Fundamental Change Needed to Restore Trust in Police

Series of fiascos reveals a culture that doesn’t inculcate the norms of professionalism, law and ethics.

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The proximity of affairs bringing the Israel Police into disrepute seems coincidental. Ostensibly, there is no connection between relationships of senior police officers like Maj. Gen. Menashe Arviv and Brig. Gen. Ephraim Bracha to the soon-to-be-indicted Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto; the collapse of the case into shootings at the Tel Aviv gay bar, Barnoar; or the ongoing failure to stop underworld hits. But the sequence of the affairs eating away at the public’s faith in the police is not coincidental. It is a failure of their organizational culture, a failure that had been buried under a mantle of secrecy and has, therefore, not been dealt with.

The Supreme Court’s ruling last week to allow the release of the verdict and secret report on an offender’s negligence suit against police investigators, including Bracha (when he was an investigator in Tel Aviv’s central unit), and against the State Prosecutor’s Office, uncovered a significant part of this failure. In that affair, the state agreed to pay huge sums to an offender because the police and prosecution were negligent in keeping certain material confidential.

The verdict and report revealed that a battle of egos among police investigators had led to their negligence. The verdict also describes Bracha’s testimony, in which he denied any flaws in the investigation, and only later conceded that he had not documented it in the manner required by law. It was also revealed that other police personnel concealed important information from the State Prosecutor’s Office. Nevertheless, an officer like Bracha continued to move up the ladder.

The details reveal an organization whose culture sanctifies personal success at any cost – from the most junior investigators to its leaders. It reveals a culture that doesn’t inculcate the norms of professionalism, law and ethics. It is not surprising that investigators who didn’t pay the price of deficient conduct when they were starting out, find themselves suspects once again after climbing to more senior ranks.

It is also not surprising that the police, whose investigators prefer illegal investigative tricks over increasing the sophistication of more legitimate techniques, find it difficult to deal with crime families whose sophistication is growing, and even fall prey to offenders’ scams – such as in the case of the state’s witness in the Barnoar shootings.

The lack of trust in the police grows stronger in light of the great confidence the prosecution places in the police, and the prosecution’s almost blind willingness to defend the flawed conduct of the police and provide secrecy through gag orders and closed-door hearings.

To restore faith in the police, we need outside supervision, transparency and fundamental treatment of its faulty organizational culture. Then, successes in the field will follow.

Ephraim Bracha.Credit: Emil Salman
Maj. Gen. Menashe Arviv, right, with Police Commissioner Yohanan DaninoCredit: Tomer Appelbaum

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