Police outraged at court's laxity in alleged revenge attack

Southern District Police were furious Wednesday following a ruling by an Ashdod Magistrate's Court judge that, in their words, served to further debilitate the rule of law in Israel. The cops said that remanding a suspect to house arrest following a revenge attack against a police officer only increased the sensation that police officers are under threat - and left alone in the field without backup from the criminal justice system. The case that enraged police Wednesday began last Saturday when, according to police, the suspect was issued a traffic report. The suspect allegedly was furious at the fine, and - under the cover of darkness - paid a visit to the policeman's Kiryat Malachi house and slashed the four tires of his private vehicle. The Southern District, which has instituted a zero-tolerance policy toward intimidation attempts against police officers, immediately assigned an investigative team to the case, which used forensic techniques such as fingerprinting to try and find the culprit behind the attack. But after arresting the suspect and bringing him to court for a remand extension, Judge R. Lavi was less than convinced that the attack against the police officer's car was a special case. "In my heart, I feel that if this was a case of damage to a different person's vehicle, I wouldn't have to hold this hearing, and that the police feel that this case is severe because it is a policeman's car. There is no special crime in the law books concerning causing damage to a policeman's property," she wrote following a Monday hearing. The court proposed, instead, that the defendant pay the police officer NIS 1,000 to cover the damage to his vehicle, without confessing to the allegations - but the police and prosecution rejected the proposal. Instead, the police asked for additional time to record testimony against the suspect, who himself performed national service in the Border Police, adding a request that the suspect remain in detention as the investigation continued. Judge Lavi, however, ruled that the latter was excessive punishment, and released the suspect to house arrest instead. "We do take this seriously because it is a different type of offense when a suspect tries to intimidate a police officer simply because he did his job," said Southern District Commander Uri Bar-Lev. "An assault like this is not just an attack against a police officer, but rather an attack on the rule of law."