More than 80 percent of the policemen who have undergone security clearance checks in recent years have admitted to having used police databases for their personal needs, a senior police officer has said.
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Any policeman applying for a sensitive post undergoes a security check by the Israel Police’s information security division. The check includes a comprehensive interrogation in which policemen are asked questions about their lifestyles and their conduct in the force. Inter alia, they are asked whether they have ever used police databases or information acquired by the police for personal benefit, and whether they have ever been asked to use these databases by a third party.
For the most part, policemen who made personal use of police databases did so for purposes such as checking suspicions relating to a partner, making sure that a car a friend was thinking of buying wasn’t stolen or seeking some advantage in divorce fights, business disputes or other personal arguments.
But there have also been a growing number of cases in which policemen used this information as a source of income. For instance, Petah Tikva policeman Avraham Davidovitch is now under investigation for allegedly selling information from police databases to one side in a dispute between the Rami Levy supermarket chain and one of its employees.
Last year, a police intelligence coordinator, Gilad Gorbich from the Lahav 433 fraud investigation unit, was indicted for passing classified intelligence to a leading organized crime ring in exchange for 100,000 shekels ($26,000). This information could have endangered some of the police’s sources in that organization.
“I can say almost certainly that every criminal organization operating in Israel today has policemen on the inside who are working on their behalf and intelligence coordinators, who are their trump card,” said Alex Or, a former police commander who once headed the investigative arm of the Justice Ministry department that investigates police misconduct, in June 2012. “On this issue, the police aren’t more corrupt than any other public agency, but they also aren’t less so.”
When policemen are discovered to have used police databases for purposes other than work, they are put on disciplinary trial. Usually, these proceedings end with a stiff rebuke, but nothing more.
A police spokesperson said the police are waging all-out war against the misuse of police information, and such misuse is dealt with severely. The spokesperson added that a computerized security check that entered service about six months ago is expected to assist “dramatically” in uncovering such behavior, and so far it has proven “a real success,”
Former Supreme Court Justice Ayala Procaccia, in her 2008 ruling on an appeal by a judge convicted of using a private investigator to obtain a list of her husband’s phone calls, wrote that “the need to protect a person’s privacy and his intimate world in the modern world, alongside the intolerable ease of penetrating his private world by means of various technologies, require a strict judicial approach” to criminal violations of privacy.
That ruling also ostensibly guides police disciplinary courts. Nevertheless, many policemen still seem to have trouble resisting this temptation.