The ombudsman for the State Prosecutor’s Office has criticized a senior officer in the Justice Ministry department that investigates police misconduct for asking police to cancel a traffic ticket against him.
The ombudsman, Judge David Rozen, said the incident smacks strongly of a conflict of interests. He also implied that the head of the department, Keren Bar-Menachem, should have taken action against the officer. However, Rozen refrained from criticizing her directly.
This is the second time in as many weeks that Rozen has criticized the department, known by its Hebrew acronym Mahash. The complaint was filed by attorney Pinchas Fischler, one of the department’s prominent critics.
Three weeks ago, Haaretz reported that Superintendent Rotem Gil, a police investigator on loan to Mahash who has run several investigations for it, received a traffic ticket for 2,000 shekels ($590) from the Tel Aviv Municipality for driving in a bus lane. He asked his superiors to cancel the ticket, but they said they couldn’t, since the ticket wasn’t incurred while Gil was on the job.
Nevertheless, Gil then asked senior officers in the police’s Tel Aviv district to cancel the fine for him, and they eventually got the city to do so. This raises suspicions of a conflict of interest because at the time, Gil was in charge of Mahash’s investigations into police misconduct in the Tel Aviv district – meaning he sought and received a favor from officers whom he might someday be responsible for investigating.
Yet when Bar-Menachem learned of the incident, she declined to do anything about it. She is the one who brought Gil into Mahash, having known him from when she was a senior prosecutor in the Central District and worked closely with his police unit.
“I can’t agree with this conclusion,” Rozen wrote. “Superintendent Rotem wasn’t entitled to drive in a public transportation lane, because he wasn’t engaged in on-the-job activity.
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“It’s very important to maintain Mahash’s independence and separation from the police,” he continued. “But examining this complaint showed that the separation between a policeman loaned to Mahash and the police seemingly doesn’t exist.”
This necessary separation makes it unacceptable for an officer loaned to Mahash to seek favors from anyone except his superiors in Mahash, he added.
To prevent such cases in the future, Rozen asked Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to issue regulations governing ties between police officers on loan to Mahash and the police force.