Friday, July 24, 2009

Stop That Cop!

Once again the rush to judgment is rearing its ugly head over allegations that white racist cops manhandled an innocent African-American, arrested him, and hauled him off to jail for no reason other than racial animosity. More proof that we need to work on racial sensitivity because America is still a racist nation. Or is it?

The way the mainstream press and TV coverage have it, there is no question that the country is still crawling with racist police officers who profile African-Americans, assume they're committing a crime, then act accordingly regardless of the facts on the ground. And this situation plays right into that perception. No street thugs involved here. No hip-hop, bling-bling loudmouth with a lengthy conviction record. No urban yoots (sorry, Vinnie). The innocent victim of this vicious racist act is none other than Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of Harvard University's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research.

Since the police officers are white and Hispanic, and the victim is black, we already know where this is going. And then it gets worse. The cops arrested this upstanding citizen in his own home! Case closed. Get out the police department dismissal papers, the handcuffs, and put those cops in jail where they belong. As a result of this maltreatment, the victim should be awarded at least a gazillion dollars in a civil suit, and the NAACP should immediately be put in charge of the local police department. Perhaps we could get an advisory opinion from Sonia Sotomayor.

Here's how the Boston Globe reports the situation at Cambridge, Massachusetts which surrounded the incident. "One of the nation's pre-eminent African-American scholars was arrested about 1 PM at his home near Harvard Square by Cambridge police investigating a possible break-in. The incident raised concerns among some Harvard faculty that Gates was a victim of racial profiling. Friends of Gates said he was already in his home when police arrived. He showed his driver's license and Harvard identification card, but was handcuffed and taken into police custody for several hours."

Typical of liberal journals nationwide, those were the words that followed the headline. If that were the news, we would all have reason to believe that the cops were out of control and dead wrong. Also typical of liberal journals, the Globe relied on the headline and the story to make its opinion look like conclusive evidence. Confident in its ability to make up readers' minds for them, the Globe also briefly reproduced the report in highly-redacted form on its website, then removed it entirely. Fortunately, the Cambridge Chronicle was not so reticent. Those who read the article and suspected something didn't sound right may or may not have gone on to read the police report and witness statements.

Here's what the report actually says: The police responded to a call of a break-in by a woman on the sidewalk who said she's seen a black male "wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry." The responding officer reported that "I could see an older black male standing in the foyer. As I stood in plain view of this man, later identified as Gates, I asked if he would step out onto the porch and speak with me. He replied 'no, I will not.' He then demanded to know who I was. I told him that I was 'Sgt. Crowley from the Cambridge Police' and that I was investigating a report of a break-in in progress at the residence. While I was making this statement, Gates opened the front door and exclaimed 'Why, because I'm a black man in America?' I then asked Gates if there was anyone else in the residence. While yelling, he told me that it was none of my business and accused me of being a racist police officer. Gates also said 'Yeah, I'll speak with your mama outside'." Harvard humor, I suppose.

Is the picture beginning to change slightly for you yet? As it turns out, Gates had indeed locked himself out of his residence, and did have to break in. No crime, of course, but for the lady who had no idea who he was, all she saw was a break-in in progress. Crowley's backup officers, including the Harvard Campus Police, describe Gates yelling repeated accusations of racism while asserting that the officer "had no idea who (he) was 'messing' with." Correct, Professor--the officer did not know whom he was questioning, which is why he asked in the first place.

Despite the officer's request during an investigation of a break-in, Gates initially refused to produce any identification confirming his residence. Although Gates finally supplied a Harvard faculty ID, he still refused to show his driver's license which would confirm his residence, although he did ultimately produce it. By now, a large crowd had gathered to see what the commotion was all about. As Gates got louder, more agitated, and more pointed in his accusations of racism, the officer advised him twice that he was becoming disorderly, and all they wanted to do was confirm the circumstances surrounding the break-in. Gates kept it up, refusing to cooperate with the police questioning. Sgt. Crowley then placed Gates under arrest.

As they were leaving, Crowley asked if he would like an officer to take possession of his house key and secure Gates's front door. Gates responded that "the door was impossible to open or secure properly because of a previous break-in attempt at the residence, of which the local residents all aware. Hmmm. Is it at all possible that the police and the neighbors were a bit on edge because of the previous break-in?

Since the Globe recited the version most favorable to Gates and his charges of racism, here's what the other side has to say. The Cambridge Fraternal Order of Police was more pointed than the police report. The police, they say, were confronted with a reported break-in, encountered a man shouting racial remarks at them for attempting to investigate reasonably, and their investigation was hampered by an uncooperative man who refused to identify himself although by now it was apparent that there had actually been a break-in. The man continued to refuse to cooperate, and when he finally agreed to come outside the house, he continued to shout, threaten and blame the officers for his agitated state. Disorderly conduct charges were perfectly appropriate. The executive director of the FOP, Jim Pasco, said that "Gates was the provocateur because he called Officer James Crowley a racist instead of producing identification as requested."

There are two sides to every story. And as yet, the matter hasn't been thoroughly vetted, although Gates is already threatening massive civil lawsuits. But that didn't stop our post-racial President from getting his nose into the matter. When asked if he was aware of the situation, Obama could simply have said "yes, but I don't know any of the details so I won't comment on it." Rather than choose the high ground, the Racial Healer-in-Chief, a friend of Gates, made a public statement at a press conference in which he said, "anybody would be angry, the police acted stupidly." He went on to say "it highlights ongoing problems with race relations in the United States." Yes, Mr. President, it does. And you are a major part of that problem. This was nothing more than a reprehensible charge of racism made by a President of the United States who is also an alleged lawyer who ought to know better.

Bill Cosby appeared on a local Boston radio station this morning, and was asked what he thought of the President's remarks. His reply was "I was shocked to hear the president making this kind of statement. If I'm the President of the United States, I don't care how much pressure people want to put on it about race, I'm keeping my mouth shut." Cosby was also questioned later on a local Boston TV station, and moderated his statement slightly. He said "People who have not been there, people who don't know are beginning to have their own personal feelings, but they weren't there." Yes, Mr. Cosby, and we have a President who will make sure those feelings get good and stirred up, even though he wasn't there either.

Obama had also added that "Blacks and Hispanics are picked up more frequently and often times for no good cause, which is suspcious even when there is good cause." Aside from the fact that the statement makes no sense, what does Obama think he's up to? Given the statistics on crime by race and ethnicity, what does he expect any reasonable police officer to do? "Oh, you broke into the house, and you say that you live there, and we have witnesses who saw the break-in, but since you're black, we'll just take your word for it that you aren't a burglar."

One final word from my years in criminal defense practice. Police can be arrogant and occasionally cross the line. But when someone gets in your face and starts throwing racial epithets, there is such a thing as normal human reactions. I represented over thirty defendants who were arrested for reasons very similiar to those in this case. The charges filed with the District Attorney ranged from disorderly conduct to assault on a police officer. What actually occurred in each case is what we defense attorneys jokingly refer to as "contempt of cop." And we occasionally remind officers that there is no such crime. In only one of those cases was my client actually convicted of anything, and in that case the charge was reduced to disturbing the peace. One additional fact: all those clients were white. People who get unreasonably vocal or physical when a police officer is merely doing his job should not be surprised when the officer has just simply taken all he's going to take, and puts on the cuffs.

22 comments:

Tennessee Jed said...

Hawk - it seems like the prevailing theory among some liberals and African Americans that because they have been oppressed for so long, it is o.k. for them to do things that are racially motivated, but not whites. I don't doubt that there are policemen who behave badly and over react. Is it possible this officer could have bit his tongue and taken it? Possibly, but as you point out, they are human and have a breaking point. Certainly, no one would question police arresting an abusive person if it did not involve race.

Obama will not back off or apologize because his handlers see him as above mistakes. Still, I think that this incident is one more example of some usually carefully supressed resentment of whites that resides within both Barrack and Michelle. Feelings that were, no doubt, reinforced while attending Reverend Wright's liberation theology church

CrisD said...

Great analysis!

I was flipping through my all news channels (the one with the tiny boxes of each news station) and clicked on Mathews.
His defense and choice of defenders on the segment was so stupid that it actually "read" like comedy.
(His comb over is getting downright peculiar.)
Anyway, this type of accusation is not going to fly with a growing number of people who recognize baloney. My dad (the lawyer) said there are two words for the police: "Yes, Officer" (and even though I am a hottie, I've never tried to beg off a speeding ticket (yes, I'm a lead foot) for fear I would get in trouble for it.)

StanH said...

Funny Lawhawk, my wife had the same comment, “it doesn’t matter your race don’t get mouthy with a cop.” It sounds to me Gates is a professional victim and relishes the opportunity to stick it to the man. Race IMO has become an industry in this country, episodes like this only re-enforce this notion. I thought we were post-racial with the election of Barry, guess not.

CrispyRice said...

CrisD - a nice "yes, Officer... really, Officer??" followed by a couple tears can do wonders for speeding. Not that I know... ahem...

Definitely good analysis, LawHawk! I was actually in a similar situation once, when I was a teen. I set off the house's silent alarm by entering the wrong code when I came home alone one night. Sitting on the couch, there were soon flashlights shining through the back windows. The cops came to the door, asked for my ID, and rather than accusing them of blaming me for being a teenager and that it was clearly my right to break into houses and eat my McD's in front of someone else's TV, I showed them my ID and everyone went home. Guess I'll know better how to handle it next time. >>eyeroll<<

Writer X said...

When do Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton parachute in to Massachusetts and start the racial sensitivity training?

I'm with Bill Cosby: I couldn't believe the President commented on this, especially after admitting he didn't have all the facts. What was even more laughable was Robert Gibbs yesterday, trying to get us to believe that the President didn't mean what he said.

What a circus.

freedom21 said...

Thank you!!! You make me feel like I am not living in crazy town.

If you want your eyes to pop out of your head, stroll on over to huffpo and see the out pouring of support for the Professor..and how what he did was "courageous". SERIOUSLY? When did disobeying the police become an admirable quality??! Back in my day, Mcgruff the crime dog strongly enocouraged obeying the law. Well, I suppose standing up to tradition law enforcement will be the M.0. when the civilian army forms...

Two things:

1. As I've said before, I am a big cheap-o and don't have cable. Last February, I got more of this Gates guy then I could handle. He was on PBS everynight helping famous black Americans find their slave roots. My favorite part of the show? When the pompous professor found out that he lineage was quite privileged (European Royalty). His ancestors were freemen who fought in the Revolutionary was too . Basically, he had to cover himself by saying..but they still had to endure the stimga of being black for soooo many years (even though they were half white)

2. Bill Cosy ROCKS

patti said...

i'm sick to death of barry's charade. race matters a great deal to this man. word to your mutha....

AndrewPrice said...

Great analysis Lawhawk. This is the kind of thing that really should shame Harvard and the black community. There was no reason for this guy to act out the way he did. And the fact that he did, tells me that he sees everything in racists terms. I've been stopped by cops before, they acted the same way with me.

It is also amazing to me that Obama chose this incindent to wade into. I have to wonder what his political team is thinking these days? Talk about a distraction from his "agenda." Oh well, good for us.

CrisD -- "lead foot"s of the world unite! Power to the speeders!

LawHawkSF said...

Tennessee: Don't forget that Michelle's master's thesis was an incoherent babble of white oppression of black folks. And twenty years of being harangued from the pulpit by a racist pastor obviously had some effect.

CrisD: One thing that bothers the professional race victims is that the vast majority of police officers are very calm and deliberate when questioning a "person of interest" who doesn't appear to be any immediate danger. Almost everything is "Sir" or "madam," "please," and "may I speak with you for a minute?" From what I can tell, that's exactly what happened here. Cops also understand that perfectly normal people get irritated by the surrounding situation, and sometimes take it out on the cop. A few soft but firm words from the officer stop the overreaction of the civilian in the vast majority of cases. Gates wasn't having any of it. He's a Harvard professor, he's famous, he's entitled, and he's oppressed, and he's damn well going to make that cop pay for it!

LawHawkSF said...

StanH: The officer was only doing his job, and Gates should have been grateful that the cop was merely making sure that the man and the house belonged together. "Here's my ID, sorry I locked myself out," and the police would have been on to more important things elsewhere. A belligerent suspect who refuses to identify himself in the middle of a burglary investigation can expect exactly what he got. I should add that if you've seen any of the pictures of Gates at the time of the arrest, he didn't look exactly professorial.

LawHawkSF said...

CrispyRice: One of my favorite memories from my youth was the teenage prank of "papering" a house. It was done as a gag, and strangely either to people you hated or your best friends (strange teenage reasoning, indeed). Throw a roll of toilet paper over a tree dampened by the evening dew, and it's a real mess. Four of my friends did it to me one night, and within five minutes there were police everywhere. Good kids, good families, observant neighbors, and good cops. The commotion woke us up, and we went outside. The kids had been respectful when stopped, and all it took was us telling the police we had no intention of prosecuting, and the result was four kids who wouldn't do that again, and everyone went home either happy or chastened. If they had mouthed off to the police, the result would have been quite different.

WriterX: What Gibbs actually said was "Let me be clear. He (Obama) was not calling the officer stupid, OK? He was denoting that at a certain point the situation got far out of hand, and I think all sides understand that." Sorry, Gibbs, but as you spinners love to say: "We have it on tape." What I understand is that the police behaved professionally. Gates, not the situation, got out of hand, and the police would have done exactly the same thing had Gates been white as the driven snow. Disturb the peace, impede a police investigation, go to jail.

LawHawkSF said...

Freedom21: I remember McGruff. One of the things he would say is "report any suspicious activity you see in your neighborhood." He didn't add "don't report it if the suspicious person is black." Gates is normally a whiner, not a screamer, but this time he wasn't on TV or at a podium filling willing heads with distorted history at Hahvud. I'd love to see him in a debate with Thomas Sowell. Sowell would clean his clock.

Andrew: There used to be a rule for males who got stopped for a traffic violation. Get slowly out of the car, move to the back of the car, slump down slightly, and cooperate with the cop to avoid any kind of confrontation. And that was for white males. The police never know what they're going to confront, so don't give them any reason to think that something dangerous is about to happen. I forgot the rule one time when I got stopped right outside the downtown L.A. Superior Court when I was running late for a hearing. I forgot the rule (at first), and was a little mouthy. The cop who came to the door asked "Do you know why I stopped you?" I replied, "No, do you?" "Please step out of the car, sir." Oops. I immediately complied and remembered the rule. And since it was two female officers, I also batted my baby blues at them (sorry, CrisD, it didn't work for me). And my original attitude resulted in a brief search of the vehicle. One officer was black, the other Hispanic. Where do I file my lawsuit? I guess I should have shouted "Don't you know who you're messing with?" The worst that came out of it was the razzing I got from three of my colleagues who were standing on the steps of the courthouse watching the entire spectacle.

Goldentrout said...

Good news- the police department is standing behind the good Sargeant, and are demanding an apology from both Obama and Governor Patrick. Kudos to them for not throwing him under the bus, which is what I feared they may do. Especially considering they're in such a liberal state.

SQT said...

Clearly Gates has a chip on his shoulder and was determined to exploit the situation for his own benefit. The guy has already been doing the press rounds. Too bad for him that the police officer in the case is a very credible guy, backed-up by credible witnesses.

Obama's comment was stupid in the extreme and innappropriate. Bill Cosby is da man.

LawHawkSF said...

Goldentrout: If that report holds up, bravo for the Cambridge Police Department. Obama (and now Patrick) need to issue a public apology for doing exactly what they accuse white people of doing all the time--making their decision based entirely on race. BTW, I don't know about other college towns, but my personal experience has been that other than Santa Cruz, the campus and city police tend to be far more civilized than the areas they patrol. The Berkeley City Police and the UC Campus Police are not the liberal bastions of political correctness that logic would seem to dictate.

Interesting sidenote to the Cambridge/Gates case. The lead officer, Sargeant Crowley, actually conducts a police training course in dealing sensitively with on-scene investigations where the "person of interest" is a member of an ethnic minority. This makes his version of the situation even more believable. Professor Gates, I don't think you know who you're messing with.

CrisD said...

The staties will hold you up forever writing the ticket and then the cop will more than likely pour salt in the wound and scold you quite meanly But, hey, they caught me fair and square and I am not messing with law enforcement. I just get the lawyer to help.

I view the cops in my town as a help and wish to support them. One time they rang our bell late at night and reminded us that the garage was left open. I did have a problem once b/c the police came around and accused our kid of not making an appearance for a ticket but they had the wrong date. I was miffed and called the lawyer who told me to simmer down and that it was a common mistake. IMO its better NOT to mouth off and let the lawyer handle it.

LawHawkSF said...

SQT: Gates is a victim of his own views. He finally got an opportunity to be "real" instead of merely giving academic lectures. He's happy as a clam. At long last, he's black! He's been maltreated by racist cops. He has street cred! Yay! He'll probably build an entire lecture series around how he discovered that what he was telling the mindless students is actually fact. All white people are racists, and the police have only one duty--to keep the black man down. Ignore that guy in residence at the White House (even the name of the President's mansion is racist, you know).

CrisD: Wise advice, unless the guy who is being checked out is the lawyer (see my major faux pas (above). I eventually got the traffic ticket dismissed, but had I continued on my mouthy way, particularly in front of a courthouse, I might have found myself facing a charge of disorderly conduct detrimental to the public peace and safety. The officers were merely reacting appropriately to my level of hostility. When I calmed down and behaved, they backed off. That's how it works in the real world, Professor Gates. It's called maintaining the peace.

LawHawkSF said...

And the networks continue to paint the picture sympathetically toward poor old Professor Gates:

From the Media Research Center: While interviewing the daughter of arrested Harvard Professor Henry Gates on Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith wondered: "Is there something in this that says, 'I'm not going to take this'?...In speaking with your father, was he hurt by this?...Was his heart broken by it?" Elizabeth Gates, a writer for the DailyBeast.com, declared that: "I think for anybody, you know, who is violated in their own home in that way, I think they would, you know, also call on their own defenses...My father was so sad about this, and again because he's always – you know, my father might be one of the last black men on earth who actually believed in the justice system."

The MRC concludes: "It would seem that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas still believes in the American justice system."

Gordon Winslow said...

I hope you'll forgive me for recycling what I wrote on the Big Hollywood thread on the same subject.

Begin original comment:

I am trying very hard to keep an open mind about this incident, and hope the tapes come out so that I can reach an educated conclusion (unlike our president).

But after reading many recountings of the publicly-available details, I will confess that the first thing that popped into my mind was lefty protesters (usually white) who egg on the cops for the sole purpose of being arrested so that they can properly claim their status as "victim" and scream about police brutality and suppression and whatnot. They live for that stuff. My instinct is that the professor saw that opportunity, maybe for the first time in his life, and jumped on it.

I should add that my other instinct was that the cop was a sucker for falling for this old trick. He should have responded to the yelling by asking, "Are you done yet?" More yelling. "Are you done yet?" Make the guy run out of gas and feel foolish, then leave.

End original comment.

As more evidence has come out, I'm pretty sure I was right.

LawHawkSF said...

Gordon Winslow: One small detail. Gates is a Harvard professor. They never run out of words, and if you're not nodding your head in agreement at their every gem, they just get louder and longer-winded. The officer had himself and two other officers on-scene, and they just finally gave up waiting for the end of the rant, and decided to cuff Gates so they could move on to important things. They just didn't have time to listen to the history of race relations in America since 1650, interspersed with asides about racist white cops.

Gordon Winslow said...

Lawhawk:

I can't find the link, but I seem to recall that the prof said that if the cop apologized, he would forgive him and then give him a lecture on the history of race relations in America. I'm not sure I would apologize for running over your dog if I was told beforehand that I was going to have to sit through that.

LawHawkSF said...

Gordon: Amen to that. It would have to be worse than the water torture, or having your fingernails pulled out. One of his fellow professors at Harvard defended Gates by declaring "Race relations ain't got no better." I hope he's in the African-American studies department and not in the English department.

Post a Comment