Henry Louis Gates’ Contempt Of Cop

At last night’s nationally televised press conference, a reporter, Lynn Sweet, asked President Obama a question about the July 16 arrest of famed Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates. Obama gave a perfectly reasonable answer, at first a little humorous as to what would have happened to him in a similar circumstance, and then indicating that the Cambridge Massachusetts police department "acted stupidly", followed by a serious discussion of the lingering problems in the US of oppressive profiling and treatment by police of Blacks and Hispanics.

Obama’s response, predictably, set the chattering press all a twitter and a tweeting. This brief interlude at the very end of the press conference didn’t get as much afterglow coverage as the healthcare issues that were the reason for the press conference in the first place, but it sure seemed like it came close on cable channels such as CNN and MSNBC.

First off, let me say I agree with Josh Marshall:

But let’s be honest: this is all about a black guy getting on the side of another black guy who got crosswise with the cops. Why would he touch such a powder keg? Like it’s going to ignite at least one more battle in the late lamented Culture War.

That really is it, isn’t it? What set the twits a twittering was the first black President had the audacity to stand up for another black man and call the overzealous and oppressive police response in the case stupid. Well, the police response was stupid.

That said, before I go further, I would like to point out one thing. Barack Obama may have shown himself to be a truth teller and friend to Henry Gates last night, but he may have done Gates a disservice in one regard. The famed "Blue Line" of police in situations like this is a strong factor far greater than most people realize, and Obama’s comment will surely stiffen the police line in Gates’ case. It was a line already forming:

The union representing the police sergeant who arrested a prominent black Harvard professor last week at his home in Cambridge, Mass., said it was standing behind the officer. The union, the Cambridge Police Superior Officers Association, said in a statement that Sergeant James Crowley was a “highly respected veteran supervisor” who had its “full and unqualified support.” “His actions at the scene of this matter were consistent with his training, with the informed policies and practices of the department, and with applicable legal standards,” the statement said. The professor, Henry Louis Gates Jr., has asked for an apology from Sergeant Crowley, who was investigating a report of a possible break-in at the Gates residence. He arrested Professor Gates on disorderly conduct charges, but the charges have since been dropped. Sergeant Crowley told The Associated Press that he had followed proper procedures and would not apologize.

The Blue Line is no joke and it is not thin, cops stick together and stick up for each other right or wrong. I have been involved in numerous false arrest cases, and I am here to tell you that is a fact and chances are Obama’s comment will only further cement it in Gates’ case.

There is one other potential way that Obama’s comment may have been deleterious to Gates’ case. Although the authorities have wisely dismissed the criminal charge of disorderly conduct (hard to figure how Gates could have been "disorderly" in his own home and front stoop, the charge generally requires public disturbance), there is a real likelihood Gates may pursue a civil case, especially since the Cambridge PD has taken the stand of no apology. Professor Gates has already indicated in public forums that he wants to create a teaching and transformational moment out of the incident, and he certainly has the resources and profile to do so.

The obvious outlet for Gates is a civil rights false arrest claim, likely under state law, Constitutional protections and 42 USC §1983. That means the real possibility of a jury trial. But, thanks to President Obama declaring the actions of the Cambridge Police Department "stupid" and wrong, the attorney defending the Police Department now has a lever in his favor should the case go to a jury. You can expect said defense attorney to move the court for a jury questionnaire to survey the jury pool as to who saw or heard said comment by the President of the United States, and in that local pool, the people who saw and/or heard of it are going to be the jurors Plaintiff Gates wants in the jury box the most.

However, the defendants are going to move to exclude those jurors for potential bias because they are arguably tainted and influenced by the words and declaration of the President. If there is a sufficiently large jury pool available, such a move may well be successful. The governmental entity will scream about its right to a fair and impartial trial, and judges are very inclined to listen to such arguments in these types of trials. That leaves a tilted jury pool without a whole swath of the jurors that would be most inclined to be sympathetic to Gates. It is a small point and thought this early in the process but, trust me, somewhere there are already lawyers (yes there will already be lawyers working it for them) for Cambridge and its Police Department making notes on this very subject.

Now, back to the merits of Professor Gates’ claim; they are many and profound. From the New York Times:

But in the report, Sergeant Crowley said that as he told Professor Gates he was investigating a possible break-in, Professor Gates exclaimed, “Why, because I’m a black man in America?” and accused the sergeant of racism.

“While I was led to believe that Gates was lawfully in the residence,” Sergeant Crowley wrote in the report, “I was quite surprised and confused with the behavior he exhibited toward me.”

Professor Gates followed him outside, the report said, and yelled at him despite the sergeant’s warning “that he was becoming disorderly.” Sergeant Crowley then arrested and handcuffed him. Professor Gates was held at police headquarters for hours before being released on his recognizance.

There is a concept known as "driving while black" literally synonymous with unlawful racism and racial profiling in America. What appears to have occurred with Gates makes driving while black look like a legitimate and justified police practice in comparison. Professor Gates was in his own home and showed appropriate identification exhibiting the same. At that point the incident needs to end. Period. If Gates demands the responding officer’s name, it is a reasonable request, the officer needs to say he is sorry, give Gates his name and badge number and leave. It is really the only reasonable action under the circumstances.

But that, of course, is not what occurred. Instead, the officer seems to have become angered and belligerent that Gates would be so forward as to demand his identification. At this point, little old Professor Gates, who walks with a cane, was in what is known in the criminal justice field as "contempt of cop".

The salient problem for the Cambridge Police Department is contempt of cop is simply not a crime, even if profanity is directed at the officer, a situation escalator not even present in Gates’ case. In fact, there is a case I have argued with success many times, Duran v. City of Douglas, 904 F.2d 1372 (9th Cir. 1990) which, in an opinion written by now 9th Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kosinski, provides:

Duran’s conduct is not totally irrelevant, however, as it suggests a possible motive for his detention, one upon which law enforcement officers may not legitimately rely. The Durans contend, and the district court held, that Aguilar stopped their car at least partly in retaliation for the insult he received from Duran. If true, this would constitute a serious First Amendment violation. "[T]he First Amendment protects a significant amount of verbal criticism and challenge directed at police officers." Hill, 482 U.S. at 461, 107 S.Ct. at 2509. The freedom of individuals to oppose or challenge police action verbally without thereby risking arrest is one important characteristic by which we distinguish ourselves from a police state. Id. at 462-63, 107 S.Ct. at 2510. Thus, while police, no less than anyone else, may resent having obscene words and gestures directed at them, they may not exercise the awesome power at their disposal to punish individuals for conduct that is not merely lawful, but protected by the First Amendment.

No less well established is the principle that government officials in general, and police officers in particular, may not exercise their authority for personal motives, particularly in response to real or perceived slights to their dignity. Surely anyone who takes an oath of office knows–or should know–that much. See Hill, 482 U.S. at 462, 107 S.Ct. at 2510. Whether or not officer Aguilar was aware of the fine points of First Amendment law, to the extent he is found to have detained Duran as punishment for the latter’s insults, we hold that he ought to have known that he was exercising his authority in violation of well-established constitutional rights.

Sounds pretty much on point doesn’t it? It is. The City of Cambridge, Sergeant Crowley, and the other individual officers actively participating in the wrongful arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates are in a world of hurt legally. They may want to rethink the company line of no official apology.

UPDATE: Via Rayne’s link to DKos in comments, and the Boston Globe, the Statement of Facts from the official police report in the Gates arrest:

On Thursday July 16, 2009, Henry Gates, Jr. ___ of ___ Ware Street, Cambridge, MA) was placed under arrest at __ Ware Street, after being observed exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior, in a public place, directed at a uniformed police officer who was present investigating a report of a crime in progress. These actions on behalf of Gates served no legitimate purpose and caused citizens passing by this location to stop and take notice while appearing surprised and alarmed.

Signed: Sgt. James Crowley

And therein lies the problem for Sergeant Crowley and the Cambridge PD. It was a patently illegal and insufficient arrest from the start. Gates is arrested for disturbing the peace – of Sergeant Crowley. See the words "directed at a uniformed officer"? This is the epitome of contempt of cop, and that is an illegal and unconstitutional arrest. What is not contained in the statement of facts is any reference to an identifiable citizen/member of the public being disturbed. None whatsoever. This is precisely the type of conduct castigated historically by courts as generally described in Duran v. City of Douglas.

  1. JohnJ says:

    Isn’t this what they invented the “resisting arrest without violence” charge to address?

    Down here that seems to be added to virtually every interaction with the police now, including traffic tickets. I’ll bet 90% of that comes from asking the officer for his badge number and name.

  2. bmaz says:

    But there isn’t any evidence he resisted. And they did not arrest him for that. Quite frankly, I think that kind of charge is amenable to the same logic as in the Duran case (although Duran is not in your Circuit), it is a bogus charge.

    • JohnJ says:

      That struck me after I wrote that reply. This seems to be a new charge that shows up in virtually every arrest I read about.

      It fits with the “quality” of our police forces here.

      I was warned by a retired NYC cop NOT to deal with the local police. The majority of my contacts with them has proven him out.

    • NMvoiceofreason says:

      I found cases adopting Duran in the 4th, 6th, 7th, and 11th Circuits, but nothing in the 1st. So Duran is binding on the federal courts of the 1st Circuit, and persuasive otherwise.

  3. JohnJ says:

    I don’t hold much hope for the public at large to get this case.

    Not to open a can of worms here but I thought the OJ trial would open the public’s eyes to the ingrained corruption of the police. I am NOT arguing guilt or innocence, but the corrupted procedures used to prove a case basically based on “gut” feelings of the police and “proved” through bogus evidence, while covering up incompetent investigation and evidence collection and processing procedures. (I am actually using incompetent to be generous here).

    No one seemed to get that….or care.

    A side note: didn’t Charles Manson’s lawyers try unsuccessfully that same “tainted case” based on Nixon’s mis-statement? I know the jury was already seated in that case, but Manson’s lawyer brought the newspaper headline into court to expose them to it.

    • skdadl says:

      I think the headline was “MANSON GUILTY, NIXON SAYS.” One of the lawyers left a copy of the paper on his table; Charlie leapt over a barrier and held the paper up for the jury to see. The judge had to stop the trial and interview each juror — some hadn’t seen the headline, and the ones who had were all annoyed that the president would try to usurp what they considered to be their job. So then the trial continued.

      This is kind of the reverse situation — I mean, “Gates innocent, Obama says” is just a statement of fact if no one has been convicted of anything.

    • fatster says:

      Hear! Hear! LA County, as best I remember, claimed the case cost them $10m. I watched a lot of it and I was not impressed with their prosecution of it at all. They were up against “The Dream Team,” but you’d think $10m could have resulted in a much better performance. And once the verdict came in, many tried to turn right around and blame the jury!

      Such a mess. Such a waste.

  4. Gerald says:


    the string of events as I understand it was that the police officer entered the house on a neighbors call to see what was happening and after some shouting by Gates, Gates presented 2 forms of identification to the officer. Gates then continued to carry on about the usual stuff “racial profiling, racism in America” the stuff he makes his living on, and started demanding the officers identification and badge number. This is usually on the officers shirt or jacket by the way.

    The officer started leaving and went out of the house onto the porch (still a part of the house) where a crowd was gathering and watching and Gates pursued him. (You might want to say “hobbled after” to make your own point better.) Gates then continued very loudly to carry on in the face of the officer, about this and that and he was arrested for disorderly conduct.

    What did racial profiling have to do with it? Not much I would say. I would say Gates was looking for a confrontation to make a statement for his life’s work about being abused by a White Society with White Policemen to abuse poor blacks.

    But in Cambridge? Lord what is the world coming to?

    By the way the picture I saw with Gates handcuffed show a very big mean looking black cop looking over the crowd where the picture was being taken from.

    Should the officer have given Gates the info if Gates couldn’t read the info on the front of the cop, yes. Did the cop commit some crime by not doing it, no.

    I will say this. I am an old white guy. Have lived with authority all my life, but I don’t yell at the cops white or black. I don’t get in their face. I say yes sir, and no sir. And then if there is a problem I go down later to the Station or call my lawyer, and I have had the Police Chief himself come over to apologize to one of my wives when something inappropriate was done to one of our boys.

    Cops deal with troublemakers all the time. And there is a built in quick reaction when someone gets in their face. Just like a soldier. They act quickly because if they don’t have that habit, they may just die one day.

    • JohnJ says:

      And then if there is a problem I go down later to the Station or call my lawyer, and I have had the Police Chief himself come over to apologize to one of my wives when something inappropriate was done to one of our boys.

      Must be nice to live in Mayberry.

      That WILL NOT happen here. Most likely you and/or your kid would be arrested for bothering the police and charged with something PLUS resisting arrest without violence.

      The trick is that you would be booked and bonded out or released the next morning on ROR (don’t forget the body cavity searches). Then you would have to show up for court several times over the next few months just to find your case had been continued. In the mean time you will be offered several plea deals that always includes admitting guilt to something you didn’t do. After you have paid your lawyer for his time in court for these continuances the charges will be dropped. Now you are out your lawyers fees, the bonding agent’s charges and time off from work.

      I can bring you at least 2 people that has happened to.

    • JohnJ says:

      Cops deal with troublemakers all the time. And there is a built in quick reaction when someone gets in their face. Just like a soldier. They act quickly because if they don’t have that habit, they may just die one day.

      I once told a bus driver here that he has a CDL, if he can’t deal with the idiosyncrasies of the public, go drive a truck.

      There is no “police draft”. If they can’t deal with the normal public, the Military is always looking for people.

    • vicky says:

      Must be nice being white.

      have had the Police Chief himself come over to apologize to one of my wives when something inappropriate was done to one of our boys.

      You imply that you expect the chief to apologize to you for inappropriateness but when a black man asks for the same, then it’s

      Gates was looking for a confrontation ……Lord what is the world coming to?

    • Rayne says:

      Please. I can’t blame Gates for being as openly hostile and angry as he was with the officer; I am mixed race, Polynesian-Asian-White, pass for white.

      If an officer asked me to step out of my own house after producing my own ID and proof of residency, you can bet I’d be quite acid with him.

      There’s no excuse for this kind of behavior, especially when the other facts look so obviously true — like a cab parked out front of the house, and a probable cab driver, and two guys who don’t whip out weapons but ID instead.

      Oh, and the cop dispatched already knew whose house he was going to…you can put money on that. (What’s all the Homeland Security money been going to, anyhow, but information databases?)

      That’s the STUPID behavior right there, continuing to shake down Gates while the evidence in front of the cop confirms Gates’ words.

      Would I be furious if this happened to me? You bet I would. But because I look white, live in a predominantly white neighborhood, in a predominantly white suburb, married to a white executive, the manager of the police department and the suburb’s manager would probably apologize to me and my family.

      It’s a completely different world whites live in, and they still don’t realize it.

    • gerryphillyesq says:

      “Cops deal with troublemakers all the time. And there is a built in quick reaction when someone gets in their face. Just like a soldier. They act quickly because if they don’t have that habit, they may just die one day.”

      The problem with your analysis is the fact that police are (or should be) trained to adjust their response to the situation at hand. It also lies in the the word “troublemaker”. Once the officer knew that the person he was questioning was the homeowner common sense should have told him that the homeowner might not appreciate being a suspect in his own home. Likewise, under similar circumstances I doubt the officer would appreciate being accused of breaking into his own house.

    • yamma says:

      It does not sound like you are actually familiar with Gates’s writing.
      But quite apart from that, having lived briefly (thank God) in Cambridge and as someone who very much depended on the police when living in other parts of the country, I can say that the police there are different. I am a skinny, white woman and in one year in Cambridge was once harassed by police outside of my apartment building and once abused verbally when I tried to call in a complaint about a loud party in the neighborhood.
      The Boston area is a very segregated part of the country, something that is not obvious from its reputation as a liberal city, and yes, even in Cambridge, there is a lot of class and racial bias. It is scary enough being a white woman with policemen who are as aggressive as the Cambridge police; if I were black and had children I would consider living somewhere else just to avoid their verbal abuse.

    • Phoenix Woman says:

      Gerald, the cop had already acknowledged that Gates was who Gates said he was. He had already acknowledged Gates’ right to be in his own home. That issue was already settled.

      It was when Gates dared sass the cop that the cop decided to haul him — a fifty-nine-year-old white-haired man who needs a cane to walk — to jail.

    • brantl says:

      Doesn’t cut it Gerald. He proved that he lived there, no crime had been committed, the cop gets to leave, not arrest anybody. PERIOD.

  5. Neil says:

    Crowley doesn’t know he can’t arrest people for contempt of cop. He and the police union will convince themselves Crowley went by the book on this arrest because ‘cops jobs are tough enough without having to put up with being yelled at and called a racist’.

    Gates couldn’t think of any other reason he would be investigated as a B&E suspect in his own home or of another other reason why Crowley wouldn’t tell him his name and badge number.

    People with things in common with Gates will worry that it could happen to them. Most people will say Gates should have know better and that he got what he deserved because you can’t go around yelling at a cop or calling him a racist or he’ll rightly arrest you.

    Gates claims Crowley lied on the incident report.

    In Boston, and probably a lot of locations, residents know that if you sound off at a cop they’ll bust you because they can. What’s surprising to me is how that idea is generally accepted as reasonable.

    I’m happy to learn about Duran that he challenged and won. If the #SkipGates incident could lead to police reform, wouldn’t that be a nice pendulum swing after the patriot act, 9/11 and 8 years of BUUUSH. I wonder if Ogletree will continue to represent Gates.

      • JamesJoyce says:

        Justification of the officer’s action requires a suspension of logic and reason. The arrest was stupid and constitutes a form of intimidation utilized by law enforcement.

        The arrest was motivated by what was “said and how it was said!” Not by a violation of law. Hence…. charges dropped!

        “Crowley doesn’t know he can’t arrest people for contempt of cop. He and the police union will convince themselves Crowley went by the book on this arrest because ‘cops jobs are tough enough without having to put up with being yelled at and called a racist’.”

        Bingo Neil and bmaz…………..

    • Neil says:

      Crowley doesn’t know he can’t arrest people for contempt of cop. He and the police union will convince themselves Crowley went by the book on this arrest because ‘cops jobs are tough enough without having to put up with being yelled at and called a racist’.

      Cambridge police commish says his officer acted by the book, but the incident has caused the dept pain. “He’s not a rogue cop.@davidgregory

      SOP is to use public disorderly charge to arrest loud or difficult suspects and cleared suspects. Gregory doesn’t ask why charges were dropped?

  6. skdadl says:

    I used to think I had a get-out-of-jail-free card because I am turning into a good imitation of a sweet li’l old lady. Then last winter a couple of cops scared me by turning up at my door and telling me confusing things about a “static line” — something was wrong with my landline and it was dialling 911 on its own, but it took me a few nervous minutes to grasp the problem, and suddenly the cops started asking me odd personal questions. I realized that they were testing me to see whether I am demented. Heavens. So much goes through your mind so fast when you recognize you’re in that spot, and it’s just so hard to know what the right thing to say is.

      • skdadl says:

        Oh, they are … As long as you’re not First Nations (especially a problem in some prairie communities), a black teenager from the Caribbean (real problems in Toronto), suspected of being Muslim (the RCMP are having a hard time getting over it), a street person, or an older person who gets confused easily.

        Actually, I talked for a while last summer to a street person who told me that the cops watch out for her and take care of her. A lot of them are good guys, I have no doubt. But there is racial profiling for sure, and then there’s a kind of sniffy fear of anyone who isn’t up on the bourgeois proprieties.

        • Fern says:

          Pretty good summary – this prairie resident is certainly aware of some of the things that have happened to First Nations people.

          On the other hand, I have seen police being really quite respectful with street people.

  7. DLoerke says:

    The President was out of line criticizing the Cambridge cops. I’d trust them over a bunch of Harvard professors any day in the week.

      • mboutot says:

        William F. Buckley said he’d rather be ruled by the first 500 names in the Boston phone book than the faculty of Harvard. I heartily concur.

    • gerryphillyesq says:

      Conservatives fail to realize that blatant, unconscious abuses of power like this fueled the string of Warren Court decisions they decry.

      • Rayne says:

        Yes, those who think Gates was out of line should put the shoe on the other foot; what if a white professor in a minority community had the same experience?

        It’s a stretch, of course, but if justice is supposed to be blind, it shouldn’t matter whether the professor, cops, neighborhood were white or black.

        Was there a reasonable suspicion of a crime in progress? Jeebus. A man with limited mobility goes for a phone, not a gun, in what he claims is his own home. How’s that look like a crime?

    • freepatriot says:

      The President was out of line criticizing the Cambridge cops. I’d trust them over a bunch of Harvard professors any day in the week

      ever been arrested, arraigned, stood trial, or done time ???

      it can change your perspective

      jes sayin, is all …

  8. tjbs says:

    The bright line I think was the police officer was in the house uninvited.
    A man’s home is his castle. He could have called in back-up, surrounded the place and verified the correctness of the occupant being there.
    From what I heard it sounds like university housing provided for professors on a rent, lease or some other contract. He said he had already called the real estate management company to address the problem.
    Sounds like the front door swelled shut and provided a bit of aggravation after a flight home.

    I would have trouble with an officer in my house, uninvited ,if I hadn’t broken any laws.

  9. JamesJoyce says:

    Resisting arrest is usually a charge thrown in with the primary charge, real or not and let the judge hash it out. The problem in this matter is “no crime” was committed. Once the ID was shown, the officer should have said, “good day” and left the property. This officer charged Gates with resisting arrest because the officer did not like what Gates said or how he said it! Bottom line. Where the charges dropped because it was a untenable false arrest, retaliatory in nature for speech, right or wrong?

  10. Peterr says:

    I don’t think Obama’s comments last night did much to potentially taint a prospective jury pool. When it comes to tainting a jury pool, I suspect that the press coverage this story will get locally will do that job well enough on its own.

  11. JamesJoyce says:

    I recall a man of color being hit 19 times by lead in the foyer of his apartment building while reaching for his ID, in NYC. The African National was murdered by law enforcement. How fast we forget! The responsible officers where acquitted??????

  12. Palli says:

    I am bothered that a Cambridge policeman did not recognize Prof. Gates; important people in a community should be known to the local law enforcement people. In fact, most Americans should be able to recognize him. Inherent racism is a factor whether the policeman recognized him or not. Where was that policeman’s simple sense of common courtesy Anyone, wearing a uniform or a T-shirt, who barges into a person’s house with good intentions but then finds their service (or presence) is unnecessary should apologize for the intrusion.
    The cop didn’t need to be courteous because Prof. Gates was a black taxpayer and he was not being subservient. Notice I am now using “cop” as a pejorative term.
    Recognizing and resisting racism depends on empathy, which is the crux of true community. Gerald has not had his home invaded and he rationalizes any stories he hears – whether they be told by Aryan supremacists or black college professors. Has he ever doubted the “just” powers of the police?
    Gerald, there are too many people in uniforms with socio-pathetic tendencies. If you can’t understand that you are in LaLa land, a state in America I don’t know.

  13. Rayne says:

    Now I’m really pissed.

    Would this guy in the golf shirt reaching for a phone in what he claims is his own home really look like a B/E perp?

    Jeebus, he’s lighter skinned than my dad. How would I expect my dad to act in this situation? It’d probably kill him since he’s got a heart condition.

    • bmaz says:

      Via Rayne’s link to DKos, and the Boston Globe, the Statement of Facts from the official police report in the Gates arrest:

      On Thursday July 16, 2009, Henry Gates, Jr. ___ of ___ Ware Street, Cambridge, MA) was placed under arrest at __ Ware Street, after being observed exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior, in a public place, directed at a uniformed police officer who was present investigating a report of a crime in progress. These actions on behalf of Gates served no legitimate purpose and caused citizens passing by this location to stop and take notice while appearing surprised and alarmed.

      Signed: Sgt. James Crowley

      And therein lies the problem for Sergeant Crowley and the Cambridge PD. It was a patently illegal and insufficient arrest from the start. Gates is arrested for disturbing the peace – of Sergeant Crowley. See the words “directed at a uniformed officer”? This is the epitome of contempt of cop, and that is an illegal and unconstitutional arrest. What is not contained in the statement of facts is any reference to an identifiable citizen/member of the public being disturbed. None whatsoever. This is precisely the type of conduct castigated historically by courts as generally described in Duran v. City of Douglas.

      • emptywheel says:

        There are several reasons to distrust the police report.

        Crowley claims to have told Gates of his identity twice–but he doesn’t actually describe telling Gates the name in response to his question and his mention of Figueroa watching suggests he claimed to have told his name already for Figueroa’s presence (thereby making Figueroa a witness to Crowley’s claim to have given his name, but not to him giving his name).

        And then Crowley’s excuse for leaving the house–the acoustics of the kitchen–doesn’t explain why Crowley didn’t simply leave the house himself (he had already confirmed Gates was the residence).

        There are other discrepancies with Gates’ version (trying to look for a version now–saw it yesterday–but I believe Gates said he also showed his drivers license, among other things). But the report does look suspiciously constructed to claim Crowley wasn’t blowing off Gates’ legitimate demands for his name.

        • PJEvans says:

          ‘The acoustics of the kitchen’?
          I can see a problem if it were a restaurant kitchen, but not a home kitchen.

        • bmaz says:

          Agreed about certain reasons to distrust the police report (there always are). However, even if you take the report at face value, i.e. in the light most favorable to the police and Crowley in particular, they are screwed; it is an illegal and unconstitutional arrest. The only named victim is the cop and that just does not cut it for a disturbing the peace/disorderly conduct charge. It truly is a classic case of “contempt of cop”.

          My personal guess is that Crowley intentionally moved out of the residence proper knowing that Gates would follow him and Crowley wanted to insure that the arrest he had already decided to affect was perfected outside of the residence.

          Gates narrative is contained (reprinted) at this DKos link I put in the update.

          • Neil says:

            I think there are two versions of Crowley’s incident report floating about. The one from Dkos is different than the one I reference here, the later being more detailed.

            There was a dust up that the report, a public record, was being withheld by the CPD. Then it was leaked to the Boston Globe. The CPD is trying to identify the leaker.

            It was taken down from Globe web site. Went it went back up, it was substantively changed. An astute blogger had downloaded the original a kept a copy.

          • Neil says:

            It shows me Crowley is trying to cover his bases in ways that he didn’t when it was going down. He’s describing a by-the-book call to investigate an attempted B&E in which he was confronted by a raging lunatic and he handled it well, considering. I don’t buy it. Then, Crowley arrested Gates on a disturbing the peace violation on his porch claiming he left Gates in the kitchen because he couldn’t hear his radio. I believe Crowley wanted to make an arrest and had to get Gates in public to do it. Crowley doesn’t know the difference between disturbing the peace and disturbing a cop.

      • Palli says:

        …after being observed exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior, in a public place…
        Since when is a person’s home, kitchen, porch or doorway, public?

          • posaune says:

            bmaz, question for clarification:
            Was Gates arrested while standing on his porch?
            Wrt the lot line: in some jurisdictions, the porch lies within the privately owned lot area; in others, like DC, the porch sits in the public right-of-way, the lot line being drawn by the front facade. It depends on the road code.
            Now, would there be a difference for the arrest disposition whether it did or did not occur on the residential lot vs. in the right-of-way?

            • bmaz says:

              He appears to have been arrested immediately outside of his front door; there is not question but that it was private property of his residence. In this case I do not think it would have mattered as the only specified “victim” of Gates’ “disorderly conduct” was the cop himself, who is not an appropriate victim under the law.

                  • Raven says:

                    Nah, I’m serious. Almost everything I said was predicated on the notion that Gates had violated the (a) law. Of course, you say, that doesn’t speak well for my reading comprehension since you laid it out in plain English.

          • Palli says:

            Sorry, I know it was your one of your points, just pulling it out from the larger police text and wondering how it could be in his statement

  14. Raven says:

    EPU’d twice

    I don’t suppose anyone thinks that Dr Gates saw the potential “teachable moment” that could only come from him being arrested?

    • Rayne says:

      Just stop.

      The guy just got back from China. He was suffering from a serious case of jet lag, his front door was jammed and looked it might have been jimmied; if he was like my spouse after each of his four trips to China, all he wanted to do was just go to sleep in his own bed.

      Teachable moments are the last fucking thing on his mind.

        • Rayne says:

          Actually, yes, I do. I count a number of tenured and non-tenured public school teachers and university professors among my closest friends. I sleep with a guy who’s taught engineering at two different state universities

          Kind of even stupid to ask that question in emptywheel’s blog since she’s taught at U-M.

          You want to get technical about it, every gawddamned moment is a teachable moment, regardless of whether one is a teacher/professor and in my case, parent. But that’s not what a jet-lagged guy who’s had difficulty getting in his own home is thinking after getting a cop in his face who doesn’t believe he is who he claims to be.

  15. PJEvans says:

    I’d wonder if this officer has done this before and gotten away with it, thanks to that ‘protective league’ of fellow police officers who back each other up even when they know what was done was illegal. (Rampart, Rodney King, the officers who were burglarizing businesses … and that’s just one city. Oh yeah, and the guy who retired because of disability (mental stress), moved out of state, and joined another police force while still collecting disability retirement pay.)

  16. ghostof911 says:

    bmaz, sorry, totally OT and I don’t intent do divert this lively thread, but earlier you questioned my comparison of the C Street residence to a Mafia storefront. A former FBI agent refers to the Fellowship in the same way I jokingly did.

  17. msmolly says:

    I admit that I cringed to hear Obama’s reference to the police “acted stupidly.” He had just prefaced that with the caveat that he wasn’t there, didn’t know all of the facts, and then calls the police “stupid.”

    I personally think from what I’ve read that the cops were wrong, but IMHO Obama could have omitted that “stupid” comment and still made his points about the state of race relations in our country.

  18. tjbs says:

    Let’s not leave out the Iraqifcation of the police ranks who have been hardened by National Guard duty in Iraq.

    Torture/ Murder/ Treason gives license to this type of behavior and the cancer is spreading.

    All goes back to the legitimization of dehumanization of our fellow human beings.

      • bmaz says:

        I understand your comments, and accept them; separate and distinct from that, do you think the arrest of Gates was legal and proper? Personally, I am almost certain it was not even close.

        • Raven says:

          Obviously you know more about the legal ramifications than I do. I am watching the interview with Dr Gates right now. He is not unhappy with the person who made the call but insists this was the result of a “rouge” cop.

    • ghostof911 says:

      All goes back to the legitimization of dehumanization of our fellow human beings.

      Point well taken.

  19. Crosstimbers says:

    I heard that Gates will be represented by his friend, Dr. Charles Ogletree, Harvard Law professor. I first saw Ogletree as a panel discussion host on the PBS series Ethics in America, in the late 1980’s. He was the mentor of Michelle and Barack Obama at Harvard. Whatever point Dr. Gates wants to make will be very, very effectively made.

  20. MadDog says:

    Totally OT – Some juicy bits for EW from Time:

    Bush and Cheney’s Final Days

    Bush and Cheney in October 2001, planned the war on terrorism but broke over whether to pardon one of its key architects.

    Hours before they were to leave office after eight troubled years, George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney had one final and painful piece of business to conclude. For over a month Cheney had been pleading, cajoling, even pestering Bush to pardon the Vice President’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby. Libby had been convicted nearly two years earlier of obstructing an investigation into the leak of a covert CIA officer’s identity by senior White House officials. The Libby pardon, aides reported, had become something of a crusade for Cheney, who seemed prepared to push his nine-year-old relationship with Bush to the breaking point — and perhaps past it — over the fate of his former aide. “We don’t want to leave anyone on the battlefield,” Cheney argued.

    Bush had already decided the week before that Libby was undeserving and told Cheney so, only to see the question raised again…

    And more juicy bits in this 5 page article, so do read.

  21. WarOnWarOff says:

    Ve all know zat ve must have ODER und vollow za offizer’s commands.

    Even if they are schtupid.

    Ja vol!

  22. mela says:

    John Cole wields a sharp stick:

    I think it is worth discussing, as we watch Congress try to cobble together some sort of health care bill that will cover tens of millions of additional people while still remaining “deficit neutral,” that the Bush administration Prescription Drug Entitlement, passed by the “fiscally conservative” Senate and the “fiscally conservative” house (loaded with members of the 1994 Republican Revolution who were now reneging on their term limit pledges) and signed by the “fiscally conservative” Bush administration, didn’t have one single penny set aside to pay for the promises.

    And I don’t remember hearing howls of outrage from the Blue Dogs.

    • RevBev says:

      And that Pharma liked that bill a whole lot for good reasons and that the implementation is a worthless nightmare…There should be outrage

  23. Sufilizard2 says:

    As a white male, it is sometimes difficult for me to see situations like this from a different perspective, but I realize that I am a beneficiary of white privilege.

    Not only are options available to me that aren’t available to everyone, but actions and words would probably be perceived differently coming from me than they would from someone with out the advantage of my race and gender.

    Just because I don’t ask for this privilege and actively work against it, doesn’t mean that I still don’t benefit from it. And I need to acknowledge that before I judge someone like professor Gates. I simply can’t know what it was like for him that night.

  24. SanderO says:

    I don’t think cops know how do deal with the public. They are arrogant and consider anyone they approach as a perp and this sets up a confrontation with tension.

    In the instant case when it became clear that Prof Gates was in his own home the cop should have simply excused himself and said he was doing SOP investigating what appeared to be a break in, but it wasn’t so all well that ends well.

    Gates, however, was undeniably disturbed by the fact that he was not recognized as a Prof… the cops know who lives in those houses, that he provided ID and that the cop did not apologize and turn tail and may have muttered how this looked like a racial profiling incident and even though he was a black prof, many victims of racial profiling are just “innocent citizens” on the street. Amadou Diallo was presumed to be a rapist without any contact and brutally shot…. as were many many many others in NYC alone.

    Gates assumed the cop was a bigot (race profiler) and the cop assumed Gates was breaking in and each seemed to be unable to back away from their assumptions when the facts presented.

    The arrest WAS a stupid exercise of power and this is done WAY WAY too often.

  25. biffdiggerence says:

    “I was quite surprised and confused with the behavior he exhibited toward me.”

    You were in a uniform and armed, you idiot.

    • eCAHNomics says:

      That a cop should be surprised and confused by someone’s anger at him suggests either a very low IQ, or very bad training.

      • freepatriot says:

        That a cop should be surprised and confused by someone’s anger at him suggests either a very low IQ, or very bad training.

        surprised and confused BY A 70 SOMETHING YEAR OLD MAN

        I’m thinking Low IQ, Bad Training, and a fucking antisocial personality disorder to boot …

        • Hmmm says:

          Huh, interesting hypothetical — would an officer ever have a case against his department for not providing training adequate to equip the officer to avoid creating civil liability for himself or herself when handling calls out in the field?

          • freepatriot says:

            I dunnow

            I ain’t no lawyer

            I can hold my own about half way thru an arraignment though

            and to esseff44 at 226:

            we got the right to be imprudent an unreasonable, we’re Amurikans, damn it !!!

          • freepatriot says:


            big difference

            he still don’t look all that scary to me

            I don’t know if this is relevant to the discussion, but the basic principle of a “self Defense” claim is that you gotta be in actual danger, not just imagined danger

            to create a public disturbance, don’t ya gotta be “in public” first ???

  26. eCAHNomics says:

    As I said on an earlier thread on the subject, I have committed contempt of cop several times without any negative consequences. That’s because I’m a dumpy senior white woman, so I get positively profiled, and they put up with my BS, believing I’m harmless. If I get positively profiles, you can bet that negative profiling is even more rampant.

    • barbara says:

      True enough. I was pulled over for speeding in Iowa last spring and because that had never happened to me, I reverted to decades-old protocol, i.e., I got out of the car. What’s worse (I realized later) is that I opened the back door (my purse was on back seat) and rummaged around in it to get my license et al. After I handed it to the trooper, he quietly told me to get back in my car. DWW and older and female is a different world altogether from DWB (or OODWB, Opening Own Door While Black).

  27. SanderO says:

    Gates might have said he was glad to know that the cops were responding so fast to reports of a break in… but it was not a break in, and thank the cop and tell him he was tired and needed to sleep. I suspect if he took that tack and avoided general reference to racial profiling the cop would have left.

    Of course when people see a few patrol cars at Gate’s home with flashing lights they gather to see what’s up and this non disturbance of the peace becomes a disturbance of the peace. Cops cause rubber necking all the time with the traffic stops while they keep the lights flashing like fireworks. THAT is a disturbance. Give the effin ticket with the lights off and don’t bother with the rubbish that it’s a safety measure.

    As I get more gray hair cops are a bit more reasonable when they make a traffic stop… but I am much older than them now too.

  28. OldFatGuy says:

    A bit off topic I suppose, but I’m just amazed as I switch channels, and view the coverage of the press conference and of course the BIG NEWS (Cambridge police acted stupidly instead of health care).

    Anyway, I’m just wondering, how the hell did the right wing so effectively take over THE ENTIRE MEDIA. My God, from the press corps last night (man were these really the same bunch that covered the last 8 years??? I find it hard to believe), but especially today.

    I never considered CNN liberal, by any means, but I didn’t consider it Fox News either. Jeebus, they AND ALL OF EM, seem to be operating directly off the right wing/Republican script.

    Amazing. Orwellian. They cry liberal media for years, and meanwhile completely take over the media. What happens when they figure out how to manipulate the internet?

  29. JohnnyTable70 says:

    I shit you not, Sgt. Crowley is claiming he is not a racist because he gave mouth to mouth to dying Celtics star Reggie Lewis back in 1993. The fact that he used that example to show that he isn’t a racist, is patronizing at best; racist at worst.

  30. beth meacham says:

    No one seems to be commenting on the fact that the police entered Gates’ residence without a warrant, and arrested him on his private property – not in a public place.

    Insufficient arrest, indeed.

    • bmaz says:

      Under the circumstances, to investigate a reasonable belief of a possible crime being committed, it was arguably proper for the cop to enter without a warrant. The cop needed to leave once it was determined that was not the case. The arrest was illegal though.

  31. cbl2 says:

    the fellow who recently prevailed in court for flipping off a cop was arrested for “disorderly conduct”. the ruling in that case was grounded in protected speech – I didn’t know about Duran or Hill – thank you bmaz

  32. Fern says:

    A half-way decently trained police officer should have been able to defuse the situation very easily.

  33. Splicer says:

    Every single person that I knew in high school that went on to join the police force was a bully. Every single one.

  34. RickinSF says:

    I’ve worked with too many academics in my life, witnessed their ego-driven, sometimes puerile behavior, to not wonder whether Gates wasn’t pissed to learn that somebody didn’t know he was THE Henry Lewis Gates.

    • skdadl says:

      And that’s against the law where you are?

      Somebody else’s reaction to your attitude can get you charged? Being rude is illegal?

      I don’t think so.

      • bmaz says:

        You want to know something Raven, I see the argument Gates went to far and may even have been baiting the cop; I will have to see a lot more factual detail over time from both sides to make up my mind on that. And my guess is both sides will have a chance to develop their case quite fully. But the irreducible problem is the cop took the bait and made an illegal and unjustified arrest. Regardless of how it ends up that they got to that point, it is pretty clear that is the end point.

      • Crosstimbers says:

        If the report is truthful, I’m starting to get Jeremiah Wright feelings. I wish the cop had said he was doing his duty and left. I wish Obama had said Gates was a friend, but that he simply didn’t know the details enough to comment. I hate to see the big race wedge driven into the heart of everything that needs to be done by this administration.

        • Palli says:

          What with us being a torturing nation … this incident is as much the heart of everything that needs to be done by this administration as anything else..

  35. fatster says:

    O/T, the Uighurs

    House Threatens Obama
    Over Chinese Interrogation Of Uighurs In Guantánamo

    July 22, 2009

    By Andy Worthington 

    “[T]he House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights And Oversight held a hearing to investigate why the Bush administration had allowed Chinese interrogators to visit Guantánamo to interrogate the prison’s 22 Uighur inmates in 2002.

    . . .

    “Thursday’s hearing involved some rather hard-hitting testimony about what those interrogations involved, about the complicity of the U.S. military and of senior officials in Washington D.C., and, most disturbingly, about the political motivations of the visit, and led to questions from the subcommittee about why members of Congress are prohibited from meeting prisoners at Guantánamo when Chinese intelligence agents were not, and to a demonstration of evasion on the part of the government’s spokesman that was so thorough that one of the committee members threatened to declare him “in contempt of Congress” and to withdraw funding from his department.”


  36. alank says:

    The prediction that defense strategy in a civil trial involving juror bias somehow attributable exclusively to a public remark by the president during a prime-time tee-vee interrogatory would provide an ironclad case for the local constabulary is untenable in light of the plain fact that every sentient being with even a nodding acquaintance of the high-profile case would have already arrived at the same conclusion.

  37. ghostof911 says:

    No fault with Obama’s “acting stupidly” remark, as long as the rest of us can apply the same comment to him with regard to the senseless war in Afghanistan and his handling of the economy.

  38. Twain says:

    Don’t understand why Obama would be wrong to say the action was stupid. He was expressing his opinion and that’s his right. We can’t whine about how he doesn’t do this and doesn’t say that and then complain when he speaks out. If that what he thought, he had a right to say it. I am glad that he did and feel confident that he would have said the exact same thing if Gates had been white.

    • bmaz says:

      Did you read the post? I explained exactly some of the issues created by that comment, and they would apply equally irrespective of Gates’ race.

        • bmaz says:

          There is a good chance that raises the stakes and hardens the police resistance to admitting a mistake, and it also could affect the type of jury available for Gates should there be a civil trial in the future. All speculative, granted, but considerations that militated in favor of Obama being much more general in his comments, even if he was going to support Gates’ position (which I commend).

    • RickinSF says:

      It was a good and accurate response, but by this afternoon I would bet the opposition media will be trumpeting: Obama says Police are Stupid!”

  39. ChuckinDenton says:

    I’m disappointed that, as an attorney, Obama would have forgotten the importance of not opining on a matter that he admittedly didn’t know all the facts of. Fail.

    • gerryphillyesq says:

      There is no pending litigation – the police dropped the charges against Gates and Gates has not yet filed any civil action. Obama is entitled to express his opinion and his remark does not effect the merits of Gate’s potential civil action.

      • bmaz says:

        I don’t think anybody has intimated it could affect the merits of the civil suit I am told Gates is already contemplating, but it could affect, potentially could affect at least, several surrounding factors as indicated in the post.

        As to your comment @100 – indeed the officer flat out admits he came to know Gates was in his own house quite early on in the confrontation. That is exactly when he should have left and he should have been happy to oblige by giving gates his card for reference. But that isn’t what many cops do, they go off like this one did.

        • gerryphillyesq says:

          I see the point to which you refer but am not certain that knowledge of the remark in itself would be enough for the City to be able to challenge a juror. Massachusetts is not the hotbed of liberalism it is portrayed to be and Cambridge’s non-Harvard residents are not particularly enamored of the University.

          • bmaz says:

            Yeah, I’m not sure either; but if I am the city’s or any of the individual defendants’ lawyer, I sure as heck am making that play. At a minimum, you can frame the jury questionnaire and voir dire to draw the blood on it a little bit. And you never know, with a little luck and the right judge, you might make some real hay.

            I really don’t have any problem with what Obama said, it was spot on. I wish he had been a tad cleaner in how he phrased it, but it will likely never be more than a superficial matter, at the worst. It was just something that immediately struck me, but I am kind of sensitive to these things, I have been involved in many civil rights cases and it just came to mind.

          • bmaz says:

            Heh, that may not have been the best term, but the answer is when he arrested Gates.

            And @ 108 – You are exactly right, no one had, not should have had, an issue with the neighbor reporting the suspicious activity.

              • tejanarusa says:

                Red herring. We don’t know how he responded to the caller. Once the cop got there and started giving him crap, the caller pretty much receded. Chances are good that the cop never mentioned the caller, certainly not by name. Plenty of commenters at various blogs have called her a racist.

                She may be, she may have thought she was a good citizen.

                Did you hear the cop on npr this am who said when an 85 yr old white lady calls to complain about a black man sitting in his car on the street, the SOP is to send out an officer to question the man? NOT SOP for reports of a white man sitting in his car. And, yes, that’s wrong; there’s not even a hint of crime being committed in that case.

      • ChuckinDenton says:

        My question is: why express an opinion that he admits is not fully informed by the facts? What good does it do, then, to follow up with a discussion of racial profiling by the police (which is a serious matter, of course, and needs airing)after you’ve already admitted that you don’t know all the facts?

        1. Will anyone remember that he qualified his statement? No, they will focus on what he said.

        2. If they do remember the qualifier, they will think he made a mistake for expressing his opinion-which turns out to be somewhat ill-informed.

  40. Twain says:

    WHen one of my daughter was about 18 she got stopped for speeding on the freeway by a Highway Patrol. She had friends in the car. She was polite, gave her license and no back talk. She referred to his as “sir” the entire time and he ended up screaming at her not to call him “sir”. She was completely puzzled and very scared. I had always taught my kids to be respectful of police officers and this just completely turned her off.

  41. sbvpav says:

    breaking news: president obama is a black man, and it is rumored the first lady is as well! in last night’s press conference, in response to a question (what was she hoping for???)by lynn sweet, president obama prefaced his remarks with “first, you have to understand i am a friend of skip gates and so my response may be biased,” and second, “i do not know all the facts nor was i there…”

    this of course has not stopped the talking heads from railing against president obama for his remarks. okay i get it, this was a man bites dog moment the msm loves to play up; criticizing president obama for not meeting their stated definition for the conference as a “turning point,” a “must win” for the president and the need to speak directly to the 85% of americans who do have health insurance the need for health care reform.

    he wasn’t ronald reagan, he wasn’t inspirational enough, he looked tired, lackluster yada yada yada. anyone following the campaign of then candidate obama knows he does not discuss tactics and strategy in public; obviously this is difficult or else, going back to then president truman, this would already have been done.

    i for one am thankful we have a president who is determined, disciplined, far-sighted to finally get healthcare reform done correctly now.

  42. BoxTurtle says:

    It is an open question who was the bigger idiot: Gates or the cop.

    The ONLY weapon that works against a cop at a scene is a lawyer. Since it is very unlikely you are carrying a lawyer around with you, you should limit your responses whenever possible to “Yes, sir”, “No, Sir”, “I would like a lawyer, Sir” and “Thank you, sir, may I have another”. If the cop gets out of line, do NOT engage until you have a lawyer. That’s just common sense.

    The cop was stupid on so many levels it’s difficult to understand how he managed to graduate from an accredited police academy.

    But the fools who decided to back the cop after they knew what happened deserve the worst sanction. They knew the cop was wrong, but they backed him anyway. And this entire thing could probably be settled with an apology and the cop attending a class.

    Boxturtle (Somewhere, a lawyer or three is going to make good money)

  43. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Those laws are so 20th century. Didn’t you know that in our post-9/11 world, status and thought crimes and insulting die Polizei – even by looking at them or taking their photos or names or numbers – are crimes against the State. In fact the latter aid and support terrorism by making the identities of those who would protect us public information. Which means that Prof. Gates should pack his bathing trunks and swimming cane for an indeterminate stay at Gitmo.

    Those sorts of once absurd extensions of rational criminal laws – expressions of socially agreed limits on behavior – are what Prof. Gates should make the subject of his “teaching moment”.

  44. alabama says:

    Is no one curious about the lady who called the cops? Gates is her neighbor; she could rightly be expected to know the identity of her neighbor, or at least to recognize him as a familiar face. Was she in fact his neighbor, or an out-of-town guest from far away? If so, her host could certainly have explained his identity (Cambridge being a small town, and Harvard professors being rock stars).

    If Gates had had the presence of mind to “identify” with the cop–not at easy thing to do, certainly not to be expected, and perhaps even impossible–he might have been able warn the cop. He might have been able to say, for example, “officer, maybe someone’s setting us up”. Rather than ask the cop “Do you know who I am?”, he might have been able to say, for example, “officer, you may not know me, and I don’t know you, but trust me, this won’t be any fun” (or words to that effect).

    By far the greatest hazard besetting Harvard professors is the loss of a sense of humor or a sense of proportion. For example, you might easily begin to think you have the name and face recognition of an NFL quarterback. But the quarterback would know how to talk the cop down; he might even toss an autographed football into the bargain (not that anyone should have to do this).

    The real pathos of Gates’s situation is the never-ending need to establish his identity as an American citizen, long after he’s been recognized by the ownership as one of their own. If the case can win him the notoriety and recognition of that quarterback, then it may help him out when next he tries to hail a cab in downtown Boston. But I wouldn’t count on this.

    • gerryphillyesq says:

      By the same token, the facts seem to indicate that the officer should have begun to suspect that the call was unfounded if he indeed found Gates acting in a manner consistent with an owner in possession and should have mitigated his response accordingly.

      • alabama says:

        In a sane world, everyone–the cop, Gates, the taxi driver–would suspect that the call was unfounded, and might even think of this in the first place. Hell, in a really sane world, all three of them would seek out the person who made the call, and give her a little lecture on the hazards of racial profiling.

        But Cambridge is not a sane world. I lived there for eleven years, and really dread going back.

        • Raven says:

          Gate’s said he appreciated the neighbor calling the heat. It was the “rouge” cop’s fault.

        • gerryphillyesq says:

          I know. Although I haven’t lived in Cambridge I have relatives in Massachusetts and visit often. Each time I’m surprised by the level of casual racism I find in the alleged “People’s Republic.”

    • Rayne says:

      See my comment about jet-lag after travel and the jimmied home door…

      “Presence of mind” is a lot to ask of a guy who’s probably been traveling for 24+ hours and likely still processing an attempted break-in of his home.

        • Rayne says:

          By asking questions.

          The cop was the guy with the gun, right? He’s already got more power than the other people present.

          All he had to do was ask questions. How the fuck hard is that?

          And if it’s that tough to simply ask questions and LISTEN, then the cop was in the wrong line of work. Asking questions and listening is cheap and effective especially when it’s obvious the person before him has a phone in their hand, a cane within reach and not a gun.

          I’m really tired of the pissing match with you, Raven; you obviously have a stick up your ass about Gates and think cops are always right and you can’t be bothered to read the rest of the facts. Kind of shooting from the hip without checking first, Crowley-like.

          By the way, I have cops in my family, too. They know they have power, they don’t need to prove it the way Crowley did with a scrawny yellow-skinned dude wearing a golf shirt and dress slacks in a Harvard-owned apartment. They ask questions, they listen. That’s how one of them became chief of police in a good-sized urban center and the other is well on his way.

          • Raven says:

            Bullshit, I asked a question this morning and you came back with “stop it”. Reading what “facts”? I’m reading a bunch of people who are making judgments who don’t know anymore than I do. I don’t really give a shit one way or the other.

        • tejanarusa says:

          He doesn’t have to “determine” that. Yelling and even insulting a cop, especially in your own home is NOT A CRIME.

          Had the officer been trained to defuse a volatile situation, he would have been able to “determine” these facts. He should have been able to calm the upset person and ask a few questions.

          But it doesn’t really matter – no crime was committed and the officer should have left once he saw the i.d. and that the address matched. He made the arrest because he was personally upset and defensive, not because there was a crime committed.

  45. rincewind says:

    Boxturtle (and only addressed to you because you stated the “realistic” POV about dealing with cops better than most have), when did we as a society decide to accept servile deference to cops as required behavior?

    I’m old; I got arrested at VN war sit-ins (no violence on either side, charges dropped); I’ve yelled “PIG” at cops back in the day, and perfected a really LOUD snort; as recently as ‘04 got into an argument discussion with local police being called upon to enforce a Secret-Service-ordered “free speech zone” on a public sidewalk (the big Dick was holding a campaign event at a neighborhood school — the locals were NOT happy campers). Disclosure: I’m 5′4″/125, female, white, and now middle-aged; utterly non-threatening (but alternatively, perceived as an “easy” target).

    My question is, WHEN did we choose to bend the knee and zip the lip? and why? It’s not just supposed to be good advice for minorities, we’re ALL supposed to treat cops like grenades with the pins pulled.

    • MsAnnaNOLA says:

      Thank you this is what I was saying in general. Lets be up in arms about the police state in general. We should be outraged that the cop didn’t leave once he found out Mr. Gates lived there. Period.

      The rest is just a bunch of he said he said. It sucks to be profiled but it sucks that we have our rights being taken away bit by bit. We have a new culture in this country with absolute deference to authority. It is not necessary and it is what gave us Abu Grahib, Guantanamo and the Mr. Gates being arrested in his home. The cop thought Mr. Gates should show him abosolute deference. This is not required and not necessary and he knows it.

      The new culture is that when you don’t agree with the President who is breaking the law you are a traitor. Seriously, the fact that most people’s response to this is that Gates should not have mouthed off is very telling to where we have come to in this country. Many people are not outraged that he was in his own home. Period.

  46. chrisc says:

    I was once a member of a jury trying to decide a “resisting arrest” case. It was the second go ’round. In the first trial, the guy was found guilty of a crime (using a gun) and a bunch of other things, but the jury couldn’t agree on the “resisting arrest” charge.

    The jury I was on also could not agree. “Resisting arrest” is not the formal name for the charge. I can’t remember exactly what they called it. We asked for a copy of the law. It came down to what a reasonable person would think. We were all pretty reasonable, we even all agreed on what we thought had taken place, but we disagreed strongly on what behaviors we thought would constitute “resisting arrest.” One guy thought that if an officer looked at you, you were required to become compliant and do everything that was asked. A young woman who lived in the inter-city argued that the cops behavior in the area was often “way out-of-line”. We never came to any consensus.

    Jury selection is a huge factor in these cases. Even if race wasn’t a factor, people are all over the spectrum in how much of their civil rights they are willing to cede for a sense of security.

    There is a recent incident in San Diego area where a sheriff deputy entered a home without a warrant on an unsubstantiated noise complaint during a fundraiser for Francine Busby. The homeowner turned away from the sheriff when he refused to answer her question as to why he needed her birthdate information. The deputy grabbed her and she fell to the ground. People started pulling her away and the deputy pepper sprayed them. People who were taking pictures with the cell phones were handcuffed with their hands behind their backs.
    The homeowner was charged with something like “obstructing an officer”- I don’t remember the exact description.

    I was amazed by the number of people who thought it was OK for the deputy to enter the home because the door was open. I really thought they needed a warrant or to have a reasonable belief that a crime was being committed to enter someone’s home. In Gates’ case, Crowley might have had reason to think a crime was taking place, but once he found out that Gates was the homeowner, he should have apologized and left. Why provoke an incident and an arrest?

    No doubt race will be the focus in Gates’ case. But I am hoping that is just one aspect of a broader trend where we are ready to reassert our civil rights.

  47. tejanarusa says:

    Rayne – Thank you, thank you!
    You are the only one who seems to be making the point that to me explains Prof. Gates’s “rude” or “loud” behavior best

    He’d just got back from CHINA, people!

    Raven, Alabama– all your speculations that he was angry and upset because he’s an arrogant professor, or he should have been calm and kind and “identified” with the cop…You have got to be kidding me!

    How calm and quiet and cooperative would you feel like being? You just got home after a trip of 13 plus hours, the door to your home wouldn’t open and you sturggled trying to open it, had to go around to the back, and then when you finally got in, ready to pay the driver and hit the sack for a long, long sleep, you get accused of breaking into your own home.

    How peaceful would you be? Come on, admit it. The cop was wrong, the professor might have been completely different had he not been already exhausted, but the burden is on the cop to handle the situation.

    Like bmaz said (and I said in one of yesterday’s threads) – this is the epitome of “contempt of cop.” And that is not a crime.

    May I just add, as some folks above has said, if you have practiceed criminal defense law even for a short time and have experience reading police reports, it is obvious that Crowley wrote that report to cover his ass, ’cause he knew he was at fault.

    • Rayne says:

      Thanks. My spouse’s shortest trip to Shanghai was 18 hours; the last one was 24 hours.

      For all four trips and his even longer trip to Mumbai, in spite of sleeping for a bit on the plane, he was exhausted and wanted to collapse in bed. It took a lot to keep him up for another 6 hours to help him reset his body clock (which takes about 1 day for each time zone traveled).

      Thank goodness he didn’t have to deal with a stuck door lock due to a possible B/E attempt.

    • tejanarusa says:

      “getting yourself arrested to make a point” is not relevant here.

      Come on, Raven, I like you, you’re normally not so defensive. Tell me, if you’d been on a plane – for 13 hours or 24 —- and couldn’t get into your home because of a stuck door, then some policeman comes to the door and questions your right to be there, how are you going to react?

      Prof. Gates was not part of a demonstration, wanting to be arrested to make a point. He didn’t start the thing, he just came home exhausted from the airport, went into his own home and wanted to go to sleep.

      I really suspect, hhaving read your comments for awhile, that you would be royally pissed off, too. I know I would, and when I’m tired I am not diplomatic. I wish I could be, but I know that’s when my bad side comes out. Still not a crime.

        • tejanarusa says:

          You don’t have to say the cop was a “racist pig.”

          He was authoritarian, defensive, angry – all things cops should know how to avoid.

          He may not be consciously racist – but consciously or unconsiously, he got mad and defensive and made a foolish arrest, in a situation where he very likely would have behaved differently with a white man.

          In Cambridge, of course, it’s possible that part of his defensiveness was that he hates Harvard professors — STILL NOT a crime.

          It’s the officer’s job to know better. That’s what we’re saying.

  48. constantweader says:

    I have long been an admirer of Prof. Gates & he is an acquaintance of my husband’s. Also I’m a flaming liberal. Nevertheless, I side with the police. Gates was likely in the wrong here, if for quite understandable reasons. He had just returned from an exhausting flight from China & was more than half-a-day off his time zone. Just when he thought he was finally home free, he found that he could not open his front door. He was distraught & required help. After entering his home thru the back door, a policeman showed up. The cop was facing two men whom he believed might be armed burglars, so he too was on emotional alert. Somewhere in there — I would guess early on — Gates got his dander up at the audacity of being questioned & began berating the policeman (according to Gates’ friend Charles Oglethorpe).

    I am a white lady who looks more like Dana Carvey’s Church Lady than I like to admit, and I can tell you that when I get stopped by the cops for traffic violations (which has happened twice in the past couple of years), I am really, really polite, and it pays off. I would have two deserved tickets if I had mouthed off just a little & delivered the usual spiel about how the police should be out catching the real criminals, blah, blah.

    In the photo of Gates in cuffs he looks scruffy & distracted. I suspect, based on reports, & by any police standards, he behaved in a “disorderly” way. Whether the cops “behaved stupidly” in actually arresting him can be debated, but that is more a political question than a legal one. Had Gates not been tired from his trip and angry at an inanimate object — his front door — he probably would not have behaved so badly. He should have said, when approached by an accusing policeman, “This is my home, Officer. The front door was swelled shut so I had do go in the back. Come in & I’ll show you ID with this address on it. It’s comforting to know you’re checking on my property, especially since I’ve been away for some time.” End of story. Actually, no story.

    If the Cambridge police owe Gates an apology, no doubt he owes them one, too. Treating cops who risk their lives to protect us in anything other than a deferential way is callous &, well, stupid.

    The Constant Weader at http://www.RealityChex.com

    • tejanarusa says:


      Have you read any of the legal comments, or bmaz’s post?

      Being, loud, rude, insulting, etc. in your own home is NOT a crime!

      To charge “disorderly conduct” the officer had to get Prof Gates out of his house; even then, he was on his own porch. His excuse for going outside – a noisy kitchen??? – is lame.

      Again, cops should be trained to recognize when a person is “distraught”, realize that that is not a crime, and COPE. The burden was all on the officer. It doesn’t matter whether Prof. Gates violated “rules” of courtesy. That was his right. And to dismiss his exhuasted state to say he should have been polite anyway — that’s not living in the real world.

        • tejanarusa says:

          Yeah, well, sorry, in this case – THEY’RE WRONG!

          Sorry to yell at you, Raven. I’ve seen this before, like bmaz, though not as often. That’s why the behavior jumps out at us so clearly.

    • Rayne says:

      Just look at the photo of Gates at DailyKos, after he’s already been cuffed, being led out the door without his cane.

      Does this really look like an obstreperous, dangerous thief breaking and entering into a house they already know is owned by Harvard?

      Or a professor clad in a golf shirt and slacks and rather pricey eyewear who’s just gotten home from travel — with travel bags likely laying on the floor in the background, replete with airline baggage tags.

      Gimme a break.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Police work is dangerous; it’s also boring for long stretches and the urge to vent testosterone can be intense. It also frequently demands public relations skills and the routine application of anger management skills to defuse situations rather than escalate them. (Though the increasing practice of Tasering restrained and prone victims suggests the latter, like spending time at the gym or practicing basic martial arts restraints, is going out of style. A dangerous trend.)

      Police work requires a professional attitude and presence of mind in intense situations. The facts of Prof. Gates’ arrest suggest more ‘tude than professionalism. Cops deserve respect when they show it to those whom they are employed to serve and protect.

  49. 60thStreet says:

    Re: contempt of cop. Anyone remember this recent egregious example? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…..eature=fvw

    It’s rampant. Cops expect you to respect authority and that anything they say goes if otherwise, you will, more often than not, get arrested and that goes double for minorities. It happened to me plenty in my youth (Latino). I don’t blame Gates one bit and kudos to him for protesting without resorting to profanity, though I still wouldn’t have blamed him.

    Bottom line: It is cops who need to remain calm and respectful of the citizenry for which they work, and to deescalate any situation. That attitude, through force of habit if necessary, should absolutely be protocol. Any officer who acts like Crowley did, especially to a disabled elderly man, should receive demerits.

    I’ll add that the police already knew he had broken in and in discovering it was his house, they knew immediately his frustration/anxiety level was probably high as a result of having to break into his own house. It was a no-brainer problem and they acted stupidly.

  50. alabama says:

    I’d like to know more about this. It may suggest, for example, that Gates has it in for cops, or has a reason to cut his neighbors some slack (if only because they’re his neighbors).

    Given the prominence of this event, we shouldn’t ignore the ambiguities. It wouldn’t be wise; if this thing goes to court, the ambiguities could crowd out the main story, the one that Obama referred to. Certainly the defense will try to play it that way.

  51. Raven says:

    Professor Gates followed him outside, the report said, and yelled at him despite the sergeant’s warning “that he was becoming disorderly.” Sergeant Crowley then arrested and handcuffed him. Professor Gates was held at police headquarters for hours before being released on his recognizance.

    • tejanarusa says:

      You’re not getting the most important point – Yelling at a cop is not a crime! It is NOT being disorderly. “Disorderly” is the catchall charge when the cop is mad at he guy he wants to arrest.

      Have you never been upset and angry and pursued your point a little too far? Have you never been so tired and worn out and frustrated that you ignored the little voice in the back of your head that said, “whoa! slow down, you’re gonna get in trouble?”

      And please don’t take the police report as gospel It’s as clearly phonied up to make the cop look justified as I’ve ever seen, and yes, really, I have seen a few. I understand you wnat to side with the police, but just look at the facts we actually knnow, and you will see–the burden was on the officer to figure out the facts, to defuse the situation, to leave when he realized there was no crime.
      He failed.

      • Raven says:

        Yeaa, 4 days after I came home from Nam (40 years ago) and I was still 19. I got rousted for underage drinking in a campus bar. The cop called be a boy and I “went off”. Got my face smashed into a wall and thrown into the clink. That’s one. Then there was the 72 convention in Miami. Ever hear of Flamingo Park? Want to hear more?

  52. tejanarusa says:

    New posts are up. I’m getting pretty exhausted myself.

    bmaz, great, great post.
    Rayne, you laid it out so well.

  53. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The Cambridge PD, which ought to be familiar with dealing with high-powered administrators, faculty and visitors – and their sometimes equally connected students. Assuming “they” are, and that anyone who made sergeant is, then racism rears its ugly head as an obvious possible rationale for this irrational behavior. The cops didn’t believe him when he showed his id and evidence that he owned the house they believed he was breaking into? Would that have happened to Larry Summers?

    My only surprise is that they didn’t handcuff and then Taser an older, bookish man who walks with a cane. Would it take the wrongful death of such a well-known figure to rethink local, state and national policies on what is obviously not a substitute for lethal force but its use?

    • gerryphillyesq says:

      You raise an interesting question – Would the police behavior have ratcheted down faster if the homeowner was an older white man vs. an older black man. I think that’s likely and speaks volume about the assumptions that need to be changed. It may also explain why the police officers in Pittsburgh a few months ago were killed in the ambush by the white supremacist. Their possible underlying assumption: “I’m going into a neighborhood where the people look like me on a routine call. I don’t have to be as on guard as where I’m confronting a different ethnic group.”

  54. gerryphillyesq says:

    To Raven:

    That’s why we have to try to resist acting that way ourselves. To try to make it better.

    • Raven says:

      And we do that by stereotyping and making assumptions about one of the parties when we don’t really know what happened?

      • gerryphillyesq says:

        No. We must try to resist stereotyping. But it is also clear that the Cambridge Police dropped the charges against Dr. Gates prior to a preliminary hearing. I would submit there wasn’t even enough evidence when looked at in the light most favorable to the proesecution to sustain a prima facie case.

  55. constantweader says:

    Obviously Rayne & Tejanarusa didn’t read what I wrote. Yes, I did see Gates photo & he looks, as I wrote, “scruffy & distracted” to me. I’m not sure how burglars dress, & I don’t know what fancy spectacles look like, but judging a person by his outfit rather than his behavior is rather foolish. I’m not saying Gates didn’t have an excuse for behaving badly, but accounts suggest he did behave in a disrespectful way.

    Sometime when you’re a little more experienced in life, you will likely discover that civility is a good thing, even if the person to whom you are being civil doesn’t appear to merit it. Ask that to Sonia Sotomayor, who endured a lotta hooey from Lindsey Graham & Company, or Barack Obama, who deals patiently & politely with a slew of really hideous politicians every business day.

    Berating a man with a badge, a gun & a thick pad of arrest forms is dumb. That policeman was protecting Gates’ home, and Gates should have had the sense to appreciate it. I’ve been asked to show ID any number of times in any number of circumstances where a more arrogant person might have thought, “Well, these dopes should recognize me.” Instead, I show the ID, & thank the person for checking. And I don’t resent it a whit.

    So get the chips off your shoulders, kids, & try to look at life through a prism that filters out your little resentments.

    The Constant Weader at http://www.RealityChex.com

    • gerryphillyesq says:

      I think it could be argued that Dr. Gates may not have been the only one with a chip on his shoulder. The difference is that the Sergeant was also cloaked with the authority of the State and chose to exercise it in what appear to be questionable circumstances.

    • 60thStreet says:

      “Berating a man with a badge, a gun & a thick pad of arrest forms is dumb.”

      It’s only dumb if the probability is very high that he will illegally arrest you.

      Regardless, it is your right under the Constitution to berate anyone you want.

        • 60thStreet says:

          How it works for me is irrelevant. I can berate a cop. It’s my right to call them out if see fit. If he’s on my property, doubly so. As to whether or not it is a good idea, I guess that depends on your perspective.

          Once an off duty Evanston, IL cop in plain clothes followed me into a parking lot in an unmarked vehicle and began screeching that I had cut him off in traffic. When I asked him for ID, he got pissed, reached into his vehicle, flashed the hidden emergency lights and said “here’s my ID”. He then took my license and tore out of there telling me I could pick it up at the station. When I got to the station, a ticket for reckless driving was waiting for me along with my ID. On the court date he was a no show and they tossed out the case, but, of course, I had to take the day off.

          That was my second ticket in 15 years of driving.

          • esseff44 says:

            I learned a lesson recently about talking back or not. I was stopped for seat belt violation. I said nothing and handed over the papers as requested. The officer then handed me the ticket and told me to do him a favor and protest it. He assured me that when he was asked to respond to the protest, he would not be able to remember it since there was nothing to make him remember it such as talking back or the other things they are looking for when they make a traffic stop. When I showed up for the hearing, it had been dismissed already as he said.

            Contempt of cop may not be on the books, but it real life, it makes a huge difference. I would not want to risk it unless I were a personal friend of the President and was surrounded by a corps of Harvard lawyers.

            • gerryphillyesq says:

              Again, your situation differs from the Gates matter. You were driving without a seatbelt. Dr. Gates had not done anything wrong.

              • esseff44 says:

                It may have not been illegal, but by starting to scream and yell just because a policeman asks him to come outside to talk to him because someone has reported a possible break-in sounds like doing something ‘wrong.’ The officer is doing what he is paid to do at that point. Just because you can legally do something doesn’t make it ‘right’ or prudent. The arrest may have been legal, but it doesn’t make it ‘right’ or prudent, either. Charge were dismissed as they should have been and Gates will not be doing anyone any favors by making a bigger deal out of it. If he wants to do something about profiling, he needs a better example.

                • Hmmm says:

                  …sounds like doing something ‘wrong.’

                  That is such dangerous reasoning. Even if I were to grant your assertion that disagreeing loudly with the officer were ‘wrong’ — which I would dispute at great length — a cop’s job is LAW enforcement, not ‘right’ enforcement. No violation of law, no basis for arrest.

                • Hmmm says:

                  First, I apologize for putting that so strongly and in such personal terms, the Gates incident riled me up and I was feeling angry, not at you, when I wrote that. My bad, fully. What I meant was that when we as citizens play along with the police game of misuse of authority, sometime arbitrary and capricious misuse, then we are enabling that bad behavior. I don’t mean to suggest that resisting it is in any sense easy, nor very likely to be successful in our particular instance, but ya give ‘em an inch and pretty soon they’ve taken the mile that they, in the aggregate, have done.

    • bmaz says:

      Yeah, that is a bunch of bull. The cop was most certainly not “protecting Gates’ home” once he knew it was indeed Gates and his home, which the cop fully admits to knowing, in his own damn police report, almost immediately. Could Gates have acted different, yes. But to argue that that somehow justifies his arrest is completely ludicrous. Gates could have screamed at the top of his lungs “get out of my house you motherfucking racist asshole pig” and it STILL would have been an illegal arrest. How about that for a chip on the shoulder?? Jeebus.

    • tejanarusa says:

      AGainst my better judgment, I came back –

      get off your high horse, constant. I am 59 years old and have quite a bit of seasoning. Perhaps you didn’t notice that I have practiced defense law — and believe me, this kind of behavior by cops of arresting people just because they can, just because they’re pissed off and defensive is common.

      “Berating a man with a badge, a gun & a thick pad of arrest forms is dumb.”

      Did you read, or think at all, about how fatigue, exhaustion, frustration affect your own behavior? That you might just lose your temper in righteous anger, even if under more normal circumstances you wouldn’t.

      I don’t think you know what you’re talking about. And if you’re white, you absolutely don’t know what dealing with police can be like.

    • Nell says:

      Berating a man with a badge, a gun & a thick pad of arrest forms is dumb.

      But it is not a crime.

      A policeman deciding to arrest a tired, pissed off homeowner on his own property because he’s being berated by him is behaving stupidly. Not least because that policeman, especially if he’s been around long enough to make sergeant, should know that action is likely to cost his employers a lot of money and time.

      A president who grasps that a policeman has stayed around long after he should have left the property and has aggravated the situation by making a bogus arrest, and has the political stones to be frank about that policeman’s having behaved stupidly, gives me freaking hope that he’s a human being.

      I’m sure the cop felt insulted and was angry at Gates. But he knew full well how to defuse the situation: get off the property. If he really was “surprised and confused” that he was being yelled at by a man who had clearly established that he was in his own home, then he was acting stupidly to escalate the situation by even considering or mentioning, much less effecting, an arrest.

      • Hmmm says:

        Really not a crime? There must be a sliding scale in there. Honest question: At what point does police misconduct rise to the status of a crime? I mean false arrest, excessive force, “under color of authority” type stuff, etc.

        • gerryphillyesq says:

          You raise a different issue. Dr. Gates has a legal remedy through filing a tort claim. The police officer may be liable for trespass, intentional infliction of emotional distress, battery and assault. The standard for finding liability is only a preponderance of the evidence i.e. 50.0001% as opposed to beyond a reasonable doubt for criminal offenses. Finally, criminal offenses are against the public at large while a tort claim gives a direct remedy to Dr. Gates.

          • Hmmm says:

            I agree it’s a different point, and am still curious about what an officer could do in responding to a call that might result in a crime chargeable against that officer. As opposed to creating potential civil liability for the officer.

            • gerryphillyesq says:

              Crimial proseutions by the state don’t change the state’s behavior – A payout in a tort claim by a city goes some way to ensure a change in policy.

              • Hmmm says:

                You raise a different issue (insert friendly smiley here), whether such a prosecution would be efficacious or not. Still curious where the crim line gets crossed.

                • gerryphillyesq says:

                  That depends on who’s making the call Police, DA, DA’s Grand Jury, State’s Attorney, US Justice Department.

                  • Hmmm says:

                    Now you’re talking charging decisions, vs. I’m talking statutes. Can anyone fill in the relevant crim statutes, pretty please?

          • Hmmm says:

            Sorry, I must have been unclear. I meant the other way, when viewed from the citizen’s perspective, what is the threshold that a police misbehavior would have to rise to, in order to become a crime? Not in this instance, where I agree it’s very very very unlikely there is a police crime involved, but solely for future reference in the general case.

  56. Raven says:

    From Boston Online:

    Speaking at length this morning on the Dennis & Callahan show on WEEI radio in Boston, Crowley maintained that “I know what I did was right.” When the hosts asserted, however, that “professor Gates and the President of the United States owe you an apology,” Crowley refused to bite.

    “The president has a lot of other daunting tasks ahead of him,” Crowley said. “I wish for the good of the whole country that he is successful in efforts to do the many things that he has to.”

    The radio show hosts persisted: “Well, hopefully on those other tasks he actually gets his facts straight, because clearly he didn’t know what he was talking about when he addressed your little issue.”

    Crowley said: “I think it is regrettable that anybody on either side of this issue would make comments – and you know I saw some of them, but I think its regrettable that anybody, either somebody who supports me or somebody who thinks I acted inappropriately — without knowing the whole story, without talking to those who were there who have firsthand knowledge of the events and who saw themselves the way in which professor Gates acted and what led to his arrest.”

    Now those are the words of a vicious cop if I ever read them. I guess one might wait until those who were there were heard from but it’s easier to judge from here.

    • gerryphillyesq says:

      I appreciate the Officer’s apparent equanimity in a situation where he was being pressured to go on the attack. But I do wonder why he would choose to appear on a morning talk radio show to defend his actions in a matter that could be subject to litigation in which he (and his employer) is a party. Did he get authorization from his superiors to do this?

        • gerryphillyesq says:

          I read your link. But my question is still unanswered. Any statement he makes in connection with this incident is admissible in future litigation as an exception to the hearsay rule. Why is he speaking?

          • bmaz says:

            Oh I agree with that. the officer is certainly free to speak, but it isn’t a good idea right at this point. He should not be putting his own statements on the record publicly, even if he thinks they are helpful, until things equilibrate some, if then.

            • Fern says:

              Wouldn’t the police department have some kind of regulations about who gets to speak to the press? I would have thought he would have to get permission to appear, and find it surprising that they would have sent the officer out rather that whoever their communications person is.

    • tjbs says:

      No sir, it’s a Police Officer with a contrite heart after being caught in the glare of the MSM national spotlight.

      My father was such a extreme racist ,after 60 years sometimes I fall into that rut of thinking,still.

  57. gerryphillyesq says:

    One other issue: Once the police had established Dr. Gates’ identity their right to enter his premises ended. Under the common law they became trespassers and thus liable under that tort. There may also be other tort claims like intentional infliction of emotional distress. His radio comments today might be particularly unhelpful in this regard.

  58. pdaly says:

    Thanks for the post, bmaz. Gates should not have been arrested as you say.
    I’m surprised the Cambridge police are sticking to their guns (pun somewhat intended) and not apologizing.
    Cambridge is usually criticized for being too liberal (including being a sanctuary city for undocumented aliens–Cambridge City Council rejects the terms “illegal” and “alien” when referring to “human beings” and does not wish to participate in Federally mandated reporting). Gates’ arresting officer must have undergone sensitivity training for dealing with undocumented immigrants, so dealing with a Harvard professor WITH documents should have been conflict free.

    BTW, I am in Cambridge today. Just drove down Ware Street and there is an abc news (Chronicle) truck parked outside Gates’ house. There was also (to my surprise) a Fox 25 news truck, too. Wondering why Fox would take interest –strike that. Wondering how Fox will spin this.

    • gerryphillyesq says:

      Although the City Council may be liberal there is always the question of how deep that liberalism penetrates the government mechanisms. Old habits and attitudes die hard.

      • pdaly says:

        True, but Cambridge has been a “Sanctuary City” formally since 1985, and America has been an immigrant sanctuary from the beginning (well, except for Native Americans pushed out of the way and any Africans brought to the shores as slaves)

        • gerryphillyesq says:

          Yes but being an immigrant doesn’t automatically result in tolerance for other immigrants. I had a friend whose father was the son of Italian immigrants and whose mother was the daughter of German immigrants. Her dad’s family disowned him for marrying a German!

  59. constantweader says:

    To suggest that my being white means I couldn’t possibly have any idea about racism is about as racist a statement as I’ve ever seen in writing not coming from Pat Buchanan & friends.

    The best quality of a liberal is (or used to be) our ability to see the world as others see it, to be open to differing opinions, and to want to make life better for everybody, not just for people who were “most like us.” That quality of empathy is sadly lacking in some of the discourse I see on the blogs.

    I do understand where Gates’ bad behavior came from — on several levels — & tho he may be excused in the short run, in the long run I hope he learns to be kinder to those who don’t enjoy his level of privilege. He should be embarrassed, not for being arrested, but for acting out in the way that led to his arrest. I assure you that in college towns across America, even in most parts of the South, an educated person of any color can finesse his way out of trouble with the cops if he chooses to. Gates either chose not to or was temporarily incapable of controlling himself. His likely pretense at racial discrimination masks and diminishes the real instances of discrimination that many people of color and women really do still experience every day.

    Constant Weader at http://www.RealityChex.com

    • gerryphillyesq says:

      I think your comment contains an interesting issue. Once Gates established that he owned the house what trouble was he required to finesse himself out of?

    • Palli says:

      I assure you that in college towns across America, even in most parts of the South, an educated person of any color can finesse his way out of trouble with the cops if he chooses to.
      Really, wouldn’t it be better if an innocent person of any color….

      My sense of empathy, given by parents and honed during the 60s helps me understands this situation quite differently than you. This cop, without reason of law, abused an American citizen- a taxpayer of his community in his own home…porches are not public property. Your reality is not in sync with mine or that of Prof. Gates.

    • skdadl says:

      Man. Do we have a lot of work to do teaching people about democracy and liberty or what?

      How did so many North Americans end up thinking that our constitutions are a Miss Manners column? Our rights and freedoms and our laws have to be a lot smarter and stronger than etiquette lessons.

      • Raven says:

        Maybe it was the bus loads of cops at the convention in Miami in 72 beating on the sides of the buses with their billy clubs and chomping at the bit to get at us.

  60. constantweader says:

    In response to Gerryphillyesq, the trouble Gates had to finesse his way out of was the trouble of his own making; i.e., yelling at the policeman. According to the police report, which I readily acknowledge may not be accurate, Gates exhibited “loud & tumultuous behavior…causing citizens passing by to stop & take notice while appearing surprised and alarmed.” Unlike tejanarusa, I’m not a lawyer, so less inclined to be an advocate for one side or the other. I also don’t know the law, but I do know that if I stood out on my front porch yelling at anybody, the local police would do something to shut me up. If you live out in the country, you may be able stand outside & hollar at the top of your lungs, but most cities, including the one I live in, have noise ordinances. There are some hours of the day I can’t mow the lawn, I can never play the radio loudly enough to disturb the neighbors, etc.

    As I said in the first place, Gates was arrested not because of his original, lawful act of entering his own home but because of his later behavior in the presence of the police. If he had it to do over, unless he’s a big ol’ publicity hound, I suspect he would have behaved politely & later filed a complaint for racial discrimination if he thought that was a factor in the police’s treatment of him. Whether it was or not we’ll never know because Gates behaved in a way that makes him an unreliable witness, unless perhaps his driver (about whom we have heard little) can provide testimony.

    The Constant Weader at http://www.RealityChex.com

    • gerryphillyesq says:

      So he was not, in fact, in violation of any law that would give the police probable cause to be on Dr. Gates’ property. Once the police were no longer lawfully on the property they became trespassers. Police officers do receive training in the law. I see large civil liability in the arresting officer’s future.

    • bmaz says:

      He was Constitutionally entitled to yell at the officer at that point if he wished. It may have been crass, but the cop simply does not get to arrest Gates. Period.

  61. constantweader says:

    In response to Gerryphillyesq. & Bmaz, here in wild & crazy Florida, I can tell you that the police will enter onto a person’s property to tell him to turn down the religious sermon he’s playing at high decibel on a Sunday afternoon, & the fire department will enter a person’s property to tell him to put out the “controlled” fire he’s got going in his yard in the dry season, because I’ve witnessed both. It may not be constitutional, but I sure was glad not to have to listen to the Jesus stuff any longer or to worry the neighborhood would go up in flames.

    I agree with Robert Gibbs’ statement today that the President believes “cooler heads should have prevailed on all sides” in the Gates case.

    The Constant Weader at http://www.RealityChex.com

    • gerryphillyesq says:

      Both of the scenarios you describe contain a predicate illegal act that permits the police entry onto the property. The difference from Gates is that Dr. Gates was legally in his home -there was no underlying illegal act. Once the police established his identity they no longer had any right under the law to remain in Dr. Gates’ house. Under the law they became trespassers (in the common law sense). Dr. Gates owed them no duty and had every right to demand their immediate exit. Law enforcement officers are not above the law, statutory or common.

  62. Gerald says:

    I can’t answer all of you by name, but I have read your comments. I haven’t personally lived the “black experience” but I have had many friends and men under my command who have, so I have (I think) good knowledge of it.

    About the porch. It is a part of the house. I said that before. But being in the open, and being loud and disruptive is not a private matter. Any college kid and certainly an old professor knows that.

    The officer wished to leave but Gates kept after him. Now maybe that was confusion on Gates part from being tired after a long trip. (Someone elsewhere mentioned that.) I don’t know. But the officer told him to quiet down (or some such) and he didn’t. He was warned he would be arrested. At this time many other officers had arrived and a crowd had gathered. (Check out the photos some young citizen journalist has licensed.) So the officer followed through.

    Some people said, it was Gates’ house and the identity of Gates was established, and so that the officer should have ramped down his responses to a loud man but remember to the police “domestic disturbances” are many times the most dangerous and this guy seemed out of control.

    In my opinion, it was simply the case of an old tired egotistical (of course) Harvard Prof not liking be questioned by an officer who had been called there to protect the Prof’s property. Then the old guy (and I would be in that “old category” too) wouldn’t let go of his petty grievances. This old guy was lucky that the mayor and the President personally shared some of his perceptions of his grievances. (This (me) old white guy wouldn’t have been so lucky, and so that is why he(I) am always polite to the police, and the SPs.)

    The major problem with this is that Obama allowed his health talk to be marginalized by this separate incident and discussion. We need a one payer health system in this country. I do quite well myself with the Government footing the bill now, but I can’t stand the idea of little children not having health care. I fought for their safety for their opportunity and don’t want them to live in a country that ranks about 40th in morality in the world.

    The second concern I have is that by wading in on this and calling the police stupid in Cambridge Obama has lost many police and other law enforcement votes. Likewise independents.

    Yes, he will improve his “black voter standing” but you can’t go above 100% on that anyway.

    Respectfully, Gerald.

  63. esseff44 says:

    According to the incident report, Crowley identified himself at the very beginning while still outside and asked Gates to come outside and identify himself. That’s when Gates started yelling. Crowley was talking on his radio at several different points in the incident, so there must be recordings that will help support one version or the other. He said he tried to answer him but Gates was talking over him. He was trying to give information to ECC and report as he was going along. He said he was trying to get outside to finish the report because Gates was making so much noise, he couldn’t transmit his report.

    It sounds to me that Crowley was following a set of procedures for a report of a suspected break-in. He needed information to transmit to complete the report.

    It doesn’t sound like either of them acted reasonably. Most people in would be grateful that someone was looking out for their home and that the police responded to a suspicious incident. Gates could simply have come outside and identified himself and that would have been it. The arrest was taking things too far as well. Around here, if he continued to scream and yell, he would have been taken to the psych ward for evaluation.

    • gerryphillyesq says:

      The incident report can be completed in the squad car. There was no need for Crowley to remain on Dr. Gates’ property once he had determined that there was no break-in.

    • bmaz says:

      Naw, not even close to a psych hold; not under those circumstances of contact. As to Sgt. Crowley “trying to get outside to finish the report because Gates was making so much noise, he couldn’t transmit his report”; eh, I dunno. Maybe, but that seems contrived to me.

      If there are contact/dispatch tapes, and there certainly should be, lets hear them. If they were that exculpatory of Crowley and the incident response participants, they would be out by now. The date of incident was July 16. It has been a week, and the President of the United States just freaking declared them “stupid” and directly inferred it was a racially motivated clusterfuck at the hands of the police department. If I am the City’s attorney, and that is really the case, I clamp down on Crowley and send him fishingfor ten days, and have a PR person (preferably a woman) make a statement and release the key parts of the audio dispatch/tac tapes that seal our side of the story. and I would have done it today so it bled into and led the weekend to take control of the story and tamp the noise down. There was none of that, which is fairly telling. Maybe they don’t have their ducks lined up yet; but that would be pretty telling too because any competent department and counsel would have seen this shitstorm coming ten minutes after it was over.

      This isn’t the first high profile false arrest cockup in the world you know, there are predictable paths that the facts go down depending on their nature. I have seen a few pretty good ones in the past, and I am simply making my best guess from experience. I could be totally full of it; all I can say is I call em as I see em.

  64. AngelsAwake says:

    These people are hosed. I’m a law student working through law school right now, and… yeah, these people are hosed.

  65. Hmmm says:

    Very interesting to see the differing levels of acceptance of authoritarianism here. Defenders of Crowley seem to want to fall in line with an assumption that police authority is legitimate (or at least insurmountable) irrespective of law; defenders of Gates seem to want to see the practical application of police authority be bound by the relevant law.

    I’m beginning to think that for many people a personal position on rule of law vs. authoritarianism is replacing party affiliation as their primary political identity. This is part of why the attempt to rebrand the very concept of rule-of-law as a Democratic Party political position is so bad; it blurs a new kind of shift that the experience of the W years is forcing on us all. Some of us see ghosts that need to be exorcised, some don’t. Personally, I think John Dean was right about this being a personality trait that tends to correlate with (because it tends to lead to) political affiliation, yet doesn’t strictly control it.

    • gerryphillyesq says:

      You’re right about the issue of authoritarianism. I would submit that the framers of the Constitution were very clear on their suspicion of the ability of people to self-regulate their need to control. That is why the Constitution gives limited power to the Federal Government and reserved all other rights to the states and the people. State constitutions are somewhat more expansive in the powers they give to state governments but still recognize the fundamental rights of the individual. And remember that state constitutions cannot abridge the rights of citizens granted by the Federal Constitution.

  66. PJEvans says:

    Personal opinion,(IANAL):
    Once Gates proved he was the resident, the cop should have said something like ‘have a good night’, gone outside, and finished his report in his car. He didn’t have to do that inside the house; also, there doesn’t seem to be anything needing Gates’s presence that couldn’t have waited until morning.

  67. SparklestheIguana says:

    The one thing that’s absolutely certain: Lynn Sweet has been patting herself on the back (and will be for days) over changing the whole course of the discussion.

    Thanks, Lynn! Healthcare reform isn’t that critical. We know you’ve got yours.

    On what Obama said: I was totally with him until he said the Cambridge cops “acted stupidly”. That was a very stupid thing to say given that he wasn’t there.

  68. marob203 says:

    From a black perspective, I can say that in dealing with police officers, blacks are naturally suspect. I’ve been witness to this all of my life. It’s a result of blacks, LBGT persons, Muslims, Hispanics, and immigrants being viewed as “not one of us.” I am over 50 years old, have postgraduate degrees, pay my taxes, never spent one night in jail, and own a home, all of the things that could be used to describe most Americans, but if I go into certain neighborhoods in my city, the residents may call the police. It is not uncommon for white people here to wonder how/why some black kids drive luxury cars. The first thing they say is they must be selling drugs. Wear designer clothes? Shoplifting, or they sell drugs. Live in an upscale neighborhood? Selling drugs, again. All bad in these folks’ minds, all of the time. In other words, black is bad.

  69. esseff44 says:

    AP has a report out that Crowley has been teaching a class in Racial Profiling for the last five years at the Lowell Police Academy. Maybe he can invite Prof. Gates to give a guest lecture.

      • SparklestheIguana says:

        Now why on earth would that be justified?

        I have yet to see a single piece of evidence that his arrest was racially motivated. Ill-advised maybe, but no evidence that race was a factor.

        All the reasoning I’ve seen so far in Gates’ defense goes, “Racial profiling exists. Gates, a well-respected black person, was arrested. Therefore the police racially profiled Gates.” Huh?

  70. esseff44 says:

    This is going to go on and on for awhile. The Cambridge Police Dept. held a press conference supporting Sgt. Crowley. President Obama was interviewed for Nightline defending his comments.


    Cooler heads should have prevailed said the President.

    • bmaz says:

      Now they are saying Gates’ house was broken into previously? Real nice of them to suddenly come up with that little factoid a week later. Fucking brilliant. I wonder if Gates himself telling them his lock had been jimmied is the source of their newfound case controlling evidence. Remember what I said about the Blue Line?

      • esseff44 says:

        It was in the first report somewhere that the reason the front door was jammed shut was because of a previous break-in and that is why he and the driver had to force it open. This is not new information. Apparently, Gates had already called the Harvard maintenance department to send someone over to fix the door and he was there at the time of the arrest.

        What is not clear is when the previous break-in happened. Was it while Gates was away on the trip or before he left. It must have been before or else he would have taken this chance to file a report with Crowley.

        • PJEvans says:

          That still doesn’t justify Crowley’s behavior.
          He should have left when he’d verified that Gates was the resident.

          • esseff44 says:

            That was not meant to be justification for the arrest. It was a response to above post saying that the police department are presenting this as a new factoid.

            We really need the tapes to hear what was going on and how long it took to get the identification. This is where accounts differ. Prof. Gates indicated Sgt. Crowley continued to question him. Sgt. Crowley reported that Prof. Gates was yelling at him to give him information at which point he leaves asking Prof. Gates to come outside. He also mentions there was another policeman standing behind him and there were others outside. So, there are witnesses and tapes and a timeline that will help sort things out.

            • thatvisionthing says:

              He wanted Gates outside so he could arrest him. From Gates’ statement:


              All of a sudden, there was a policeman on my porch. And I thought, ‘This is strange.’ So I went over to the front porch still holding the phone, and I said ‘Officer, can I help you?’ And he said, ‘Would you step outside onto the porch.’ And the way he said it, I knew he wasn’t canvassing for the police benevolent association. All the hairs stood up on the back of my neck, and I realized that I was in danger. And I said to him no, out of instinct. I said, ‘No, I will not.’

              My lawyers later told me that that was a good move and had I walked out onto the porch he could have arrested me for breaking and entering.

              He turned his back to me and turned back to the porch. And I followed him. I kept saying, “I want your name, and I want your badge number.”

              It looked like an ocean of police had gathered on my front porch. There were probably half a dozen police officers at this point. The mistake I made was I stepped onto the front porch and asked one of his colleagues for his name and badge number. And when I did, the same officer said, ‘Thank you for accommodating our request. You are under arrest.’ And he handcuffed me right there.

              I don’t know what the difference was between being inside the house and outside for the police to arrest him.

              Also in Gates’ statement is his explanation that the front door was jammed when he got home, he let himself in the back with his key, tried to open the front door from the inside and it was stiff and so he asked his driver to help push on it, and he was on the phone to Harvard maintenance to come fix it when the police came.

              • Hmmm says:

                So… at the time that Gates stepped outside, had the police already ID’d him, or not? What you quoted doesn’t say whether they had or not.

                • thatvisionthing says:

                  Follow the link to read the whole Gates statement… I left out all the middle stuff so as to get just what he said about being outside on the porch. The middle stuff includes him being ID’d in his own home. Also at the link is Sgt. Crowley’s statement, which probably answers my question about why he could be arrested OUTSIDE his home but not inside — because outside was public and Crowley could document distress on the part of passersby, though as bmaz said it’s apparent the real distress was his own — a kind of self-realizing crime.

                  On Thursday July 16, 2009, Henry Gates, Jr. ___ of ___ Ware Street, Cambridge, MA) was placed under arrest at __ Ware Street, after being observed exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior, in a public place, directed at a uniformed police officer who was present investigating a report of a crime in progress. These actions on behalf of Gates served no legitimate purpose and caused citizens passing by this location to stop and take notice while appearing surprised and alarmed.
                  Signed: Sgt. James Crowley

              • zgveritas says:

                When the cop finally arrests Gates once the Professor walks outside, he says, “thanks for accomodating my (earlier) request.”

                What this tells me is that the cop was simply being petty and still angry that the homeowner refused to “step outside” on initial contact. Despite all that happened in the interim (positive ID) the cop harbored a stupid grudge (which Gates aggravated more by being obstinent, making racial charges, and warning the cop he didn’t know who he was messing with). So the cop decided to show Gates who was boss (in the short term at least) by inconveniencing him with a pointless trip to the station.


                • thatvisionthing says:

                  Hmmm… why DID the officer ask Gates to step out onto the porch to begin with? I hadn’t caught that — that was before the anger and misunderstanding. Is that another way police get suspects in the most vulnerable place possible?

                  The way I look at the whole incident is that the police officer needed to be in control, and probably prided himself as well on his NON racial profiling skills (he had taught that at the Cambridge police academy for the past 5 years, without pay) and so got really piqued when Gates refused to let him control him and threw his weight around and called him a racist to boot. Plus there were a lot of officers outside — were they always there, did he need to keep face in front of them too? Like I said in an earlier comment, I think the police officer personally sees himself as a righteous order keeper and saw Gates as needing to be put in order. But I also find myself enchanted by the (potentially heartwarming) ludicrousness of it all. I left a comment about that over on Daily Kos: http://www.dailykos.com/commen…..6/273#c273

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            That would seem to be the limit of legitimate police inquiry – does the guy apparently wrongfully entering into a home have authority to enter it – or is he breaking the law? Once the police reasonably determined that the professor lived there, they should have left with a, “Sorry to trouble you, professor.”

            Even if the professor were wordy or mouthing off, that should have been expected as a likely reaction to being mistaken for a burglar in his own home. Mistaken belief was inherent in a neighbor calling in a suspicious action; perception and eye witness accounts are routinely inaccurate and investigators are trained to know that. Unless the professor was physically intimidating or assaulting the police – given his age and physical stature and that he walks with a cane – that would seem hard to do – he was no threat and within his rights.

            If the professor had lived there any length of time, it would also have been reasonable for him to have been insulted a) that any neighbor mistook him for a burglar, and b) that once he’d identified himself with a government issued picture id that had his correct address on it – an item burglars rarely carry with them – the police didn’t wrap it up and leave.

            Something similar happened to me mid-afternoon in an urban block on a Saturday in a large city. On getting up from my computer and going into the front room of a townhouse ground floor flat, I was surprised to see several shadows at the front door, asking me for my id in authoritarian voices.

            Seeing only shadows, the lights were off and the sun was behind the figures, I asked them for theirs. Then realizing they might be police, I carefully said that I was raising my right hand to turn on the overhead light. I did so, realized there were four police in my front room, and asked them why they were in my front room.

            They asked me what I was doing there. I said I lived there. I hadn’t an id on me, having come back from a run, but luckily the owner was out back cleaning up after her dogs. They came through, spoke with her and in a couple of minutes we were done.

            The police spent several minutes calming us (and themselves) down and reiterating that someone had called in a possible break-in, which was not unusual in the neighborhood. I said it was lucky they hadn’t all four pulled their weapons. The sergeant looked at me like I was from Iowa and said, “We did”. I guess I hadn’t seen those little red dots on my t-shirt logo, but was glad they were well trained, used appropriate restraint, and hadn’t automatically used their “non-lethal” Tasers instead. The four officers were African Americans.

            The situation was handled smoothly and with a de facto apology – by way of informally normalizing the relationship after they had the facts, rather than with express language. In the end, it was no problem, which is how it should have ended for Professor Gates.

        • bmaz says:

          Right; but far as I can tell, the source of that information was, wait for it, Gates himself. It doesn’t appear the cops knew about this when coming on the scene thus giving them some heightened basis to suspect criminal activity. But that is the way they are trying to portray this to the moron media. Perhaps more facts will show that fact in a different light, but that is sure how it looks right now.

  71. Gerald says:

    bmaz, I also thought he was 70. He looks that old and has the cane.

    But anyway, I think you have missed a significant portion of the story. There is a long detailed write up of the incident by Crowley and another officer. I think in there it states that Gates had indicated that the reason his driver (the original 2nd black man) had to shove the door with his shoulder was that the door had been damaged in an earlier break in, and hadn’t been fixed. You should read it. Pretty detailed and informative.

    I think Gates and the President jumped the gun too aggressively on the aggrieved black man bandwagon, but yes the policeman could have saved himself a lot of trouble and backed away. Unfortunately for everyone he decided to be like Gates and the President.

    My main point about “racial profiling” was that there was only one person in the house, so the policeman didn’t choose Gates over some white guys also standing around inside.

  72. bmaz says:

    Because Gates, not the cop at the time of the arrest, knew of some prior incident, that is supposed to exculpate a blatantly false and illegal arrest by the cop? You gotta be kidding me.

  73. thatvisionthing says:

    Sorry I haven’t read the 250 comments before mine, but I searched for “Crash” and so far nobody has mentioned it, so maybe this comment is worth making. Crash. Crash Crash Crash. It won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2006 (beating even Brokeback Mountain). If you’ve seen this movie, you know what I mean, that black and white isn’t black and white, and everyone is human, good and bad. The cop who’s dissing black pepole one day will be saving their lives the next. He’s in pain because the black lady bureaucrat won’t help his father get the care he desperately needs. What goes round comes round. The next thing I think of is Barack Obama’s race speech in Philadelphia during the primary. He talked about race issues from the black side and from the white side, the very real fears. Jon Stewart said finally a candidate addressed us as an adult.

    All I’m saying is I bet both the white guy and the black guy are carrying worthy baggage here. Did you see the house the cop was interviewed in front of? Actually just the hedges — perfectly squared hedges — that’s who he is, that’s why be became a cop, I’d say. He needs to control. I’ve seen Henry Gates on TV before, and he bubbled and darted and laughed and probed — totally the opposite personality of the cop, he needs to think outside the box and dance in and out of it. These are interesting things. I’m betting the last thing Henry Gates would choose to be would be a cop. I’m also betting there are times Henry Gates might be grateful a cop was there to come to his aid. So… where the hell is the Barack Obama who gave the race speech, who could voice the real concerns of each side and bring us all together with understanding and respect? The guy who said we could honestly disagree without reducing the other side to a caricature? It would help if each side could reach to each other and maybe even come to laugh together at the comedy of errors. Lots to say, lots to learn.

    • thatvisionthing says:

      Too late to edit. Just want to add: Lots to say, lots to learn, if someone (Barack!) wanted to see the opportunity in this crisis. Or maybe Oprah.

    • bmaz says:

      Hey,you know, nobody had mentioned Crash as far as i know and you are right, it was a pretty powerful vignette on the black white interaction in today’s America. It is complex. Excellent comment.

      • thatvisionthing says:

        Thanks, it’s all I can think of. Like Obama, I wasn’t there… but I feel like I was because of that movie. I don’t regret the incident, I think it’s a kind of fabulous teaching moment opportunity if someone knew how to turn it. You can feel for each of them. It’s not that I don’t think there was something defensive and small in how Gates and Crowley dealt with each other, it’s that I think there was something comically heroic in each of them too. I’d focus on the possible grand. It’s kind of Gift of the Magi comical, you kind of want to hug both of them and laugh at the same time. Of course I could be making it all up. Like Obama, I wasn’t there…

    • bmaz says:

      Exactly why I also referred to the offense here as disturbing the peace. If you look at the statute, the only operative words, out of many, that could apply to Gates is the “disturbers of the peace” clause. I have never practiced in Massachusetts, but in every jurisdiction where I have had encountered a disturbing the peace charge it had as an essential element that an identifiable member, or members, or the public be demonstrated by the prosecution to have been a victim of the offending conduct. There has to be actual evidence of who they are and how they were effected. There simply is none of that here. However, as pointed out by the court in the Duran v. City of Douglas case, and many others, police officers are not appropriate “victims” for such a charge; they are not “the public” and they are deemed to have an elevated barrier to being “disturbed”. All why this was a false arrest and, correspondingly, why the charge was immediately dismissed.