Internal Report Faults How Police Handle Domestic Violence

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Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Israel Police chief Yohanan Danino in the Knesset.Credit: Emil Salman

A two-year-old report by the Public Security Ministry’s comptroller, obtained by Haaretz after a legal proceeding, found serious deficiencies in how the Israel Police handle domestic violence cases, with many of the problems yet to be corrected.

The auditors examined cases involving violence between intimate partners in 2010 and 2011. The ministry’s then-comptroller Yitzhak Segev submitted the report to Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino in May 2012. Domestic violence complaints were followed from the filing of the complaint until what in same cases ended with the complainant’s murder by her partner.

The comptroller found that the district officers responsible for handling domestic violence cases at times violated procedure in significant ways. Of six cases of murder that were examined, for example, four were deemed to have been mishandled. In some files there was no indication that the suspect was a repeat offender, as police regulations require. At times it was actually specified that the suspect “has no previous record,” while the auditors found that some of the killers did indeed have a record, sometimes of violence complaints by former partners or by family members.

The audit also found that there was no mechanism for monitoring the case — and accompanying the complainant — as it proceeds from the investigators to the prosecution for the preparation of an indictment. In the case of a Netanya woman who was murdered by her husband, the audit found that while the case was referred to prosecutors, the suspect was not in custody. Although the woman continued to complain that the suspect was threatening her, she was told that the case was being processed and an indictment would be filed, but she was killed before the legal proceedings could start. The auditors also found investigations that should have been more thorough before the cases were closed or referred to the prosecutors.

Another troubling finding was the lack of coordination between police stations and districts regarding the records of the same suspect. Thus, a woman who had filed complaints against her partner at two different police stations for two different incidents was murdered when the information was not passed from one station to the other in time. Had the station that investigated the woman’s first complaint informed the other station of the complaint, the suspect might have been arrested immediately.

In his report the comptroller recommended certain immediate changes, such as hiring Arabic-speaking investigators for police stations in Acre, Taibeh and the Negev and Russian-speakers for the station in Tel Aviv’s Hatikva neighborhood. Yet to this day, these hires have not been completed. The report also noted that on Shabbat and the Jewish holidays there was often no investigator on duty specializing in domestic violence, which is particularly lacking in the larger police stations.

Patrol officers, who are often the first on the scene in incidents of domestic violence, are not sufficiently trained to handle them, the report said. The report also found a lack of uniformity between stations in the handling of family violence cases and cases of violations of visitation rights. The police, the report added, often do not update the complainant on the suspect’s status, such as his release from custody.

Data on murders of women by their partners submitted to the comptroller did not match the data on file in the various police districts. The police were ordered to find the source of these errors, and serious deficiencies were found in the police summary reports on this issue. For example, a report titled “Murders Between Couples in 2010” had been written and submitted four months before the end of that year, and thus could not possibly have reflected police activity in that year.

The Public Security Ministry and the Israel Police initially refused to publish Segev’s report. Haaretz, through attorneys Tali Lieblich and Einat Berg-Segal of the Lieblich-Moser law firm, filed suit in Jerusalem District Court, which ruled that the full report had to be released.

The Israel Police said in response: “The report in question refers to previous years, and its findings were studied and acted upon, including an analysis of incidents and trends in family violence, and the training of special investigators in the field of family violence in different languages, who are augmented by interpreters as needed.”

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