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Friday, July 24, 2009

Good to see Obama is solidly in the corner of law & order

A white Cambridge, MA police officer named James Crowley - a cop with a rock solid record- recently approached a private residence in response to a call from a civilian that there were two black men with backpacks attempting to break into her neighbor's house.  While it shouldn't be a factor in this day and age, you can see already why I have mentioned the police officer's race.

Responding to a break-in call can be extremely dangerous, and most police in such a situation are vigilant for their safety, to say the least. 

When Officer Crowley arrived, he found signs of a forced entry... and what he believed to be one of the burglars still in the residence.  However, it now turns out that the man who allegedly broke in was the owner of the residence, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a black professor at Harvard University and a friend of President Obama, who, for whatever reason, had used force to open the door of his own house.   You can read the entire police report here.

In a normal world, this call would have ended with a relieved police officer being thanked by a grateful home-owner for responding to the mistaken burglary call... and maybe even getting an apology for the trouble. 

But instead, upon seeing a police officer in his home and being asked to identify himself and provide some proof that he was the owner of the home, the Harvard Professor allegedly responded angrily "This is what happens to a black man in America."  When the officer asked him to step outside the residence, the scholar continued (according to the report), "I'll speak with your mama outside".

The confrontation ended with the Prof. Gates being arrested for Disorderly Conduct (a charge that was quickly dismissed by prosecutors, one would assume, after his status in the community and presidential connections came to light).

Now, in addition to the fact that you or I would certainly have been arrested for verbally abusing a police officer under similar circumstances, I think it is safe to say that it would have taken a fair bit of lawyering for the average citizen to get the charges dropped after pointedly refusing to cooperate with a police officer in such a potentially dangerous situation.

But the real kicker is that during a press conference on July 22nd, President Obama stated that the police officer in this case had “acted stupidly”.

In my humble opinion Obama's remark was no less racist and no less stupid than those allegedly uttered by his friend the professor. 

The police have an extremely dangerous and difficult job to do sorting out the good guys from the bad on the best of days.  The 'rules of engagement', so to speak, under which they are required to do their job often result in their paying with life or limb in order to avoid potentially violating someone's civil or constitutional rights. 

I am disgusted that a president - who should always err on the side of law and order - would weigh in on this matter based only on race and friendship.   By doing so, he endangered every police officer in the country by putting them in a position where they will now hesitate an extra few moments in such potentially dangerous circumstances.

Go ahead and argue that I have no idea what it's like to be a black man confronted by a police officer in America.  I say to you (most of you, anyway) that you have no idea what it is like to be a police officer facing someone who has just broken into a private residence and may be armed.  President Obama certainly doesn't... and what's more, he doesn't have enough empathy to care what it's like, or enough respect for the law these officers uphold at risk to their lives. 

IMHO, this president isn't worthy to dig the graves of the brave police officers who give their lives every year to defend the very same constitution he swore to uphold at his inauguration.

Posted by David Bogner on July 24, 2009 | Permalink

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>The 'rules of engagement', so to speak, under which they are required to do their job often result in their paying with life or limb in order to avoid potentially violating someone's civil or constitutional rights.

Those, as you say, are the rules of engagement. Yet the officer in question here chose instead to violate Dr Gate's civil and constitutional rights, even when it was clear that Dr Gates posed no threat to him or to others. By your own standards this officer acted improperly.

Posted by: rejewvenator | Jul 24, 2009 5:03:58 PM

rejewvenator... I'll leave it to some of the cops who read this blog to give a policeman's view of things, but you haven't given me any indication of what laws and rights were violated or how the arresting officer did anything wrong.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jul 24, 2009 5:11:21 PM

I guarantee anyone that if you insult and berate and officer of the law and antagonize him, he will find something to cite you for. It's just not using your brain. I live in NYC and see the excellent job that most of these officers are doing. No one wants the polive in their home, and true, maybe they should have left after it was obvious who he was, but he followed the officers out harassing them. Sometimes, you just need to let things go.

Posted by: JK | Jul 24, 2009 5:11:52 PM

JK... I think everyone would do well to go read the police report I linked to. The home owner verbally identified himself but was abusive when asked to produce ID. Even after ID was established, verbally abusing a cop who has responded to stop someone from breaking into your home is just stupid. By his own admission, the front door was jammed from a previous break in attempt. You get disorderly in public at cop, you get cuffed.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jul 24, 2009 5:16:03 PM

I read the police report, too, and couldn't figure out why Gates's reaction wasn't something along the lines you mentioned, together with the offer of a cup of coffee before the officers left.

Posted by: Rahel | Jul 24, 2009 5:32:57 PM

Could the police officer not have "adjusted" the story when he made the report to make himself look better?
Still, what Obama did was wrong.

I live in NYC and appreciate the police and the work they do to protect us. At the same time, though, we do have problems with the police failing to file proper reports sometimes, or "losing" reports. Some think that this is in order to be able to claim that crime is going down. If they can do that, why can't they write their own version of a story?

Posted by: Ber | Jul 24, 2009 5:45:01 PM

Hard to know what really happened, but on the face of it, the homeowner should have been grateful for the neighbor's vigilance and the quick and professional response.

Suprised that the President would weigh in a police/local matter. No upside, politically. And especially interesting when contrasted to his initial reluctance to condemn the Iranian "election."

As for profiling, it no doubt happens in law enforcement, and has unpleasant and unlawful ramifications. But smart and respectful profiling is not necessarily morally harmful. (Ok, so El Al is smart but not necessarily respectful, but, hey -- that's something of a luxury)

Let's face it: we all subconsciously profile one another when we meet. Sometimes we're wrong, but it helps us avoid danger.

Gates was almost certaintly reacting, post traumatically, to instances where aggressive profiling + racism subjected him, family or friends to harrassment. Doesn't justify his current ire. Save it for when it matters.

Posted by: Ari | Jul 24, 2009 5:51:19 PM

I find it incredible that you take a Police report at face value. It is true that many Police officers are brave and honest, but it is also true that there is a longstanding practice on Police departments to shade the truth to create favorable reports when confronted with gray situations. Gates probably acted like an asshole, (he has a reputation in academic circles for being a contentious fellow) but the report should not be accepted as incontrovertible proof that the incident could have ended without an arrest.

Posted by: Jordan Hirsch | Jul 24, 2009 6:08:24 PM

David,

Yes, Gates overreacted. But the prevalence of racial profiling in America could make any black man angry. And Obama's only point was that they police acted stupidly in arresting him. They could have given him a citation rather than arresting him. Police are allowed to be yelled at. Taking the high road is part of their job. I heard the police officer in an interview, whining that Gates insulted his parentage. So what? He's a police officer, not a co-worker.

As far as Obama weighing in, he didn't do so on his own, but was specifically asked about the incident in a news conference by a reporter. He gave several caveats, saying that he didn't know all the facts and that Gates is a friend of his so it would be hard for him to be objective. He qualified his answer carefully.

In any case, remember that Obama may be the president, but he's also a black man in America and as such he's surely had to deal with prejudice and ignorance most of his life. You think he shouldn't have an opinion on something like this?

Posted by: dys | Jul 24, 2009 6:25:08 PM

I disagree on this one. James Taranto of the WSJ summed it up well yesterday on his Best of the Web column; yes, Gates acted stupidly, but so did Crowley. Once he had the ID that shows Gates lived there he should have apologized and left.

Posted by: Ezzie | Jul 24, 2009 6:46:50 PM

Just wanted to say that I liked this post and your candor.

[Although I agree that most police reports report only one perspective, and that this point of view may not reflect reality accurately or objectively, I wholeheartedly agree that if it were anyone else, white, hispanic, or black that the cops were dealing with, they would have gotten cuffed. Law enforcement in this day and age is a lot about "get them under control" and ask questions later, often regardless of who you are or what you do.

Would Obama have come to anyone else's defense in a situation like this?]

Posted by: Tanya | Jul 24, 2009 6:49:30 PM

I agree with Richard Ford's piece in Slate (http://www.slate.com/id/2223472/). Both Gates and Crowley were stupid, and neither was necessarily racist. The difference is that only one of their stupidity involved detaining the other on behalf of the government.

Posted by: Isaac | Jul 24, 2009 7:18:08 PM

Thank you David for your response to Obama, and another one of his "clueless actions" this has been on going on Obama's part..the world knows that Obama is just about clueless on everything...Emanuel and Axlerod are running the country behind the scenes, what they have failed to do is put a mussle on Obama.

Posted by: Poney | Jul 24, 2009 7:25:48 PM

Well, one could look at it from another perspective - once the officer realized there was no break-in (and contrary to your statement, the police report does not mention any evidence of such, other than the neighbor's claim) HE should have apologized to Gates.
Now, Gates certainly sounds like a pompous, contentious windbag - but honestly, yelling at someone from your front porch is an offense for which arrest is justified? Leave, let the guy go back into his house and be done with it!
I'm surprised that Obama weighed in without full knowledge of the case - perhaps an error in judgement. But it does show how it helps to have people with a variety of life experiences in high office. Here is a case where different perspectives give different views on the facts of the incident - Senate Judiciary Committee, are you listening?

Posted by: cyberdov | Jul 24, 2009 7:27:10 PM

and as such he's surely had to deal with prejudice and ignorance most of his life.

Did Al Sharpton feed you that line?

Posted by: Jack | Jul 24, 2009 7:47:20 PM

moreover, with a swift stroke of your keypad you DID negate the argument that revolves around race in America. you didnt add to the discussion, you just bullied anyone from engaging you in a serious discussion about it., essentially ratcheting up the noise. dissapointing. whatever gates' response was -right or wrong- you are doing the same thing he did. just from the other side. what makes your moral indignation so much more moral?

Posted by: shabtai | Jul 24, 2009 8:48:00 PM

Meh. You had a tired, middle-aged man, who had just been on a series of plane flights for probably well over 18 hours (from China), returning to his house and finding the door jammed.

To add insult to injury, when he finally DID get back in his house and was ready to rest - police walked in and demaded to know who he was.

Was his reaction rational? Probably not.

Was it understandable, given his physical/mental state and the realities of growing up as a black man in American? Totally.

Police accept the danger when they accept the job. Expecting everyone to be polite and appreciative, and never question/insult them, however, is delusional.

Posted by: Tzipporah | Jul 24, 2009 9:50:18 PM

How is anyone going to know the truth if David does not give a excellent point of view..in fact he is right..it is the same old story with these Blacks that get a little money, a little fame..by the way..given to them from the country that they love to hate and in return... love to scream racism. All Gates had to do was identify himself. He refuse to do this..instead started a big ruckus. Sadly for him and clueless Obama, they both are coming out on the wrong end of the stick.

Posted by: Poney | Jul 24, 2009 10:05:12 PM

Did Al Sharpton feed you that line?

Wow, you got me!

Idiot.

Posted by: dys | Jul 24, 2009 10:07:19 PM

Wow, you got me!

Idiot.

I wasn't trying to get you, but I received the expected knee jerk response. What do you know of Obama's experience. I am not asking what you think you know, but what you really know. Because your comment is silly. Let's take a look again

In any case, remember that Obama may be the president, but he's also a black man in America and as such he's surely had to deal with prejudice and ignorance most of his life.

Oh ok. The man is POTUS and highly educated. But he didn't earn that did he because he most assuredly had to deal with prejudice and ignorance most of his life. It must have been really hard to overcome all that adversity that is based upon the prejudice and ignorance facing him.

Get over yourself. He is not Jackie Robinson. It is possible that he may have faced some adversity based upon race, but it is nowhere near the magnitude you suggest. Don't make him into some sort of victim because he is not.

Posted by: Jack | Jul 24, 2009 10:32:12 PM

"How is anyone going to know the truth if David does not give a excellent point of view..in fact he is right..it is the same old story with these Blacks that get a little money, a little fame..by the way..given to them from the country that they love to hate and in return... love to scream racism."

You're right, Poney. These Blacks are just getting too uppity. They should be grateful for the successgiven to them from this country.
If you do not understand that your response is fundamentally racist, there is no point discussing it.
I am not suggesting you are racist, but your response uses classic racist tropes that call up the ugliest reactions from our least enlightened citizens.

Posted by: Jordan Hirsch | Jul 24, 2009 10:40:14 PM

Jack,

You have your head in the sand if you don't realize that every single black man in America has experienced at least some degree of racism in their life.

Posted by: dys | Jul 24, 2009 11:00:00 PM

And you are the one with the knee-jerk reaction by trying to delegitimize my comment by throwing Sharpton's name in there, not to mention it makes me suspect that there's a good deal of racism behind your comment as well.

Posted by: dys | Jul 24, 2009 11:01:28 PM

Jack,

You have your head in the sand if you don't realize that every single black man in America has experienced at least some degree of racism in their life.

Right. And every single Jew has experienced antisemitism, and every Asian has been discriminated against etc. That is narishkeit you are tossing around. It is an impossible situation that you couldn't ever hope to prove.

I like dealing in fact and not supposition.

And you are the one with the knee-jerk reaction by trying to delegitimize my comment by throwing Sharpton's name in there, not to mention it makes me suspect that there's a good deal of racism behind your comment as well.

Let's be clear about something, I am not suggesting that your comment has no validity. I am stating unequivocally that you have erected a straw man argument. It is not based upon logic or fact. It is based upon emotion.

You can call me a racist all you want, that is a smokescreen to try and hide behind. Just a simple red herring to distract from the lack of fact in your remarks. And it is the second time you have used a personal attack, which is very telling.

Let's revisit the facts that we can prove. Our president is a Black man with an Ivy League education. He came of age after the Civil Rights movement. He went to integrated schools, wasn't forced to sit in the back of the bus etc.

But you keep trying to paint him as if he is a victim. You keep trying to paint all Black people like their victims. It is nonsense. It is dumb and it is counter productive.

No one disputes that the US has had racial issues, but it has been a very long time since they was an organized and systematic method of keeping people back.

A real issue that you can argue and use facts in is that socio-economic issues have created many challenges for people.

But let's not mistake emotion and what you think for reality.

Posted by: Jack | Jul 24, 2009 11:22:37 PM

I have one word for you Mr. Hirsch..visit our country's inner cities..there you will find your answer.

Posted by: Poney | Jul 24, 2009 11:30:45 PM

All I can say is you are lucky you live there. I think it is time for us all to move!

Posted by: matt | Jul 25, 2009 12:43:41 AM

Hmmmm....where to begin?

First of all, David is right about responding to a possible burglary. When responding to any felony in progress, we don't play around. Gates can scream racism all he wants, but due to the totality of the circumstances, the responding officers have a responsibility to secure the scene and do so in a manner that minimizes the risk to themselves. Gates wasn't ordered to get on the floor at gunpoint or cuffed until he could be identified, so that tells me that Crowley kept things very cool.

Second, if the police are conducting an investigation and they ask you who you are, you must tell them. The Fifth Amendment does not apply in this situation. Crowley asking Gates for ID while investigating a possible burglary to a structure was reasonable.

Third, the US Supreme Court has ruled that the police are expected to have thick skins. So Gates can scream and yell all he wants at the cops. However, he may not do so in the presence of others, that is Disorderly Conduct/Breach of Peace. There were civilians out on the street in front of Gates' residence. If the Prof had kept his temper-tantrum inside, he would have been OK. But when he took it outside and threw his fit in public and after he was warned by Crowley, then that completes the offense. It was a proper arrest. The charge was most likely dropped due to political reasons, not because probable cause for an arrest did not exist.

Posted by: Karl Newman | Jul 25, 2009 1:14:38 AM

Wow!! I never thought that this will be such a big news. It went from Gates arrest to Obama apalogy. This has become more interesting than what I thought. So, I collected all the sites or articles (more than 250 sites or articles) related to this hot topic "Cambridge Police Unit Demands Apology from Obama". If you are interested take a look at news, video coverage, people views and reviews on this topic at the below link.
http://markthispage.blogspot.com/2009/07/all-about-cambridge-police-unit-demands.html

Posted by: sri | Jul 25, 2009 5:24:16 AM

Obama has stepped back from his previous statement. http://ta-nehisicoates.theatlantic.com/archives/2009/07/where_it_all_leaves_us.php

Posted by: A | Jul 25, 2009 7:21:49 AM

i am glad you left America for Israel we are ten times better off without people like you. I love your manipulation of the story as well. Brilliant!

Posted by: Drale | Jul 25, 2009 2:30:39 PM

btw is it the life ambition of all Israelis to maintain their unpopularity within the world from start to end? just curious. yall certainly have had a successful year if this is the case!
also David i pray you dont have dual citizenship. We finally got rid of Bush but still have Ann Coulter! shit.

Posted by: Drale | Jul 25, 2009 2:38:44 PM

I wonder if any of the outraged street-naive posting here actually READ the police report.

The police received a report of a burglary-in-progress. The officer responded and made contact with the complaining witness, who is apparently a neighbor of the professor and yet did not recognize him. Burglers often carry duffel bags and/or backpacks to make it easier to carry looted items from the residence. The officer went to the home without cover, assuming a crime in progress with two suspects, and not knowing whether or not they were armed. He made contact with a Black male inside the home who CLAIMED to be the homeowner yet became belligerent when asked to prove it. There is ample law stating that the police don't have to take your word for it--you can claim to be the homeowner, to be the brother of a suspect wanted on a warrant, to have an alibi for a crime. etc., but they still have a duty to investigate your claims. What everyone seems to (deliberately?) miss is that the party escalating this conflict is the asshole professor, who seems to think the being a "black man in America" is an excuse to berate a police officer responding to protect HIS property.

There is another aspect of this, as a police officer's wife and prosecutor in my own right, that you've all overlooked---too many people (regardless of race) belong to a snotty elitist upper class socio-economic group that truly believes that cops are beneath them--mere blue-collar workers who get paid to take their abuse because (as my husband and I have both heard many times) "Do you know who I am? I pay your f%$# salary!!"

Professor Gates suffers from the "I'm a professional and I don't have to answer to people who don't have a post-graduate degree" syndrome--the idea that some mere high school graduate DARES to question him is what set him off. This wasn't "racial profiling" -- stopping a random black man for being in a white suburb with no other probable cause. This was a report of a burglary in progress by a neighbor who presumably would recognize the homeowner if she saw him. He was properly arrested for public disturbance when, instead of letting it go when the cop retreated, he followed him out the door and continued the confrontation in front of witnesses. Personally, I'm glad the arrogant SOB got booked, just like any other citizen would have been for this kind of behavior. Welcome to the real world, you jerk!

Posted by: aliyah06 | Jul 25, 2009 10:23:46 PM

aliyah06,

"There is another aspect of this, as a police officer's wife and prosecutor in my own right, that you've all overlooked---too many people (regardless of race) belong to a snotty elitist upper class socio-economic group that truly believes that cops are beneath them--mere blue-collar workers who get paid to take their abuse because (as my husband and I have both heard many times) "Do you know who I am? I pay your f%$# salary!!""

Amen! Preach it! :)

I once caught a county commissioner doing twenty over the posted speed limit, at night, and entering a congested area. I didn't give warnings for that, so she didn't get one either. Not to mention that she was a county lawmaker and should have been setting an example. She didn't say a word during the whole stop, but if looks could kill, I would have been dead. OTOH, her husband, who was a city manager in another county, threw a temper tantrum, tried to get me in trouble (he failed) and told my chief that he was going to have the officers in his city get me if I ever went through there. He used to be the county manager, but was fired by the rest of the commission when they found out he was having an affair with her.

Drale,

Speak for yourself. David served the United States with service in the Armed Forces (back when that wasn't cool) and has been a good citizen and contributor to society in both Israel and the US. What about you? What have YOU done, other than hurl insults in a foam-at-the-mouth rant? Hmmm?

Posted by: Karl Newman | Jul 26, 2009 2:24:40 AM

A Minneapolis attorney writes to add a note in the matter of Harvard Professor Henry Gates. When asked to come out of his house to talk to the police in connection with the report of a possible break-in, Gates exclaimed: "Why, because I'm a black man in America?" Our correspondent suggests otherwise. He writes:

I know that this Gates incident is getting plenty of play in all quarters right now, but I have yet to see the proper context set out for the police response. In a past life (both before and during law school), I was a Minneapolis cop for eight years. I left in 2002 as a Sergeant supervising a dogwatch shift (9:00 pm -7:00 am), to take my first legal job at a Minneapolis firm.

In the Gates incident, the police were not dispatched to simply "check on a couple of guys acting suspiciously around a home." They were almost certainly responding to a report of a "burglary of dwelling in progress." This is typically one of the highest-priority calls that an officer will encounter during a shift.

Let me explain, and I know this will require a huge leap of faith for certain segments of the population. The vast majority of police officers are deeply, deeply committed to protecting the public from the type of criminal that would force their way into someone else's home. When a "burglary of dwelling in progress" call comes over the radio, officers literally drop everything (yes friends, even doughnuts . . .) and risk life-and-limb driving as fast as possible to get to the scene as quickly as possible.

Cops don't do this simply out of desire to catch "bad-guys." They do it because -- due to prior experience -- they assume that the "dwelling" in issue is occupied, and they have seen first-hand the devastation left behind when an innocent family is confronted with a violent home-invasion, burglary/rape scenario, or something similar.

Sergeant Crowley responded out a desire to ensure the safety of Gates's home and its inhabitants without regard to the race of the homeowner. Period. In return, he was subjected to abusive race-baiting from a purported "scholar" that apparently didn't rise above the intellectual level of a playground taunt. Gates is, quite simply, a jerk.


As our correspondent suggests, Sergeant Crowley's report on the arrest indicates that Crowley was responding to an ECC broadcast for a possible break-in in progress at Professor Gates's address. But why did Sergeant Crowley ask Professor Gates to come out of his house and speak with him? A reserve police officer from Texas writes:

It's done so that the officer can be more certain that the person being interviewed is not being coerced to say that everything is alright. Last year in Hewitt, Texas, we went to a hostage situation. Lady would not come out of the house but kept telling us all was OK. After a couple of hours, we said if she came to the door to tell us all was OK, we would pack up and leave. She came to the door, we pulled her out, and found the hostage taker hiding in a closet with a hunting knife. Another renter had called this in, by the way.

On other occasions on domestic disturbance calls, the wife tells us she's OK and wants to stay home. We ask her to step out of the house to talk, she gets outside and asks us not to force her to go back in.

All we want to do is make sure the person being interviewed is in a safe place to tell us whether he or she really is OK or not.


Posted by: mal | Jul 26, 2009 2:49:00 AM

I'm just glad the black community in Cambridge didn't respond to the Gates arrest like the Haredi population responded to the arrest of one of their own.

Posted by: Shmuel | Jul 26, 2009 6:26:21 PM


Blacks commit various serious crimes at rates about ten times that of other groups. The reason blacks are arrested far more often than other groups is that blacks are committing far more crimes than other groups. Thus the reality is that blacks commit far more crime, which you translate into "police are targeting blacks." You have flipped reality on its head, turning good into bad and bad into good, meaning, you are turning good (police apprehending criminals) into bad (racist police "targeting" blacks), and bad (criminal black behavior) into good (innocent black victimhood).]

What you don't understand is that black people like you and Gates are the dangerous racial profilers in this country, who see everything through the white racism lens and are likely to turn any routine problematic interaction with whites into a racist incident. Why then should any sane white person want to have any close dealings with blacks? Why should a white police officer want to investigate a break-in in a black home, if he's likely to run into a maniac like Gates? Your toxic attitudes toward whites assures that normal white people--that is, non self-hating or white-hating whites--will avoid you

Posted by: sold | Jul 26, 2009 9:03:14 PM

David-

First, your quote of President Obama is wrong. He did NOT say "the officer acted stupidly." He said "it appears the Cambridge Police Department acted stupidly."

I watched the President's press conference, and I will confess when he said the above after saying "I don't know all the facts," an old saying from my late father came to mind: "Uh-oh, his generalship is lacking on this one..."

Now, reading the linked police report- even at face value- raises questions based on my own experience dealing with a police department as a vice-president of a neighborhood organization:

Why did the officer radio that he wanted "the caller to meet him at the front door of the residence"? One would think it's not standard police procedure to place a civilian in close proximity to a scene where a reported "crime is in progress."

And, considering that, why would he then enter the house alone before backup arrived?

Something's not quite right here...

Maybe there are perceived "entitlements" at play.

Professor Gates- who as Jordan pointed out can be a "contentious fellow" at times and whose mental state Tzipporah probably accurately described above- felt "entitled" to not receive treatment in any way resembling how police approach young inner city black males. Which in the past has been done with an attitude of "if you can't get respect, settle for fear." His response was not logical. Would yours be under similar circumstances?

Consider something here: After the heroic acts and sacrifices by police and firefighters on 9/11, the term "first responders" has entered our language.

Meaning, by definition, "heroes." Whose very actions and decisions should never be questioned. So you may have an officer who feels "entitled" to handle and react to the situation in any way he sees fit. Despite the procedural questions I've asked above.

To label Professor Gates and President Obama as "racist" is just flat-out wrong here. And maybe, just maybe, President Obama's remark wasn't that stupid.

To point out that possible self-perceptions of "entitlement" can lead to problems may be more accurate, rather than hurling the terms "racist" and "stupidity" at the first African-American President of the United States.

That self-perception of "entitlement" by culture or profession also happened to lead to some pretty big legal woes for 44 people here in NJ this past week...

Posted by: Mike Spengler | Jul 26, 2009 11:05:22 PM

The 'stupidity' in this case is the arrest for 'disorderly conduct'.
It was stupid for the police to arrest Gates in the first place.
It was even dumber to arrest him for the charge of 'disorderly conduct'.

Why? Because the policeman should have known that any judge would throw out such a charge and/or laugh at the police and prosecutor for bringing the case to court and wasting the jurisdiction's time and money.

That's it. It is not a racial issue. It is not a first responder issue. It is an issue of police making what would seem to them to be at worst a little error in judgement, but would, in fact, be a deprivation of the liberty of a citizen of the US. And that is appropriately deemed, 'stupid'.

Posted by: norm depalma | Jul 27, 2009 12:18:18 AM

Why should a white police officer want to investigate a break-in in a black home, if he's likely to run into a maniac like Gates?

Any police officer. I've heard of an "unofficial" NYPD policy in black areas to delay arrival to any reported incident to avoid both danger to the cops, and danger of being put into the position of having to shoot someone (which could disrupt an officers life for months if not years, and sometimes forever). Basically, when a call comes in from those areas, suddenly all the cops in the area are super-busy and can't get there very quickly, or suddenly there's a big traffic jam delaying the cops, or suddenly the radio stops working, etc. All very unofficial, of course.

In the end, when the cops arrive, they hope the incident is over, and they just have to mop up (the wounded, dead, etc) and start an investigation.

Posted by: Mark | Jul 27, 2009 2:25:34 AM

First of all. When a police officer asks you to identify yourself, just do it. Politely. This is not rocket science - although it takes a college professor who, apparently, has been educated WAY beyond his intelligence, not to know this.

Second. The "black man in America" thing is so thirty years ago. The good professor knows that the fight is over, and that blacks have won equal rights. And rightly so. The good professor also knows that if he concedes victory, he becomes irrelevant. Hence his little brouhaha. As far as I'm concerned, the jerk deserved to be arrested if only for inconveniencing police officers to further his own political agenda. Shame on him!

Third. The fact that Obama admitted to not having all the facts, and in the next breath claimed that the cop acted stupidly (OK, sorry, Mike, the whole Cambridge police force acted stupidly - why does that NOT make me feel better about his statement?) speaks volumes about the man's judgment. This dude is running the entire free world, and he reserves judgment on Ahmedinejad and his obviously-rigged elections, but immediately rushes to condemn a police officer pledged to uphold the peace while admittedly not knowing everything about the incident. Police officers, BTW, who are officially acting in his name. Yet another example of how truly clueless the man is. And calling him clueless is actually giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Posted by: psachya | Jul 27, 2009 4:21:57 AM

"The 'stupidity' in this case is the arrest for 'disorderly conduct'.
It was stupid for the police to arrest Gates in the first place.
It was even dumber to arrest him for the charge of 'disorderly conduct'."

Wrong. The stupidity in this case was a college professor staging a mini-riot in public and escalating what could have been a simple contact ascertaining that no burglary was taking place into his own crime.

For your information, prosecutors and judges don't "laugh" and toss out charges because of our feelings about the police officer's arrest. The arrest was appropriate given Gate's low behavior. Here's the code section:

CHAPTER 272. CRIMES AGAINST CHASTITY, MORALITY, DECENCY AND GOOD ORDER

Chapter 272: Section 53. Penalty for certain offenses

Section 53. Common night walkers, common street walkers, both male and female, common railers and brawlers, persons who with offensive and disorderly acts or language accost or annoy persons of the opposite sex, lewd, wanton and lascivious persons in speech or behavior, idle and disorderly persons, disturbers of the peace, keepers of noisy and disorderly houses, and persons guilty of indecent exposure may be punished by imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more than six months, or by a fine of not more than two hundred dollars, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

Prosecutors decline to file where (1) there is insufficient evidence OR! (2) the person has no prior record and is otherwise law-abiding and would qualify for some diversionary program. I suspect Gates falls into the latter category since otherwise his behavior is statutorily criminal.

Judges don't get a say--prosecutors decide what and if to file; judges only get to "dismiss" in court trials after hearing all the evidence (or preliminary hearings in felonies, but this isn't a felony).

And as a rule, police officers have a duty to make an arrest where a crime is being committed in front of them. Gates' public violation of the statute begged for an arrest--the stupidity was leaving his home to scream at the cop. Gates, who appears to have some ego and impulse-control issues, gave way to his desire to abuse the officer and got arrested. Happens every day--too many people simply can't control their Inner Child's Temper Tantrum and think they have a Constitutional right to scream abuse at police officers. In fact, in most jurisdictions, you don't have a Constitutional right to scream abuse at anyone--the difference is that the cops know the statutes and have power of arrest. Under the circumstances, Gates earned his deprivation of liberty when he violated the statute. A night in jail might teach him that he truly is equal before the law in this country--being a "professor" doesn't put you above the law.

Posted by: aliyah06 | Jul 27, 2009 7:29:42 AM

Badmouthing a cop who has responded to a burglary-in-progress call at your house is just plain stupid - I don't care whether you are beige, pink, brown, or purple with green polka dots. You answer his questions, you establish your identity (shouldn't be hard, as it is your house) - and you thank him for his vigilance and quick response. If he has treated you badly, you report the incident later... after he has left.

Gates acted like... like... a Harvard professor! Full of self-importance. He can bite my ass. [And so can you, Drale. How dare you insult your host?]

Posted by: Elisson | Jul 27, 2009 8:02:06 AM

Lord, am I glad the things I say and do after an international flight don't make it into international news.

Posted by: Sarah B. | Jul 27, 2009 3:06:50 PM

To Aliyah06:
Thanks for the copying and pasting and the tautology. Very helpful!
You required a posting of 200-300 words to state the following: (and I paraphrase)

'A Judge would not throw out this disorderly conduct charge because, in fact, this conduct was disorderly.

How enlightening!

If you are going to get all legal and go to all the trouble of copying and pasting, why don't you do some work and actually cite some cases apposite of this one involving disorderly conduct in Mass.

And then tell me the name of a judge in Mass. who would not throw out this case immediately as a waste of time and money, not to mention probably apologizing to the defendant and begging him not to sue the police et al for deprivation of liberty, malicious prosecution etc...

Oh ya...thanks for substituting my phrase 'throw out' with the word 'dismiss.' Also, very enlightening of you.

Posted by: Norm Depalma | Jul 27, 2009 10:37:03 PM

You're welcome, Norm. Always nice to see sarcasm and empty rhetoric, if only for the entertainment value.

Posted by: aliyah06 | Jul 29, 2009 2:45:15 PM

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