State comptroller probes police appointments

A wide-ranging examination of how the Israel Police appoint senior officers was launched by the State Comptroller's Office this week as investigators questioned staff at the police's Human Resources Department in Jerusalem. The move came after the Knesset's Internal Affairs Committee learned of a complaint by Asst.-Cmdr. Ephraim Ehrlich, who says he was denied promotion because he went to the media with allegations that Dep.-Cmdr. Yoram Levy, head of the Central Unit in the Southern District, had tried to bury a file involving allegations against the Perinian brothers and that he had close connections with the suspected underworld figures. His disclosure of these allegations to the Uvda television program led to the establishment in 2007 of the Zeiler Committee. The committee went on to find severe failures in the police's handling of the alleged crime family, and its conclusions resulted in the resignation of police inspector-general Moshe Karadi. Since the committee published its findings, Erlich has not been promoted. He is now commander of the Israel Police's Traffic Department, and is set to be transferred to Hebron. The Traffic Department turned down a request to interview Ehrlich. A spokesman for the State Comptroller's Office said dozens of additional complaints were received recently from police officers over appointment practices, but insisted that new probe would have gone ahead "with or without the complaints." "We did not raid the police, and we do not suspect anything," the spokesman said. "The State Comptroller [Micha Lindenstrauss] announced weeks ago that he will check police appointments. We are also checking the IDF as part of our regular monitoring," he said. At the same time, the spokesman said, "We have received many complaints by officers who said they were not promoted as they should have been, and charging that the process was flawed." One of the more common claims made by those who begrudge police appointments is about the tendency to bring outsiders, such as high-ranking officers from the IDF and the Border Police, directly into senior police roles, bypassing police officers who have amassed years of experience in the force. Those who question police appointments say nepotism plays too large a role in appointments, and accuse appointment committees of trading personal favors rather than promotion by merit. But those charges were dismissed by an Israel Police spokesman, who said the appointments process was designed to track down officers who strove for excellence, not those who were best connected. "It's true that not every senior officer began as a patrolman," the spokesman said, adding that some IDF officers did receive "their parallel rank within the police." "But it's important to understand that there are professional roles that do not suit those who began in the police," the spokesman said. The spokesman went on to describe a stringent and drawn-out promotions filtering process, adding that intense competition, not favoritism, decided who received the sought-after ranks of chief-superintendent and higher. The Israel Police said in a statement that when Insp.-Gen. David Cohen assumed his position in May 2007, he "appointed a committee to examine the assignment and promotion of officers... This week, a plan to set up a committee to track down excellent officers was presented and approved."