State drops sexual harassment probe against senior cop

State drops sexual harassment probe against senior cop

Accusing female officer demands to know why investigation of Roni Rittman, head of anti-corruption unit, has been closed

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)

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein decided Thursday to close an investigation into a top anti-corruption police officer who was suspected of sexually harassing a fellow officer.

Maj. Gen. Roni Rittman was accused of two instances of sexual harassment, including kissing a female subordinate against her will five years ago.

Rittman, 51, the head of the Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit, has denied the allegations against him and said that a senior officer in the Israel Police’s intelligence unit is trying to frame him. During the course of the investigation, he was put on mandatory leave.

The accusing officer sent a letter to Weinstein, via her attorneys, demanding a explanation for the dropped case, Channel 2 reported. In the letter, the woman, whose identity is protected by a gag order, noted that another woman has also claimed Rittman harassed her, although she has not ventured to file a complaint.

The complainant charged that the investigation into the incident was partial and demanded to receive, in writing, a detailed explanation behind the attorney general’s decision as well as all of the material gathered in the investigation.

The decision to close the case was made due to the long period of time that has elapsed since the alleged offenses, the relatively minor nature of the offense, and the circumstances surrounding the timing of the recent complaint — the female officer and a senior intelligence officer who backed her up are involved in an ongoing dispute with Rittman, reports said.

Rittman has held the position of head of the Lahav 433 unit since August 2014, making him one of the highest-ranking officers in the Israel Police. The unit has been involved in some of Israel’s most sensitive cases, including a corruption scandal involving politicians in the Yisrael Beytenu party. The former head of the anti-corruption unit, Menashe Arviv, stepped down in 2014 over corruption allegations.

Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich will decide soon whether to take any disciplinary action against Rittman. According to Channel 2 the expectation is that Rittman will not return to his former position.

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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