Sexual relations between high-ranking officers and their subordinates are common in the Israel Police, Maj. Gen. Nisso Shaham said in his disciplinary hearing. Shaham, the former commander of the Jerusalem District Police, was indicted on Monday for fraud, breach of trust, indecent acts and sexual harassment of women police officers, most of whom were his subordinates.
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Haaretz has learned that in two Justice Ministry disciplinary hearings this year, Shaham’s attorneys at the time, Navit Negev and Iris Niv-Sabag, claimed that indicting him would constitute selective enforcement. They said his behavior was in keeping with the conventional norms accepted by the police force, where sexual relations between high-ranking male officers and the women subordinate to them were routine and common.
It was also asserted that Shaham was not the only one who had sexual relations, which he claims were consensual, with his subordinates. Since these were the accepted conventions for the Israel Police, said the attorneys, the emotional basis required for proving that a crime had been committed did not exist. Shaham’s defense team went further to state that his indictment would lead to a widespread debate over the accepted norms on the police force and draw attention to other cases that had not received media exposure. This line of defense contains a hint from Shaham that testimony during his trial could prove embarrassing to other high-ranking officers.
Negev and Niv-Sabag no longer represent Shaham. They had been in talks with the investigation department for a plea bargain that would drop the charges of sexual offenses while keeping those of fraud and breach of trust. Shaham rejected the deal and replaced his defense team with Boaz Ben Zur. It is not certain whether he will stick to the line of defense he adopted during the hearing or change his approach.
Shaham is charged with having had sexual relations with young policewomen while serving in command positions on the police force. Most of the policewomen were much younger than he and of much lower rank. According to the indictment, Shaham’s behavior included obsessive telephone calls and sexual offenses during his routine police work that were committed in his office, his car or a police installation. The offenses also allegedly took place at his home and his mother’s home, among other locations.
As the indirect supervisor of some of the policewomen, Shaham sometimes had to decide on significant requests such as those relating to staffing positions, attending classes outside of the department or transferring to another unit. Some of the policewomen involved were apparently in difficult situations that could be alleviated by Shaham’s approval of their requests. Shaham allegedly made decisions on these requests despite the conflict of interest.
The indictment also lists indecent acts committed against one policewoman without her consent, sexual harassment of another policewoman while taking advantage of his authority and an indecent act against another policewoman, also while taking advantage of his authority. During the hearing Shaham claimed, in his defense, that these were not sexual offenses as the policewomen had not filed complaints and that the relations were consensual. As for the charges of breach of trust, Shaham’s lawyers said that at worst, his offenses were of a disciplinary, not a criminal, nature.
Last December, Haaretz reporter Yaniv Kubovich revealed cases, including sexual harassment and theft, that received disciplinary, not criminal, proceedings. According to one case described in the report, an officer of superintendent rank who fondled a subordinate policewoman received only a severe reprimand and a demotion lasting four months.