Investigate a Policeman Suspected of Violence in Jaffa
On June 7, 2021, along with the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), we appealed to the Commissioner of Police and the Director of the Police Internal Investigations Department demanding an investigation into the violent conduct of a police officer who has been on duty in Jaffa in recent months. Our appeal provided evidence of testimonies from activists and protesters who were attacked by the officer, including hair pulling, being punched in the stomach, strangleholds, and stepping on people’s heads.
In our appeal, ACRI Attorney Reut Shaer and Sivan Tahel, Coordinator of Freedom of Demonstration Project, along with Attorney Sasha Hazan-Ifrah from PCATI, demanded that further information be gathered to assess opening a criminal investigation against the officer, or alternatively to conduct a disciplinary investigation regarding his case and order his immediate suspension until the end of the investigation. We noted that past experiences and lessons show that a cop who uses excessive force in one incident without repercussions will use violence in further incidents.
The Police Internal Investigations Department did not respond to our request to open an investigation against the officer. In their response, it was stated that no criminal proceedings would be initiated against the violent police officer, in part because of “the lack of cooperation on the part of the victims of the offense.”
In our opinion, this argument indicates a worrying disconnect from reality, since the evidence that came to us was anonymous due to the complainants’ fear of harassment—especially since it is regarding a police officer who is assigned to the area of their residence and is there on a regular basis.
In practice, the Police Internal Investigations Department essentially required the victims to expose their identities to begin an investigation. This is despite the fact that the law requires the Police Internal Investigations Department to open an investigation when they are made aware of an offense, even when no charges are filed. Therefore, we appealed to the Police Internal Investigations Department and Police again.
In this repeated appeal to the Police, ACRI argued that the totality of the testimonies and evidence justifies a comprehensive investigation into these charges and consideration of disciplinary measures against the officer, such as re-examination of his suitability for the job.
In this repeated appeal to the Police Internal Investigations Department, ACRI emphasized that the investigation file was closed automatically due to the complainants’ fear of testifying, without the necessary steps taken to clarify the need for further investigation. Furthermore, the Police Internal Investigations Department failed to gather and clarify the facts before making the decision to close the case, which constitutes a severe defect in the exercise of administrative discretion, which in itself, justifies disqualification of this decision and obligates the Police Internal Investigations Department to conduct an investigation and make an informed decision before closing the case.
In addition, we addressed the lack of coordination between the Police Internal Investigations Department and the Police, and the fact that after the Police Internal Investigations Department decided not to handle the case, it did not pass the case on to the Police to examine options for disciplinary action.
This manner of conduct has been criticized by the State Comptroller’s reports for years , as well as in the recent report published by the Ministry of Justice on improving the response to complaints against police officers.