Police Reviewing Shabbat Jaywalk Stop

Midwood rabbi says he was told to write his name or go to jail; pol calls for cops’ suspension.

12/01/10
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The NYPD is probing an incident last week involving an Orthodox jaywalker and a Brooklyn street cop he claims made him violate Shabbat.

If the allegation that the cop threatened to lock up Rabbi Shalom Emert unless he wrote down his name is true, the officer did not follow his training and showed unprofessional conduct, says an expert on police procedure.

Eli Silverman, professor emeritus at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and author of “NYPD Battles Crime,” says cops are trained to be sensitive to religious beliefs and practices and defer to them whenever reasonable.

“This was clearly an unprofessional choice of behavior on the part of the police officer,” said Silverman. “If the story is as it was portrayed in the newspaper account, the actions violate the very motto of the police department — courtesy, professionalism and respect.”

Rabbi Emert, 27, told the New York Post this weekend that he was crossing Kings Highway at East 15th Street in Midwood around 5:40 p.m. Friday — about 90 minutes into the Shabbat — when two cops approached in the middle of the street and ordered him to produce identification. When the rabbi said he didn’t have his wallet but offered to be escorted home to produce ID, one officer demanded that he write down his name legibly or be faced with arrest, he said.

Fearful of incarceration, the rabbi complied. “I had no choice,” he told the Post.

Efforts to reach Rabbi Emert at his home and via cell phone on Tuesday were unsuccessful. He was to appear on a Jewish radio program Monday night, “Talkline with Zev Brenner,” but canceled at the last minute, Brenner said Tuesday.

Paul Browne, the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner for Public Information, said in an e-mail Tuesday, “The matter is under review as a result of [Rabbi Emert’s] assertions.”

Councilman David Greenfield, who is Orthodox and represents part of Midwood, called for the suspension of the two officers involved and a full investigation.

“Are there no major crimes occurring in this city that these two officers can spend their evenings ticketing jaywalkers in residential neighborhoods?” said Greenfield in a statement. “Why couldn’t these officers simply have escorted this religious person to his home? There was no reason to force this observant Jew to transgress the Sabbath by forcing him to write when the officers knew that they were going to write down his information anyway to hand him a summons.”

Silverman, a longtime professor of law, police science and criminal justice administration, said while officers are free to collect information in different ways during street stops, the allegations in this case suggest the officer went too far.

“Discretion is an important ingredient in policing, but this seems like an inappropriate use of that discretion,” he said.

While such incidents may lead the public to call for better sensitivity training for officers, Silverman said current training is sufficient.

“Generally speaking they are giving cultural sensitivity training to be aware and conscious of the practices and beliefs of residents of the community,” he said. “This is clearly a violation of their training.”

Silverman said that given the media attention he considers it likely that the officer will face some kind of discipline, such as a transfer to another precinct, to prevent similar incidents by other officers.

“There are all kinds of Siberian types of transfer when you want to make someone suffer,” said Silverman. “If they live in Staten Island you can send them way up to the Bronx. It’s what message you are sending, that’s the important thing.

“My instinct tells me they will take this seriously, but I could be wrong.”

Last Update:

01/02/2011 - 09:52

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No one was "forced" to do anything. Rabbi Emert made a choice...violate Shabbat or spend some time in jail and stick to his religious beliefs. Many people of many different faiths has sacrificed much more for thier religion. The Rabbi took the easy path. Don't blame the Officer for the Rabbi's lack of backbone.
Ok - can someone explain this to me? Is it the writing that is the problem? I don't understand the religous violation - as I don't know anything about the Jewish faith. Please explain the meaning of the sabboth - writing your name etc...so this story and it's importance make sense to those of us who have not had sensitivity training? Is this something that most NYC cops should have been familiar with? I am curious...and confused.
Frankly I am shocked that Rabbi Emert was forced to violate the Shabbat by two New York City police officers, in Brooklyn of all places. Don't they have more important things to do than accost a religious man on a Friday evening? I know that police officers are given sensitivity training, and should use some courtesy when dealing with a religious person, especially on Shabbat.
This is the 61 pct they are out control some one should look in to what they do
I am deeply angered that on Friday evening Rabbi Sholom Emert was forced to violate the Shabbat by two NYC police officers. As a police chaplain for thirty six years with the rank of captain, both in NY and NJ, I demand that an apology be made to this Rabbi from the City of New York and the summons be revoked immediately which was given to him for disorderly conduct for obstructing traffic. Should Rabbi Emert have flown over the cars? This action by the police was ridiculous and the police officers should be taught sensitivity training . I have actively taught police officers how to relate to individuals from different cultures and religions. The purpose of these sensitivity sessions is to prevent such a horrendous action. Obviously these officers did not comprehend that this Rabbi was forced to violate the Sabbath. Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg Edison NJ
I'm deeply anger that Jews are exempt from the law in America! Maybe if he wouldn't have been BREAKING THE LAW this wouldn't have happened?

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