Israel Police high level of ‘false arrests’

Data spark claims of possible false arrests and criticism by former chief justice of ‘unnecessary detentions’ and of police scheme of filling arrest quotas.

By Yaniv Kubovich | Haaretz | Mar. 24, 2015 |

Israel Police made 12 percent more arrests in 2014 than in the previous year. According to a report on the Walla website, there were 69,118 arrests in Israel last year, as opposed to 61,049 in 2013. In 2012, however, the figure was 62,365.

The data show a sharp increase in arrests compared to the previous decade: In 2004, 48,181 arrests were made; in 2003 that figure was 46,120.

The statistics have drawn criticism from some who fear that false arrests are being made, and who charge that some detentions are carried out only to meet goals set by Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino.

In January the former president of the Supreme Court, Justice Dorit Beinisch, harshly criticized Danino’s arrest program, which was part of the commissioner’s plan to improve the quality of police work in general.

“I was shocked by the number of arrests with remand until the end of legal proceedings, which the police report proudly,” Beinisch said at a recent convention in Haifa.

She pointed out that the increased rate was likely connected to Danino’s flagship “Turning Point” program, whereby individual police units are supposed to fulfill certain quotas related to the number of arrests.

“An arrest until the end of legal proceedings is not an achievement and should not be included in evaluation of the standards of quality police work. The outcome is numerous unnecessary detentions,” the former chief justice added.

Beinisch added that her conclusion was that “there was no correlation between constitutional legal achievements and what is happening on the ground, and the question now is what should be done now. The gap between the good intentions of the legislator and reality is my main criticism,” she said.

Judges at remand hearings have also complained that they have had to deal with unnecessary arrests, and say they frequently criticize the police because of them.

For his part, Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court Judge Shaul Avinor wrote in one of his rulings, with respect to what he declared was a superfluous arrest, that its “practical significance is extending a suspect’s remand for another day, entirely unnecessarily.” Such an arrest was not according to the letter of the law, he said, adding that the police should avoid such activity.

Avinor took his criticism of the police in the case in question even further, stating: “From the numerous requests [for remand] it seems that the police believe that by submitting them they are giving expression to their work. However, the law does not recognize arrests made for the purpose of statistics.”

It seems that many arrests involve individuals with mental health issues who are later sent for psychiatric evaluation. Such people are suspected of involvement in offenses that do not justify detention, but the police are apparently not always able to deal with persons with psychological problems.

The police also continue to arrest protesters, especially leaders of demonstrations. In 2014, 302 people were detained on suspicion of fomenting rebellion or incitement to rebellion. Thirty-one people were arrested for raising a Palestinian flag, 1,720 for unlawful assembly, and six for “unnatural offenses,” the nature of which the police have not explained.