Police to review its reinstatement of senior cop accused of sexual assault

Police to review its reinstatement of senior cop accused of sexual assault

Gilad Erdan says his office will study High Court decision calling on him and police commissioner to rethink allowing Roni Rittman to return to his post as Lahav 433 chief

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)

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Tuesday he would rethink the decision to reinstate a senior police officer who was accused of sexual harassment, following a High Court ruling.

Erdan said Monday’s court ruling was a “balanced decision that they would study” and declared that the police force would “respect it.”

The three justices stopped short of calling for Lahav 433 anti-corruption watchdog head, Maj. Gen. Roni Rittman, to be fired, but they unanimously ruled that Alsheich’s decision to reinstate him in 2015, despite the sexual assault allegations, “could not stand.”

The ruling was given in response to a plea from one of Rittman’s alleged victims, a female officer who petitioned the High Court against his reinstatement.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in his office in Bnei Brak on October 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Alsheich took over as police chief in December 2015. One of his first decisions was to return Maj. Gen. Roni Rittman to his post as head of the police anti-corruption watchdog Lahav 433, despite the allegations.

Rittman, 53, was accused of two instances of sexual harassment in 2011, including kissing a female subordinate against her will. He had 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.

Then-attorney general Yehuda Weinstein decided to not to bring criminal charges against Rittman due to the long period of time that had elapsed since the alleged offenses, the relatively minor nature of the offenses, and the circumstances surrounding the timing of the recent complaint — the female officer and a senior intelligence officer who backed her up were involved in an ongoing dispute with Rittman, reports said.

But Weinstein had passed the testimony material to Alsheich for him to consider whether disciplinary measures should be taken; the police commissioner decided to reinstate him. The Haaretz daily reported at the time that the police commissioner had told associates that he “didn’t need to sacrifice him [Rittman].”

Monday’s ruling stated that Alsheich’s decision “did not give proper and reasonable weight to the existing evidence regarding the officer’s complaint (against Rittman) and that therefore, there was not sufficient factual basis for the conclusion that was reached.”

Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich attends a committee meeting at the Knesset on July 11, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

However, the justices said that Alsheich had the right to choose the administrative measures “appropriate given the circumstances.”

Erdan defended Alsheich’s decision, telling Israel Radio that the female officer who had accused Rittman had only chose to make the allegations after she got into a separate dispute with another officer. He also said there were various contradictions in the victim’s story which led Alsheich to reinstate him as Lahav 433 chief.

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 the police commissioner — have been accused of such abuse, and many of them have stepped down.

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