Police Commissioner’s Statements on Sexual Harassment Spark Ire from MK Aida Touma-Sliman

“Police are not above the law,” said the head of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women on Monday, March 14, the day after it became known that Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich said police will no longer investigate anonymous sexual harassment complaints issued against commanders. “The commissioner doesn’t have the authority to make this sort of decision,” said committee head MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash – Joint List). “The law against sexual harassment is very clear in its obligations and requires the investigation of all anonymous complaints in any institution… the Israel Police are not above the law.”

Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman

Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Photo: Knesset)

According to Channel 2, Alsheich said “anonymous complaints have become part of a culture of ‘settling accounts’ in the police force, and therefore from now on we won’t handle anonymous complaints dealing with allegations of crimes by police.” The Channel 2 report also alleged that Alsheich somewhat disingenuously added that anonymous complaints are not at all necessary since officers are required to report acts of wrongdoing without any connection to filing a complaint. Alsheich’s comments came following a series of highly publicized sexual abuse scandals that have led to a string of top police commanders being fired or forced to resign in recent years. Alsheich was appointed in part to “repair the police’s damaged public image and purge its culture of sexual harassment.” Alsheich’s remarks came during an internal conference held by police to mark International Women’s Day.

Orit Sulitzeanu, executive director of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, said on Monday that Alsheich was making a severe mistake. She noted that, in many cases, complainants must remain anonymous to prevent clashing with their colleagues and commanders. “False reports of sexual harassment are almost non-existent, a very small minority,” said Sulitzeanu, adding that the police and the Justice Ministry know very well how to determine if a sexual harassment report is false. Galia Wolloch, head of the Histadrut women’s organization Na’amat, said on Monday that she was shocked to hear Alsheich’s statements, adding that they contradict the law prohibiting sexual harassment and again raise doubts about the ability of police to deal with internal problems.