August 6, 2009
Nearly Everybody Tarred by "Gates" Episode
Just about everybody associated with the Professor Henry Gates episode got tarred by it, except for the poor lady who called in that someone was breaking into the Harvard professor’s home.
She did everything that a good citizen is asked to do when he or she sees something that might be a crime. But she had to put up with being labeled a racist, even though the 911 call shows that she merely said that two people were breaking into the house -- and only after being prodded by the dispatcher did she then describe the ethnicity of the people that she saw.
Professor Gates behaved like an utter fool. One can imagine situations where being stopped by a cop is an occasion for playing the “race card” and being asked for your I.D. is an example of racial profiling. No one doubts that blacks and Hispanics have often been the victims of “driving while black” over the years, however Gates appeared entirely too quick to jump to that conclusion. He obviously operates with a chip on his shoulder.
Which brings me to the cop, Sgt. James Crowley, who committed, in my mind, an abuse of power that far too few people have remarked upon -- at least to my satisfaction.
It’s a given: Gates behaved like a bozo. However, in a free society, being rude to a cop should not be a cause for being arrested -- especially if you are in your own home. Free people have a God-given right to tell a police officer off and not be hauled off to jail in handcuffs.
That’s not to say that you have a right to resist arrest or to refuse to show your I.D. when an officer asks to see it, but once the officer established that Gates was who he said he was -- he should have shrugged his shoulders, let Gates rant, and left. It’s not illegal to be disrespectful to authority.
The officer knew that Gates had a perfect right to say what he was saying from inside his home, so he invited him to come out the door -- whereupon he arrested him. This is an abuse of power, pure and simple.
Oh yes, and President Obama behaved badly, too, by assuming a lot of things about the Cambridge police that were not in evidence. Presidents should inform themselves about situations before popping off. Obama didn’t.
Hatched by Dave Ross on this day, August 6, 2009, at the time of 11:46 PM
TrackBack URL for this hissing: http://biglizards.net/mt3.36/earendiltrack.cgi/3805
The following hissed in response by: JimK
Uh, No, Officer Crowley did not make a mistake by asking Gates to step out of his house. This is standard operating procedure when investigating a reported crime of this nature. The officer does not know who else might be in the house, he definitely did know who Gates was and he simply asked him to step outside and identify himself. Gates escalated what should have been a simple matter of taking out his wallet and producing an ID into an "incident" by crying out that the cop was persecuting him just for being "black".
The following hissed in response by: MikeR
Second that. Policemen involved in potentially dangerous situations, and this was certainly one of those - until they were done making sure that the house was clear. As long as they are in the middle of something like that, the policemen have to be in charge, and civilians have to cooperate. I expect it is illegal to obstruct their operations at such times, and it should be.
And the civilians don't get to decide whether the situation is safe or dangerous, that's the judgment of the cops on duty.
It's awful that a significant fraction of America's population apparently thinks that it's in any way acceptable to harass policemen in the middle of investigating an ongoing break-in. No wonder every cop in America is upset.
The following hissed in response by: AD
"...He obviously operates with a chip on his shoulder..."
Gates must be the strongest man in the World since that chip is the size of a 1,000-year old Sequioa.
The following hissed in response by: twolaneflash
I disagree that SGT Crowley did anything improper, illegal, or racist. This mess belongs to Skippy Gates and his racialist pal Barry. If these two are the best America can offer to heal black rage, then it will just keep on burning. Resentment among non-blacks will intensify as they tire of being called racists, paying reparations, being pushed aside for affirmative actions, and watching America decline to third world status. 52% had Hope for Change and this is what they got. Can you believe in it?
The following hissed in response by: Mastermind2much
The rich professor threatened the working class police officer during an investigation and got arrested. The professor's plans to use his political connections to ruin the police officer's career have been upset by the facts being made public in the arrest report. Without the arrest report everyone in government up to the president would have said that the police "acted stupidly" and his career would be toast. How does arresting a belligerent suspect during an investigation constitute an abuse of power? Is it because he is rich, politically connected, or black.
The following hissed in response by: GW
I concur with your first two commentors on the fact that Crowley did what was procedurally proper in arresting Gates as a means of getting him out of the house. I would only add that the response of Crowley's fellow police officers on the force should be strong additional evidence that Crowley acted properly.
I've seen police arrest people when it was not otherwise warranted (pardon the pun) merely because they became belligerent. The circumstances of the Gates scenario puts the situation into a different category.
The above hissed in response by: GW at August 8, 2009 12:38 PM
The following hissed in response by: John A
Firstly, it is not illegal to refuse to show ID. OTOH, refusing to do so may be grounds for taking you in until your identity can be established.
Also, Prof. Gates eventually produced ID inside the house. At which point, Officer Crowley did indeed shrug the whole thing off and leave. But the prof followed him outside and started screaming to the people who had been attracted to the scene - it is at this point that "disturbing the peace" came into play. Over-reaction [by Crowley]? Maybe, maybe not. I lean a bit toward it being so, but not by much...
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