Patrolling the Golders Green streets, Nochum Dewhurst and David Baddiel look like any other policemen on the beat.
But the helmets of the young special constables cover black kipot — they are the area’s first Charedi law officers.
SPC Dewhurst, 21, a product of Menorah Grammar School, has been a special for two years while SPC Baddiel, 27, is a recent recruit. Educated at Pardes House, he is related to his TV personality namesake.
With a day job in plumbing, SPC Dewhurst was attracted by an advert suggesting that being a special was an opportunity to give something back to the community — “and community work is a Jewish theme. The good thing about working locally is that you can issue parking tickets and know you won’t get a brick through your window. We’re working on our own doorstep. People meet us and they trust us.” He had not encountered antisemitism on the beat or inside the service.
Although raised in the closeted strictly Orthodox community, he has no illusions about life on London’s streets. “People in the Charedi world might be shocked about the things we have to deal with,” he acknowledged. “I don’t think they understand what the job involves. I worked in Camden where we had to go into clubs to throw out drunks or drug addicts — not the sort of thing you see in Golders Green.
“I did feel threatened once,” he added. “I was in west Hendon with some other officers about 200 yards away. I stopped a man talking on his mobile phone while driving. I was just going to warn him when three or four of his friends appeared. They were really big men and had dogs with them. I have been to calls where firearms have been involved but the adrenalin kicks in and keeps the fear out of you.”
Added SPC Baddiel, who works in property management: “Some people think what we do is wonderful while others think it’s not a nice job for a Charedi boy. It’s a generational thing and the latter view is from older people, who historically might not trust the police that much.”
Training for the job is either three five-day weeks or 20 consecutive Sundays. Both said there were no problems over religious observance as they could fulfil their hours when they wanted to. Nor did they have an issue dealing with women.
“The first arrest, three hours after I started, was a woman in Camden, whom I had to detain physically,” SPC Dewhurst recalled.
His colleague pointed out: “There is a Gomorrah which covers this and says that you have to abide by the laws of the country you are in, so it’s not a problem.”
Living and working in an eruv area, the specials can carry their warrant cards when off duty and would even be able to deal with a situation arising on Shabbat. “Statements can be taken up to a certain time after an incident so we would not have to write,” said SPC Baddiel.
“I would consider being a full-time policeman but it depends how the property management goes.”