I don't know if you're asking from the perspective of the police or the Jewish
community. The answer may be different, depending on your point of view.
Having grown up in an orthodox community, in full-time Hebrew school,
let me give you my thoughts, based on my halachic education and my
experience in the secular world as an adult, and the time I spent dispatching
for the police garage, listening to police officers discuss the issues and
dangers they faced each day. I am not expert - these are my opinions.
The police department should have an orthodox scholar, rabbi, or expert
as an advisor. In fact, they should have an advisory panel composed of
all cultures and languages represented in their precinct or community.
They should receive regular information and education about the nuances
of the cultures they must deal with daily - not from 'experts' but from
members of the community. They MUST be aware that in any community,
there are conflicts on points of view and issues - get representation
from each group, so when dealing with members of that group, they don't
offend them by dealing with them incorrectly. Yes, it's not easy living
in a melting pot. But being aware of the people's needs will not only
earn the officers more respect, it may save their lives.
Sudden death is a real problem. It can be natural, and often is.
Autopsies are forbidden. Unless. There are similar prohibitions with
other religions. It's not unique to Judaism. However, with today's
technology, coroners can use other tools - MRI, blood samples, and
other equipment, to examine a body to see if cutting is needed.
Often answers can be obtained this way. If things still look suspicious,
then, civil law will prevail - and there must be an autopsy.
Jewish Law does say that you must obey the laws of the country you live in.
You ask about custody and arrests- Officers should be aware that in orthodox
communities, men do not touch women. Arrange for male officers to handle men,
and female officers to handle women. When it comes to food - if the prison
cannot arrange for kosher food, serve them only fruit or vegetables.
Domestic violence is the most dangerous call for an officer. Often, they
come to the aid of wife, try to arrest the husband, and she turns on them.
Understand that officers are rightly frightened on these calls. Also understand
that there is no excuse for domestic violence - even in a religious home. Ever.
Of course, there are degrees - is spanking a child violence? A wife? You bet.
If officers are concerned about cultural inssues or confusion, bring a rabbi
Searches - why should those be any different than with any other community?
I am not sure of the nuance here. But if the police department thinks there is
an issue, consult with a rabbi before doing it. Perhaps, along with a warrant,
they should also get clearance or instructions from their halachic advisor.
Religious festivals - when they are after someone for a non-violent crime,
and/or have no reason to believe a suspect is leaving town before an
observance is over - the police have no reason to interfere with a religious
holiday or observance. They can just as easily wait until the yom tov or
Sabbath has ended. There is no reason to put someone into a vehicle - unless
it's an emergency. If they need to interfere to save a life - pikuach nefesh
(saving a human life) supercedes biblical law.
Incidentally, Judaism has its own courts - the Beit Din (beis din).
As I understand it, when the Beit Din makes a ruling, it is binding
under secular law, as well. The police and district attorney's offices
should become familiar with its operation and how/when to use the
services of the Beit Din. There may be times that the restrictive rules
of evidence in secular courts may not work - but the moral rules of the
Beit Din may compel a Jewish criminal to come clean. (Remember, Jews
aren't just victims - we do commit crimes, too.) Standing before those
three wise men is more daunting than standing before a judge and jury.
Where some of the needs of the Jewish community may cost the government
more than it can really afford, perhaps the community can raise the funds.
Coronors may not normally have MRI equipment, for instance. Our community
raises funds for schools, hospitals, drug centers, etc. Why not for the
police department and coroner's departments to help educate them, and to
provide them with the tools to help us remain observant.
Just one girl's opinion.