Tainted cops

It's not as if the top cops had no grounds to suspect that "untouchables" have been touched by known criminal elements.

moshe karadi 88.298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
moshe karadi 88.298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israel's police has been left reeling by the Zeiler Report. But it is not as if the top cops had no grounds for expecting the worst from the probe into suspicions that our "untouchables" have been touched by known criminal elements. Revelations of sleaze at the highest levels of our law enforcement hierarchy are certainly cause for dismay. Most police organizations the world over like to pretend their members cannot be enticed by underworld kingpins with ample resources to purchase immunity and perks. Yet absolute incorruptibility exists only in fiction. Real-life policemen rub elbows with the lawless, and - in close proximity - dirt can rub off. In many countries, the authorities turn a blind eye to impropriety. The fact that the Zeiler Commission was created and did not paper over the situation constitutes the full half of our glass, one from which we can all draw consolation. What is dispiriting is Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter's instant response to this situation. No sooner did the disgraced police chief Moshe Karadi tender his resignation, than Dichter also sacked Karadi's deputy (though he was not implicated in the investigation) and appointed Prisons Service head Yaakov Ganot to head the force and former Jerusalem District commander Mickey Levy as his deputy. Neither man comes with a clean slate. The Ganot appointment has already triggered petitions to the High Court of Justice, due to the fact that in 1996 Ganot was tried for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Though acquitted on grounds of insufficient evidence, he was severely reprimanded by the Supreme Court. Significantly, Yitzhak Zamir, one of the justices who then heard Ganot's case, deplores his nomination. The very verdict that absolved Ganot, Zamir stressed, "didn't signify his conduct as unblemished, and revealed a dishonest person, unsuited to leading an untainted and uncorrupted force. He is the last person who should be police chief. The verdict needs to be read to fathom the personality in question." Ganot enjoys the reputation of a formidable mover and shaker capable of overhauling the police. Yet the suggestion that no officer in the entire force could be found who is both competent and untarnished is unacceptable, if not offensive. That would imply that the police is irredeemable, in which case there is little point in installing new men at the top of a system so contaminated. Levy is a more than troubling role model, too. Indefatigable as Jerusalem's police chief through the worst of the second intifada suicide-bombing campaign, and so deeply involved he suffered a heart attack while on duty, nonetheless in 1994 he was caught by Channel 2 cameras brutalizing anti-Oslo demonstrators during a licensed protest. Subsequently, Levy lied under oath in court and was charged with perjury by a police disciplinary tribunal, though he avoided criminal indictment. Too many clouds hang over both Ganot's and Levy's heads to qualify them as the optimal choices for achieving an immensely challenging and crucial rehabilitation. "Israel's finest" haven't only been caught misbehaving. Public trust in them has also been fundamentally undermined. Many citizens who have called the police in cases of so-called "petty" crime have encountered officers indifferent to larcenies, burglaries, bullying and violence. Until the felony in question draws blood and graduates to the level of "serious crime," it's too often neglected. The upshot is a lack of personal safety. Restoring the public's faith is no simple task, which is why it requires not only very talented and hard-driving leadership but also the sort of leadership that is seen to be ethical and beyond reproach. Fighting corruption has to become more than a slogan. There must be zero tolerance for even minor transgressions by rank and file police, let alone senior officers. Even under normal circumstances, the Ganot appointment should and would have more than raised eyebrows. Given the need to restore confidence in police propriety and professionalism, this nomination is unacceptable.