Cop’s widow berates police minister: They’re sitting ducks, let them shoot

Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai has called for open fire procedures to be scrutinized.

By Debbie Reiss, World Israel News

The widow of a police officer who was killed by a Palestinian car thief lambasted Israel’s rules of engagement on Sunday, interrupting the Israeli police minister’s eulogy by lamenting, “You don’t give them permission to shoot. They are like sitting ducks.”

Barak Meshulam was the victim of a hit and run when a 17-year-old Palestinian from Ramallah rammed into a checkpoint to avoid being caught, and in doing so, he ran over the 29-year-old father of two.

Meshulam was laid to rest in the military cemetery in Kfar Saba on Sunday evening.

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, whose ministry is in charge of the police, eulogized Meshulam to hundreds of mourners: “Tonight, Barak met the cruelest of murderers. The punishment needs to fit the crime,” he said.

He added that in the circumstances surrounding Meshulam’s death and “in any other life-threatening situation, the police officer is allowed to neutralize the potential suspect.”

Nevertheless, Meshulam’s widow Ariella began yelling at Barlev through tears about the force’s restrictive open fire policy. “Why don’t you give them permission to shoot? You do not protect them. The wives of the policemen standing here, friends of my husband, do not know if they will knock on their door tomorrow.”

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“Next time you will let them shoot,” Ariella shouted at Barlev, while other mourners expressed their support, saying “She’s right!”

Unlike in the U.S., Israeli police are generally trained to “shoot to incapacitate” — generally targeting a suspect’s legs — and not to kill, and then, after first calling on the suspect to stop, following that up with warning shots fired in the air.

However, in the case of an active crime that poses a clear and present danger to either an officer or a civilian’s life, for example in the case of a terrorist attack, officers are given more leeway to open fire.

Israel’s High Court in April called on the state to “amend the regulations” of its open fire policy after an Arab-Israeli car thief was fatally shot in the back by a policeman.

According to a statement by the prosecution,  police officers have “too much leeway to shoot, even in cases that prima facie don’t justify it.” Also, the rules are not clear about when to open fire and “lack necessary restrictions that could reduce harm to human life,” Haaretz reported at the time.

In the wake of Meshulam’s death, Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai said that open fire procedures will be reexamined.