Monday, December 20, 2010
Brooklyn, NY - Greenfield Commends NYPD For Disciplining Officer Who Forced Jew To Violate Shabbos
Brooklyn, NY - Councilman David Greenfield commended the NYPD on the swift disciplining of a police officer who stopped an Orthodox Jew in Midwood last month for jaywalking and demanded, under threat of arrest, that the man violate the Sabbath.
Rabbi Sholom Emert, a resident of Midwood, was walking home from synagogue on the night of Friday, November 26th, wearing the traditional black hat and jacket worn by observant Jews, when he got stuck in the middle of Kings Highway, a wide commercial avenue. Rabbi Emert had the right of way when he began crossing, but was unable to make it across Kings Highway before the traffic lights changed. After crossing the second half of the street, against the crosswalk light, he was immediately approached by an officer from the 61st Precinct who demanded Rabbi Emert’s identification in order to issue him a summons for jaywalking.
The Rabbi explained to the officer that, as a Sabbath-observant Jew, he was not carrying his driver’s license because carrying items on the Sabbath is prohibited by Jewish law. The Rabbi offered to walk with the officer a few hundred feet to his home where he could provide his driver’s license. The officer refused and, under threat of arrest, demanded that Rabbi Emert violate Jewish law by writing down his name and address. Rabbi Emert pleaded with the officer, but to no avail. Afraid that his wife and children would not know his whereabouts if he were placed under arrest, Rabbi Emert wrote his name and address down and the officer issued a summons.
“Our constitution guarantees us the right to practice our religion without fear of persecution,” Councilman Greenfield said after learning of the incident on November 28th. “There was no reason to force this observant Jew to violate the Sabbath by forcing him to write, especially when the officer knew that he was going to write down his information on the summons.”
Greenfield immediately called for a full-scale investigation, even taking to the floor of the New York City Council, just days after the incident, to highlight the severity of what took place. Greenfield delivered an impassioned speech, right before the first night of Chanukah, using the Chanukah story to highlight the violation of religious rights by the officer in question.
Following Greenfield’s public and private efforts, as well as widespread community outrage over the incident, the NYPD undertook a thorough investigation, which has resulted in the administrative transfer for cause of the offending officer out of the borough of Brooklyn. All of this comes less than one month after the incident took place, and other disciplinary action is still pending.
“I think it is appropriate that this police officer was transferred out of a precinct with one of the lowest crime rates in the city, to a precinct with one of the highest. Surely, at his new precinct, he will make good use of his crime-fighting skills,” Greenfield quipped in reference to the officer being the first in his Brooklyn precinct to ticket someone for jaywalking all-year long.
“On a serious note, I am pleased that the NYPD understood the gravity of this situation and responded accordingly,” said Greenfield. “I particularly want to thank Brooklyn South Chief Joseph Fox and the Commanding Officer of the 61st Precinct, Georgios Mastrokostas, for conducting such a swift and thorough investigation. I am grateful for the service of our brave men and women in uniform, and I am certain that together we can continue to emphasize community policing while ensuring sensitivity to the needs of all of the people New York’s Finest serve and protect.”