunday.
The legislation will be included in the Economic Arrangements Bill, a potpourri of measures which traditionally accompanies the budget bill and is due to be approved by the end of the year.
The automatic right of police, as well as municipal inspectors and some soldiers, to search civilians will be extended to include medical centers, kindergartens, primary schools, haredi boys’ schools, junior high schools, high schools, summer camps, restaurants, pubs, clubs, discotheques, pool halls, card and dice games establishments, sports fields, stadiums, cinemas and theaters.
Currently, officers are only empowered to conduct body searches and searches of vehicles, baggage and other goods at the entrance to ports (airports, railway stations and bus stations), buildings or other defined locations, soldier pickup posts, and checkpoints.
The law in place now also stipulates that they must have reasonable suspicion that the person they are searching is carrying a weapon or planning to use one.
According to a Justice Ministry press communiqué, “in the context of the increasing use of knives, especially in places where people congregate to have fun, the Justice Ministry, under the guidance of the attorney-general, is advancing an amendment to the law granting police the authority to conduct bodily searches in certain locations designated in advance, which are particularly prone to violence...
“The aim of the law is to allow the police to cope preventively with displays of violence, thereby safeguarding public security. This particularly applies to places where people go to have fun since these are where we see the [greatest] increase in violence.”
In response to the bill’s announcement, the Public Defender’s Office warned that the legislation was part of a trend aimed at significantly restricting the constitutional rights of the individual.
“A person who is not involved in criminal activity or public disturbances, and where there is not even minimal evidence of his involvement in such actions, has the right not to be forced to undergo examinations which restrict his freedom and violate his privacy by the branches of the state, including the police,” said the statement released by the Public Defender’s Office.
Furthermore, the statement continued, “this bill goes so far as to grant clear administrative authority, such as the right of detention and even the use of force, to municipal inspectors who, unlike the police, lack the necessary legal and practical training and, worse still, are not monitored by the professional, disciplinary and specially designated institutions (such as the Justice Ministry’s Police Inspection Department) that apply to the police. These institutions are a vital way of overseeing how the police apply their prerogatives and the powers they have.”