This report reflects the activities of the Ombudsmanship for Police Officers and Prison Guards throughout the 2010 work year.
In 2010, 1,256 complaints were received at the ombudsmanship. An admissible portfolio was opened in 683 of them. 573 of the submissions were treated by a process of consultation. Regarding the number of complaints, there has been an decrease of 12% in the number of complaints that had been treated as part of an admissible portfolio; while at the same time, there has also been an increase of 13% in the number of consultations.
37% of all complaints, which were addressed and settled in 2010, were found to be justified; which is an increase of 4% in the rates of justified complaints compared to the 2009 data. 55% of the complaints that had been settled throughout 2010 were found to be unjustified; which is a 1% increase. 8% of the complaints that were treated throughout the duration of the report are yet to be settled, which constitutes a 5% decrease compared to the 2009 data. The rate of justified complaints submitted by the police has reached up to 36% (which is a 3% increase compared to the 2009 data). 41% of the complaints from the IPS were found to be justified (which is an increase of 5% compared to the 2009 data).
The Causes for Complaint
The main issue concerning police officers throughout 2010 was the salary issue. This was followed by the issue of the service conditions and regulations, which was then followed by the issue of commander- subordinate relations (a statistic distribution similar to that of 2009). The police officers, the prison guards, the non-commissioned officers and the ranking junior officers, particularly the commanders and wardens; are all aware of the efforts made by the Minister of Public Security, the ministry's Director General, the ministry's Inspector General and the IPS commissioner, to improve their salaries. However, they still consider the goals achieved thus far to be insufficient. The same is true for the grant payments that all commanders and wardens, who have served in the same rank for 4-10 years, are entitled to. The grant which was agreed upon by the Ministry of Finances is meant to deal with the difficulties of manning the positions of commanders and wardens, mainly because of the length of time one remains in this position and the very few promotion options. The bonus is therefore meant to preserve these positions within the system. Naturally, a partial grant is an insufficient solution, as it only serves as the first step in an all inclusive program, aiming at a substantial change in the salaries of the commanders and junior officers; in the hopes that the decision makers will continue in this direction until a proper arrangement is made for these staff members.
An examination of the rank and position of the individuals submitting the complaints has revealed that the greater part of the complaints, originating both from the police and the IPS, are submitted by policemen and prison guards who aren't officers. About 17% of the individuals submitting complaints from the IPS and 12% of the individuals submitting complaints from the Israel Police are officers. Regarding those who are serving their mandatory service, according to the Security Service Law (mandatory service police officers and prison guards), their portion of the overall submitted complaints is: 8% originating from the police, and 1.5% originating from the IPS. Mandatory service police officers constitute 21% of the police force, while the mandatory service prison guards constitute about 12% of the entire IPS.
In 2010, the ombudsmanship has decided to make the service available for police officers, and to further the familiarity with the field units. 18 units of all the Israel Police forces including the Border Police have thus far been inspected, in all the various regions. The IPS has thus far been inspected once, and the process is still continuing. The ombudsmanship's inspection visitations to the units are meant to serve as a direct and unmediated encounter with police officers and prison guards, who wish for consultation or have questions that need to be answered. Such visitations are conducted in addition to the lectures given in the various courses and the meeting conducted with the commanders. In a visit to the Hebron region headquarters, the team visited the Cave of the Patriarchs and met with a group of mandatory service female police officers, who submitted a complaint regarding the fact that they did not receive the "Fighters' Bonus" despite the fact that they had been given weapons and stationed as fighters at the entrance to the Cave of the Patriarchs. As it turns out, the reason that these female police officers did not receive the proper bonus is that they were only trained at a level 02 infantry. This led the team to conclude that apart from the issue of the Fighters' Bonus that the female police officers complained about, the mere fact that they were stationed at that place when they had received such insufficient training for this position is in itself a problem, since it is an endangerment both of their own lives and the lives of the people who are visiting that holy site and whose protection is the responsibility of the Israel Police. The meetings with the commanders during the courses, are meant mainly to bring awareness to the police officers and prison guards regarding the existence of the ombudsmanship; to explain the reasons for its foundation; to specify its authorities and its complete autonomy in examining the complaints; and to clarify every police officer and prison guard's statutory right to submit a complaint as long as they are recognized by the law as admissible.
The aim of the meetings with the commanding rank and the lectures given at the officers' courses (from basic officers' courses to instruction courses for the senior officers) is mainly to allow the officers to share in the experience that the ombudsmanship has gained over the years in examining the complaints, addressing the submissions, conducting consultations, and heeding the police officers' complaints about the commander-subordinate relations. This spotlight aimed at the problematic phenomena within the Israel Police and the IPS is part of an endeavor to diminish and abolish any such inappropriate phenomena, even if they constitute only a small part of the overall complaints.
In this context, I must again address the concerns expressed by many of those who submit complaints to us, and those with whom we meet during our visitations to the units and the lectures in the various courses; concerns about the ramifications of submitting a complaint and depending upon the Ombudsmanship for Police Officers and Prison Guards. Many fear that submitting a complaint to the ombudsmanship may be perceived in a negative manner and portray them in a negative way. Others go as far as to express their fear that their submission might affect any possible promotion to a higher rank or position. Such concerns, when expressed by officers who are highly impressive both professionally and personally, indicates that there are many changes still to be made in the organizational perceptions and in the organization's ability to honor every police officer and prison guard's statutory right to directly apply to the ombudsmanship and have their complaint examined. Some have claimed that their commander had clearly warned them about the possible ramifications of submitting a complaint, while others express their own concerns. Most complaints submitted by the police originated from individuals serving in the Border Patrol, followed by individuals serving in the northern region. This data is similar to that registered in 2009. The highest number of complaints submitted by the IPS throughout 2010 originated from prison guards serving in the northern region, followed by prison guards serving in the central region. As a result of addressing these complaints, we are continuing to implement the systematic amendments that have been recommended throughout this year as well. The recommended amendments are as follows:
• Within the Police
A. The temporary comprehensive guideline banning the employment of (paid) regular security coordinators has been canceled. Other guidelines have been formed in the matter.
B. The rights of the members of the Druze community to receive four days of rest during the Festival of Sacrifice have been clarified, thus adapting the religious laws of this community to the police laws.
C. A guideline has been issued stating that no form is to be signed on behalf of any police officer without having their explicit consent in advance. Any statement regarding a police officer filling his/her attendance sheet must be presented to the direct examination of the police officer in question.
D. In 1993 the Israel police have decided to embark upon a special operation of drafting new immigrants and bending the draft criteria for that purpose. As a result, a new training course has been formed particularly for the drafting and the promotion of new immigrants. According to this new regulation, new immigrant were drafted as temporary added cops, and only after passing an adapted mandatory police service course as well as a 6-8 months training period, were they promoted to the rank of regular police officers. After having improved their Hebrew grades, the drafted new immigrants attended a police officers' course. And only after passing, were they able to be promoted to higher ranks, but only under the condition that they meet all the standards required for a promotion, including the recommendations of their commanders. According to the May 5, 2005, National Headquarters' decree regarding the "promotion of a police officer to the rank of Non-commissioned officer" and the February 2, 2004 instructions of the Police Human Resources division regarding the "promotion of Non-commissioned officers to a higher rank"; one of the criteria for promoting a warrant officer is a seniority of 20 years in the service. Regarding police officers, who were drafted from among the new immigrants and had academic degrees, the criteria was 18 years of service under condition that they were promoted to the rank of first sergeant during their first year of service. In consideration of the uniqueness and purpose of the new immigrants' project, the Police Human Resources division approved the possibility of further promoting the drafted new immigrants, who have met all the other criteria and had already been promoted to the rank of first sergeant during their first year of service, to the rank of Warrant Officer once they have completed 18 years of service.
• Within the IPS:
A. The decree issued by the Prison Service Commission regarding the approved days of mourning for members of the Circassian community in case of a death in the family, has been amended. This amendment corrected a discrimination that existed against members of the Circassian community by adapting their rights for days of mourning to that of police officers of the same community.
B. The IPS has issued a guideline, according to which any positioning that has been ordered by the ombudsman, in accordance with the rotation method (which is a positive step in itself), must maintain the principal of continuity and equality. No prison guard, who has completed his term of service, is to be placed in any position other than that which is suitable to his rank and to the position which he had been fulfilling up until the eve of his promotion.
C. A guideline has been published which states, in accordance to the Women's Labor Law of 1954 and the employment regulations in the public sector, that a female prison guard who has given birth is entitled to a reduction of one hour a day, which will be considered as "breastfeeding hour" with full payment. This would be valid up until the time the child turns 1 year old.
D. A guideline has been issued according to which the counting of absences of prison guards due to sick days will no longer be a criterion for ranking the units and the officials that are heading them. It has been clarified that a prison guards must not be asked or forced to trade his sick days for off days as long as he can provide a medical form proving his illness. It has been found that in an attempt to prevent "false illnesses", commanders have began to force even those who are genuinely ill to register as having taken off days, and have deducted them from the prison guards' annual holidays.
According to the yearly report, it has come to our attention that the medical boards have often been used for inappropriate purposes. Often, when the system wishes to convince a police officer or prison guard to retire before the age of fifty, and therefore forfeit the retirement rights to which he is entitled at the age of fifty; that individual is often referred to the medical boards as a method of convincing him to leave. This is a clear misuse of the medical boards and it contradicts the reason for which they were founded.
The ombudsmanship sees great value in extending the examination time of each complaint. Our aim is to provide a proper solution in the shortest possible time. Each police officer or prison guard that submits a complaint about an issue that troubles them, naturally deserve to receive a solution as quickly as possible under the circumstances. Nonetheless, it often takes too long to treat each complaint, mostly because the authorities which the ombudsmanship refer to and upon which it relies for help, tend to delay their response. Some complaints contain several complex issues, which require the attention of several authorities as well as external intervention. The law states that the proper duration for treating a complaint is a maximum of one year from the time the complaint has been submitted. The joint ministerial regulation which was formed by both the police and the IPS, and which requires that both authorities act according to it and adapt their inner activities to it, includes a clause (15b) which states that: "any factor within the police force or the IPS that was required by the ombudsman or by a representative on his behalf to address a complaint that was referred to him or certain issues that the complaint contains, or submit his opinion or any other document on the matter, or provide any type of aid; will do so in the shortest time possible and no later than within 30 days of receiving the submitted complaint; unless the ombudsman has ordered otherwise." The police and the IPS have yet to complete implementing this amendment and adapting to this regulation. In actuality, it has been found that within the police force, 10% of all complaints are addressed and treated within two weeks, 28% of complaints are treated within a month, and 92.6% of the complaints are treated within no more than six months. Within the IPS, the findings are very similar: 13.4% of the complaints are treated within two weeks; 33.2% are treated within a month; and 89.9% are treated within no more than six months. At almost every meeting with police officers and prison guards, the question of authority rises- mainly the authorities given to the ombudsman by law. According to the literal wording of the law, the ombudsman is merely the recommending authority and therefore has no right to force the system to implement his recommendations. However a suitable settlement was found in the commands issues by both the police and the IPS: these commands constitute a compulsory (though somewhat restrained) implementation. The commands indicate that if the ombudsman has recommended to either the police or to the IPS (if necessary) that some malfunction or injustice must be corrected, both must act according to the recommendations of the ombudsman. Failure to implement the ombudsman's recommendations will require, according to these commands, a written consent from the police Inspector General or, in turn, by the IPS commissioner.
It ought to be stated that in the majority of cases, the police and the IPS do indeed implement the ombudsman's recommendations. Moreover, in most cases when the system becomes aware of the malfunctions pointed out by the ombudsman, both the police and the IPS begin amending them while still in the process of examining the complaint. In cases such as these, there is no need to even issue the recommendation. Indeed, we require recommendations to be issued in only a very small percentage of all complaints. And even if a recommendation has been issued, it is, in most cases, implemented shortly after. Indeed, recommendations have been known to be left unimplemented only in very few cases. I now wish to address two aspects in this regard: One is the Inspector General or the IPS commissioner's authority to issue a written consent in cases when a recommendation in not implemented. An examination of the regulations which dictate the commissioner's autonomy; the ruling regarding the finality of his decisions; the lack of possibility to appeal his decisions in court; and the legislation by virtue of the 1968 Investigations Committee Law according to which the ombudsman has the authority to examine the complaints; all indicate the judgmental nature of this position. This situation therefore, to my better understanding, only allows the implementation of a recommendation if it has been examined by an external authority, rather than one that has been considered by the ombudsman himself, the Inspector General or the IPS commissioner. The Inspector General and the IPS commissioner do not constitute an instance for appealing the ombudsman's decision. It is for that reason that they are not allowed to refuse implementing a recommendation even if they object to it, unless there are particular systematic-ethical considerations in the matter. The other aspect relates to recommendations regarding cases in which the complaint is particularly directed at the head of the system- i.e. the police Inspector General or the IPS commissioner. It is a well known fact that justice must not only be done but it must also be seen. This fact however, is not carried out when the individual against whom the complaint is made is also the one to determine whether or not it should be treated. For that reason, another command was added to the regulation, stating that "in cases when the complaint is against the police Inspector General or the IPS commissioner, failure to implement the ombudsman's recommendations will only be permitted if a reasoned permit in writing is provided by the Ministry of Public Security." The ombudsmanship does not presume to replace the commanders. However, it is my hope that its contribution to the systems themselves as well as to the people serving in them is a great one. A frustrated prison guard or police officer becomes inefficient and lacking initiative. The Ombudsmanship considers it its duty to make the police officers and prison guards aware of the needs and considerations of the system and explain it to them, given that it does not suffer from malfunctions. This is our contribution to the improvement of the general atmosphere within these authorities.
An ombudsman that does not receive support and appreciation from the heads of the system cannot truly fulfill his duties to the fullest. The authorities granted to the ombudsman by the law are not enough, for if he must rely only on the instructions of the law in order to do his job and establish his position, I doubt if he would have the ability to succeed. We believe that this relationship will continue on and deepen, so that we may promote our common goal of providing police officers and prison guards with the best of opportunities, and be able to present their grievances to the appropriate authorities.
We are now in the midst of a transitional period with the heads of the system being replaced, and we wish to thank the retiring Inspector General- Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen, and the retiring prison commissioner- Lieutenant General Benni Keniak for their kind treatment and constant cooperation. We also wish to congratulate those who are now assuming these crucial positions: Major General Yochanan Danino and Major General Aharon Franco. God Speed. Your success is the success of the Israel Police, the IPS and the State of Israel itself.
Sincerely, Hanna Keller (Orenstein)
Ombudsman for Police Officers and Prison Guards