Israel Police
The Israel Police. Arresting pot smokers is a superfluous demonstration of power against civilians. Photo by Motti Kimche
Text size

Police Commissioner David Cohen told a Knesset committee Monday night that 104 policemen were disciplined for undue use of force last year, half of them following a recommendation of the Justice Ministry's department for the investigation of police officers. He added 13 policemen have been fired for use of excessive force.

Cohen, appearing before the State Control Committee, spent much of the meeting speaking out against critics that have alleged a pattern of abuses by the Israel Police. He said the organization "works with its head, not with its hands."

There are "27,000 police and border police officers," Cohen said. "They serve 24 hours a day in all the fissures, tensions and conflicts in Israeli society. Nobody else is there. The police have millions of encounters with Israeli citizens each and every day."

The police commissioner expressed outrage that citizens who have complained of police violence were allowed to attend the meeting, saying "they shouldn't be here." Committee chairman MK Yoel Hasson told Cohen they could not be barred from attending.

Hasson called on Cohen to be attentive to public and parliamentary criticism of the police. "Monitoring should be an administrative instrument in the hands of the police, allowing it to weed out the bad and show the public they are treated severely," Hasson said. "We should show the police don't automatically back their own and are fighting the bad weeds inside the police. We need to be sure ordinary citizens don't feel threatened."

Cohen defended the amount of policemen disciplined last year, saying it is a minuscule amount.

"It's less than half a percent of all policemen," he said. "We have a very long series of complaints that seek to settle accounts with policemen and false complaints."

According to data presented at the meeting, in 2009 the department for investigation of police officers closed 1,360 complaints without investigation, for "lack of public interest."

1,505 further complaints were investigated by the department, of which 34 percent were closed for lack of guilt and 39 percent for lack of evidence.

The Justice Ministry has never run an internal inquiry into the operation of the department, according to presenters at the meeting. The State Comptroller's office looked into the department's work in 2005, and intends to run another check in the coming year.