Police chief raps 'unhelpful snipings' from predecessors

At ceremony for outstanding units, Cohen says criticism, internal leaks won't deter police's fighting spirit.

David Cohen 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
David Cohen 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Criticism from the touchlines by former senior police officers and internal leaks will not succeed in deterring the police's fighting spirit, Israel Police Chief Insp.-Gen. David Cohen vowed Monday during an angry speech at an awards ceremony for outstanding units in Rehovot. "A fighter's spirit will guide the police, not leaks and shameful headlines," Cohen said. He fell short of pointing out specific controversies. Most recently, the police came under fire for its handling of the March 6 Mercaz Harav terror attack, after it emerged that the first police officer on the scene failed to enter the yeshiva to engage the gunman. With senior figures such as former police chief Aharon Franco in the audience, Cohen angrily slammed what he called "unhelpful snipings" by former police chiefs and other commentators "who once wore the uniform." "Terrorist attacks were always prevented [when they were in charge]," Cohen quipped sarcastically. "I take full responsibility for any operation and event the police is involved in," he said. Addressing the police officers in the audience, he continued: "You killed four terrorists in Bethlehem. You neutralized the terrorist in Jenin. Suicide bomb vests have been captured in the Sinai... dozens of kilograms of harmful drugs have been stopped at the border, [and] you have brought down the number of crimes and robberies." In his speech, Cohen pointed out that police in Israel were in the unique position of having to tackle violent disorders, crimes, and terrorism. Officers were also addressed by Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, who cited falling crime figures. "We have good reason to be optimistic for 2009," he said. He expressed concern at the rising number of attacks on police officers in the field, citing the recent death of First Sgt.-Mjr. Yigal Cohen last week, who was run over after trying to flag down a vehicle. Police have expressed a suspicion that the driver hit him deliberately. Also addressing the ceremony via videoconference was Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who offered a message of encouragement to the hundreds of officers gathered there. "I know that civilians get angry with you sometimes. Don't worry, they're angry with me too," Olmert said, to laughter. "The Israel Police is fighting on the front line for quality of life, sometimes for life itself. I know how complex your work is in a country like ours. Your success is our life," Olmert said. Prize winners included the Netanya police station; the Jerusalem Central Unit; the Lachish Central District; and the Southern Technological Unit and Rehovot police station for joint creative initiatives.