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After slew of mishaps, public trust in police hits new low

Disapproval ratings have rocketed from 69 to 84 percent in recent weeks, Channel 2 finds

Chief of Police Roni Alsheich at the welcoming ceremony held in his honor, at the National Police Headquarters in Jerusalem, on December 3, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Chief of Police Roni Alsheich at the welcoming ceremony held in his honor, at the National Police Headquarters in Jerusalem, on December 3, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Approval ratings for the Israel Police plummeted dramatically in recent weeks as the force found itself under heavy criticism over its handling of several high-profile cases.

Channel 2 News reported Wednesday that Israelis’ dissatisfaction with law enforcement authorities rose from 69 percent — where it had been hovering fairly consistently over the past 17 months — to 84% in recent weeks.

Channel 2 based its numbers on a report by Buzzilla, a service that tracks trends in news, social media, blogs and internet forums.

“Police are seen as corrupt, with officials unfit for various reasons,” the company told the broadcaster.

The police have been beset in recent years by a series of sex scandals by top officials, as well as claims of incompetence and excessive use of force.

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich complained last month that law enforcement in Israel had devolved into a “punching bag” for the media, after footage of plainclothes police officers beating an Arab man in Tel Aviv drew a stream of criticism.

Alsheich himself has been the subject of much of the critique over a perceived lack of transparency and an unfriendly attitude towards the press.

He faced severe backlash for stating in late May that a police recommendation to indict the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, for graft should not have been publicized,

Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, alongside attorney Yossi Cohen at the Jerusalem Regional Labor Court on October 29, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, alongside attorney Yossi Cohen at the Jerusalem Regional Labor Court on October 29, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Buzzilla noted in its assessment that much of the bad faith in police expressed recently was focused on Alsheich. “The discourse about the police indicates a belief that Alsheich is a ‘yes-man’ for Netanyahu and not a significant and independent chief of police, as was expected,” the company noted.

The police force has also been blasted for its confused handling of the rape of a disabled Israeli woman; its failure to prevent a double homicide in Rishon Lezion despite victim Anastasia Rusanov’s repeated complaints to police against her former boyfriend-turned-killer Ian Gavrielov; and its refusal to release the Gavrielov’s identity to the public as he remained at large.

Even Gavrielov’s death days later in a shootout with police became a source of embarrassment for the Israel Police, with cops initially claiming he had been killed by a top officer, before a post-mortem showed he had in fact shot himself in the head, and had not been hit by any of the police bullets.

Alsheich, the former deputy head of the Shin Bet internal security service, was sworn in as police commissioner in December after a drawn-out nomination process, with Israeli leaders hoping his stewardship would bring an end to a tumultuous period for the Israel Police.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the time he hoped Alsheich would oversee a new chapter in the police’s history.

However, Buzzilla summarized in its report, “It is evident that the police have been unable to rehabilitate their image and gain public trust. This distrust begins with top officials and trickles down to all officers. The attempt to rebuild the [police’s] image through a new commissioner has not proven itself.”

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