A Justice Ministry department charged with investigating police misconduct announced Monday that it was closing the criminal case against an officer who last month hurled a bucket at a child in the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit, saying that he would face disciplinary action instead.
The October 4 incident occurred amid widespread flouting of coronavirus lockdown rules in the ultra-Orthodox community, at a time when infections were skyrocketing in Israel, and especially among the Haredi population.
Daily protests and clashes took place at the time, as some spiritual leaders, concerned that adhering to the nationwide lockdown would cause many to halt their Torah studies, ordered synagogues and yeshivas to stay open and to shun those who reported the violations to authorities.
During one of those clashes, video footage showed a police officer hurling a bucket at a young boy, reportedly aged 10, before several officers seized him around the neck and put him in a police vehicle, prompting social media condemnation of the police.
Police later said they had asked the Police Internal Investigations Department (PIID) to look into the incident.
למה? למה ככה שוטרים מתנהגים לתושבי ביתר עלית? למה?? pic.twitter.com/tFdZde7Idq
— יאיר לוי (@iairLevy) October 4, 2020
The PIID said Monday that it was closing the case, since the probe had concluded that the bucket was thrown during an attempt to apprehend the boy, who had resisted arrest and tried to escape.
However, it said that the act constituted excessive force given the circumstances, which justified disciplinary action.
זה ילד, משטרת ישראל מאבדת את זה לגמרי pic.twitter.com/NbBhl1u3hx
— חיים גולדברג (@haim_goldberg) October 4, 2020
The boy’s attorney, far-right activist Itamar Ben Gvir, slammed the PIID for closing the criminal case.
“The PIID has become a haven for violent cops,” he said. “Every police officer who attacks [people] is granted immunity.”
He said he would fight the decision.
“Every cop who goes wild should know that justice will be served, and even if the PIID closes the cases, we won’t hesitate to file personal lawsuits against them and will weigh filing a High Court petition against the PIID decision,” Ben Gvir said. “This is a full-blown criminal incident, and the disciplinary proceeding, in this case, is a mockery.”
The Israel Police said at the time: “We view with gravity the behavior of the officer at the site, which contradicts the values of the organization.”