The Knesset plenum on Monday night passed a law allowing security services to stop and frisk for unlicensed weapons individuals who appear suspicious. Thirty-nine MKs supported the bill in its third and final reading, while 31 opposed the legislation.
The law permits police officers to search anyone in a place prone to violence if they have reason to believe he or she may use a weapon. For example, if someone is fighting or is engaged in ”verbal violence” – without a visual clue that the person may be carrying a weapon – that person could be searched and evidence found would be admissible in court.
(Archive poto: Gellerj)
Places prone to violence, according to the proposed legislation, include ”clubs, pubs and discotheques and other places meant for recreation and in which alcoholic drinks are sold to be drunk in that place; places with arcade games, billiards, card games, dice games and others; sports fields, stadiums and any other place with sports competitions; and places a regional police commander declared temporarily as a location where such searches can be made… if he has a reasonable suspicion that the peace could be disturbed by an act of violence in that place.”
MK Nissan Slomiansky (archives)
When there is a suspicion of terrorism, the bill’s instructions are similar to what they were for both terrorism and crime in its previous version: A police officer may search anyone, regardless of behavior, in a location that is thought to be a target for hostile destructive actions. Such a location can be declared by the regional commander for 21 days, and if he wants to extend it for up to two months, the Police Inspector-General will have to approve.
Police will have to inform passers-by that they are in a zone where they could be searched, so that they can avoid the area if they wish.
While presenting the legislation, Constitution, Law and Justice Committee Chairman MK Nissan Slomiansky (HaBayit HaYehudi) said the committee members were convinced that expanding the authority of police officers to search people for weapons would help prevent acts of ”criminal” violence and ”hostile terrorist activity.”
The committee, he added, found that the current security situation obligates the Knesset to expand the police`s authority to search someone for weapons, even when there is no reasonable suspicion that the person is carrying a weapon illegally, in places that have been declared by the regional police chief as being prone to violence.
Prior to the vote, MK Revital Swid (Zionist Camp) suggested dividing the legislation. ”Let`s vote on the very specific part of the bill which deals with our current internal security issues, and let`s ignore whatever is related to this frisking, which you can see is illogical,” she said.
MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) said ”this law is bad, damaging, hurtful and unnecessary, and this is why it is opposed by MKs from the coalition and opposition alike. This is why there is such broad opposition to this law in the legal arena.” He added that ”security is the last excuse of those who do not have real answers.”
MK Yael German (Yesh Atid) said, ”We are giving police a license to harass whoever they want,” while MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) said the main problem with the bill is that it ”perpetuates the viewpoint that every citizen is guilty until proven innocent – exactly the opposite of what criminal law should be.”
”The `frisk law` is a continuation of the tendency to kill the mosquitos rather than dry the swamp,” he said.
MK Jamal Zahalka (Joint List) said, ”This law sends a message to police officers: `do whatever you want. There is no need for any criteria, and everything can be approved retroactively.`”