Police deny hospital account, defend conduct of officers

Jerusalem hospital files complaint after cops tase Palestinian who was cuffed to bed

Health minister hails Shaare Zedek doctor who protested when officers shocked 21-year-old in midst of apparent psychotic episode, refused to discharge him until they were replaced

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

Illustrative: Medical personnel at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center, on March 2, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: Medical personnel at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center, on March 2, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Two police officers tased a Palestinian suspect in their custody while he was cuffed to a hospital bed last week, prompting the medical center to file a complaint to the Police Internal Investigations Department, Health Minister Moshe Arbel said on Thursday.

The incident, first reported by Haaretz, took place on July 27 after the suspect, who had been arrested in the Old City, was brought by police to the emergency room in Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center. Doctors treating him believed he was not in control of his actions and was having a psychotic episode, according to a letter Arbel sent to the hospital’s staff and administrators updating them on the incident.

The suspect — a 21-year-old resident of East Jerusalem — was given sedatives and managed to calm down after several hours. Doctors decided to discharge him but, before they did so, the two officers escorting the detainee closed the curtains around the bed to which the detainee was cuffed by both hands and one leg. One of them then tased the suspect, Arbel said.

One of the doctors heard the electric shock and asked the apprehending officer if he had tased the patient. The officer confirmed that he had. The doctor responded that it was an unnecessary use of violence against a suspect who did not pose a threat to doctors or police. She refused to discharge the patient until the two officers involved completed their shift, in order to better ensure the suspect’s safety, said Arbel, who added that the hospital filed a complaint to the PIID on Thursday.

The health minister hailed the conduct of the doctors, thanked the hospital, and said he expected all medical staff to ensure the health and safety of all patients regardless of their background.

Israel police denied the account shared by the health minister.

Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

It said the suspect was seen holding a knife “suspiciously” in the Old City of Jerusalem and was arrested by cops on suspicion that he was trying to carry out a stabbing attack. After he was apprehended, the suspect lost control and tried to head-butt one officer, spat on another and bashed his own head into the floor, police said. A court agreed to keep the suspect behind bars but ordered he be sent to the hospital first for treatment.

After his arrival, “and completely contrary to what was claimed, the suspect began to go berserk and tried to attack police officers who were accompanying him, causing harm to himself and medical equipment, even while he was handcuffed,” police said in a statement. “The suspect poured a glass of water on the police officer guarding him, ranted, violently shook the bed…, banged his head against the wall, tried to pull out his IV, hit an officer and threw a jar at him. After being warned several times, and in order to control him… a Taser was used on him.”

Police protocol bars officers from tasing a cuffed detainee, except in self-defense. A suspect must be warned before a taser is employed against them and officers are barred from using tasers against a suspect suffering from a medical condition.

In his own statement to Haaretz, Shaare Zedek’s deputy director Dan Turner said, “The hospital is committed to providing equal and empathetic care to all. We express our disgust at the attack on a helpless patient bound to a bed in the hospital. This act is both disturbing and illegal, which is why we decided to contact the police to investigate this difficult case.”

Lawyer Nathaniel Lagami, from the Public Defender’s office, decried the abuse of detainees, adding that he expected that such cases will be investigated “while making it clear that in the Israel Police, there is no place for violent behavior by police officers.”

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