4 officers dismissed for response to kidnapped teen’s call

Student alerted police to the abduction but it was dismissed as a prank; police commissioner calls mistake ‘unforgivable’

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino at the house of Gil-ad Shaer, in Talmon, on June 17, 2014 (Roni Schutzer/Flash90)
Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino at the house of Gil-ad Shaer, in Talmon, on June 17, 2014 (Roni Schutzer/Flash90)

Four senior police officers who failed to respond appropriately to a telephone call from one of the kidnapped teens, reporting that they had been abducted, will be dismissed immediately, after an investigation of the incident on Monday showed a slew of professional missteps in the immediate response to the call.

A report drafted by an investigative committee and approved by Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino stated that the officers dismissed the call as a prank and neglected to convey the information to the army immediately, as they were supposed to do.

According to the findings, police received a call from one of the boys at 10:25 p.m. on June 12, during which a voice whispered, “We’ve been kidnapped.” The call was transferred immediately to a senior female officer, who continued to ask questions but received no reply. The call lasted for 2:09 minutes and was then cut off. The officer called the number eight more times, but received three busy signals and reached voicemail five times. At that point, the officer did not pass on the information to her superiors or listen to the recording for further evidence — a move that will see her removed from her position.

The committee ruled that the police officer who initially answered the call and passed it on responded appropriately to the situation.

The punishments fell on officers throughout the command structure with the dismissal of the commander of the police hotline as well as the removal from his post of Motti Shushan, the commander of the West Bank branch, who, although he was unaware of the call, was faulted with failing to train those under his command. In addition, he received a black mark on his record and will not be able to serve in a position of command for three years.

Finally, Shai Azulai, the district operations officer, will be laid off, after the committee ruled that he bears the full responsibility for the actions of his subordinates, and the head of operations — who holds the rank of chief superintendent — received a mark on his record.

Danino called the errors a “very serious failure.”

“Not providing a proper response to a man’s cry of distress is an unforgivable event by every measure that can ultimately undermine the public confidence in the police, which is a cornerstone of police activity,” he said.

Police maintain that during the June 12 shift they were swamped, with some 757 calls overall, 155 of which were classified as prank calls.

The three abducted students — Eyal Yifrach, 19, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Gil-ad Shaar, 16 — were last seen on June 12 at a hitchhiking post in the West Bank. Israel has named two Hamas operatives, Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme, as the primary suspects in the kidnapping, but no demands or claims of responsibility have been issued. Abu Aysha and Kawasme have been missing from their Hebron homes since June 12.

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