St. Lawrence to apologize to Ramapo officer
Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence will look to mend splintered fences with his police department tomorrow night by publicly taking back his criticism of Police Officer Jonathan Quinn.
St. Lawrence said tonight that he will make amends to Quinn personally and publicly, saying he will apologize if his calling Quinn insensitive to a Hasidic woman’s religious views during an arrest were insensitive to the officer and department.
A few weeks ago St. Lawrence fueled a firestorm across the town by calling Quinn’s decision to photograph Shifra Cohen, 24, of Monsey, without her wig insensitive. Married Hasidic women wear a wig for modesty and donâ€™t allow men other than their husband to touch them. Quinn also fingerprinted her.
Cohen and her husband, Joseph, are accuse of stealing more than $8,000 in Medicaid by underreporting their income on their applications. They were two of more than 40 people charged with fraud, but have drawn attention because they complained about Shifra Cohen’s treatment at booking.
Some Hasidic Jewish leaders threatened a demonstration for his actions. St. Lawrence met with community leaders and Cohen and her husband and cooled off the community.
Now he’s looking to cool hot feeling among police officers and will discuss the issues tomorrow night.
“If my comments were insensitive to the officer, I will apologize to the officer and the department,” St. Lawrence told The Journal News tonight. “I will make it clear that the officer did follow the training he was taught. My intent is to take the silver lining out of this incident and strengthen our policy, procedures and general orders and our training.”
St. Lawrence said he will meet personally with Quinn, who has been advised by his union president, Officer Dennis Procter, to keep a low profile and not talk about the incident.
St. Lawrence said a fact-finding report by Capt. James Quinn, no relation to the officer, will not be completed by tomorrowâ€™s meeting, since additional people need to be interviewed, including dectectives with the Rockland District Attorney’s Office. St. Lawrence said the report will state Officer Jonathan Quinn followed the departmentâ€™s written procedures.
Procter and many residents already have argued Officer Jonathan Quinn followed procedures and the Hasidic Jewish community should not get special treatment from the police. The incident has added to already tense feelings between some Hasidic Jews and some secular residents and other Jews, some religious and some non-religious.
In response to the incident, St. Lawrence has called for the police to have sensitive training on the Hasidic community, with Rabbi Simon Lauber of Bikur Cholim showing officers a video on the community. St. Lawrence also said he wants to extend the training to other ethnic communities.
St. Lawrence said that when he speaks at tomorrow night’s meeting, he wants to make it clear his goal is to improve the police department and strength relationships with the town’s diverse communities.
He also said he would make it clear that the police department’s video system was broken for some time. He said the system was not tampered with by the police when Cohen was being processed – as he said some conspiracy theorists have proffered.
St. Lawrence has won elections as supervisor on the strength of overwhelming support from the Hasidic community and some Orthodox Jewish communities. His support for housing for the religious communities and other services has led to opposition from many non-religious areas of the town.