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Posted by on Jul 23, 2009 in Society | 18 comments

Would A Webcam At Gates’ Home Have Changed Anything?

I’m guessing it would have…

Interesting that this tops the news this morning. I was in the middle of my post last night when Obama made his comments. Still, some part of me felt I should have been giving health care its due. Not so the traditional media. A ratings bonanza!

I noticed the police report had been taken down both by the Boston Globe and the NY Daily News. Hard to take things down on the Internet. It can be found here. We all want to talk race. But it could happen to any of us. Let’s talk police:

Henry Louis Gates was arrested for engaging in “tumultuous” behavior. Only in Cambridge would the complaint use the word “tumultuous”. But many a man forced from his castle upon the command of a police officer who refused to accept that he was at home would have been outraged. Tumult seems an appropriate way to act. The crime was Gates’ hurling words at Sgt. Crowley at a time when the sergeant commanded him to be obsequious and compliant. Gates would not calm down. There is no law that requires him to be calm because a police officer ordered him to do so. Other than the expectation that we do what an officer tells us to do, no matter what.

It may well be that what happened to Henry Louis Gates reflects, as he is accused of screaming at Sgt. Crowley, “what happens to a black man in America.” Because the black man happens to be the director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard, perhaps the pre-eminent black scholar, it will open a discussion that we still need to have, black president notwithstanding.

It is also possible, however, that what happened to Henry Louis Gates is the outgrowth of the conflict between law and order, order represented by police who have been empowered, in our post 9/11 age, to believe that their every command is the law, that our blind obedience is mandatory. Other than a few old-timers on the Supreme Court who live in a fantasy world where ordinary people can assert their rights and refuse to comply with the command of a police officer with impunity, this encounter between a distinguished scholar, within his own home, and a police sergeant who believes that his command is sufficient to create the divide between citizen and criminal, may offer the chance to question who commands whom in our society.

James Joyner:

This isn’t a Rodney King situation where we have video. Further, Obama is eliding some steps in the incident; I guarantee Gates wasn’t charged with disorderly conduct for simply showing ID.

Come on James. Guarantee? You already said you don’t know the facts. This I can agree with:

As I’ve written numerous times before, police, especially in urban areas, have adopted a militaristic attitude toward their jobs, viewing the citizenry as hostiles to be pacified rather than as the community they’ve pledged to serve. It’s a dangerous and lamentable development.

Yes. And that’s a BIG problem!

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  • mediaman0069

    The web cam would have shown that MR. Gates was being an a$$ by not shown the police ID right when they asked for it.

  • casualobserver

    Assuming the officer’s report is fullsome and factual…………Gates is a pompous ass who is crying wolf.

    Absolutely, Obama, let’s keep this one on the front-burner and see where it goes.

  • qwert321

    The Failure will apologize to Officer Crowley when he sees the internal poll numbers about this incident. No President should ever attack a private citizen. This was a huge mistake by Obama.

  • jwest

    Here is the link to the Boston Globe article that profiles Officer Crowley:

    I’m certain that by the end of the day, Daily Kos or FireDogLake will have photoshopped the picture of Crowley into a KKK hood and gown.

  • crosspit

    Wow. I know this is a conservative site, but get a grip. Any normal person would be outraged if a policeman refused to give his badge number and name after practically accusing the homeowner of burglary. Of course, the cop has to do his job. But clearly Crowley did his job BADLY. A professional would have worked to defuse Gates’ anger, not ratcheted up the conflict by arresting him. An arrest is in NO WAY acceptable in this scenario no matter what Gates did. (Unless Gates had actually hit him or something, which so far no one is claiming I believe.) It’s appalling that cops are allowed to treat American citizens as sub-human, and that ordinary citizens are expected to treat cops as sacrosanct authorities. I agree that racism probably played no part. BUT, because of the history between cops and African-Americans (and Latinos as Obama said), Gates’ response was perfectly understandable. I have heard those stories about law abiding black citizens being stopped for no reason and then treated like dirt because the police are allowed to do so. Cops in this country have a terrible job and I respect them for willing to do that job. But the good ones do NOT think Crowley’s behavior is acceptable. Cops are not above the law and arresting someone for “contempt for cop” as it’s called is despicable. Cops need to stop treating the average citizen as beneath them and start learning how to behave in a professional manner. No one is expecting courtesy (although I for one think that should be part of their training), but behaving in a professional manner is required when you carry a gun and have the power to arrest people. I am so tired of hearing these knee-jerk defenses of cops as angels. Cops can be power mad bullies just like everyone else, and the professional, well-behaved cops and ordinary citizens should not be defending the bullies.

  • casualobserver

    @@Wow. I know this is a conservative [email protected]@

    crosspit, I had to read no more than this phrase to know that everything that followed would not be the utterings of a being with a modicum of actual knowledge……..naturally , I stopped there.

  • qwert321

    >>But the good ones do NOT think Crowley’s behavior is acceptable. <<

    After initially refusing, Gates provided his ID. The police officer confirmed the ID with dispatch, left the house and walked toward the sidewalk. Gates chased after him screaming that the officer was a racist and threatening that this will not be the last the officer will see of him. A crowd had gathered in response to Gate's yelling. The officer warned Gates 3 times to lower his voice. The officer than proceeded to arrest Gates for disorderly conduct.

    What part of that was NOT acceptable?

    • Lit3Bolt

      Maybe the fact that the city dropped the charges means someone thought it was not acceptable. People scream at police officers all the time. Contempt of cop is not a crime.

    • jdledell

      Why did Crowley not just leave. He had to be aware that his presence at the scene was causing a disturbance. Had he left, my guess is the yelling would have stopped since Gates would not have anyone to yell at. Crowley understood by that time no crime had been committed so why is he still there?

  • casualobserver

    How’s this for spinning to the point brown stuff starts showing up at the edges of your mouth………

    The president does not regret anything he said last night about the Cambridge situation, said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, emphasizing that Obama did not say that the police were stupid. The president said they acted “stupidly” in arresting Gates.

    By the way, any takers for “Gatesgate” becoming the moniker of choice for this one?

  • qwert321

    Or someone thought that going after a first time offender with a prominent standing in society was not worth the time, money or effort.

  • Lit3Bolt

    Then I guess we agree that the arrest was stupid and unnecessary, don’t we?

  • qwert321

    Some people like The Failure would agree with you. I don’t. I would have prosecuted Gates precisely because of what is happening now. Gates and his allies are trying to equate ‘dropped charges’ with being innocent while at the same time slandering an officer who was just doing his job.

  • EEllis

    And police officers are only supposed to decide if there is probable cause to arrest, not if the person will be convicted. The DA has other things to consider. Not to mention this is a time served offence. Meaning that when you get to a judge you will be considered to have served enough time and be free to go so noone really cares about a conviction. The main thing to remove the person and end the situation rather than give a big fine or jail time.

  • jdledell

    I notice no one has responded to Joe’s point about the increasing militarization of the police. Do you agree or disagree with Joe’s prognosis? I for one agree. There is absolutely no way I would ever ask the police for directions or help. Any encounter with the police is a no win situation – only bad things can happen. I have never in my life had a positive encounter with a policeman and I’m 64 years old. I guess their training is to assert their authority but if you ask me they have taken that too far and are enjoying their power too much. I know there are a lot of bad guys out there and cops do have to be careful but they should be able to fairly quickly size up who is potentially dangerous and who is not. Once a determination of no real danger is present, they should drop their bully tactics.

    Specifically on Joe’s point on miltarization, in the last couple of days we had a situation in Jersey City where a couple started shooting at police who came to arrest them. The couple then retreated into their apartment. The cops rightfully, emptied the building but instead of waiting out the bad guys who were absolutely trapped, or using tear gas etc, they went in with guns blazing. It was the military macho response and it ended with 6 police with gunshot wounds, one of whom died. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

  • PJBFan

    This was unquestionably a justified arrest, given the facts. Yes, the charges were dropped, but most DisCons see the charges dropped, or a time served and no fine imposed. This was just because the defendant, Mr. Gates, was being disruptive, and behaving in a disorderly, uncivil manner. To those who claim that it is no crime to yell at the police, go read a book of criminal statutes in any state, and you will see that it actually is a violation of the law to verbally abuse or threaten a police officer. He was not arrested because he refused to show ID, he was arrested because he went haring off to harass the policeman.

    Oh, and just an FYI, when Reggie Lewis collapsed, Officer Crowley was there to personally administer the breathing portion of CPR to Lewis. If he’s willing to, instinctually, give CPR to a black man who has collapsed, the charges of racism and racial profiling ring hollow.

  • EEllis

    Say what you will but the only person there who acted with obvious and provable prejudges was Gates. In his mind there was no possibility of a white police officer ever operating without racial bias.

  • joeinhell

    Hell, he got off light. I believe in Prince Georges county Maryland, a black Washington, DC policeman was shot in his own home without warning a couple of years ago on a prowler complaint.

    Well, any community that doesn’t have a civilian review board with the authority to investigate, censure, fire and prosecute police, then you live in a police state. It is that simple.

    A couple of years ago, some police widows started barking about a monument in Washington DC honoring the dead police. That lasted about two sound bites when people started screaming about the number of UNINVOLVED people being killed each year by stray gun fire from police officers, not the criminals. I think some committee started research on all of the deaths and found that in the majority of cases, the officer was violating department policy when killed, like high speed chases through family areas when the person chased was wanted for speeding. I remember I was shocked at the time by how many cops were killed by “friendly fire,” so when the true story of Tillman in Afghanistan came out, I wasn’t surprised.

    Hell, I damn near killed a fellow soldier in Vietnam when he walked around a building wearing fluorescent shorts and no one but the guards were supposed to be there. I was on full automatic and squeezing the trigger when the color of the shorts finally registered. I was very very careful when I put my M16 back on safety and usually carried it unloaded after that.

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