Brooklyn’s Private Jewish Patrols Wield Power. Some Call Them Bullies.

Chaim Amalek: “The obvious way out of this problem is staring us in the face: diversity. Let’s compel the Shomrim to admit as many black goyim as their numbers warrant. Diversity! Is there nothing it can’t do?”

New York Times: Last month, two men linked to the shomrim in Williamsburg admitted taking part in the assault of a black man in their neighborhood. And in April, as part of a federal investigation, a former member of the Borough Park shomrim was arrested on charges of trying to secure handgun permits by offering bribes to the police.

That investigation led last week to the arrest of Norman Seabrook, the powerful head of the New York City correction officers’ union, who had dealings with an Upper West Side real-estate developer with ties to the New York Police Department and to Mayor Bill de Blasio. Several police officials who have come under scrutiny in the investigation had at one time or another held high-ranking posts in the 66th Police Precinct, which covers Borough Park and has in the past come under pressure from the Orthodox community.

In 1978, a mob angry over the murder of an elderly Hasidic man stormed the station house demanding better protection. Thirty years later, a similar crowd destroyed two police cars after a Jewish caterer was arrested during a traffic stop…

…a member of a Crown Heights shomrim group called the Shmira fled to Israel to escape charges of beating a black man with a nightstick; and a decade before that, when two men from another Crown Heights shomrim were convicted of assaulting another a black man with their radios.

The tensions play out in the crowded ethnic landscape of central Brooklyn, where blacks and Hasidim have lived in proximity for decades. Critics of the shomrim say the groups have leveraged this friction: In one of their recruitment videos, ordinary scenes from Borough Park — people shopping, a young boy learning Torah — are intercut with the image of a black man walking through the neighborhood and eventually stealing a woman’s purse…

In many Hasidic neighborhoods, shomrim groups court the police, honoring them at breakfasts at kosher bakeries and attending — sometimes planning — retirement affairs for officials who are leaving the department. When Stephen McAllister took command of the 66th Precinct in 2002, a crowd of Hasidic men, many from the shomrim, stood in line for hours at the station house to welcome him.

“It was a weird, but great, experience,” said Mr. McAllister, now the police commissioner in Floral Park, N.Y. “All of them came in saying: ‘Hi, I’m so-and-so. I’m the most important guy around. Don’t pay any attention to the next guy.’”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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