The case of five female police officers who complained that Jerusalem District commander Niso Shaham had sexually harassed them may be "the tip of the iceberg," a source in the Justice Ministry's Police Investigation Department said yesterday.
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Shaham allegedly harassed and molested many more than five women in a recurring pattern of behavior since he entered office about a year ago, the source said.
Shaham was questioned under caution on Wednesday last week over suspicions of sexual harassment, indecent assault and illicit sexual relations carried out against female officers under his command. He has taken a forced leave of absence following a recent investigation into the affair.
Jerusalem periphery police chief Nissim Edri has also taken leave after suspicion arose that he had been aware of Shaham's actions but did not report them, as required by law.
On Friday, Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino described the suspicions against Shaham as "severe." He said he relied on the Police Investigation Department to do their work "professionally and well. I promise I have no intention of compromising on the police force's values," he said.
"The inquiry will be fair, everyone is equal before the law," Danino said at a briefing with commander Meni Yitzhaki, who stepped into Shaham's post until a permanent replacement is found.
Due to the month of Ramadan taking place now and the Gay Pride Parade due at the end of the week in Jerusalem, the situation in the district is seen as potentially explosive, police sources said.
The Police Investigation Department will continue its probe this week and is expected to stage a meeting between Shaham and some of the women who complained against him this week.
"Shaham is a warm commander who knows how to motivate people," an officer in the Jerusalem District said. "But not everyone was pleased with him. He had a way of issuing orders, sometimes draconian ones, against police officers and of humiliating them.
"Some officers who were insulted could be interested in his downfall. Even if they weren't, they didn't shed a tear over what happened," he said.
Senior police sources said yesterday that Shaham is not expected to return to his post as Jerusalem District commander. Danino and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch are said to be looking for someone to replace him on a permanent basis.
Every commander who aspires to become police commissioner wants to be Jerusalem District chief, and the candidate will be agreed by both Danino and Aharonovitch. However, the two have spoken to each other only once since they learned of the investigation against Shaham. They did not speak again over the weekend over a possible replacement.
One of the senior officers whose name has emerged is Southern District commander Yossi Prienti, whom Aharonovitch holds in high esteem.
Prienti served in the Southern District for many years and held almost all the positions there. He was expected to be appointed the next district commander, but would not refuse an offer to become Jerusalem police chief, police sources said.
Traffic Police chief Bruno Stein, who previously served as the Zion sub-district commander in the Jerusalem district, has also been mentioned as a possible candidate. He too is highly regarded by Aharonovitch.
Border Police commander Yoram Halevy, another highly regarded officer, served as head of the Police Special Anti-Terror Unit, the Tel Aviv Central Investigations Unit and the Jerusalem Border Police. He was also in charge of the Old City in Jerusalem, as part of his job as commander of the David sub-district in Jerusalem.
Police sources said the top brass would prefer it if Shaham resigned from the force voluntarily during the investigation, as now-retired Maj. Gen. Uri Bar-Lev did while being investigated on suspicion of sexual assault last year.