A Second Chance

Israel Police Set to Expunge Records of 300,000 Israelis in Independence Day Initiative

The measure is meant to give suspects of minor crimes 'a fresh start,' said Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich on the surprise decision

Israeli officers in the police headquarters of Holon, Israel, on April 8, 2018
Tomer Appelbaum

The Israel Police plans to expunge its records of some 309,000 citizens who were interrogated on suspicion of committing felonies but who were not indicted and whose cases were closed.

The move is dubbed by police "second chance," and it is being promoted as part of the country's 70th anniversary celebrations. The initiative does not require any action by the former suspects in question.

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Starting June 1, any Israeli citizen will now be able to check if his police records meet the new criteria and whether or not they were expunged as a result. The initiative concerns police records, not criminal records (convictions), which can only be expunged by the president. Among the files that are slated to be erased as part of the initiative are some 39,000 records of minors.

Police will only delete the files of citizens who have never been convicted of a crime and who do not have any pending cases against them currently open. In addition, police does not plan on erasing files against people who were interrogated on suspicion of committing murder or manslaughter, grave sexual offenses, extreme violence or security offenses.

The police stressed that any citizen can, at any time, ask to have his records expunged even if he doesn’t meet the criteria, in which case the police will use its judgment to decide whether such records should be erased.

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Presently, police records on closed files don't prevent citizens from obtaining a certificate of integrity. However, the registry of such records is available to the police and to other government bodies, which has led to some people being denied jobs in the civil service before.

Pending the police commissioner’s decision, files will be erased of those who had been suspected of misdemeanors (punishable by three months to three years in prison) or crimes for which they are carrying sentences of three years or more. In the cases of misdemeanors, five years must have passed since the incident, which goes up to seven years in the case of crimes.

“Even ethical citizens sometimes run afoul of the law but that doesn’t mean we should brand them criminals,” Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich said Tuesday morning.
“It is in everyone’s interest to allow them to return to the circle of society. In the run-up to the 70th anniversary celebrations, we deemed it fit to carry out this initiative without asking the citizens to even contact the police. We want to give them a fresh start," he concluded.