For the JC December 2019
By May next year, the Metropolitan Police hopes to have an additional 1200 new officers on London’s streets. And, if all goes well, a good number of recruits could be Jewish.
At the moment there are 117 declared Jewish police officers in the Met, 28 women and 89 men — but since the information is purely voluntary, it is probably a much higher figure than that.
It seems odd, when you think of the Israeli police force, that policing as a career is considered such an arcane choice among Britain’s Jews. But for years, becoming a police officer has not been on the radar of the Jewish community.
That may change as a result of the Met’s determination to recruit more officers from minority communities, as a way of reflecting their wants and needs in London. The criteria for becoming an officer are much more flexible, with a wide entry point age range — from 18 to 57 — and even a reverse policy on tattoos, though that is less likely to be an issue for would-be Jewish cops. Satisfyingly, too, those with extreme political views — such as members of the British National Party — are not eligible for the service.
It means it is feasible for someone to switch careers in order to enter the police service. And, as two Jewish officers explained, on a sunny wintry day in the rabbit warren of Romford Police Station, becoming a police officer is a rewarding job for someone from the Jewish community — with a lot of flexibility for religiously observant recruits.
Stephen Clayman is a detective chief superintendent and is probably among the highest ranking Jewish officers in the Met. Kippah-wearing Daniel Morris is vice-chair of the Jewish Police Association, and both officers are impeccably turned out in the crispest of uniform shirts, ironed to within an inch of their lives.
“This is a second career for me,” says DCS Clayman, who joined in his late 20s in 1996, after working for a decade in his family’s radio and TV business in Hampstead Garden Suburb.
He already had an entry into the Met because, unusually, his older brother was already in the police service. “I wanted to change direction and I had the option of going into another retail career — in Dixon’s, as it happens. But I thought about the police and I thought it would be exciting and different. And I never really looked back”.
While he is aware that some people were less comfortable about their Jewish identity, for DCS Clayman it was never an issue. He says he has never hidden the fact that he is Jewish, and proud to be so; he and PC Morris spend time at job fairs, giving talks in Jewish schools and both are involved in mentoring young people. Mr Clayman, in fact, is chair of the JCoss governing body.
The chief superintendent has held a variety of posts since joining the Met — primarily detective-based. “I was leading murder investigations, then I was a senior manager in Haringey Borough. My previous role was in HR, overseeing the [new] direct entrance detective programme. That’s been incredibly successful, recruitment-wise, offering a different route for people without first having to go out on the beat.”
Daniel Morris, whose black kippah nicely matches the epaulettes on his uniform shirt, had a different route into policing. He grew up in Stanmore and was active in B’nei Akiva. “I went travelling, teaching round the world for a number of years, then came back, married, and became a special constable, while also volunteering for the ambulance service”.
Just before the 2012 Olympics Mr Morris decided to become a full-time police officer. “I started as a Response Team officer, answering 999 calls in the Enfield area. Then I did a period with the Neighbourhood Policing team in Palmers Green”. After that he began working with new recruits, taking them out on the streets in their first two weeks in the job, giving them practical guidance about policing.
As vice-chair of the Jewish Police Association, he spends time, not just with the Met, but often nationally, “representing the community to the police, and the police to the community”.
Would they encourage their friends or families to follow them into the Met? PC Morris is in no doubt. “If someone is looking for a job with adventure, variety, and a huge amount of scope — policing is ideal. It’s got office jobs, admin jobs, logistics jobs, forensic jobs… operational roles, firearms, specialist units, chemical attacks, marine or helicopter police, jobs abroad. There’s so many things that you can go into. Yes, there is a certain amount of risk, and night shifts — but there’s a good career path and lots of promotional opportunities”.
DCS Clayman reckons the pay and benefits are good, too; and in fact the pension often allows ex-police to take on another career when they leave.
And for him, the primary aim of the job is being able to help people. “It is a job where you can make a difference to someone’s life — and you really do, whether you are stopping a crime or arresting someone to other roles investigating serious crime, basically stopping bad people doing bad things.”
It sounds, on paper at least, a shoo-in for any Jewish person who might want to make a difference. So why, historically, have so few Jews joined the police service?
PC Morris is clear that there are many Jews in the Met who are not religiously observant — “they don’t keep Shabbat or Yomtov, and we may not even know that they’re Jewish. Where it becomes more complicated is with someone like me, where people want to keep Shabbat, or wear a kippah — or even a sheitel.
“So it is easier to say, perhaps [policing] is not for me. But it absolutely is. And the Metropolitan Police have bent over backwards to accommodate those who want to keep Shabbat”.
How does that work? DCS Clayman, who manages more than 1250 staff at Romford, says that he ensures that shift patterns accommodate anybody who is observant. In return, PC Morris says, “it’s important for us to show that we are pulling our weight and be a proper team player”. His work patterns were fundamentally re-arranged, he says, to allow him to keep Shabbat and take time off for the chagim, by doing extra night duties and extra rotas.
Both men say they often come across members of the public who have never met anyone Jewish. PC Morris says he is sometimes in the middle of dealing with an issue when his kippah is spotted — “and they see someone Jewish helping them out”. Occasionally there will be a question as to whether he believes in Jesus — “but mostly they just want me to get on with dealing with the crime”.
Neither officer says they have experienced antisemitism from colleagues, and are adamant that it’s something which would be stamped on very quickly. They are aware of situations “when banter becomes bullying”, but say both bullying and racism are “unacceptable” and “are continually challenged.
Being a Jewish police officer allows them to bring a different kind of experience to the table, often when dealing with delicate issues such as post-mortems in the face of violent death. And their empathy with the hopes and fears of minority communities has often meant a more nuanced understanding than might be usual.
DCS Clayman says a number of young Jewish recruits have joined the Met via the fast-track detective scheme, bound to attract budding Poirots in the community. And slowly, slowly, there are said to be one or two Orthodox Jewish women who are enrolling.
So perhaps, to revert to stereotypes, your local bobby on the beat might well be Moshe in the Met. Nothing is impossible.
For more information on how to join, see http://www.metpolicecareers.co.uk/newconstable/