Grumpy old man: Reading the cops the riot act

The police force has been allowed to run wild at its highest echelons. Someone needs to straighten it out – and fast.

Yohanan Danino (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Yohanan Danino
A couple of years ago I was waiting for the elevator just off the underground parking lot, in the building The Jerusalem Post shares with other media outlets.
They include Channel 10 and bureaus of CNN and the Fox News Channel, whose presence means that on any given day you see newsmakers on their way to or from onair interviews.
On this day it was Shaul Mofaz. As head of a political party and a former defense minister, he rated a bodyguard. So when the elevator doors opened, it was me staring down Mofaz and his shoo-shoo.
The shoo-shoo – a term harking back to the early days of Israel’s hush-hush secret services, as in “shhh, shhh” – quickly and professionally took in his surroundings. There was a somewhat funky lobby leading out to the even funkier parking lot. And there was this burly, bearded guy in blue jeans standing just outside the elevator doors.
So to be on the safe side, he gave me what might be described on a hockey rink as a medium body check, bumping me enough to throw me more than a bit off-balance before leading his charge out to the next potential threat.
Good job, Mr. Shoo-Shoo. You could probably teach the US Secret Service a thing or two, as its agents have been reeling lately. On September 12, a fence-hopper made it all the way into the East Room of the White House – through no fewer than five layers of so-called security. Three days before that, an armed man with a felony record for assault made it onto an elevator with the president himself during a visit to Atlanta.
These incidents elicited scathing criticism from across the American political spectrum, because it was clear that things in the Secret Service were entirely out of control. In 2012 it had suffered the indignity of a high-profile drinking and whoring scandal, thanks to some bored and frisky agents on assignment in South America.
The year before, someone fired at least seven high-powered rifle rounds at the White House – something discovered only four days later when a member of the maintenance staff found holes in a window near the building’s residential section. It turns out that several on-duty agents responded, but they were told to stand down by a superior – who apparently thought the sounds were no more than your usual city noise.
So, on October 1, after being grilled by lawmakers on Capitol Hill in a session that was literally painful to watch, beleaguered Secret Service head Julia Pierson, on the job in Washington for barely 18 months, resigned.
Smart move. She could probably teach a few things to people running dysfunctional agencies here.
INSP.-GEN. YOHANAN Danino has had his hands full lately.
Yes, the men and women of Israel’s understaffed and overworked police force must cope with domestic security, street crime, white-collar mischief, traffic offenses and a host of other societal ills. Let’s also not forget the detectives who blew the ultra-high-profile Bar Noar murder case, the call center supervisor who ignored the telephoned pleas for help by one of the three youths kidnapped and shot to death in Gush Etzion last June, and the badged thugs caught on camera beating the living daylights out of a visiting American cousin of the Arab boy kidnapped and burned alive in retaliation for the Gush Etzion outrage.
But the national chief, due to step down next May, is presiding over an organization beset with ailments of a much more severe nature, most notably at the level just below him. The more senior of these assistant chiefs, a rank equivalent to an IDF major-general, are at least theoretically in line to be the country’s next top cop. Lately, though, they’ve been falling by the wayside in one fashion or another with alarming regularity.
Take Niso Shaham. The Jerusalem District commander was suspended in June 2012 over allegations of coercive and other forms of sexual misconduct involving a number of female officers under his command.
A month later he resigned from his position. In October 2013, Internal Affairs recommended he be indicted and he was finally fired from the force.
In January of this year, Menashe Arbiv, commander of what’s often called Israel’s FBI, took a leave of absence after allegations surfaced that one of the country’s better-known rabbinical charlatans had provided him with favors. The idea, according to numerous news reports, was to have Arbiv sweet-talk authorities in the US who had been investigating the millionaire rabbi – who divides his time between mansions in Ashdod and New York City – for suspected sins of a decidedly non-biblical nature.
In mid-September, Central Division commander Bruno Stein announced his resignation after it was reported that he had attended a family celebration held by Ronel Fisher. A longtime friend of Stein’s, Fisher is a high-society lawyer now suspected of having bribed several police officers on behalf of Alon Hassan, the powerful union chief of Ashdod Port who has been under investigation for allegedly using strong-arm tactics to lock up a long list of port-related contracts to enrich himself, members of his family and friends.
Finally, Yossi Pariente, who replaced Shaham as commander of the Jerusalem District and was considered a leading contender for Danino’s job, announced out of the blue on September 28 that he would be leaving the police force. The reason? He didn’t want to slog through the muck that almost always accompanies the race to the top spot of any large agency.
“I am a man of hard work,” Pariente told a reporter, denying he had anything to hide. “I do not want to be a part of this dirty game… The most important thing for me is to keep my good name.”
That’s rich: A man who spends the better part of his adult life clawing his way toward the top of a hierarchy about as treacherous as Mount Everest in full blizzard mode, and just when he’s within reach of the summit decides he doesn’t have the stomach for the final push.
Something about all this stinks (and it’s not the sweaty Sherpas hauling the white climber’s load). There’s a certain smugness that seems to have permeated the upper reaches not only of the police force, but of many large public bodies. If it were mere arrogance, it might be understandable; after all, these people have to be quite talented to get where they are.
But it’s worse. There’s a disgusting sense of entitlement, whether to money, sex or power, that seems to be what’s driving many of these people. They’re in it for themselves, not for us.
WITH SO many top officers either abandoning ship or being forced to walk the plank, it’s not at all clear whether Danino will be replaced by a fellow cop or by someone brought in from the outside.
It’s happened before: Herzl Shafir was appointed chief in 1980 after being lured straight from the IDF, where he had attained the rank of major-general. Ten years later the top police job was given to Yaacov Terner, who joined the force after having reached the rank of brigadier-general in the air force, although unlike Shafir he had been forced to cool his heels for five years at the rank of assistant chief before becoming chief.
The headache of finding a successor will be less Danino’s than that of Yitzhak Aharonovitch, the public security minister and the man who will have to bear the political fallout from any further shenanigans. To be frank, if a worthy candidate were to come along right now, it would be in everyone’s interest for the chief to head home today.
But that’s probably not going to happen.
And it’s not going to be enough to mandate polygraph tests for all new recruits, a policy Danino instated just the other day, surely in light of all the suspicion that’s now come to permeate the force.
So he’d better dig in his heels, thrust out a shoulder and start making moves like Mofaz’s shoo-shoo did that day outside my office elevator. It’s not the most wonderful thing to be on the receiving end, but at least you know the guy is truly doing his job.