Comptroller censures police over Jaffa Gate car-ramming investigation

Injured student; Photo credit: Honenu

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Wednesday, July 21, 2021, 13:36 Following a complaint by Honenu, the Public Complaints Commission at the Office of the State Comptroller has censured the police over their investigation of a car-ramming attack in which two yeshiva students were injured near the Jaffa Gate, opposite Teddy Park on the night of March 26, 2019. In their response to Honenu, the Office of the State Comptroller wrote that flaws in the police investigation were discovered, the police erred in not dealing with Honenu’s claims immediately after the attack, and they hope that the correct conclusions have been drawn.
The attack occurred as two yeshiva students stood on the sidewalk, waiting for the red light to change. Suddenly a car driven by an Arab driver jumped the curb onto the sidewalk and hit them. One of the injured students testified that the driver backed up and tried to run them over again. When he did not succeed, the two terrorists got out of the car, beat the injured students, kicked them and then fled the scene. A knife was found at the scene and later it turned out that the terrorists had tried, but failed, to stab one of the already injured students.
A complaint to the Public Complaints Commission claimed that the police rushed to release the suspects, preferring to believe their testimonies over the testimonies of the victims and eye-witnesses, that authorities in the Jerusalem District Police defended the decision to release the suspects and ignored repeated inquiries by Honenu. Additionally, the complaint claimed that the police issued an erroneous press release about the incident, and that a police spokesperson condemned Honenu, claiming that labeling the incident as an attack was “fake news”.
Six months after the attack, the GSS received information which led to a renewed investigation of the incident, which confirmed Honenu’s claims. The terrorists were detained and charged with attempted murder.
The Public Complaints Commission accepted Honenu’s claims, and in their reply wrote that approximately six months after the attack, the head of the investigations department of the Jerusalem District Police investigated the police over their handling of the incident. The results of the investigation, which were transferred to the Public Complaints Commission “revealed several flaws. Conclusions were drawn and lessons were learned that were brought to the attention of all of the relevant authorities in the police. We can only regret that your direct inquiries to the police immediately after the incident did not lead to another examination of the facts.”

Police-HaKol HaYeyudi correspondence; Screenshot

Concerning the erroneous press release from the police about the incident, the Public Complaints Commission replied that the matter was a personal message to a journalist from the HaKol HaYehudi website, and not an official press release from a spokesperson: “In the framework of this correspondence, information that was not intended to be publicized was transferred to a reporter.”
Nonetheless, the comptroller accepted Honenu’s claim: “Although the statement was off the record… we found it correct to reprimand the police over the wording of the message. The police, as a governmental authority which provides a service to the public, is expected to be cautious with phrasing that has an element of criticism of the complainant (or someone inquiring on his behalf) who is requesting assistance.” The conclusion of the reply stated that “We brought it to the attention of the police that we found both aspects of the complaint to be justified.”
Honenu Attorney Chayim Bleicher, who is representing one of the injured students, welcomed the reply from the comptroller: “The conclusions of the examination should shake the foundations of the Israeli Police. In real time, in every possible forum, we warned of the possibility that the police had released without investigation two terrorists who intended to murder Jews.
“The conclusions of the comptroller take on additional relevance these days, in which there are attempted murders of Jews in Jerusalem on a daily basis. One must recognize reality and fight the enemy with full force.”
On March 27, 2019, the day after the attack, Bleicher sent a letter to the Jerusalem District Police Commander, demanding that the terrorists be investigated on suspicion of attempted murder and also demanding an “investigation by the Central Unit of the Yehuda and Shomron Police and the GSS and the detention of abettors and additional accomplices to terror.”

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