MKs, rights group demand PID reforms

Proposed bill aimed to rectify police investigation department appointments.

ahmed tibi solemn 298 (photo credit: Ori Porat)
ahmed tibi solemn 298
(photo credit: Ori Porat)
The Knesset is due next week to debate a private member's bill submitted by Ahmed Tibi (Ra'am-Ta'al) calling for turning the Police Investigations Department (PID) into an all-civilian organization. According to the bill, which is an amendment to the Police Ordinance, "no policemen or former policemen will serve in the department." Tibi told The Jerusalem Post he submitted the bill in June in the wake of the PID decision to close the investigations against members of the police force who were responsible for the shooting deaths of 12 Israeli Arabs and one Palestinian during the October 2000 riots. It was impossible to expect the PID to take action against policemen when they themselves were on loan from the police force and were dependent on police officers for advancement in the future, he told the Post. Tibi said he had waited for the right time to present the bill to the plenum in preliminary reading. "The Zeiler Commission report has revealed the truth about the PID, and now criticism of the organization comes from the right and left wings of the political spectrum," he said. The Zeiler Commission criticized the PID for refusing to investigate suspicions against Asst.-Cmdr. Yoram Levy for five years, and then closing the investigation for lack of guilt four months after finally opening it. Meanwhile, Uri Ariel (National Union-National Religious Party) submitted a bill earlier this week which stipulated that the head of the PID should be a retired district or magistrate's court judge and that he should have a deputy who should be a retired magistrate's court judge. Furthermore, anyone who served for a minimum of six months in the police department could not join the PID unless he had left the force at least five years earlier and had not worked with it in any capacity since then. Ariel's bill also sets down new ground rules for how the PID should deal with complaints against allegedly violent policemen. In a related development, the Israeli-Arab human rights organization, Mossawa, wrote letters to Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann and Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz, calling on them to fire State Attorney Eran Shendar, who headed the PID during the October riots, and Herzl Sbiro, who has headed it since 2003. Mossawa director Jaffer Farah pointed out that since the October riots, 13 Israeli Arabs have been shot and killed by policemen. PID investigations of these incidents have yielded only four indictments so far. Mossawa called on Friedmann and Mazuz "to replace the state attorney and the head of the PID, who failed to properly manage the PID and to apply the law, and to immediately implement the recommendations of various groups and individuals to turn the PID into a civilian organization and appoint a public committee headed by a judge to oversee the changes in the functioning of the department." On Monday, Mazuz and Friedmann met to discuss the implications of the Zeiler Report for the Justice Ministry and the recommendations handed down by the committee. The Zeiler Commission called for greater cooperation and communication between the police force and the PID. The PID was established - and located in the Justice Ministry - to put an end to the situation where policemen were investigating complaints of wrongdoing against their comrades. But the institutional separation between the police and the PID has also exacted a price in that each organization no longer knows what the other is doing. If the police detect odd behavior on the part of a policeman which does not seem to involve criminal activity, they cannot convey the information to the PID. But the PID may have already received a complaint against the policeman and are investigating him. The unusual behavior of the police officer noted by the police might contribute to the investigation. By the same token, the police might be considering promoting a policeman without knowing that the PID is investigating him, or at least has a file on him which might include material casting a cloud over him. Friedmann and Mazuz decided to appoint a committee to study ways of implementing this and other Zeiler Commission recommendations applying to the relations between the Justice Ministry and the police.