Hareidi men, police clash (archive)
Hareidi men, police clash (archive)Israel news photo: Flash 90

A Knesset committee is to vote Sunday on a bill, left over from last Knesset, that would mean harsher punishments for police officers who fail to wear name tags.

The bill is meant to prevent police violence, particularly at demonstrations, by making officers aware that they can be held personally responsible for any unwarranted use of force.

It passed an initial reading in the last Knesset, where it was put forth by MKs Uri Ariel, Dov Henin and Nitzan Horowitz, but its progress was frozen when the Knesset’s mandate ended.

At the time, the bill had support from Minister of Internal Security Yitzchak Aharonovich, whose duties include oversight of the Israel Police. However, Aharonovich has informed the bill’s supporters in the current Knesset that the Israel Police no longer supports the law.

“Professional sources in the Israel Police maintain that from an operative perspective, the proposal cannot be implemented, and is likely to create difficulty and complications,” he explained.

“It could even lead protesters to demand ID cards when there is no need, and by doing so to thwart officers’ attempts to restore order when protesters riot,” he warned.

MK Orit Struk, one of the bill’s backers in the current Knesset, expressed surprise at Aharonovich’s about-face. “The fact that [officers] wear ID tags will actually ensure that people do not bother them by asking for ID,” she argued.

“The Police Commissioner and Minister of Internal Security, who repeatedly declare that the struggle against police violence is a top priority, are thwarting a bill which is intended solely to prevent such violence,” she accused.

Dozens of complaints against violent police officers have led nowhere due to the fact that those filing the complaint did not know the name of the officer who had assaulted them, she noted.

Struk expressed hope that the other ministers on the committee that has convened to deliberate on the bill will vote in favor despite Aharonovich’s change of heart. “I very much hope that the ministers will understand what the Police Commissioner and Minister [Aharonovich] do not – that protesters are not criminals, and there is no need to treat them as such,” she said.