Israel Police Answering Sexual Harassment Cases With New Code of Ethics

Code will detail the most egregious behavior regarding how police members treat each other, particularly relations between male and female police, during work hours.

Yaniv Kubovich
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Major General Hagai Dotan in 2014.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Yaniv Kubovich

The Israel Police are formulating a new code of ethics, according to which anyone serving in the force will be required to sign.

The code will detail the most egregious behavior regarding how police members treat each other, particularly relations between male and female police, during work hours. The rules will be sharpened regarding the content of text and phone messages, among other things. Senior police officials assert that the step expresses a commitment to change the attitude of senior officers and is meant to refresh regulations. They say there is no intent to teach police officers what is permitted and what is forbidden because the laws are clear to all.

Top police officials have met this week to deal with the repercussions of recent scandals, which led to the ouster or investigation of seven commanders. The fear is that taking extreme measures is liable to damage the organization's day-to-day performance. Thus, the police are only focusing on sharpening its guidance.

Israel Police on Thursday brought in for questioning Major General Hagai Dotan, the commander of the Coastal District, after several women officers a few weeks ago filed complaints against the officer and testified that he had harassed them. Dotan has been suspended for two weeks pending the investigation.

The police's investigative division opened an inquiry into the claims and spoke with several of the women who filed the complaints. And on Wednesday the investigators summoned Dotan and sharply questioned him about the allegations.

"It's too early to know what is in the file," Dotan's attorney, Lior Epstein, said yesterday. "However, we can see what is not in it – all the incidents involve random and one-time encounters, in which what was said by the commander was interpreted as hurtful and threatening by the subordinate. Such incidents must be investigated, but it may be a bit too early to make a ruling."

Dotan said during his interrogation that he met with the policewomen in question spontaneously, and that he probably said things to them that were inappropriate, but in none of the cases did he have any contact after the first meeting with the policewomen. Officials in the division that investigates police misconduct say they believe there are additional incidences in which Dotan sent policewomen problematic text messages including sexual content.

In addition, the name of another police commander suspected of sexual misconduct was released: Commander Moshe Ivgi of the Be'er Sheva police. He was interrogated earlier this week on suspicion of sexually harassing a pregnant policewoman under his command. Officials in the division investigating police misconduct say they believe Ivgi harassed other policewomen.

The policewoman, in the fifth month of her pregnancy, filed a complaint that Ivgi told her he wanted to have sex with a pregnant woman during an official meeting at the station. According to her, on another occasion she received a text message from him containing sexual content.

Israel Police officials have decided not to make any declarations until the end of Dotan's investigation. Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch reportedly supports giving a polygraph test to all future candidates for the position of commander, but on Thursday it emerged that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein would not approve such a requirement.

Weinstein also announced Thursday that he has no intention of approving new appointees to the top police brass to replace all the commanders who were suspended over the past several months until after the elections. The reason is a new public security minister will be appointed after the elections, and the current chief of police, Yohanan Danino, is expected to leave his position this spring. He told Aharonovitch that he would approve up to three appointments.