On Gender Equality, Israel Police Get Criminally Low Marks

We must welcome the growing disclosure of alleged sexual misconduct in the police force's top ranks, and hope it leads to a more equal environment.

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Coastal District Police Chief Hagai Dotan.
Coastal District Police Chief Hagai Dotan.Credit: Daniel Bar-On

The Coastal District Commander of the Israel Police, Hagai Dotan, is the seventh high-ranking officer in the past year and a half to leave the force under embarrassing circumstances, the fifth one to do so due to allegations of sexual harassment. This comes only two weeks after Deputy Police Commissioner Nissim Mor was fired after being accused of sexual harassment and exploitation of his position of authority in his relations with lower-ranking female police officers.

The organizational rot that has spread throughout the Israel Police is now spreading beyond the borders of the force. Much of the problem stems from an unenlightened, chauvinist worldview that endangers female officers, as attested to by Brig. Gen. (ret.) Ziva Agami Cohen, in an interview she gave after news of the most recent investigation was made public: “Everyone knew, everyone remained silent.”

In spite of the atmosphere of crisis surrounding the police and the public’s growing lack of confidence in the force, we must welcome the disclosure of this misconduct and hope that the “perp walk” of suspects leaving the senior ranks of the force will be replaced by a new spirit. That spirit must entail, in addition to loyalty to the codes of law and ethics, a new culture of gender awareness, one that is appropriate to the 21st century.

When sitting around the conference table at senior police headquarters, alongside the commissioner, are 18 men at the rank of major general and not a single woman at that rank, it is hardly surprising that the prevailing understanding is a chauvinist one that views women as inferior, lacking the necessary qualifications to attain the highest ranks and key positions and, as a result, subject to every whim of their male superiors.

Women constitute at least 30 percent of the police force, serving in all field positions including operational ones, as detectives, homicide investigators and station commanders. How is it that the force has failed to produce even one major general? Was there no woman who met the professional standards of the serving major generals, many of whom are now being ignominiously removed from the force?

Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino recently appointed Brig. Gen. Yael Edelman advisor on women’s affairs. Not only is that insufficient to solve a deep problem, but the very existence of such a position attests to just how far behind the Israel Police are when it comes to understanding the status of women in the West. In the course of “cleaning out the stables” of the country’s police force, this issue should take top priority.

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