Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Harvard Professor plays race card, gets arrested UPDATED

From CNN

I've seen this on a few blogs, with different takes. Here's what CNN has to say about it, which to date has the most information available. It IS conflicting, but take a look:

Charles Ogletree, Gates' lawyer in this case, told CNN on Tuesday that Gates -- the director of Harvard's W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research -- had returned from China on Thursday to his Cambridge home and discovered his front door jammed.

He opened his back door with his key and tried unsuccessfully from inside his home to open the front door. Eventually, Gates and his driver forced the door open from the outside, Ogletree said.
The professor was inside for several minutes when a police officer, Sgt. James Crowley, appeared at his steps and asked him to step outside, the lawyer said.

According to his lawyer, Gates told the officer he lived there and showed him his Massachusetts driver's license and Harvard University identification card. The officer followed him into his house and said he had received a report of a possible break-in, the lawyer said. Gates grew frustrated that the officer was continuing to question him in his home and asked for the officer's name and badge number, Ogletree said.

The police report offers a different account of the incident.
Gates refused to step outside to speak with the officer, the police report said, and when Crowley told Gates that he was investigating a possible break-in, Gates opened the front door and exclaimed, "Why, because I'm a black man in America?" the report said.
"While I was led to believe that Gates was lawfully in the residence, I was quite surprised and confused with the behavior he exhibited toward me," he said, according to the report.
The report said Gates initially refused to show the officer identification, but eventually produced a Harvard identification card, prompting Crowley to radio for Harvard University Police.

Gates followed the officer outside and continued to accuse him of racial bias, the report said. After Crowley warned the professor twice that he was becoming disorderly, the officer wrote he arrested Gates for "loud and tumultuous behavior in a public space."

You know, I'm a little conflicted here, but after reading a few articles and blog posts on this, I have to say I'm with the Police Officer on this. The Officer is required to follow up on calls of possible break ins, and many criminals will claim to be the owner. When the Officer asks for proof, the citizen should show proof, and leave it at that.

But following the officer outside, accusing him of things? That can quickly get under a cop's skin. And make him feel threatened, prompting a warning. If Gates didn't stop after getting warned, he deserved to get arrested.

Gates thought that he could harass an Officer just doing his job and get away with it because he played the race card and because he is famous.

**UPDATE: Here is the police report. As far as I can see, Gates is lucky charges were not pressed.


Shaw Kenawe said...

"But following the officer outside, accusing him of things? That can quickly get under a cop's skin."

Being asked more questions when you've produced proof of identity can get under a citizen's, who is in his home, skin. And when he was following the cop "outside" Gates was still on his property, wasn't he?

You acknowledge how a policeman could get upset, why not acknowledge how Gates could, too?

We have no way of knowing how many times in Prof. Gates' life this has happened to him, do we. I'm guessing that as a black American, it's happened to him more than it's happened to you or me.

"And make him feel threatened, prompting a warning."

A cop with a gun and backup feels threatened by a gray-bearded guy? Seriously? Again, you're showing much more empathy for the cop, who has a patrol car and firearmas at his disposal over the guy in his own home being questioned about his identity--more than once.

"If Gates didn't stop after getting warned, he deserved to get arrested."

I see it differently. The cop could have apologized and diffused the situation when he saw Gates become upset. It was the cop with a gun and backup, not Gates, who was on private property, and THAT seems to me more intimidating than an old guy professor feeling aggreived and becoming upset about it.

"Gates thought that he could harass an Officer just doing his job and get away with it because he played the race card and because he is famous."

Can you tell us how you know this? Did Gates tell you this? I'm just playing Devil's Advocate, and showing you that I could say the same thing about the cop. You really can't speak for what Prof. Gates OR the policeman thought.

Maybe the policeman thought HE could intimidate Gates with his show of authority and strength.

This whole situation can cut both ways.

PS. I was born in Cambridge, Mass., and I have personal knowledge of a Cambridge cop letting a guy go who was obviously tipsy, DUI, because when he stopped the man after he went through a red light, the two of them exchanged information on who they knew growing up in Cambridge--schools, coaches, hockey players, etc.

The cop let the guy go without a breathalyzer test. Nothing happened to him (and this driver bragged about it)--and he went through a red light.

Do you believe that would have happened had the driver been a Latino, African-American, or anyone other than a white Irish Catholic American?

James' Muse said...

I'm not saying that it couldn't have gone both ways.

But Gate's lawyer is saying one thing, and the police another.

The lawyer says he produced it right away.

The cop says he didn't, and when he repeatedly asked for it, it wasn't shown, and then when he finally did, he was acting belligerent. The police report says that Gates followed him to his car.

Shaw, police officers DO have authority. Screaming at one is never a good idea. If I were a cop, and I investigated something, and then the person started following me and screaming at me, and I warned him twice to calm down, I would arrest him too, to diffuse things right there.

I could ask you: how do you know this happened because of race?

How did the cop know that Gates didn't have a gun concealed? He allegedly followed him out to his car, screaming at him (according to the police report and bystanders)...

We don't know exactly what happened.

But yes, the cop could have apologized. But Gates was turning it into a race thing. The report was that one black guy and one white guy were possibly breaking into a house. The police came to investigate.

James' Muse said...

And I do acknowledge that Gates could be upset. He could file a complaint.

But the police officer was only doing his job, investigating a possible break in.

Many criminals caught in the act of break-in will claim to be the owner. The Police need to make sure. They can't take your word for it.

James' Muse said...

And there are bad, racist cops out there. But there are many more good, honest ones.

dmarks said...

Even from Gates' own descriptions of the incident, it is clear that the racial element was created from imagination by Gates after the fact, and there was no racial situation created by the cop.

This is based on what is known so far.

dmarks said...

(and sounds like Shaw is describing a Kennedy or something. An Irish-Catholic family well known in Massachusetts for drunken crimes ranging from drunk driving to murder. And they get away with it).

Shaw Kenawe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bluepitbull said...

He played the race card, just like shaw and her ilk always play the victim card. Of course she apologizes for the obamas and this twerp professor who has probably made a career of teaching hate and bigotry himself and teaching all to scream racism, and the ever popular, "What I do???" when they get caught.

We can't let people like this deter law enforcement. Many have made a career of it on the taxpayer dollar in prison getting an education just to bust law enforcement's balls.

James' Muse said...

I wouldn't go that far, Blue. I don't think "Shaw and her ilk" play the victim card.

But here, Shaw, you are. you asked me how I know this or that. How do you know that it didn't happen exactly how the Police Report said it did?

Cops are trained to arrest unruly people that won't calm down. Should he have let Gates continue to grow irate, possibly physically attacking the officer instead of verbally?

Until there is evidence that the officer was racist, all we have is a black man who was yelling at a cop, got arrested, and said it was because of race. That's playing the race card to get out of jail free.

Until there is evidence that this cop was racist, or has a history of racism, I'm on his side.

TAO said...

I have no sympathy for either side in this little ditty...

The professor just got back from China...must have been a long flight and he was obviously tired because he had no reason to suspect race was an issue in this case.

The officer, could have understood that he had a tired and frustrated old man on his hands (not a thug by all appearences) so he didn't need to be so by the book and so intimidating...

He could have told the Prof that he might not be in the house alone and that it might be wise if he allowed the officer to look around for his own peace of mind...

Nope, he throws out his chest and says, "I am the LAW"

So, no sympathy or prize for either side...

This is so not newsworthy...

Now, you can spin it anyway you want to but I believe that both parties should meet and apologize and move on....

dmarks said...

I'm starting to wonder if one aspect of this was arrogance on Gates' part.

Not the arrogance of what racists call "uppity black men". But the arrogance of celebrities and the rich which sometimes gets displayed when cops treat them like everyone else: "Do you even know who I am??" An arrogance which knows no color

Anonymous said...

I just read this story at TAO's blog but there have been a few different viewpoints expressed here that I would like to touch on. As far as the story goes, it sounds like a policeman doing his job. The homeowner got upset and followed the cop out of the house. He couldn't control his emotions and he got arrested for it. It's really just two different stories and honestly we don't know who is in the wrong.

Now as I say that, how does the cop know that the man inside doesn't have a gun or a weapon? As an EMT we were taught that we had to be concerned with our safety first. I believe that is the same with the cop.

Unfortunately I think this is another case of someone trying to get out of trouble by playing the race card. The problem with this is that one day, it is actually going to be race related and no one is going to take it seriously. We all know of the boy who cried wolf.

I fear that this is becoming more and more the issue. Throwing out the race card time and again is really getting old. It is a rather sneaky and underhanded way of playing on people's fear of being labeled a racist. I've gotten to the point where I simply don't care anymore. It may sound harsh but I've seen the card played one too many times.

Anonymous said...

I was just reading my post again and I should have been more clear by "I just don't care anymore."

I care about racism, whether it be black, white or somewhere in between. Nobody should be treated any differently because of their race. What I won't do anymore is walk on eggshells. I call them as I see them. If someone labels me a racist then they label me a racist. I can't live my life by somebody else's rules because I am afraid that someone might label me. Hope that sounded better it is almost 2:00 and my brain has officially shut down! LOL

Jen R said...

Cops are trained to arrest unruly people that won't calm down.

Anyone else have a problem with that? Are they not trained to actually try to calm people down?

Why didn't the officer just thank Gates for producing his identification, maybe apologize for the inconvenience, and *leave*?

This is a small-statured, older man who uses a cane to walk. I simply don't believe that the officers felt that they or anyone else might be in danger from him, even if he was a little hot under the collar. In addition, he was in a place he had every right to be -- on the porch of his own home.

Until there is evidence that the officer was racist, all we have is a black man who was yelling at a cop, got arrested, and said it was because of race. That's playing the race card to get out of jail free.

When you get arrested for something that's not a crime -- at least, getting angry at a police officer shouldn't be a crime -- you *should* get out of jail free.

I'm really disturbed by this notion that being angry at, or even obnoxious to, a police officer is grounds for arrest.

Lots of people have to deal with members of the public getting irate with them while they do their jobs. If we all had the power to arrest people for that, we'd have a prison population the size of California.

bluepitbull said...

I have two siblings in law enforcement in Northern California. I whole-heartedly disagree with law enforcement being trained to 'calm people down'. That is a typical west coast attitude that holds no water.

Look at how many cops are on the streets in California cities. The number has been reduced drastically.

My brother was one of six police officers on shift and the city had him doing all sorts of dumb shit that people can do on their own.

You are responsible for calming yourself down, not the police. Understaffed and under constant scrutiny, why should you pile more on their plate?

When law enforcement gets to the scene and sees a guy breaking into a place and asks for id, the proper response is, "Yes sir, officer, or dude, bro..." Anything but freaking out. His job was to stop crime. He would have found the ID to match the address (or in many cases, people don't update their DL's cause they are too lazy) and the entire incidednt would have been over.

TAO said...

Yep, leave it to bluepitbull to believe that we are here to serve our law enforcement officers....

Can't help but wonder if the lack of law enforcement has something to do with lower taxes and less government...

James' Muse said...

Tao, I think you are off here. Blue isn't saying that we have to serve police officers...but getting in his face is inexcusable.

Jen R:
The police officer did leave after Gates produced ID. Gates followed him outside, screaming, and trying to get bystanders to "do something"...getting in the cops face, can cause problems, thus "disorderly conduct."

Gates was warned twice to calm down. The Officer was in the right.

James' Muse said...

I found a copy of the police report. Seems pretty legitimate. I'll add it to the post.

dmarks said...

Tao "Can't help but wonder if the lack of law enforcement has something to do with lower taxes and less government..."

Probably not, as the police are one of the necessary functions. However, some politicians (like Michigan's governor) sometimes face tough budget decisions, and instead of cutting waste and kickbacks to cronies, they cut the police first.

Oddly enough, $100 million of this waste is for a new State Police post that the state police insist they do not want or need. But the guy set to build it (in a no-bid contract) is a major campaign contributor to the governor.

Governments all over the country have situations like this. "Less taxes" does not mean "less police" unless you have a corrupt political leader with bad priorities.

James: Gates is coming across like a belligerent a**hole. And a racist one, too. Do you think he would have played the race card if the police officer had been black? No. His decision to play the race card was based on the officer's skin color.

Jen R said...

According to the police report, Gates followed the officer outside after the officer said that he would talk to Gates outside if Gates had more questions. So it's a little hard for me to see that as harassment, as another comment termed it. And that's assuming the police report is 100% accurate.

"getting in the cops face, can cause problems"

This is very vague. What constitutes "getting in the cop's face"? Yelling at him, or was there some kind of physical confrontation that is not indicated in the police report?

bluepitbull, I know I would feel much safer with officers who knew how to de-escalate tense situations. I'm baffled that you'd disagree.

James' Muse said...

Sounds like he did try to de-escalate, Jen. Twice he asked him to calm down. There are two different officer's reports there. He followed him outside, yelling, and causing a disruption in the neighborhood, which is against the law. He was causing concern on the part of the neighbors and other officers, so the officer made a judgement call and thought that the best way to stop the disturbance would be arrest the offender after he'd already asked him to calm down TWICE.

Gates was belligerent and harrassing. The more that comes out, the more Gates is coming across as the racist one.

Jen R said...

"Twice he asked him to calm down."

I'm talking about conflict resolution strategies, not giving orders. (When does telling an angry person to calm down ever help?)

If that's the best that the officer could do to defuse the situation, then I don't think that's in the best interest of protecting the public.

James' Muse said...

Tell me, Jen R, what should he have done instead when an adult cannot control himself?

Let him cause a scene? Maybe stir up a riot?

Should he have held hands with him and sang kum-bay-ah? Police Officers are not there to calm everyone down. They don't have the time to be everyone's personal counselor. They are to find the quickest, most efficient manner to enforce laws and keep the peace.

They are in authority, and Gates couldn't handle it. He just kept getting more hysterical. He should have known better.

Jen R said...

"They are to find the quickest, most efficient manner to enforce laws and keep the peace."

Given that Gates was a perfectly peaceful, law-abiding citizen until the police showed up, I think they failed in this objective.

"Maybe stir up a riot?"

Do you have any reason whatsoever to believe that this was a probable outcome? If not, why bring it up?

"Should he have held hands with him and sang kum-bay-ah?"

That's unnecessarily condescending.

Would it have killed him to let the guy blow off steam at him for a few minutes? To say "Sir, I understand why this is upsetting for you"? To thank him for producing his identification? To write down his name and badge number, and perhaps the name and phone number of his immediate superior as well, so that Gates could take up the complaint with him?

Those are just examples off the top of my head; I'm not a trained professional or anything. But again, people in other jobs have to handle angry people all the time without getting to arrest them. Why shouldn't we expect the police to have that ability?

I think this was an arrest of choice, not an arrest of necessity. It disturbs me that police get to arrest people for yelling at them, and that others just say, well, what did you expect, he was a jerk to a cop? It's authoritarian.

James' Muse said...

Yes, Jen, but in your job and in my job, we don't get shot at.

I don't mean to be condescending, but according to the report, he did try and give Gates his badge number, but Gates only got angrier.

As for the riot thing, there were many people around getting concerned about Gates. Maybe not a riot, but a disturbance.

Why should an officer have to let some man scream at him for a while, following him? If someone is screaming at me on the phone at work, I'll disconnect the call.

If you scream at a judge at a summons, you get arrested. Judges and cops are all part of the judicial process, and screaming at them unendingly is disturbing the peace, and that is a crime.

If the officer lets Gates do it there, in a "rich" neighborhood, shouldn't he then let someone in a project do the same? Scream at him? Follow him? Maybe actually start a riot?

Would I have arrested him? Probably not. But should cops have the authority to arrest an unruly person who fails to calm down? Yes.

Jen R said...

in your job and in my job, we don't get shot at.

I didn't read anything about a weapon in the report.

I think that you and I probably just have fundamentally different views of the appropriate job of police, which won't be resolved in a blog comment thread.

I assert that when the addition of police to a peaceful situation results in a disturbance and an arrest for at least a pseudo-crime, that's prima facie evidence that the police involved did a bad job.

James' Muse said...

Regardless of our disagreement; the point remains that Professor Gates unfoundedly claimed racism.

If the Police need reform, laws and such should be passed.

But a white cop shouldn't fear that everytime he arrests a black man that the world will accuse him of racism.

Inspector Clouseau said...

We have three observations about the Harvard professor incident:

1. We find it interesting that the fact that this was the professor's home was evidently not established early on way before the dispute escalated;

2. We find it fascinating that the versions of two members of society, who most would ordinarily view as responsible and honest citizens (this obviously does not include politicians), would vary so dramatically from a factual point of view.

3. Finally, considering that the reading and viewing public were not present at the scene (and thus have no first hand knowledge), and that there is no video tape to our knowledge of the sequence of events and what was said, how so many have formed conclusions, and made assumptions, about who did what and who was wrong.

There are some things which Professor Gates might have considered upon the arrival of the police, no matter how incensed he may have been.

bluepitbull said...

Jen, that's a blank comment you made about diffusing a situation. The guy had it in his head that he was going to create civil unrest, period.

You cannot diffuse every situation. The professor had an agenda which probably revolved around selling this story and making law enforcement look bad at the same time.

Tao, that was one of the funniest things that you've said so far. It doesn't have anything to do with lowering taxes in California, but that the govenator and the dems can't balance a budget there do to social spending which is rampant in that state thanks to people like you, tao. Oh, wait, that's your own admission you don't vote.

bluepitbull said...

oops, put do instead to 'due'.

Jen, if you think the cops could have done it better, become a cop. I'll bet your outlook would change in a week. I've been on enough ride-alongs to know that I don't have the patience for some of the unbelievable crap I saw perpetrated by ALL races.

Jen R said...

bluepitbull, if your argument rests on you somehow knowing that Gates acted in bad faith, then there's nothing I can say to counter that.

bluepitbull said...

Jen, you don't really think that he acted in good faith, do you? He could have easily produced his ID.

I really think that cops do well at diffusing situations on the whole. There are people, Jen, that cannot be placated no matter the situation. Perhaps the professor has other problems, but displaying them in public show a lack of maturity.

Jen R said...

"Jen, you don't really think that he acted in good faith, do you?"

On the one hand, there is the possibility that this internationally renowned scholar ginned up a confrontation with the local police department, a confrontation which threatens to overshadow the entire body of work that he's devoted his life to.

On the other, there is the possibility that he was tired from a long trip, irritated that his door wasn't working, irritated further at having to prove that he wasn't breaking in to his own home, and mindful of systemic discrimination against African-Americans in law enforcement, and lost his head as a result.

I find the latter perfectly adequate to explain what seems to have transpired.

And he did produce his ID.

bluepitbull said...

Um, no he didn't. So give that argument up. The police didn't do anything wrong.

The guy clearly had an agenda.

I do like the way you debate, though. So much nicer than most of the others.

James' Muse said...

Jen: The problem I am seeing here is that people are automatically taking the citizen's side.

Unless you can show that an officer has a history of racial profiling, you should take his word and report of what happened. This officer has a stellar record, even campaigning and teaching classes about not racially profiling.

Then some black guy accuses him of racism, and suddenly he's wrong? I'm sorry, but a cop's credibility is much more than some citizen upset about his arrest. Police officers legally have more credibility, as they should. They have to pass exhaustive background screening, training, and judgement screening. I know, because I'm in that process.

Until a cop screws up, they have more credibility than a cranky old professor. There were witnesses to this you know. The police report has witnesses corroborating the officer's story.

Jen R said...

Unless you can show that an officer has a history of racial profiling, you should take his word and report of what happened.

I don't think that follows. I assume that the officer's report presents events in the light most favorable to him, just as I assume that the statement released by Gates' lawyer presents events in the light most favorable to Gates.

That said, even going solely by what's in the police report, I think he handled it badly. I also think Gates handled it badly, but he's not the one given a lot of power by the state and trusted to use it appropriately.

bluepitbull: both the police report and Gates' lawyer's statement agree that Gates produced his Harvard ID. The latter also says that Gates produced his driver's license.

bluepitbull said...

Really? Opinions are out on the whole thing, Jen.

As to your earlier comment about the professor risking his 'great career' as an academic, nah, not so much. Some people assume that with education comes maturity and it just isn't so.

I think WEB DuBois would be rolling over in his grave right now to see this crap happening. He was a true educator and not a victim. He taught his students to be self sufficient. What is Prof. Gates demonstrating as an academic leader? That you can scream 'racism!!!' and get instant coverage if you are a minority.

Liberals continue down the path of victimization of minorities. As long as minorities allow themselves to play the victim (and not all do so) this country will remain polarized. Not because of the Republican party who are constantly touted as the party of racist fat white males, but the democrats.

Professor Gates will get his come-uppance at a later time, I'm sure. It may not be in this life, but his day will come.

James' Muse said...

We don't know what the laws are in the Cambridge area. If something needs to change, Gates should talk to the legislature.

But as for police reports: legally, they are exponentially more credible than the accused, especially his lawyer, and especially when he is trying to bring race into this and sue for racism. It's bs, plain and simple. The more we get into this, the more ridiculous Gates looks, saying he's going to sue. Comes down to money, doesn't it?

The police are backing him, saying he acted according to the law. Police officers, again, are not social workers or counselors. They are law enforcement and Gates wasn't cooperating, and was harassing. Next time, maybe they shouldn't respond to a break in at his residence? Or if they do, take them at their word that its their house?

And btw, according to the police report (from multiple officers) Gates at first refused to ID himself.

Lia said...

Why does Shaw ALWAYS take the side of Obama? To her he can't do anything wrong.
If she can't see that he was wrong in this case then she must be wearing blinders.
I am a female. What happened in Cambridge happened to me in Houston, TX. Two armed police officers were at my door due to a false alarm. They were not friendly and their hands did not move from their sides. I was smart. I kept my mouth shut dis and said what they wanted me too and the situation was over.
Mr. Gates is using what should be just another day in the life of a police officer to spew out the very racism he claims to be trying to abolish. Not only is he a racist, but he is also an opportunist. As for Mr. Obama, this is just another example of his "agenda".
Sgt Crowley did his job and did it right. Had a black officer responded to the call, I would be willing to bet that Prof Gates would have produced his identification and had a good laugh about it. Instead, he became belligerent. There are 2 racists here: Prof Gates, who I suspect spews his vileness in his classroom, and, the Obama who is the President of the United States and should know better than to say"the arrest was handled "stupidly".
Obama,along with his friends have been showing us lately that they all need Anger Management!
Enough already with this "racial bull crap" He is showing more racism than anyone else is!

James' Muse said...

Lia, please don't attack Shaw, especially here.

As to Obama, I don't think he was being racist. As he said, he was just backing his friend. I don't think it was racist; I think Obama, as President, shouldn't criticize Cambridge's finest without knowing the facts.

Jen R said...

I think this sums up my thoughts on the matter pretty well:

bluepitbull said...

But James, Obama is a radical and a racist. He doesn't even try to cover it up given his company.

As for attacking Shaw....she has alot to answer for that she can't and has done plenty of attacking herself.

James' Muse said...

Shaw isn't the subject of this post, blue. I don't like it when commenters try to hijack my posts into attacks on shaw.

bluepitbull said...

Fair enough. You have to admit, though she carries an abnormal amount of water for the prez with no real logic.