First cops on attack scene unlikely to be punished

Results of Jerusalem Police District's probe expected to be released early next week.

police attack (photo credit: Channel 10)
police attack
(photo credit: Channel 10)
It seems unlikely that the first police officers who arrived on the scene of last week's terror attack at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva will face serious heat for their actions, despite rumors that the two had responded inappropriately. The Jerusalem Police District's probe into the incident is expected to be concluded - and presented - early next week. The majority of criticism has focused on the behavior of the first patrol car that arrived on the scene, which reached the yeshiva within three minutes of when the first shots were fired. One of the two police officers - a young woman serving in the police as part of her national service - said she had noticed a bus approaching and ran down the street to keep the bus from coming near the building. The second, a patrolman who had recently finished training school, decided to "seal off" the area by standing at the entrance to prevent the terrorist from escaping and unwitting civilians from entering. This decision has recently come under fire from both police officers and civilians, and fuel was added to the fire Thursday morning when Army Radio reported that the two cops left their flak jackets and an automatic weapon in their patrol car and were completely exposed when they approached the building on foot. Standard police operating procedure requires all police officers on patrol to carry automatic weapons and flak jackets in their vehicles. Quoting the still-uncompleted investigation, the radio report said that the two police officers who arrived at the scene possessed the required equipment, but left it in the car. Former police inspector-general Assaf Hefetz said Thursday that there was "no justification to punish" the police officer, but rather that the Jerusalem Police had to answer some difficult questions arising from the incident. "How is it that a brand-new police officer was in a patrol car with a conscript as backup?" he asked. "Why didn't he at least join the Paratrooper officer [Capt. David Shapira] when he entered the yeshiva? And where were the rest of the police? During my tenure, I established a motorcycle unit that was designed specifically to get anywhere quickly in Jerusalem. Where were they? Where were the Border Police?" Most significant, Hefetz emphasized, was the fact that "somebody didn't explain enough to this police officer what it means to be a police officer." "What is important is the message - the value that the police officer must defend the citizen, even when he is risking his life. That is his responsibility, and that is why he's in the job." "The police response to this incident was disappointing. One would expect the police to get to the scene, and to respond. They must sharpen the message that this is the reason that they're there, and this is why to become a police officer. And anybody who is not willing to risk his life for this should not be a police officer," Hefetz concluded. Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this article.