This is why I have problems with the Shomrim. I realize that they are very popular in the communities which they are located. But when they start protecting abusive husbands, it should give pause to even those who support them.
The issue in question is surveillance cameras that are being installed in the Boro Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. This publically funded safety project was initiated after the Leiby Kletzky murder. It will give police a far greater ability to prevent that kind of thing from happening again. That should be obvious.
But Jacob Daskal, coordinator of the Boro Park Shomrim opposes police access to these cameras. He only likes the idea if his people have access to them without the police. From a Forward article:
“The camera is very good for the community, but if it’s a private thing,” Daskal said. “If it’s a public thing it might hurt a person who doesn’t want to arrest her husband for domestic violence.”
Daskal was referring to a hypothetical situation in which a wife sought to protect her husband by telling police that a reported domestic violence incident had not actually occurred. If a centralized system of cameras easily accessible to the police existed and the incident were recorded, police would arrest the husband regardless of his spouse’s wish. On the other hand, police would need a court order to obtain tape from a camera under private control, and an abusive husband could be kept out of jail if the police failed to pursue the case to that step.
Unfortunately Mr. Daskal seems to feel that as long as battered wife is willing to keep being battered, then it’s none of our business.
Does he not know that – as bad as it is to get beat up by an abusive husband – many battered wives prefer that to being without a husband altogether? And as a result allow the abuse to continue and even grow worse? Does he not realize that they will mistakenly blame themselves for the violence perpetrated by their husbands with phrases like “I deserved it”? …that they will say that he is normally a wonderful husband but was provoked by her unfairly? …that he couldn’t control himself this one time? …or that he only gets that way when his is drunk? …or that he had such a bad day at work he couldn’t help himself? …that he is a loving husband and great father most of the time?
Does he not realize that battered wives often simply fear retribution from a husband who feels his wife betrayed him by allowing him to be arrested? And that they fear losing the financial support the husband provides.
Does he not know that sometimes the violence is so bad that wives have been seriously injured, hospitalized, and even killed in an out of control rage by a husband ? Or that the husband himself might finally be killed by the wife who knows no way out – fearing for her life if she doesn’t kill him first?
Has he never heard of “Battered Wife Syndrome”?
And yet what does Mr. Daskal worry about? The abusive husband being arrested against a battered wife’s wishes!
Let me make one thing clear. There is never any excuse to beat your wife. There is no excuse for it. There is no explaining it away or being Dan L’Kaf Zechus. Protecting an abuser from the police is tantamount to aiding and abetting him in his next and possibly more violent rage.
Mr. Daskal’s request shows that the Shomrim consider themselves better equipped to handle domestic violence than the police.
Really? Do all the Shomrim volunteers have the education and training to decide whether an abusive husband should be arrested? Do they have the same experience with domestic abuse that the police do?
Shomrim can – and should be – an effective tool in aiding the police who are often too short staffed to be as effective as they’d like to be. Shomrim really are – or should be nothing more than watch groups.
Those who volunteer to protect their neighbors by patrolling the streets give up their free time to do so. They ought to be respected and even praised for that. But once they start thinking they are better than the police, they end up hurting their cause instead of helping it.
Of course they will never say they are better. But the idea of controlling surveliance cameras instead of the police is an indicator that they think it.
Neighborhood watch groups work best when they coordinate with the police. It is my understanding that this is mostly the case. In the Leiby Kletzky case, the police had publicly praised the efforts by Shomrim for their efforts – even though the police were not contacted about Leiby until a few hours after the Shomrim were. The Police said that it wouldn’t have made any difference.
The truth is that the public the Shomrim serve trusts them more than the police. They ought to be disabused of that notion. That the police were not contacted first or simultaneously in the Leiby Kletzky case speaks volumes about who is considered the first line of defense in Boro Park and similar neighborhoods. But Shomrim should be an auxiliary to the police. Not the other way around.
I would add that every volunteer should be trained in a program that is either coordinated or approved by the police – and then get certified! Their efforts together will then maximize protection of the community.
The police are better trained and more experienced to deal with crime and ought to be seen in that light. But in denying police access to these surveillance cameras Mr. Daskal feels that Shomrim are better equipped. And in the case of battered wives that could mean disaster.
About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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