Sexual Harassment Not Limited to Police, Says Police Commissioner

Female MKs call for thorough organizational changes in the police, including a commisssioner from outside the force.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino.
Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino Monday tried to fend off criticism of police sex scandals involving senior commanders by implying that sexual harassment could be found everywhere.

“Is the problem just in the police? Are you looking in the mirror? Sexual harassment exists just in the police? The difference is that we’re dealing with it,” Danino said, during a ceremony at which Maj. Gen. Shlomi Michael replaced Koby Cohen, who resigned under suspicion he had advanced a subordinate in exchange for sexual favors.

In his remarks, Danino referred to an article that appeared in TheMarker Monday, in which female MKs argued that the next commissioner should come from outside the police force.

“To say that the commissioner must come from outside the police is to dismiss the work of thousands of officers who gave their lives [to the profession],” Danino said. “Should we tell them they aren’t worthy? The next commissioner must be someone who will continue the war on crime. In 2014 there were fewer break-ins and robberies, anybody hear about that? You only hear the yellow stories. Stop driving the people of Israel crazy.”

According to Danino, “There is no entity in the State of Israel that exhibits zero tolerance for these phenomena. There is no entity that has taken the steps that the Israel Police has taken on this issue. We are doing this so that the people of Israel will have a clean force.”

Numerous cases of sexual harassment involving police commanders have surfaced in recent months. Cohen, who was only one of four major generals to have already left their posts, allegedly offered to help a policewoman get a promotion if she responded to his advances. The policewoman didn’t file a complaint; the information was given to the Justice Ministry department for investigating police officers by a third party who had seen the correspondence between the two on Facebook.

Several female MKs and Knesset candidates from various parties addressed sexual harassment in the police in interviews about their political views with TheMarker. “The phenomenon that’s been exposed points to a need for a thorough cleaning of the stables,” said MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz.) “The next commissioner cannot come from within the police, because whoever was in the organization and knew about the harassment can’t lead it. There can also be a female public security minister.”

MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) said, “The sexual harassment by senior police officers requires a reorganization of an entity that has degenerated. We cannot make do with dismissals and suspensions without doing some housecleaning and making fundamental changes. Sexual harassment complaints should be dealt with as the complainant wishes, and not by automatically contacting the investigation department. There should be female officers to deal with sexual harassment not just in the main headquarters but also in the units.”

Shuli Moalem-Rafaeli (Habayit Hayehudi) also called for substantial changes in the force. “We must consider a new and different organizational culture, because the fact is that our ‘good guys’ in the police haven’t understood that the world has changed, especially after President [Moshe] Katsav was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment [for rape],” she said. “It’s important to increase the punishment for policemen who sexually harass. It’s not enough to fire them; they must be demoted and their financial-pension rights affected.”

MK Merav Michaeli (Labor) added, “The most immediate and urgent thing to do is to put all the commanders and policemen, from the commissioner on down, through training and intensive workshops on the subject of sexual abuse and the sexual harassment law.”

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