Ombudsman Criticizes Police Refusal to Show Body Camera Footage of Violent Arrest

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File photo: An Israel Police vehicle on a Gaza border interchange, February 24, 2020.
File photo: An Israel Police vehicle on a Gaza border interchange, February 24, 2020.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The official tasked with investigating misconduct of state representatives in Israel criticized police on Tuesday for not presenting body camera footage from a violent arrest in court.

David Rozen, who serves as the prosecution ombudsman, ruled that police avoided presenting the videos in court when they asked to extend the detention of David Biton, even though the officers involved were equipped with body cameras. Biton was arrested two months ago in the central city of Holon for not wearing a mask, and was beaten and tased by police.

Footage of the arrest

During a district court hearing on Biton’s appeal, the police said its video was “indisputable,” but added that it had not brought the footage to court. The police also opposed requests from Biton's attorney to show a video filmed by a friend of Biton's, which shows him cooperating with the officers, handing over his ID card and not resisting arrest; it was also not shown in court. During the arrest process, the defense does not have the right to submit evidence.

Rozen wrote in his decision that the police "declined to present an objective, factual picture in the courtroom that came from its own tools and staff members – and it would seem they should be the last ones to make claims against their credibility – but instead told the court that it opposes presenting the videos in the defense's possession because they are suspected of being improperly edited."

The ombudsman recommended to the head of the investigations and intelligence branch of the police refine the regulations requiring police officers to present the court with visual evidence of an incident. “With all due caution, this is behavior that could deceive and pervert justice, to the point of leading to a false arrest,” Rozen wrote.

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