Friday, July 24, 2009

Gates: Acting like an Emotionally Disturbed Person

Obama Tilts Harvard’s Gates Bust Away From Reality:

July 24 -- President Barack Obama should have stopped himself from wading in when asked at his press conference Wednesday night about the arrest of his friend, Harvard University scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Admitting he was short on facts, Obama plunged ahead. He declared police “acted stupidly” in arresting Gates for disorderly conduct and then implied that he backed Gates in blaming racial profiling.

Obama’s account of the arrest was shockingly incomplete. A Harvard-trained lawyer should know the importance of facts, but this one threw the weight of the presidency behind conclusions based on half the story. He ignored what Gates did to escalate the incident. He ignored the dangers police face trying to protect us and our homes.

Yes, the sergeant who arrested Gates should have diffused the situation early on and walked away before bringing out the handcuffs. But to lay the whole blame on the police and suggest racial profiling was irresponsible and unfair to the officer.

Racial profiling surely exists. In fact, the white sergeant who arrested Gates has for five years taught cadets at the Lowell, Massachusetts, Police Academy how not to racially profile, according to the Boston Herald.

What happened to Gates could have happened if he had been a white man mouthing off to police.

You don’t have to read beyond Gates’s account to believe he was arrested for an offense the law books don’t list. It’s called contempt of cop, and occurs when an irate citizen challenges police authority.

Regardless of Race

You shouldn’t be arrested for giving police a little lip. But it happens regardless of race.

“It’s like an emotional reaction on the part of the officer,” says George DeAngelis, a retired El Paso, Texas, assistant police chief, citing a recent widely publicized example in his home town.

Consider the details of the Gates arrest, even if the president didn’t.

A woman walking by Gates’s house near Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at midday last week saw two men pushing in the front door and called 911. Police Sergeant James Crowley arrived and through the front door glass saw a man inside.

Gates had just returned after two days of traveling from China, sick with a bronchial infection, to find his door jammed. He asked his driver to help push it in. Hence the 911 call.

Crime in Progress

When Crowley spotted Gates inside, no doubt suspecting a crime in progress, he asked Gates to step outside to talk. Gates refused.

“The way he said it, I knew he wasn’t canvassing for the police benevolent association,” Gates said on a Web site he edits. “All the hairs stood up on the back of my neck, and I realized that I was in danger.”

When Crowley told him he was investigating a possible break-in, Gates says he replied, “That’s ridiculous.’”

“This happens to be my house. And I’m a Harvard professor,” Gates said in that Web site account.

Crowley in his report says he asked Gates if anyone else was inside and was told “it was none of my business.” Gates “accused me of being a racist police officer” and added, “This is what happens to black men in America,” the report says.

Gates admits he accused the officer of bigotry, though the accounts differ as to when and how often.

His Own Home

Inside the house, Gates produced identification to prove he was in his own home and teaches at Harvard.

“It’s clear that he had a narrative in his head: A black man was inside someone’s house, probably a white person’s house, and this black man had broken and entered, and this black man was me,” Gates says.

Gates says he told Crowley he wanted to file a complaint against him. He asked for the sergeant’s name and badge number.

Whether Crowley complied depends on who you believe.

Either way, the whole thing careened out of control at that point. Perhaps if Crowley had calmly written down his name and badge number, it would have blown over.

Gates says his bronchial infection made raising his voice impossible.

But when the two emerged from the house, the cop says the professor was still yelling at him, saying, “I had not heard the last of him.”

If any profiling occurred, my guess is it was pegged to Gate’s profession, not his color. Surely Cambridge cops grow wary of Harvard professors acting like self-important jerks.

Bystanders Gather

With a handful of bystanders looking on, Crowley says he warned Gates he was becoming disorderly. This did not alter the professor’s conduct, according to Crowley’s report.

So the officer arrested a world-renowned scholar of African-American studies at the nation’s most elite university, handcuffed him and hauled him off to jail for about four hours.

Obama’s account leaves the impression the cop nabbed Gates for disorderly conduct because he couldn’t arrest him for burglary, signaling racial animus.

If I were black, I, too, would probably be on guard for racism in any dealings with white law enforcers. But by his own account, Gates was openly hostile.

I met Gates in 1995 while a journalism fellow at Harvard. He struck me as affable to white and black alike, which is how his colleagues describe him. I never could have guessed he would turn up in a mug shot.

‘Lose Face’

“Once you’re yelling at a police officer in front of the public,” says Peter Moskos, a criminologist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, “it’s no surprise he got locked up. Cops don’t lose face.”

Minorities probably are disproportionately arrested for contempt of cop. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer concluded that in a report last year.

But in the Gates-Crowley encounter, only one of them indisputably had race on his mind from the start. And it wasn’t Crowley.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coming from a lunatic, this is rich!

1:17 PM  

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