Israel Police told the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs this week that a pilot program to supply officers with body cameras has been “very successful” and said the department plans to provide cameras to all officers within two years.
Committee Chairman Avraham Neguise (Likud), who initiated the program, said “we have been fighting over-policing vis-à-vis Ethiopian immigrants, and I am happy that by this a bill brought about this trial period. [The use of cameras] is critical to preventing police brutality, as well as baseless charges against police officers.”
Yossi Bachar, deputy commander of the Tel Aviv district, added that the cameras have been used for about 14 months in six different precincts, selected according to frequency of violence. In the coming year the program will get an additional NIS 20 million boost.
MK Shelly Yechimovich (Zionist Camp) said that despite the use of cameras to document police abuses, a simple arrest – even without physical abuse – can leave a scar on a young person that will never completely heal. Others MKs called for increased penalties for abusive cops, while others partly blamed illegal immigrants for the phenomenon.
“The police must do their jobs,” said MK Yulia Malinovsky (Israel Beytenu), adding that sometimes Ethiopian Israelis are arrested because they are mistaken for illegal immigrants, tourists who overstay their visas and foreign workers.
Avi Frankel, head of the police discipline department, clarified that the police do not keep statistics on brutality complaints because those complaints are handled and investigated by the Department for the Investigation of Police Officers, part of the Justice Ministry.
The Department is responsible for prosecuting and recommending prosecution for discipline offenses, officers suspected of abusing civilians. He also said that abuse numbers have dropped sharply in the past decade, from 95 cases in 2006 to 13 in 2016.
By Andrew Friedman – TPS / Tazpit News Agency