Israeli Attorney General Slams Lenient Attitude Toward Cop Sex Crimes

Mendelblit harshly criticizes police chief Alsheich; plans to change how such cases are handled by the police.

Incoming police commissioner Roni Alsheich greets his senior officers after being sworn into office.
Olivier Fitoussi

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has harshly criticized the lenient policies of Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich regarding sex crimes committed by police officers. Mendelbit’s criticism came during private conversations with senior Justice Ministry officials in recent days.

In addition, Mendelblit intends changing the way crimes committed by police officers are handled, which will prevent Alsheich from promoting convicted police officers, Haaretz has learned.

The Justice Ministry unit that investigates police officers shares Mendelblit’s opinion, said a source involved in the matter. Senior ministry officials “are very worried by the steps Alsheich has taken, which violate basic norms,” the source said. “The attorney general thinks this cannot continue any longer. It is a very disturbing situation.”

Mendelblit wants to fundamentally change the way the police handle sex crimes by officers, in particular those who face disciplinary, but not criminal, proceedings. He is particularly opposed to the way the sexual offenses of senior police officers have been handled so far.

The use of police disciplinary proceedings in such cases is a bankrupt system and does not provide justice for the victims or punish the officers concerned appropriately, say senior officials in the Justice Ministry.

The mooted change is for sexual offenses committed by senior police officers to be handled by external proceedings, with internal disciplinary proceedings used only in specific cases where the result has been agreed upon in advance with the defendant. The change would leave Alsheich little room to promote convicted officers.

Alsheich has adopted a very forgiving approach to senior police officers involved in sex crimes since taking office. For example, he allowed the commander of the Lahav 443 investigative unit, Maj. Gen. Roni Ritman, to retain his post after he was questioned under caution on suspicion of committing a sexual offense against a female police officer.

The case against Ritman was closed by the previous attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, who had indicated to Alsheich that Ritman no longer had a place at the head of the police’s senior investigative unit.

Alsheich then announced that the police would no longer investigate anonymous letters about sexual harassment, even though such letters had been the source of a number of major cases. Alsheich justified his controversial decision by saying that anonymous complaints had created a vengeful culture in the force.

The commissioner recently promoted Commander Ilan Mor to the post of police representative in the United States, even though he had been convicted of improper behavior on two charges of sexual harassment of female subordinates in a disciplinary procedure.

The Justice Ministry stated in response that the attorney general and police commissioner maintain a proper professional relationship based on mutual admiration and trust, and that their professional discussion should not be interpreted as taking away from Alsheich’s professional and operational responsibility.