Former Israel Police Chief Testifies in Harassment Case Involving Head of Anti-fraud Squad

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Former Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino, photographed when he was still in office.
Former Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Former Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino testified Sunday in the investigation into a senior police officer suspected of sexually harassing a policewoman serving under him.

The Justice Ministry department that investigates police misconduct is probing harassment allegations against Maj. Gen. Roni Ritman, who heads the elite Lahav 433 – the anti-fraud unit popularly known as Israel’s FBI. It is also investigating the suspected involvement of another senior police officer in the affair, and is expected to finish its preliminary investigation into that officer in the next few days. It will apparently recommend that he be suspended while the probe continues.

Danino was asked whether he knew about the harassment, as the complainant has alleged. He was also asked about his relationship with the other senior officer – a brigadier general in the investigations and intelligence department – whom Ritman accused of being behind the harassment complaint as part of an effort to “settle accounts” with him.

The probe has uncovered evidence that Danino asked the brigadier general to end his own inappropriate relationships with policewomen, and that the officer responded by threatening to make use of embarrassing material about other officers, possibly including Danino himself.

Even before the Ritman investigation began, the police had begun an internal investigation of the brigadier general, after several officers who served with him complained of unbecoming and humiliating treatment. His colleagues charged that he gave preferential treatment to policewomen with whom he had close relationships and allowed them to exceed their authority. This was apparently the background to Danino’s conversation with the officer.

Lahav 433 fraud investigation unit commander Maj. Gen. Roni Ritman. August 2014.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Immediately upon taking office last week, new police commissioner Roni Alsheich ordered the internal probe concluded as soon as possible, partly because its findings might affect his attitude toward Ritman.

A source involved in the investigation said that some of the brigadier general’s actions might constitute criminal offenses, and information about these will be transferred to the Justice Ministry so it can investigate further.

The complaint against Ritman accuses him of trying to kiss a female officer serving under him on two separate occasions, despite her objections. Ritman has denied the allegation, yet polygraph tests concluded that both he and the complainant were telling the truth.

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