The  Beat: True Stories From the Streets

Page 10  Jewish Interest Stories by Harry Martin Polis
                Artwork by Jaynee Levy-Polis

 When I was a police officer, I experienced anti-Semitism from my fellow officers and the bosses.  One of my corporals used to call me “Jew cop” all the time.  I was left out of the loop and given the less “glamorous” assignments.  Instead of being assigned a steady patrol car, I was switched around and for many years, I didn’t know from week to week where in the district I would be.  Mainly, I walked the beat in Mayfair and Frankford, and filled-in wherever there was a need.   Whenever there was another officer who wasn’t liked or from another minority, I was partnered with him.    At roll call, during Passover and Easter, my sergeant gave a talk about being extra careful because people were shopping for the holidays and there might be muggings, shop-lifting and pick pocketing.  While we were in line for inspection, one of my fellow officers hollered, “The Jews murdered our Lord, and now they sell us shoes for Easter!” The whole room of police officers roared with laughter.  Stereotypes abounded and facts to the contrary were dismissed. 
 I had an old friend who was also a Jewish police officer.  His sergeant was nicknamed by all, “Rotten Frank”, and Rotten Frank didn’t like Jews.  Rotten Frank decided to give the Jewish police officer the worst duty Rotten Frank could assign.  He sent the Jewish police officer to walk a beat on the elevated train platform for eight hours.  He had to walk the catwalk between two stations, and Rotten Frank believed there would be no opportunity for the officer to get warm or eat.  However, the Jewish officer fooled Rotten Frank by befriending a Septa employee who gave the Jewish cop a key to a room on the platform.  It was cozy, with heat, a bathroom, and a place to sit and eat and relax.  Rotten Frank never knew that he had been foiled.  If he had, he would have punished the patrolman. 
 My worst anti-emetic incident occurred when I was answering a call for a robbery.  I was racing to the scene and decided to use a short cut.  Two of the worst anti-Semites who ever existed, were driving their wagon to the scene too.  They happened to see me turn down the street to use the back route, and assumed, being a Jew, that I was running away from the danger.  They started screaming at me then, “Cowardly Jew!”  When they returned to the stationhouse, they went to the Lieutenant and complained that I was not responding to the call.  The Lieutenant called me into his office and questioned me about what had happened.  Luckily, the Lieutenant was a Jew too, so he understood their bias.  He listened to my explanation and agreed using the back route was a good idea.  No action was taken against me.  I could have had the equivalent of a court marshal.  I wonder what would have happened if I would have had a gentile lieutenant?
 Talking with Jewish police officers who still work as cops, I still hear stories of anti-Semitism.  Not enough has been done to make cops challenge their prejudice against Jews and other minorities. 




 There are not many Jewish police officers, but there are even fewer Jewish firemen.  My friend Joe was among those few.  He was eventually promoted to Captain, but not before he experienced the full spate of anti-Semitism from his fellow firefighters.  One particular fireman really loathed Jews and liked to say so.  Joe was the only Jew in his firehouse.  He was well spoken, generous, intelligent, and compassionate.  The fireman who despised Jews took riding Joe as his personal mission in life.  He developed a bank of jokes and slurs against Jews.  Joe never complained because didn’t want to have a problem at work and he knew none of the other firefighters would take his side.  He tolerated the man’s constant harassment until he felt he could not stand it for another minute.  Then a series of event began which gave truth to the saying, “What goes around, comes around.”

 There was a major fire consuming a big warehouse in Joe’s assigned area.  It was late at night.  Two other firehouses were already there.  When Joe’s unit arrived, the lieutenant paired them off.  By a coincidence, Joe was paired off with the rabid anti-Semite.  Both men fought the fire and survived.  However, when the anti-Semite left the building, he keeled over with a heart attack.  He was rushed to the hospital, but he died the next day.  The process began to notify the man’s next of kin to arrange for his burial.  They couldn’t find any family, so they began checking into the man’s background.  His father’s family was Gentile, but amazingly, the man’s mother was Jewish.  They were unable to find any relatives on his father’s side.  It happened that they were able to trace his mother’s family and locate a relative.  This Jewish relative had him buried through Goldstein’s with a tallis and yarmulke.  His grave was in a Jewish cemetery.  By God’s grace, he wears a yarmulke and tallis for eternity.  Sometimes there is justice in life.


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