Police, welfare services cite failure to share info as factor in child murder
Police, welfare services
By YAAKOV LAPPIN, RUTH EGLASH
The Israel Police and social welfare services lamented the poor state of cooperation and information sharing between themselves on Monday, as the fallout from the murder of seven-year-old Leon Kalnatarov - a death critics said was preventable - continued.
Despite the fact that the murder suspects, twin brothers Adi and Naor Sodmi, 24, were the subjects of a recent complaint regarding repeated occurrences of indecent exposure in front of children, both police and social welfare services denied responsibility for failing to take decisive action against them ahead of Kalnatarov's death.
Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen deflected widespread criticism that law enforcement was slow to react to the indecent exposure complaint filed at a Kiryat Malachi police station last month, which documented acts of indecent exposure in front of minors on three separate occasions.
Following the complaint, the twins were
questioned by social welfare services and not by police because they were believed to be mentally challenged. The twins were not arrested or issued a restraining order and were not put under intense supervision by police or social welfare services.
Speaking during the Police and Society Forum organized by the Israel Democracy Institute in Jerusalem on Monday, Cohen said, "In this tragic case... police acted correctly under the circumstances.
Investigators at the Kiryat Malachi station did a professional job in handling the complaint filed a month ago. There are gaps vis-a-vis other government agencies and these must be dealt with in order to prevent such difficult incidents as much as possible."
Director General of the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services Nachum Itzkovitz said Monday that privacy laws protecting children and youth need to be reviewed and possibly changed in order to improve information sharing between government authorities, "There is no way to protect children if we do not have the full profile of a person available," Itzkovitz said. That includes information about a person's childhood in addition to any possible criminal activities as an adult, he added.
While Itzkovitz maintained that the social welfare services in Kalnatarov's hometown of Bnei Ayish had acted according to protocol, he also said that a full-scale investigation would be launched together with the police to look into how the death occurred.
"There is no way for any person to predict exactly what another individual will do in the future," continued Itzkovitz, who called on parents to be more vigilant of their children's activities.
Itzkovitz said that the Sodmi brothers had been investigated last November by social welfare services because police had suspected the two suffered from mental disabilities. Social workers, however, did not realize the level of danger the two posed, he added.
"Psychology cannot accurately predict what a
person is going to do. If we had known this terrible crime was going to happen then we could have stopped it," he said, adding that the comments coming from Bnei Ayish claiming that it was clear to them that the brothers posed a threat were irrelevant because "those people did not come forward and complain."
"We only received one official complaint and we do not put people in jail with only one complaint," said Itzkovitz.
Mark Kahlberg, a South African-born security consultant who served in the Israel Police for 12 years as a detective and as head of the Netanya Tourist Police said he was deeply frustrated by the poor level of information sharing between state authorities.
"As a Zionist, it eats me up to see this," Kahlberg said. "If social welfare services have jurisdiction under today's laws, that means police can't act, unless they receive a request for an arrest," Kahlberg said. "The laws need to change," he added.
"We can't have laws that were relevant in the 1960s in 2010," Kahlberg said.
"When social welfare services enter the picture, police take two steps back. In this case, I think Cohen is correct. Police need to be given back their powers," Kahlberg added.
Former Northern Police Cmdr. Yaakov Borovsky added, "The police are not covering themselves. If Cohen said the officers handled the complaint professionally, that means he carried out an in-depth check into the matter. He would not say that based on nothing."
For its part, the Public Security Ministry has refrained from criticizing the police and has backed calls by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for a committee of inquiry to be set up to examine ways of improving information sharing.
"All agencies that deal with protecting children need to improve cooperation with one another," the ministry said.
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