The disarray at the top of the police force, from which several senior officers have resigned in recent months over criminal investigations or other scandals, is the rotten fruit of a longstanding practice of appointing cronies to senior positions, a high-ranking officer charged on Monday.
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He was responding to the news that yet another senior officer — this time, Deputy Police Commissioner Nissim Mor — is expected to resign after confessing to having sexually assaulted and harassed a female subordinate who came to him for help.
“People who have given their whole lives to the police — some of the best professionals in the world, not just in Israel — find themselves in stupid administrative jobs, while friends of the senior officers and the bureau chiefs were appointed to jobs 10 times too big for them,” the high-ranking source charged. “Today, anyone who wants to advance in the police would be better off drinking coffee with a senior cop once a week than going out and catching criminals. Without justifying the inappropriate behavior of any particular officer, things like this have an impact on the organization.”
“The police brass has lost its grip on the force,” the officer added. “It’s not possible to lie to the public or the cops. This business is collapsing, and bringing the entire organization down with it.”
Policemen, he said, have been reduced to “waiting ... for something to happen that will get the organization out of the hole it’s in.”
Mor was questioned for several hours yesterday by the Justice Ministry department responsible for investigating police misconduct. The department is investigating suspicions that he harassed several female subordinates, obstructed justice and destroyed evidence — the latter by reformatting his cellphone to destroy all record of his text messages. So far, seven women have testified against him.
After being questioned, he was sent to house arrest for five days. The Justice Ministry said the case will probably result in “serious charges.”
The incident to which Mor confessed began when a junior policewoman, who had joined the force just a few months earlier, sought his help last July in getting permission to take a course that would enable her to improve her hours and pay. She said she needed to take the step due to a family crisis.
Mor responded by visiting her at home and promising to do everything he could to help her. Then, he suddenly kissed her on the mouth, against her will.
After that, he repeatedly sent her sexually suggestive text messages, such as “When can I come and feel your body?” He also tried repeatedly to set up a meeting at her home, but she refused.
A few weeks ago, the policewoman reported Mor’s harassment to her immediate superior, a superintendent, and showed him the text messages Mor had sent her. But the superintendent failed to report her complaint for three weeks, until he mentioned it by chance during an argument with his own superior, a brigadier general. Only then was the incident reported to the Justice Ministry, by the brigadier general.
Mor confessed to the facts of the policewoman’s complaint and admitted that his behavior was inappropriate. Nevertheless, sources familiar with the case said, he claimed that his actions didn’t constitute a crime. Regarding his cellphone, he said he reformatted it not to conceal evidence, but so that his wife wouldn’t discover the sexually suggestive texts.
The Justice Ministry is also investigating the superintendent’s failure to report the policewoman’s complaint and is considering either criminal or disciplinary charges against him. The superintendent initially told investigators he hadn’t realized the severity of the harassment or the extent of the policewoman’s distress. But a check of his cellphone revealed copies of the text messages the policewoman had sent him to prove her story, thereby indicating that he was aware of the severity of the case. He then said the real reason he hadn’t reported her story was fear of lodging a complaint against a senior officer.
Mor is just the latest in a string of senior police officers who have become embroiled in criminal investigations or other scandals recently. Assuming he resigns, he will be the sixth police major general to do so in the last year-and-a-half. Major generals are the force’s second-highest rank, just below the police commissioner.
Last week, Maj. Gen. Kobi Cohen, commander of the police’s Shai (West Bank) District, was questioned by the Justice Ministry for nine hours on suspicion of promising promotion to a female subordinate if she agreed to sleep with him. He allegedly sent her Facebook messages in which he promised to “ensure her future” if she accepted his advances. Cohen submitted his resignation after the questioning. It is expected to take effect in the next few days.
In September, Jerusalem police chief Yossi Pariente unexpectedly resigned though, unlike the others, he wasn’t embroiled in any scandal. Pariente, who had been considered a possible contender to be the next police commissioner, said he quit because “I’m not built for the smears that accompany the commissioner’s race.”
That same month, Central District police chief Bruno Stein resigned after Haaretz published a picture of him attending a private party with attorney Ronel Fisher, who was under investigation on suspicion of mediating a bribe.
Last February, Maj. Gen. Menashe Arviv, commander of the elite Lahav 433 unit, resigned due to a criminal investigation into suspicions that he took bribes from associates of Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto. Arviv vehemently denies this allegation.
And in August 2013, then-Jerusalem police chief Niso Shaham resigned due to allegations that he had sexually harassed several female subordinates. He is currently standing trial on that charge.
The police brass understands that this string of resignations has left the force with an image problem, and is now trying to engage in damage control by embarking on a round of appointments that it hopes will reassure the public. One person being considered for promotion in this context is the highly-regarded commander of the Border Police’s elite counterterrorism unit, Yamam.