Hatzolah in Passaic NJ recently had a confrontation with local police , which has prompted calls for unity and sensitivity training. Yeshivaworld spoke with David Kaplan, founder of Hatzolah of North Jersey, to verify the facts of this story. The incident occurred when local police ticketed a Hatzolah ambulance, and attempted to tow the ambulance which was parked the wrong way on Reid Avenue. The local media who reported this story, failed to mention that this particular street is a dead-end street, and everyone parks the wrong way.
A crowd immediately formed while multiple cop cars provided protection to the tow truck as it was attempting to tow the ambulance.
“It’s unheard of to tow an ambulance in any city,” Kaplan told Yeshivaworld. “It sort of leads us to believe there’s selective enforcement going on.” This reminded him of another recent incident where a Hatzolah ambulance was ticketed for being too close to a stop sign, while cars on the other side of the street (parked the same distance from the stop sign) were not issued tickets.
In the height of the incident, Samuel Rivera who is the Mayor of Passaic and a great friend of Hatzolah arrived in person on the scene – and convinced the cops to leave.
Kaplan also told Yeshivaworld that since its inception in 2003, Hatzolah has had no problem with the police and overall have a decent working relationship with them. But suddenly, last fall, Passaic police began issuing tickets to the Hatzolah ambulances. After complaining to the police, the tickets stopped – but started again recently, he said.
Kaplan said that volunteers keep the ambulances close to their homes to save the time it takes to get to a call, rotating stewardship of the ambulances among them.
Kaplan urged the city that they should think about the services Hatzolah provides to the community. Overall, he thinks that city officials have misconceptions about Hatzolah, which led to the clash. “We don’t discriminate whatsoever, we take anyone,” he said.
He also told Yeshivaworld that he has met with the police chief to ease any friction.