Former anti-corruption chief resigns from police under sexual harassment cloud
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Former anti-corruption chief resigns from police under sexual harassment cloud

Roni Rittman, ex-head of Lahav 433, ends a 31-year career blighted by accusations from female officers under his command

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Outgoing head of the Lahav 433 police anti-corruption unit, Roni Rittman, arrives at the Police Investigation Department, Jerusalem, December, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Outgoing head of the Lahav 433 police anti-corruption unit, Roni Rittman, arrives at the Police Investigation Department, Jerusalem, December, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The former head of the Israel Police’s Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit has announced his resignation from the force, ending an illustrious 31-year career under a cloud after he was accused of sexually harassing his subordinates.

Maj. Gen. Roni Rittman told Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich in a letter that he “would like to thank you for your steadfast and uncompromising stand alongside the law, the evidence, and no less important — moral values and justice.”

Rittman, who denies the allegations against him and has suggested they were an attempt to bring him down, said, “My public contribution will be greater after my retirement.”

His resignation comes after he stepped down as head of Lahav 433 in January following harsh criticism from the High Court over his reinstatement to the position.

Roni Rittman (R ) August 31, 2014. (Flash90)

Rittman, 53, was accused of two instances of sexual harassment in 2011, including kissing a female subordinate against her will. He denied the allegations and said that a senior officer in the Israel Police’s intelligence unit was trying to frame him. In 2015, during the course of the investigation, Rittman was put on mandatory leave.

No indictment was ever filed against Rittman due to “evidentiary issues,” and he was cleared of all wrongdoing.

Following a brief suspension, Alsheich later that year appointed him head of Lahav 433, the anti-corruption unit currently investigating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former coalition chairman David Bitan.

After his appointment, one complainant petitioned the High Court of Justice, saying that Rittman was not fit to serve in such a senior position in light of the allegations against him.

In a November 2017 ruling, three High Court justices stopped short of calling for Rittman to be fired, but they unanimously ruled that Alsheich’s decision to reinstate him in 2015 “did not give proper and reasonable weight to the existing evidence regarding the officer’s complaint [against Rittman]” and “could not stand.”

However, the justices said that Alsheich had the right to choose the administrative measures that were “appropriate given the circumstances,” and urged the police chief to take further disciplinary actions against Rittman.

The past few years have seen a string of sexual misconduct cases involving top police officers, many of whom were forced to retire due to the allegations against them. In all, about half of the Israel Police’s major generals — the highest rank below that of commissioner — have been accused of such abuse, and many of them have stepped down.

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