Israel Police Chief Uses Gun as a Laser Pointer During Presentation

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Police commissioner Yaakov Shabtai at the dedication of a new police station in Ramla, February.
Police commissioner Yaakov Shabtai at the dedication of a new police station in Ramla, February.Credit: Yariv Katz / Yedioth Ahronoth / Photo by POOL

Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai drew his pistol during a meeting at the police HQ in Jerusalem to use the attached laser as a pointer in a presentation, jolting the other participants, senior officers reported. 

“Another officer who did that would have immediately been disciplined,” a senior police officer said, noting that Shabtai returned the pistol to the holster on his hip within a short time.

“Even if he unloaded and checked the gun before that, it is unimaginable to use a pistol to point out something on some slide presentation,” the source added.

Shabtai's action, which goes contrary to police procedure, prompted some participants to move aside while he held the gun, police present at the meeting noted.  

The College of Police in Beit Shemesh, in April 2015.Credit: Eyal Toueg

Police and Public Security Ministry regulations state that a pistol may be used only in cases of operational necessity, such as in aiding in an arrest “or in protecting life and bodily welfare against immediate danger.” The regulations also state that the use of a firearm is the last resort and requires the appropriate level of caution.

This is not the first time that that Shabtai’s actions have caused consternation among senior officers. Before Shabtai was appointed police commissioner, the Goldberg committee, which vets all senior civil service appointments, received a number of complaints against him. According to one, Shabtai would sometimes throw explosive noisemakers into rooms or hallways of the Samaria regional headquarters when he served as commander there, from 2010 through 2013. Officers serving in the Judea and Samaria District of Police at the time said this was a common prank of his.

A more recent complaint reveals that during a meeting of the senior command in June 2020, Shabtai “played” with a knife and unintentionally injured the nearby head of the Operations Branch Maj. Gen. Amnon Alkalay by pressing the exposed blade against his thigh, according to sources within the police. Alkalay was later taken to the hospital for treatment.

In a response to a question from Haaretz on the matter in December 2020, the police said that Shabtai sometimes peels fruit with a knife, and it seemed to fall from his hand during the peeling. Neither the police nor the Justice Ministry’s department for investigating police misconduct investigated the incident, though it was brought to their attention.

Another complaint filed with the Justice Ministry in 2017 regarding Shabtai’s actions as commander of the Border Police reveals that he threw a flash-bang, similar to a firecracker or stun grenade, while near other officers on a visit to the Border Police base in Beit Horon. According to the complaint, Shabtai threw it for no apparent reason after noticing flash-bangs in the training area.

The Justice Ministry investigators declined to open a criminal investigation into the matter and sent the case back to the police for disciplinary action, but none occurred. Police responded at the time that it was a practice grenade, rather than a flash bang, that was thrown as a demonstration of “a new and nonlethal tool intended for practice … and not as claimed in the anonymous complaint received.”

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