How do the various police units operate in terms of dealing with information services? When do investigations for a certain case begin, and what is the relationship between journalistic investigations and police investigations? The opinion of an author wh
Police Information and Journalistic Investigations
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Police Information and Journalistic Investigations


When I hear or read about complaints filed against private investigators or against their involvement in criminal acts committed by private investigation agencies (that were not selective in accepting assignments from clients), I am reminded of an interview that the former deputy Minister for Internal Security, Knesset Member Gideon Ezra, gave to Dan Margalit on the television show “Erev Hadash”.

During the course of this interview Ezra complained about police investigators in these very words: “The police reads a headline in the newspaper and summons people to an investigation”.

This was said, of course, within the context of the unending headlines all over the media regarding the investigations being conducted to examine the alleged criminal violations carried out during the election of the Likud party to the Knesset. In opposition to police investigators, private investigators and private investigation agencies do not conduct private investigations based on newspaper headlines. 

Even if there is an element of truth in the criticism of the deputy minister, who acts as the supervisor of the police, it is also very absurd that the criticism actually stems from the deputy minister himself. Possibly Mr. Ezra feels a moral obligation towards his voters, who placed him in such a promising and stable position on the Likud list in the Knesset, to sound out his criticism.

A moral obligation that is at the expense of the ethical factor which supposedly binds the deputy minister to suppress his piercing criticism and contain it perhaps within the office, but not to share it with the world at large. However, if we ignore this ethical factor and examine the statement of the deputy minister professionally, I know that the statement is completely unsubstantiated.

It is public knowledge, especially to those who have conducted sensitive national and private investigations with significant ramifications to the media agenda, that journalistic exposure serves both national and private investigations as an extremely unique raw material.

Sometimes the “journalistic material” published by investigative reporters whose name rightfully precedes them (such as: Yoav Itshak, Moti Gilat, Ronal Fisher, and others) already contains an initial evidentiary foundation upon which the news reports regarding the investigation subject can allegedly be based.

Information collection and evaluation officers serving in national investigation units (the Unit for International Investigations and the National Unit for Fraud Investigations) are the primary audience of investigation publications in the press. The investigations are intended to draw their professional attention.

The information service divisions of national investigation units then clip and file the investigations, study their criminal implications with the help of legal advisors, enrich and crosscheck the information by using technological and other means at their disposal, invite those marginally involved in the case (and who possess business information or other general information) to submit an initial response in order to support and substantiate the initial suspicions raised by the journalistic investigation, present their professional impressions to the unit commander and head of the investigation department, and then involve the attorney’s office and the governmental legal advisor.

When the green light is given, teams are appointed that will begin an open investigation. An investigation will always be accompanied by the consistent publications of an investigative reporter, and coverage is also provided by additional media. Other plaintiffs and involved parties who have not yet been exposed then get the necessary incentive to approach the investigative journalists in order to supply them with additional information - this is the dynamic, and this is how it always works. 

Sometimes the previously described systemic work process is shortened, as in the investigation of alleged corruption in the center of the Likud party.  In this case, the governmental legal advisor - who is also exposed to journalistic investigations - shortened the organized and methodical procedures of the investigative forces. The advisor ordered the National Unit for Fraud Investigations to open an investigation to either confirm or refute the information implied by recent journalistic publications regarding the elections in the center of the Likud party.

The investigation unit, which is not always prepared in time for the immediate execution of an investigation, and which was surprised by the press, was obligation to respond professionally to the instruction of the governmental legal advisor and begin an investigation as soon as possible. The luxury of postponing or delaying an investigation beyond a reasonable amount of time did not exist. The elections were fast approaching, and they had to present a display of activity to substantiate the suspicions, accompanied by an appropriate evidentiary foundation.

There was not enough preliminary criminal and business information, and this was not good or professional.  Each election on the municipal or governmental level had produced a long list of investigations in the past.  Not all of them generate indictment letters.  But there are several kinds of publicized investigations - this is a common phenomenon familiar to all professionals in the investigation authorities.

You cannot be surprised.  You must cast a net of informants and collaborators in the right places. Professional preparations of an information collection system will save investigation units from inevitable dependence on newspaper publications, at least in the initial stages of investigation.

This is completely possible - there is no budget or professional hindrance, and both the most advanced tools and quality manpower are available to the intelligence divisions of the national units. All that is necessary to catalyze this process and have it operate in an effective and organized manner is the reinforcement of the public’s trust in the various investigation authorities. This trust has cracked, or completely broken, in the past few years. 

Various complainants have learned, and rightfully so, that exposure in the press gets the job done better. The complainant providing the informational materials knows, that if Moti Gilat or Yoav Itshak publish an investigative story of interest to the public their mission will be accomplished. The investigative story will be supported by massive publicity in other forms of media.

The police and the attorney’s office will show interest in the story, and guide the right people how to act. The lack of analyzed and processed preliminary police intelligence forces the investigative unit to summon suspects and witnesses based on newspaper publications. In the investigation against the Likud party, it is commonly known that anyone whose involvement was exposed in the press was summoned immediately to an investigation and even had his or her arrest extended by the court. 

The ability to substantiate suspicions for the purpose of serving an indictment letter depends on the willingness of those investigated to openly cooperate, by disclosing full information or providing information in return for something else. If the investigators come across an opportunity to recruit a state witness who can lighten all those dark corners, that is the best option. Quality, available intelligence is meant to free investigators from the aforementioned difficulties and stipulations in their midst.

Quality preliminary intelligence and a quick transition to an open investigation based on operational intelligence will restore the faith of potential plaintiffs in the police system, even at the expense of journalistic exposure. In the meantime, this hasn’t happened in current investigations and this is a shame. If this would happen as expected and required of the investigative authorities, Deputy Minister Ezra wouldn’t have anything to complain about.

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