Cop in Fatal Shooting of Ethiopian Israeli Teen Put on Forced Leave

Police announces decision day after charges against off-duty officer reduced ■ Attorney general announces team tasked with 'ensuring effective treatment' of complaints on police brutality

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An Israeli woman holds a poster of Solomon Tekah, a young man of Ethiopian origin who was killed by an off-duty police officer, as members of the Israeli Ethiopian community block the main entrance to Jerusalem on July 2, 2019 to protest his killing.
An Israeli woman holds a poster of Solomon Tekah, a young man of Ethiopian origin who was killed by an off-duty police officer, as members of the Israeli Ethiopian community block the main entrance toCredit: AFP

The off-duty police officer who shot Ethiopian Israeli teenager Solomon Teka to death on June 30 has been put on forced leave for a month, Israel Police said Tuesday, a day after the charges against him were reduced to reckless homicide.

The Justice Ministry's police investigations department has informed Teka's family of the police's decision.

Meanwhile, few protesters demonstrated in front of the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, a day after dozens protested near the Knesset. All 13 demonstrators who were detained by police Monday have been released.

>> Read more: Ethiopian Israelis protesting police shooting of teen are saying what Israel needs to hear: This is a racist country | Analysis ■ We should have warned the Ethiopians about Israel's racism | Opinion

Also on Tuesday, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and acting Police Commissioner Moti Cohen announced they would set up a joint team "to ensure effective treatment by the Israel Police and the police investigations department of Ethiopian Israelis' complaints."

In a statement, they said the announcement comes following consultations with senior law enforcement and government officials, as well as meetings Mendelblit had with some protest leaders. The team would look into recommendations made in a 2017 state comptroller report on police brutality, which have only been partially implemented.

The team, according to the statement, would start meeting next week, and would be tasked with compiling recommendations to be presented "as soon as possible" to the attorney general, acting police commissioner and state attorney.

Lawyer Itzik Desa, who represents Teka’s family, welcomed the announcement, but said: “We must wait and see how these declarations would be put into practice. The [Ethiopian Israeli] community has had enough of promises… I hope this time around, things will be different.”

A representative of the Justice Ministry's police investigations department announced Monday that its investigation into the death of Teka, an 18-year-old resident of Kiryat Haim, near the northern city of Haifa, was over and that the case would be transferred to the State Prosecutor's Office.

The officer, whose name has not been made public, was released from house arrest on Monday, as it became clear he would not be charged with a more serious crime of manslaughter.

The maximum penalty for reckless homicide is 12 years in prison.

The law defines the reckless element cited in the new category as “taking an unreasonable risk” that could lead to causing a death, “based on a desire to somehow prevent that outcome.” The difference between it and negligent homicide lies in criminal thinking – i.e., awareness of the possibility that death could ensue, but acting based on the idea that this possibility will hopefully not materialize.

However, since the charge of reckless homicide was instituted after Teka was shot, it can only be applied to the officer in question if it constitutes an act of leniency. In other words, if the ministerial investigations department originally intended to charge him with manslaughter.

Since Teka’s death, thousands have protested across Israel against what they say is the racist way police treat members of the Ethiopian Israeli community and other people of color.

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