Police internal affairs probing cop’s violent handling of reporter at Tel Aviv rally

Announcing investigation, Department for Internal Police Investigations appears to protest public defender who decried ‘a lack of enforcement against violent police officers’

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

A screenshot of video showing a police officer grabbing Channel 12 news reporter Yollan Cohen at an anti-government protest in Tel Aviv, June 22, 2024. (Screenshot: X, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
A screenshot of video showing a police officer grabbing Channel 12 news reporter Yollan Cohen at an anti-government protest in Tel Aviv, June 22, 2024. (Screenshot: X, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The Department for Internal Police Investigations (DIPI) announced Sunday it was examining an incident in which a television reporter was violently slung against a tree by a police officer while covering anti-government protests in Tel Aviv the night before.

In video footage of Saturday’s incident, Channel 12’s Yollan Cohen can be seen speaking with Border Police officers, and then being grabbed by another police officer and hurled aside toward the tree.

It was the latest of many such incidents, including some recorded during the Saturday night protests against the government’s handling of the war sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack. Separate rallies have also been held each week urging the return of the hostages held by the terror group.

In a statement announcing the probe, DIPI added that all complaints against the police are “thoroughly, professionally and comprehensively examined,” and that the department often opens up investigations of its own accord, in an apparent pushback against criticism from the Public Defender’s Office.

DIPI also stated that its directorate and the State Attorney’s Office recently issued instructions to give priority to allegations of police violence during demonstrations, “in light of the importance the State Attorney’s Office ascribes to dealing with police violence in general, and in incidents during protests in particular,” it said.

Earlier Sunday, the Public Defender’s Office charged that police violence was a result of “a lack of enforcement against violent police officers” and an attitude of leniency toward such officers.

“The public defender totally condemns all police violence,” the office of Public Defender Attorney Anat Meyassed Cnaan said in a statement to the press.

“This violence does injury to the body and the soul and tramples human rights. Unfortunately, police violence affects all parts of Israeli society, and it leads to a lack of trust in the law enforcement system.”

Meyassed Cnaan’s office also stated that she been warning “for years” that DIPI — which is under the auspices of the Justice Ministry, and investigates allegations of police brutality — must improve its handling and that “unfortunately, DIPI’s behavior allows the continuation of police violence against citizens.”

Aweka Zena, a senior department head in the Public Defender’s office dealing with DIPI, said that police violence was the result of excessive lenience toward officers who break the law.

Also Sunday, a doctor who was violently detained by police at an anti-government protest three weeks ago filed a complaint with DIPI, which launched a probe of the incident following a demand by member organizations of the Israeli Medical Association.

“When you look in-depth at the incident I went through, the police acted against the law,” Dr. Udi Baharav told Channel 12.

“Even in policing there are clear laws,” he said. “There are laws on how the police should treat medical teams, and how the police should act with medical teams. Their duty is to help save human lives, their duty is to clear the area for this purpose, and what they did was exactly the opposite.”

“[The police] see people lying on the ground and instead of helping them, they just push and hit them,” he continued.

Police violently arrest a doctor who had been treating an injured anti-government protester during a rally in Tel Aviv on June 8, 2024. (Social media/X. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Baharav, a 71-year-old retired internist and general practitioner, volunteers with an informally organized group of physicians, nurses and mental health professionals who attend rallies and protests.

Their purpose is to be on-hand within the crowd to treat anyone — protesters and police alike — injured or ill. The group members are visible by their clearly labeled orange or purple vests and headlamps that identify them as health aid personnel, and they make themselves known ahead of time to both civilians and security forces.

The June 8 incident involving Baharav provoked condemnation from opposition politicians and President Isaac Herzog, who said police “have an even greater responsibility… during such a painful and tense period.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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