State May Pull 'Pat Down' Rider From Bill

The Justice Ministry is considering removing a clause in the Economic Arrangements Law which would grant police officers extended authority to conduct body searches of individuals who are not suspected of a crime.

"The current proposal in the Arrangements Law has crossed all the boundaries," said Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who spearheaded the move. "It is inconceivable that the Arrangements Law would include revisions to criminal laws, especially ones that would have grave ramifications for basic human rights irrespective of whether it has anything to do with the budget."

"Decisions of this nature must be taken in the traditional route of legislation and following an extended public discussion, not as part of a last-second maneuver," Rivlin said. "I will not place the proposed Economic Arrangements Law as it is presently constituted before the Knesset."

The proposed revision to the law would allow police officers extended authority in patting down individuals in public places of recreation where violent incidents are known to take place.

Currently, the police can only search a person if there is a reasonable suspicion that he is carrying a weapon, or if there is some evidence of wrongdoing by that individual.

If the rider is approved, surprise searches would be permitted in designated areas, including hospitals and medical clinics, educational institutions, restaurants, nightclubs and bars, sports facilities, movie theaters and music halls.

The searches could be used on individuals who are not suspected of committing a crime or carrying a weapon. The revision would also grant municipal inspectors and officials the power to detain and use force against individuals even though they lack professional police training.