There is a widespread impression that the police and the chareidi world have an inherently antagonistic relationship. There is also a widespread perception that the chareidi world is more concerned with covering up crimes such as child or wife abuse and that pedophiles are given free run. In other words there is a perception that the chareidi community is more worried by adverse publicity then it is about the welfare of the individual.
This Shabbos I had an intensive discussion with Rav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita about these issues.
1) Child Molesters
He stated without hesitation and said that I can quote him - that if one knows that children are being molested that one should call the police. He noted that there is an important distinction to keep in mind. One calls the police when it is clear that someone is still in danger. Thus one does not automatically call the police concerning an event that took place once and is not going to be repeated. In such a case one should first consult with a rav. When I mentioned that many rabbis apparently felt differently – he dismissed such a view as being wrong. He noted also that it is important for the community rabbis to have a good working relationship with the police. That means that the police need to be sensitive to the needs and nature of the chareidi community and the community needs to be understanding of the police. He said that there is such a relationship with many police forces.
The rule is summarized simply – if one knows that someone is being physically abused or will be abused than it is required to call the police after consulting a rabbi who agrees he is a future danger as is common in such cases. It is self-evident that if there is danger that someone will be harmed or even might be harmed if a rabbi is consulted first - then the police should be contacted first.
2) Vigilante actions
I mentioned the issue of vigilante actions in the chareidi community and whether they are to be praised or condemned. He noted that there are unfortunately disturbed and misguided individuals in the chareidi community – as there are in other communities. The general rule is not to make a public protest when the problem is rare and insignificant. He said that it only encourages these individuals when their activities are publicized. However if they progress beyond this stage then it is important to take action. He mentioned the Bedatz dealt last year with vigilantes who burned down a clothing store in Geula. I mentioned the recent incident in Beitar. He said he condemned such behavior. If it is clearly not a rare act of a disturbed person then it needs to be dealt with.
[This is also related to the recent outbreak of burglaries in Har Nof where Rav Sternbuch lives. The unanimous ruling of the rabbonim of Har Nof is that one can call the police on Shabbos if one witnesses a break-in as there is also life danger involved. As is explained in Shmiras Shabbos K’hilchosa (41:25-29) – this is because the possible danger associated with these break-ins. See also Aruch HaShulchan (C.M. 388:7). Tzitz Eliezer (19:52) also permitted calling the police in the case of teacher molesting his students. He based his psak on the Aruch HaShulchan.]