Editorial |

Israel Police Chief Must Tell the Truth

Concealing of information, forgetfulness and changing of testimony is not fitting for the man who heads the Israel Police

Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich.
Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

During these stormy times, in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife and their associates are sunk in a bog of investigations, the stable anchor is a police force that does its job honestly and fairly, without fear or bias. Unfortunately, it is precisely during a time like this that the High Court of Justice is being asked to address the integrity of Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich.

On Sunday, as reported by Haaretz’s Revital Hovel, the High Court gave Alsheich two weeks to submit an affidavit detailing the evidence he had available when he decided to retain Maj. Gen. Roni Ritman as commander of Lahav 433, the police’s anticorruption unit, even though there was a sexual harassment complaint lodged against Ritman. The justice also demanded that Alsheich clarify his decisions regarding disciplinary action against Ritman, given the contradiction between the versions of events submitted to the court.

In November 2015 a complaint was filed against Ritman by a female officer in the investigations branch. The Justice Ministry’s department for the investigation of police officers found her testimony credible and based on testimonies and other evidence it recommended prosecuting him. Then-Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein decided, however, not to indict Ritman and the police commissioner hastened to reinstate him. The complainant petitioned the High Court against the decision in May 2016.

There have been two hearings on the petition. At the first, Alsheich argued that when he made the decision about Ritman he had two legal opinions – one by the Israel Police legal adviser, who recommended not taking action against Ritman, and that of the human resources branch, which recommended considering firing Ritman. During the second hearing it emerged that Alsheich had also gotten a third opinion from the department for the investigation of police officers, which, as noted, recommended he be indicted. When asked by the justices why there were two different versions of what occurred, the state’s attorney said that Alsheich did not remember if he had read the department’s opinion.

Similarly, until last week Alsheich had argued that he hadn’t taken any disciplinary measures against Ritman. But during the second hearing it was revealed that Ritman had been summoned to a “guidance interview,” a disciplinary measure in which a commander confronts a subordinate officer with his misconduct. How is it that this interview, which ostensibly took place in 2015, wasn’t reported during the first hearing?

Such concealing of information, forgetfulness and changing of testimony is not fitting for the man who heads the Israel Police – not in court and not ever. It is Alsheich’s right to choose a policy and to make controversial decisions, but he cannot regard himself as above the law.

It would be appropriate for the head of the organization responsible for enforcing the law to be a person guided by the truth, and only the truth.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel

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