Charge dropped against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Police in Cambridge, Massachusetts dropped a disorderly conduct charge against Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. today. Gates was arrested at his own home last week in an incident that could have happened to any tenured Harvard professor (not!).

The police report said Gates was shouting at officers and refusing to comply with their requests. Click here for Gates' side of the story, a statement released by his attorney Charles Ogletree. Returning from a trip to China, Gates discovered his home's front door had been damaged. As he and his driver were trying to force it open, someone called the police to report a break-in in progress.

Of course police need to respond to a call like that, but as soon as Gates showed officers identification proving that he lived in the home, they should have apologized for the inconvenience and left immediately. The incident never should have escalated to an arrest for disorderly conduct. Ideally, people don't yell at police officers, but if I were tired and jet-lagged, facing the hassle of getting my front door fixed, and police showed up accusing me of robbing my own home, I might get angry too--especially if the police kept asking me to step outside even after seeing my photo ID.

Share any relevant comments in this thread.

Tags: Crime, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., racism (all tags)

Comments

101 Comments

To belabor obvious...

It's possible that some are not familiar with Gates, a top scholar of African American History and Cultural Studies.  In case you didn't get it yet, Skip Gates is...wait for it...black.

Let's not fool ourselves.  Obama's election was a huge deal but it did not sweep racism away once and for all.  No way this would have happened if the Harvard Prof. in question was Stephen Greenblatt or Derek Parfit.

by Strummerson 2009-07-21 11:19AM | 0 recs
No, thank you for the clarification, that

brings the whole thing into context.

by SocialDem 2009-07-21 11:44AM | 0 recs
Re

Sometimes it is funny how stupid smart people can be.  

"An officer ordered the man to identify himself, and Gates refused, according to the report. Gates began calling the officer a racist and said repeatedly, "This is what happens to black men in America."

Here is my favorate "Officers said they tried to calm down the 58-year-old academic, who responded, "You don't know who you're messing with," according to the police report.

Has anyone seen Amos & Andrew with Samuel Jackson and Nicolas Cage?  This so reminds me of this.  Cage shows up and Samuel Jackson says are you with the FBI, CIA, etc.  I know those poeple have files on me?  Cage at him and say no.  Jackson says do you know who i am and says "I am Andrew Sterling, famous civil rights activist".  Nicolas Cage looks at him and say "never heard of you".

We all know there is racism in america but this is not one of them.  This is someone (Henry Gates) who showed very bad judgement and instead of saying that he goes off on this whole "the whole world is racist and out to get me".

My dad was a cop.  It is a really hard job and they deserve "respect" and that is something Mr. Gates does not seem to understand.  He should say i acted badly but instead he is going to go around yelling everyone is out to get him and a rasist.  I wonder how he would fell if the cops showed up and some one was breaking into his house and were protecting his home.  Just one different view.

d

by giusd 2009-07-21 11:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Re

I appreciate your call for respecting police officers.  Some on the left of the spectrum forget that police officers are not just necessary public servants but working people.  But I think you missed a few things here.

First, Gates is a 58 year old impeccably groomed man (I've seen him speak in person) and hardly the "profile" of a common burgler, beyond those who associate his "color" with crime.  

Secondly, according to his statement linked in the diary with a photo, when the policeman arrived to investigate he was on the phone, saw him approach the entrance and immediately went to admit him.  If you are hypothetically breaking into a home, do you stand around on the phone and then immediately go to engage the police at the front door?  Maybe.  Clever.  Highly unlikely.

Finally there is this: "Professor Gates handed both his Harvard University identification and his valid Massachusetts driver's license to the officer. Both include Professor Gates' photograph, and the license includes his address."

Of course, he may be lying.  But there are no grounds to take the Officer's word over the Professor's.  In Gates's statement, he opnly became irate after he "asked the police officer if he would give him his name and his badge number...several times."  This is his legal right and the officer is obligated to supply it just as Gates was obligated to produce identification.  Had the officer provided it, it might have ended there.  But he did not.  At this point, Gates certainly reacted intemperately, though I think understandably so.

I simply do not find it credible that he would not have whipped out his drivers' license.  Gates has no history of such grandstanding, to my knowledge.  Both parties have potential motives to "revise" the events in question.  My guess is that the officer has more to lose than the professor.  But you must give both a hearing.  

And if you don't think racial profiling is a problem in the US, I suggest you take a ride in a black friend's car in a largely white suburb after midnight this week.  I'm speaking from experience.

by Strummerson 2009-07-21 12:11PM | 0 recs
The officer was wrong in arresting him but

Prof Gates's behavior was also offensive to a working class person.

by louisprandtl 2009-07-21 02:02PM | 0 recs
Re: The officer was wrong in arresting him but

if that's what happened?  I guess this story is often concocted after the arrest, we ought not to knee jerk believe it.  

I used commute to work, on the same highway a good friend from the Islands who is very dark used. In twenty years I was never once stopped, while she was stopped dozens of times.  Racist? would she have been wrong to accuse, like, after the fifteenth time?

when is speaking truth to authority okay?  

by anna shane 2009-07-21 04:27PM | 0 recs
I'm not arguing that Cambridge cops don't
have racial bias. I'm sure they do and the officer clearly did not have to aggravate the situation which ended up in Gates's arrest.
However it seems there's more to the story from class POV.
by louisprandtl 2009-07-21 04:39PM | 0 recs
Re: I'm not arguing that Cambridge cops don't

even if that's so, it's still not yet a crime to accuse anyone of racism.  Seems to me the story is quite ordinary, and the cop thinks the law protects his ears.  

by anna shane 2009-07-21 04:45PM | 0 recs
This from the police report as linked in the ...

diary.


An officer ordered the man to identify himself, and Gates refused, according to the report. Gates began calling the officer a racist and said repeatedly, "This is what happens to black men in America."

Officers said they tried to calm down the 58-year-old academic, who responded, "You don't know who you're messing with," according to the police report.

by louisprandtl 2009-07-21 02:06PM | 0 recs
Re: This from the police report

Check this story against Gates's statement.  You need to compare both accounts.  I suggest the following:

1. guisd compares the depiction of Gates in the officer's report to a cartoonish movie character.  Though I acknowledge Gates likely became intemperate, is it reasonable to believe he acted out such a stereotypical caricature?

2. In Gates's statement, he only became aggressively angry when when the officer refused to provide him with badge number and id info.  It seems more probable that an officer would refuse this request, which is not legal, than that a Professor in his own house would refuse to provide id and proof of residence.  Unless he is a buffoon looking for a confrontation.

3. Even if the police report was true to the letter, it would not hurt Gates a bit either professionally or socially given the circles he moves in.  One can argue that this represents a problem in academic culture, but nonetheless.

4. The officer actually could be hurt by a complaint by a Harvard luminary, especially on racial grounds and given that colleagues of Gates have suggested that there is a pattern of racial profiling in Cambridge.  Hence he was at this point in a vulnerable position and may have panicked, leading to his refusal to identify himself.

5. If that police report was indeed true to the letter, why drop the charges?  Simply worried they wouldn't stand up and worried about PR and community reputation?  Maybe. Powerful Harvard folk pulled strings?  Maybe.  Gates statement credible?  Maybe.  Can't know.  But based on 1-4 above, Gates does seem more credible to me.

Here's how we'd all have liked this to end:

Officer: I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but we are obligated to follow up on an alert of this nature.  Have a good night.

Gates: Not at all.  Thanks for keeping an eye on my house.  Stay safe tonight.

But it didn't.  I don't doubt that Gates lost it at some point.  But the officer puts that point unbelievably early in the events.  And I still do not believe that Gates just snapped before whipping out his license.

by Strummerson 2009-07-21 02:21PM | 0 recs
Re: This from the police report

Count me among those who believe that (a) if the police report is correct, the fault is more Gates' than the police's and (b) there is no more reason to believe that Gates' report is accurate than the police report.  We'll never know.

However, I see no contradiction with the notion that the police report is correct and the charges now being dropped.  The police are suggesting that an arrest was made to stop a potentially out-of-hand situation from evolving (e.g., Gates practically egging on bystanders to get involved in preventing a supposedly racist act). Now that that situation is passed, they see no benefit in prosecuting someone for what was essentially a confrontation that arose around someone forcibly entering his own home.  Police arrest people and drop charges all the time.

by markjay 2009-07-21 03:03PM | 0 recs
Re: This from the police report

Conversely, count me among those who believe that c) if Gates's statement is accurate, the fault is more the Officer's than Gate's and d) while neither is likely completely accurate the contextual points I lay out above suggest reasons to believe there is more accuracy in Gates's statement.

Of course, I know something of and about Skip Gates and know nothing of the Officer in question.  I do not deny that these factors influence my reading of the two documents.  But black men are profiled in this country and often treated with disregard.  And if you ever had any experience of Gates he would seem a less likely burglar to you than Bill Cosby or Bill Russell, to name just two black men known for distinguished appearance.   I also think it likely, as I have expressed elsewhere, that Gates lost it a bit at a certain point.  But the man is no Mumia.  He's an eminent scholar not a rabble-rousing grandstander.

by Strummerson 2009-07-21 03:16PM | 0 recs
Re: This from the police report

if they had equal rights to arrest each other, one might assign blame. No crime was committed by either, but one of them had the power to make an arrest. Or, Is wrongful arrest a crime?  

by anna shane 2009-07-21 04:48PM | 0 recs
Oops

Forgot to mention that I think your argument regarding the lack of necessary "contradiction with the notion that the police report is correct and the charges now being dropped" is sound.  Your alternative explanation is a plausible one.

by Strummerson 2009-07-21 03:24PM | 0 recs
I used to live overseas

and if I were exhausted after flying home from China, only to find my door damaged and the police at my door right away, I'm sure I would have a very short fuse.

Police are professionally trained to handle this kind of situation. Private citizens are not professionally trained to deal with being suspected of a crime they didn't commit after a very long day.

If I assume the truth is somewhere in between these reports, the police are still more to blame. As soon as Gates showed ID, the officer should have apologized for the inconvenience and left.

by desmoinesdem 2009-07-21 03:27PM | 0 recs
Re: I used to live overseas

Or asked if he wanted to file a report about the attempted break in THEN or contact the station in the morning, after he had a chance to inventory the house, see if there were any other signs of forced entry?

Hand him a card, with a phone number?

Did any of THAT happen? Did he show him ONE moment of respect as potentially the injured party?

Sorry folks, something about this says if this were a very rich White Guy, things would have went down differently, it would just not have played out that way in my opinion.

Yes, Gates might have stepped over the line with the cops. He certainly could have been very aggressive asking him for his badge number, accusing him of doing this because he was black?

So, who has the training to defuse that situation?

Him or the cop?

Anyone wonder again, if they slam the cuffs on the rich white guy in Boston and take him to the pokey in exactly the same scenario?

by WashStateBlue 2009-07-21 03:39PM | 0 recs
The problem in your analysis is that
Gates actions are more akin to an upper class elite, rather than an underclass African American. There's clearly a class powerplay there between Gates and the cop. The racial aspect was thrown in to underplay the class differentiation. Race related episodes tend to attract our attention more than class differentiation.
 
by louisprandtl 2009-07-21 04:32PM | 0 recs
Re: The problem in your analysis is that

I think you are still weighting the police report over Gates's statement unfairly.

But I also disagree with the distinction you draw here between race and class.  What you are suggesting, it seems, is that the "real" category governing this interaction is class and that Gates employed race cynically to augment the asymmetry of the power relation.  I reject that, do not understand what the basis of such an accusation is, and find it a tad offensive if truth be told.

I think Gates's reaction likely reflects his complex position and experience as a member of an African-American elite.  Depending on the individual such a subject position can engender particular sensitivity due to feelings of guilt for transcending the position of other members of the racial community, enhanced perceptions of responsibility to use one's power to confront the challenges others face with fewer resources, frustration at the limits of transcendence, and several other possibilities.  This depends on the individual's experience.  But I do not accept as credible the idea that the "elitism" is "real" while "blackness" is simply employed as an instrument for lashing out at one less powerful.  And though I acknowledge that law enforcement officers belong largely to a working class in general, in individual situations they confront one with a gun a badge and a legal system generally at their backs.  So the power relation is not the same as that between a professional and a cabbie or construction worker or server.

by Strummerson 2009-07-21 04:45PM | 0 recs
I'm sorry but you don't think that by throwing

racial charges against a working class person was offensive?  Gates have reached the top of academic elite, to suggest that this is just another white cop powerplay against an African American is a limited sociological interpretation of the situation. I also reject your contention that whatever the police report said was wrong (because of underlying racial bias) and Gates story was the right one. You have not shown why the class theory is wrong and it is solely a case of racial bias.

by louisprandtl 2009-07-21 04:55PM | 0 recs
Re: I'm sorry but you don't think that by throwing

What's offensive is your unsupported assertion that an "upper class elitist" is using "race" cynically as a tool to oppress a "working class person."  I don't understand on what basis you think that categories of race and class are separable in an individual's experience so that you can make a claim that one is authentic and the other is not.  This seems to be the more "limited" and indeed biased sociological interpretation of the situation.

I completely reject your contention that whatever Gates's statement was wrong (because of underlying elitist bias against the working class) and that the Officer's story was the right one.  You have not shown why race and class are separable in this case and I do not claim it is solely a case of racial bias.  I think there are indications of likely racial bias, due to norms and patterns, and that Gates's reaction is informed by both his racial and class position.  I do not accept that you can flatten out identities into one category or another in order to put an interpretation forward.  The experiences and perceptions and reactions of an African American member of an elite class will often differ from those of a white one, as will one born black and wealthy differ from one born white and wealthy, one born white and poor, and one born black and poor.

What is offensive to me is your suggestion that Gates, because he is a member of a rarefied cultural and (less rarefied) economic elite must be manipulating class identity cynically.  That's a pretty foul thing to accuse someone of without some corroborating evidence.  Is there a particular pattern of African American elites persecuting working class whites I do not know about?  Given the unfoundedness and odd indentitarian abstraction of your theory, it seems even weirder that you are demanding more demonstration from my side.

SO far I understand your argument to amount to something like: This elitist jerk is bullshitting about being black in order to take advantage of an oppressed worker.  Am I wrong?

by Strummerson 2009-07-21 05:18PM | 0 recs
I meant

"manipulating racial identity cynically" in the last paragraph.

by Strummerson 2009-07-21 05:24PM | 0 recs
I'm not the one who had thrown the racial

charge around. Gates did. I don't know what your point is but if the police report is correct then note:

Officers said they tried to calm down the 58-year-old academic, who responded, "You don't know who you're messing with," according to the police report.

If somebody says that, it is little more than yet another racist discrimination case.

It said "officers" and not just an officer! As you wrote above, the officer(s) in question have more to lose than Gates if the racial charge is proven. They are likely to lose their jobs whereas Gates would hardly have any dent in his reputation as an academic elite. So for cops to falsify a police report would be more dangerous to their career and livelihood, especially when they are aware that the report will be scrutinized publicly very closely.

I'm not disagreeing with the intrepretation that Gates was angry at his treatment and the officer aggravated the situation. But I cannot just solely base my interpretation on the Gates's lawyer's report of the situation.  Your limited sociological interpretation of the situation is your problem, not mine.

by louisprandtl 2009-07-21 05:32PM | 0 recs
Re: I'm not the one who had thrown the racial

Wow.  Whole new louis here.  Are you actually reading what I have written at all?

It seems almost as if you equate any "racial discrimination case" as automatically fraudulent.  Is that so?  If someone claims racial bias, then they are of necessity obfuscating?  As for Gates pointing out to the officers that they "don't know who they are messing with," I think it shows that he felt threatened and abused and was, by the way, telling the truth.  The whole thing began because they refused to recognize who they were messing with.  Unless you actually believe that he refused to verify that it was his home.  Which I find completely incomprehensible.  Especially if he is invested in his power and privilege, which he came by honestly by the way.

Contrary to what you have been writing, I looked at both documents.  You suggest I solely looked at Gates's statement, which I admittedly find more credible by comparison, while you do not even consider it and keep quoting from the police report and suggesting it is more reliable.  I frankly don't know what to tell you at this point.

Now this makes almost NO sense:

As you wrote above, the officer(s) in question have more to lose than Gates if the racial charge is proven. They are likely to lose their jobs whereas Gates would hardly have any dent in his reputation as an academic elite. So for cops to falsify a police report would be more dangerous to their career and livelihood, especially when they are aware that the report will be scrutinized publicly very closely.

Huh?  Really?  

Actually, it means that the cops have more motive to falsify a report in order to save their positions, especially if something wasn't on the up and up.  And unless I am very wrong, it would hardly be unprecedented for cops to coordinate a less than accurate report in order to protect themselves or one of their own "on the job" behind that "thin blue line."

Now as far as your repeated contention regarding my dastardly "limited sociological interpretation," I'm flummoxed in the face of this accusation.  You read this whole interaction through the lens of class and make race into an auxiliary weapon, while I read Gates's most plausible actual reaction gleaned form comparing the accounts through his complex subject position which involves both race and class.  But my sociological perspective is the "limited" one?  You basically just forced Gates into the mold of OJ playing the race card.  Congratulations.  Class move, so to speak.  Based on what?  Dunno.  But it's offensive.  Regardless, only one of us is actually putting forward an argument at this point.  

But then you punctuate it with the personalizing cliche asserting that my interpretation, which I think is significantly more complex and fleshed out than your OJ fantasy, is my "problem."  Nice.

Please bring back the intelligent and civil louis.  I miss him.  

by Strummerson 2009-07-21 05:58PM | 0 recs
I suggest you look at this picture contained

in this newsreport. And thanks for stating that you had put more credence to Prof. Gates's lawyers statement. And your suggestion that the cops have more motives to falisfy a legally binding report (while Gates press release have no such legal binding) suggest an interesting interpretation. Of course there's no bias here that we should believe Prof Gates because he is a Harvard luminary and not the lowly cops who must be "coordinating" a false report. Did it ever occur to you that there might be African Americans working in the Cambridge Police Department? (I suggest you check the Dept. website). And wouldn't they come out openly if this report had been falisfied on a arrest against such a high profile widely respected African American Professor?

http://www.boston.com/news/local/breakin g_news/2009/07/charges_to_be_d.html

I'm not going to answer rest of yours' personal attacks. I like your comment about my "OJ fantasy"! Sheesh!

by louisprandtl 2009-07-21 06:27PM | 0 recs
Re: I suggest you look at this picture contained

Sheesh indeed.

Don't complain about personal attacks when you write "your limited sociological interpretation is your problem, not mine."

Now I will actually answer this post.  

1. I suggested to a commenter up thread that they look at those very same pictures.  I am not sure why you think I need to or what it should prove to me.  Guys in nice suits must be oppressive elitists?  Why must they be?  I suggested that they look at those pictures and tell me if that looks like a burglar.  Doesn't. Does it?

2. I have been up front about my rationale for finding Gates's statement more credible from the beginning, while I doubt either account completely accurate.  I weighed them both in comparison and considered plausible motives and normative contexts for what I think likely.  That's the best we can do, and not more nor less than you are doing.  Only I include my rationale.  You seem to imply that this automatically invalidates my interpretation.  You put no stock whatsoever in the Gates statement.  I find that odd and biased.  But since you thanked me, you are welcome.

3. Facing suspensions and fines for mishandling a situation, there is ample precedent for cops to tweak their reports.  Given their class position, the potential economic disabilities add up to a motive to take a risk in doing this and they have ample opportunity to coordinate.  It has nothing to do with "lowliness."  Gates on the other hand has little motive at all to alter his account in this instance, though I'm sure it contains biases and inaccuracies.  In his case, why would he change something as central as whether he provided ID or not?  What is his motive?  He could have easily have said I did not provide it because their manner appeared to me to approach harassment.  You only look at disincentives to misrepresent, I consider incentives to do so as well.

4. Now, just because I have prior respect for Gates doesn't support your implication that I am an elitist snob.  I never called these officers "lowly."  I think something was mishandled, gave the appearance of racial bias and may have reflected some, and then got out of hand.  Gates included.  I've said that from the start.  The key to this whole thing, I think, is whether Gates provided ID or not.  I think it likely that he did.  What this has to do with African Americans in the Cambridge force, I am not sure, except for an additional implication of elitist simple-mindedness.  Of course there are.  In several comments in this thread, I oppose the implication that racism is the norm for police officers.  I suggest you attend to my arguments instead of referring me to photographs.

5. Is it hard for you to imagine that African American officers might find themselves in a complicated position with regard to fellow officers.  Where before, Gates was an elitist oppressor with a simple class allegiance, now African American police officers are black folk with a simple racial allegiance.  Isn't it plausible that they would have stronger ties to fellow officers than an "elitist professor?"  Don't their jobs and families, livelihoods and lives require relationships of trust and loyalty with their colleagues?  And again, you really see my sociological perspective as limited?  As you said, Sheesh!

6.  Not sure what other "personal attacks" I put forth.  You have lobbed condescending accusations at me both explicitly and by implication.  I am apparently an elitist snob with a biased and limited perspective.  And not all positions of power are identical.  Movie stars and board members of Goldman Sachs occupy different positions of power from top academics and public intellectuals.  Class isn't simple and it's not just about address and bank account.  As for a general disposition toward academics, I have great respect for my profession, even as I recognize its abuses and abusers.  I also have great respect for cops in general, even if I recognize abuses and abusers.  My position here is indeed informed by a familiarity with Gates's work and persona.  To say otherwise would be dishonest as it's inevitable.  I may be wrong.  But the standard here is plausibility.  Neither of us are members of a jury hearing evidence and burdened with the demand to attempt complete objectivity.

7. As for my OJ comment, I stand by it.  You have turned a "widely respected African American Professor," a description you seem to articulate as damning for some reason while I am happy to accord it respect (he's not Donald freaking Trump or Allen Iverson for crying out loud), into the caricature of a hot-tempered rich and famous black man who throws the race card just to get himself out of a pickle.  Sounds like OJ to me.  Not the Gates I am familiar with and not the most plausible one if looking at both accounts.  

So disagree with my arguments as much as you please, but I don't think you can fairly dismiss them as "limited" without backing that up and I don't think you can accuse me of not taking class into the equation, even if I think it operates differently (and more complexly) in this case than you do.  And I wouldn't care all that much, except I have always found our interactions unequivocally pleasurable and instructive up until now.  So I admit I am a bit personally baffled and disturbed by the way you have engaged here.  If that has impeded me engaging at my own best, I am sorry for my part.  But we have disagreed in the past.  Never with acrimony and I have never perceived before this that you have treated my positions so derisively, dismissively, and inaccurately.

by Strummerson 2009-07-21 07:11PM | 0 recs
I have no more further comments on this topic.

You're entitled to your opinions about this topic and about me.

This is not the last word on this topic. The Cambridge Police Board comprising of civilians had opened an internal investigation in the incident and Gates is looking for an public apology from the arresting officer.

by louisprandtl 2009-07-21 07:34PM | 0 recs
Re: I have no more further comments on this topic.

Fair enough.  Agree or disagree I look forward to our next engagement with the hopes of renewed amity and respect.

by Strummerson 2009-07-21 07:36PM | 0 recs
BTW please accept my apologies

for writing "your limited sociological interpretation". It was an ad hominem personal attack, hath no place in civil discussion.

by louisprandtl 2009-07-21 06:54PM | 0 recs
Re: BTW please accept my apologies

Accepted with joy.  See my remarks above for my own apology and explanation.  I am sorry I reacted so...reactively.

by Strummerson 2009-07-21 07:14PM | 0 recs
My lesson of the day ..now I know what

rankles sociologists more. Thanks for giving me the clue which I assure that my sociologist friends wouldn't appreciate.

by louisprandtl 2009-07-21 07:50PM | 0 recs
Re: My lesson of the day ..now I know what

Hmm.  Not sure I follow you.  But rest assured I am no sociologist.  I work on the intersections of social and intellectual (theology, political theory) histories in Early Modern (Renaissance) English literature.  I do employ some classical theoretical models drawn from sociology (Weber, Durkheim, Bourdieu) but that's not what the discipline is about these days.  Sociology is moving more and more toward the development of highly complex and sophisticated computer modeling.  I lack both the mathematical and logic chops for that kind of work.  But these models in part help sociologists generalize without flattening out a large range of specificities within social categories.  So if you are suggesting that I helped you figure out that sociologists are more rankled by race than class, that isn't true.  Good sociologists would see these as large categories that in themselves operate as massive abstractions.  Their models are built to incorporate many more categories, their overlap and interactions.  Not just race and class and gender, but ethnicity, geography, religion, diet, age range, sexuality, height, weight, emotional personae, income, aesthetic affinities, education, physical health, etc., and all of their intersections and permutations within local communities and large populations.  So what rankles sociologists is extrapolating through a single lens.  

by Strummerson 2009-07-21 10:07PM | 0 recs
There was a DARPA program called

Scalable Social Network Analysis.

http://www.ccs.neu.edu/home/perrolle/arc hive/Ethier-SocialNetworks.html

by louisprandtl 2009-07-22 12:55AM | 0 recs
Re: The problem in your analysis is that

the difference is only that Gates is news, and when this happens to ordinary people it isn't news.  It doesn't require class to not fear police and to stand up for the law. It requires guts, and the ability to make waves when injustice has been committed.  Mostly guys just get beat up and fined, and can't find a lawyer to represent them. when these things are sometimes caught on camera you see ordinary citizens being beaten.  

There was a case in Santa Rosa an unarmed Asian man in his own font yard shot by police for making a kung fu pose. The officer was frightened and shot the man dead.  Hey, watch yourself, the world isn't safe and we seem to be living in a police state.  

by anna shane 2009-07-21 04:54PM | 0 recs
I remember in CA in the 90s when a Japanese

exchange student was shot and killed by a houseowner when he failed to understand the word "Halt" after he mistakenly trespassed the property! There's no question that there are eminent racial problems with our policing and judicial system. I didn't think the racial bias was the only thing that was in play in this case.

by louisprandtl 2009-07-21 05:19PM | 0 recs
Re: I remember in CA in the 90s when a Japanese

No not CA..it was in racist Baton Rouge, LA!

by Boilermaker 2009-07-21 08:40PM | 0 recs
Yes you are right about the place of the incident

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoshihiro_H attori

by louisprandtl 2009-07-21 10:55PM | 0 recs
Re: I remember in CA in the 90s when a Japanese

i agree, it's also a fathead problem.  

by anna shane 2009-07-22 06:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Re

Yes, but once he -did- show his ID and it was established that he was in the right, the cops should've apologized and backed off. Not arrested him. I'm not quite sure how Nicholas Cage suggests anything different.

by BingoL 2009-07-21 12:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Re

I mean 'charged' not 'arrested.

by BingoL 2009-07-21 12:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Re

I suspect the truth falls somewhere in the middle. I seriously doubt there was any racial motive here. Likely, things got out of hand verbally between the officers and the gentleman resulting in a disorderly conduct arrest. Nothing more. Its amazing how when a white police officer arrests an african american its immediately suspected racism. Cmon folks, mistakes happen.....

by BuckeyeBlogger 2009-07-21 12:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Re

Why do "mistakes happen" seem to happen more often between white officers and black males?

by Strummerson 2009-07-21 01:17PM | 0 recs
This is a University Professor

who greeted the officer at the door of his house.

I cannot believe that anyone has any doubt at all about this being typical behaviour we have seen a thousand times. Driving While Black.

by commentist 2009-07-21 01:22PM | 0 recs
Re: This is a University Professor

Give me a break. Fact is when you have an organization like the NAACP setting up a hotline for people to report police abuses specific to arrests as they have done, its an attempt to portray law enforcement as racist. This notion that America and law enforcemnt is inherently racist is a load of crap.

by BuckeyeBlogger 2009-07-21 02:29PM | 0 recs
Re: This is a University Professor

I do not understand what you mean by 'inherently' and 'racist'.

by BingoL 2009-07-21 02:45PM | 0 recs
Re: This is a University Professor

The NAACP is an organization with an august history that has done a lot of good.  There has been a documented history of racial profiling directed at black males in this country.  They didn't set up that hotline just to cause trouble.

I agree with you that "America and law enforcement" are not "inherently racist."  I don't even think most of the people who work in law enforcement are racist.  But a significant minority participates in racially oriented norms for it to be a problem.  I also think there are plenty of good people in law enforcement who work damn hard to confront bad norms and abuses.  But that does not mean there isn't still a problem.

by Strummerson 2009-07-21 02:47PM | 0 recs
Damn Straight, Buckeye

Why, as a White Irish Guy, I never had any problem with White Cops pulling me over at 3 AM back in my high-school days?

And, I could never understand why the two black guys in my band seemed uneasy when that happened?

Funny, though, that time, they DID roust as all out of the car, and give us a really bad time?

I guess, compared to all the other times I was with just white guys, we looked EXTRA suspicious that night....

by WashStateBlue 2009-07-21 02:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Damn Straight, Buckeye

driving while young is also an offense.  But at least when you're young you're allowed to walk.  This thug didn't know who Gates is and what publicity would follow, but if he gave the cops a heads up on that one, they didn't listen.  

To me it's weird to defend the police against charges of racism.  That doesn't mean all cops suspect black men of criminal activity, but there are far more black men in jail than any other group, and it has something to do with the arrest rate and the conviction rate, and if it isn't racist, statistics are useless.  

by anna shane 2009-07-21 04:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Damn Straight, Buckeye

Are you kidding? Your saying that the reason more black men are in prison is becuase of white cop?

by BuckeyeBlogger 2009-07-21 04:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Damn Straight, Buckeye

oh, yes, and not just white cops. Do you really think more black men are criminals? Do you really think everyone has an equal chance of being pulled over and searched? Do you really think that higher convictions means black guys are guiltier?

our jails are filled with drug users and low level criminals.  We have the highest incarceration rate in the free world.  If you arrest more black men you'll find a reason to keep some of them, but the conviction rates and the time behind bars is the worst indictment of the inherently racist problem in our so called criminal justice system.

Were that it weren't so, but the statistics back it up.  

Too many cops think they're in some movie.  If they get a reputation for being blockheads, they need to clean things up in their home precincts.  did you read my comment above, my friend was pulled over dozens of times, and searched. out of dozens she was cited a few times for going like five miles over the limit.  Kids can get pulled over for going one mile over the limit, that's the way it is.  

by anna shane 2009-07-21 05:02PM | 0 recs
Statistically you're on sound footing..

http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/piu sp01.pdf

by louisprandtl 2009-07-21 05:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Statistically you're on sound footing..

i think I love you. I'm so not good at finding references. This is more important than I realized, I thought everyone knew.  

by anna shane 2009-07-21 05:09PM | 0 recs
It is a horrible statistic when USDOJ's

own document says one in every three Black males are expected to incarcerated sometime in their life. To suggest that there's no bias in the system especially amongst those with powers to arrest and prosecute is irrational and stupid.

by louisprandtl 2009-07-21 05:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Damn Straight, Buckeye

There are a number of issues at play here.  

I agree that if you stop more black men you increase the odds of arresting and charging black men.  But this does not mean that rates of violent crime among primarily young black men may not also be higher than the general population.  Although cops are not permitted to, they do profile.  And although I agree it is wrong, I think there is an element of human psychology at work as well.  Cops witness the wide swath of human behavior and necessarily draw conclusions from their experience.  If they encounter more violent offenders among the class of young black men, they are going to eye them with more suspicion and will be less willing to take risks (ie, the potential for violence against them) than they might with other groups.  I am not saying their perceptions are accurate in the larger scheme of things, I am merely saying that it cannot be denied.  I think one of the ways of combatting such perceptions is to demand that officers live in the community they serve.  (In NY, most cops live either in certain enclaves or outside the city.)  The opportunity to encounter young black men in non-criminal settings hoepfully would work to change perceptions.

Also, I think one of the significant factors effecting the higher incarceration rates among black men is class.  Poorer people do not have as many private spaces in which to engage in unlawful conduct (eg, low level drug offenses).  Thus, they engage in this activity in the streets, where they are more susceptible to getting caught.  They are also more likely to carry contraband on their person because they do not have a safe place to keep it.  I'm not advocating criminal activity in the home, but simply making an observation.

I don't see how the conviction rates are a racist indictment of the US criminal justice system.  This is a complaint that is easily bandied about, but rarely supported.  If you look at the factors that tend to lead to criminal activity (poverty, etc.), the incarceration rates are not that surprising.  I do believe there is racism in our criminal justice system, particularly in certain areas of the country (Texas comes easily to mind as well as NYC under Guiliani), but rash generalizations do not reflect the more complex issues at play.  

by orestes 2009-07-22 10:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Damn Straight, Buckeye

there are plenty of poor white people.  That stuff was factored in. check out Barack's remark?  

by anna shane 2009-07-23 09:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Damn Straight, Buckeye

How was socio-economic status factored in?  I see no indication of that.  And your comment that there are plenty of poor white people is self-evident.  I bet if you did a statistical analysis you would find higher rates of incarceration among poor white people (v other white people) as well.  

Yes, I heard Obama's comment and I thought it was improvident.  Without hearing all of the facts he (like some of us in this discussion) should refrain from drawing conclusions.  I note that the administration wisely backpedaled from his statement today.  

by orestes 2009-07-23 01:38PM | 0 recs
It is hard to imagine that the incarceration rates

of poor white people would be as high as Black males.

by louisprandtl 2009-07-25 07:35AM | 0 recs
Re: This is a University Professor

Not familiar with our culture and law enforcement, eh?

by lojasmo 2009-07-21 04:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Charge dropped against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

I don't know if this is racially motivated because I wasn't there, but I wouldn't be surprised.  

If I had to guess, it was probably more ego/power driven (though not to say race didn't have anything to do with it); how could the cop arrest him after he showed his ID indicating this was his house?  
Probably because the cop didn't like getting berated and he took advantage of his position by arresting him, for little ego massage.

Overall, this is cop hackery, leave the man alone in his castle/refuge, don' be a prick just because you can.

by KLRinLA 2009-07-21 02:03PM | 0 recs
it sounds to me

like the cop was trying to show who's boss. He didn't like being yelled at. Gates probably shouldn't have yelled, but I think most people wouldn't appreciate having the cops show up at their home in those circumstances.

by desmoinesdem 2009-07-21 02:11PM | 0 recs
The question then is, do we think this cop

would have done it to a rich white man?

Would have shown HIM who was boss?

And, not being a black man, maybe some white cop showing me WHO'S BOSS isn't quite a loaded as an older black man would take it.

Hell, my old man said, you want to argue with the cops, you can pay for your bail. You say "Yes Sir, Officer Sir...."

He grew up on the streets of brooklyn, and as an Irish kid, he knew most of the cops.

I think my black brethern probably had a very different upbringing.

My take is, that is the crux of this?

Did the cop object to the attitude, or the attitude cause it was coming from a black man?

by WashStateBlue 2009-07-21 02:24PM | 0 recs
Re: The question then is, do we think this cop

Having grown up in Philadelphia during the Rizzo days and living in NY for my adult life, I can tell you that cops definitely look for an excuse to arrest the minute you give any resistence to their power.  And this is done regardless of race.  Your father taught you to just say yes, sir, because he knew this truth.  I am not saying that cops don't also have racist motives at times, but they generally always respond to a resistence with force.  

by orestes 2009-07-22 09:43AM | 0 recs
Re: it sounds to me

I can't say what "most people" would appreciate, but I personally would very much appreciate the police showing up to my house in those circumstances.  I like the fact that the police are alert to people forcibly entering homes in my neighborhood.  (It makes me confident that, if it were a burglar, they wouldn't get away with it.)  I would simply politely thank them for coming, show them my ID, and the whole thing would be wrapped up.

by markjay 2009-07-21 03:07PM | 0 recs
Re: it sounds to me

this reminds me of people who appreciate their physicians for ordering blood tests - it's their job, that why we have police, that's the entire reason for police, to investigate crime. You can thank them if they do it nicely, that's polite, but they get paid, it's their job.  

Do you want to pay more? Do you want to risk being beat up or arrested  in order to have that service?  

by anna shane 2009-07-21 05:16PM | 0 recs
Re: it sounds to me

but we have the right to yell, if we want to. Yelling isn't a crime, nor is disrespecting the police, that's legal, that's part of our freedom. What's the point if we have the right but can be arrested if we exercise it?  

I don't believe the cops story because I've heard that one too many times, but the point is that this cop didn't know he serves us, and that disrespecting him isn't against any law we have in this country. Even if the cop was truthful, it only means that he was way out of line.    

by anna shane 2009-07-21 04:39PM | 0 recs
Re: it sounds to me

I think this is a situation in which most people would want the cops to show up.  He was breaking into his house.  Without knowledge that he is the rightful owner, wouldn't you want the cops to check out the situation?

by orestes 2009-07-22 10:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Charge dropped against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

I don't know enough about what actually happened to fault either Gates or the police at the scene.  But what's more disturbing is that one of Gates' neighbors saw a black man at the door of a house in this neighborhood and immediately suspected the worst.  They had no idea who he was or that he lived at this place.  I don't blame the caller per se, but it does point to a problem that we assume a black man pushing on a door is trying to break in and does not have a right to be on the other side of that door.

by the mollusk 2009-07-21 02:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Charge dropped against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

good point.  Add to this the fact that when he forced open his damaged door and was witnessed, his car service driver was still with him.

Anyone know any burglars who take a car service to the scene of their intended crime and get the driver to help them force their way in through the front door?

by Strummerson 2009-07-21 02:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Charge dropped against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

How was the person supposed to know it was a car service driver?  Do you think the caller walked up to study the driver's insignia (if there were any), or took time to try to pair up a possibly unmarked vehicle with a driver and figure everything out?  She simply saw two people trying to forcibly enter a house and called the police.

by markjay 2009-07-21 03:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Charge dropped against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Car service fleet vehicles are quite recognizable to most residents of major cities.

by Strummerson 2009-07-21 03:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Charge dropped against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

and someone might have asked?  i thought ignorance was no excuse?  

by anna shane 2009-07-21 04:40PM | 0 recs
I'm not sure about the neighbor point of view..
clearly if somebody as famuos as Prof Henry Louis Gates was my neighbor, I would recognize him very easily. I think the neighbor might have racial bias issues or might wanted to create trouble for Gates.
 
by louisprandtl 2009-07-21 04:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Charge dropped against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

I don't find that disturbing at all.  I would like to think that passers-by in my neighborhood would call the police if they saw somebody forcibly trying to enter my home, regarless of their race or ethnicity.  That's being a good neighbor in my opinion.

One funny thing about this incident is that, when the police were driving off with Gates, they asked him if he wanted to first lock his door before leaving.  He told them that it couldn't be locked because his house was previously broken into, breaking the lock.  Would Gates also have been angry if the people who previously robbed his house had been nabbed in the act due to an alert passerby?

by markjay 2009-07-21 03:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Charge dropped against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

proving they knew it was his house and only arrested him cause they wanted to.  

by anna shane 2009-07-21 05:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Charge dropped against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

yeah, but what if you turned out to be the person trying to forcibly enter your own house.  wouldn't that cheese you off a little?

by the mollusk 2009-07-22 09:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Charge dropped against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

I returned from a trip to Spain and realized I had left my keys behind (or at least couldn't find them).  I had to climb up the side of my building to the fire escape to jimmy my way in through the window in plain view.  I was a bit shocked and concerned that no one called the cops.  Granted, I had my bags on the stoop, but still.  

by orestes 2009-07-22 09:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Charge dropped against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

No, he was probably angry because after showing proof of residence he was arrested.  Wouldn't that make you angry?

by KLRinLA 2009-07-22 12:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Charge dropped against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

I think that's a big leap and an unfair accusation.  You know nothing about the actual motive of the caller or the sightlines from their property.  This kind of jumping to hostile conclusions does nothing to abet discussions of race.  You should be just as chastened from making these kinds of accusations on the basis of no facts as the police do.  I find that white people often reflexively want to charge racism (against someone else of course)more out of a personal desire to demonstrate that they are senstive to race issues and indeed are not racist themselves.  It's like diverting the attention elsewhere to shore up your own bona fides.  I am not accusing you of doing this here because I do not know you or your motive.  I am just stating that I have found an uncomfortable willingness among- particularly liberal, privileged- white people to engage in this conduct.  

by orestes 2009-07-22 10:26AM | 0 recs
Should read

"as the police should," not "do."

by orestes 2009-07-22 10:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Charge dropped against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

that's a good point.  but it's kind of like the internal argument/counter-argument i have about where i live.  i live in a very progressive, upscale (not me), white city.  as a friend of mine says "they celebrate diversity without actually having any".  ha ha.  it is true, but would i really want the opposite?  that is, an upscale all-white community that is overtly racist and suspicious of others?  at least the people here are trying.

same with my comment here, i believe.  yes, i'm making assumptions about the caller.  in a perfect world, i would say the whole thing was a big mistake.  but asking myself whether racial motivations were involved and if i would have made that call depending on whether it was a black or white person is still a pretty minor evil, i believe.

for me, it probably all would have come down to how the person was dressed and what their overall demeanor was.  that's it's own sort of bigotry, i suppose, but probably outside of the scope of this conversation.

by the mollusk 2009-07-22 11:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Charge dropped against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Thanks for your response.  I was a bit fearful you would take my comment the wrong way and am glad you did not.  I see your point about where you live and I agree that on a micro scale it is better to have well intentioned people rather than ill intentioned people.  I, however, tend to view these well-intentioned people as patronizing.  They are really only motivated by a need not to be thought of as a bad person, as opposed to a more principled desire to improve our society.  I feel that giving any kudos to them only reinforces their patronizing ways and is a greater obstacle to making change than those who are ill-intentioned.  (With the latter group, you know where you stand.)  The tendency to point fingers at others to deflect their discomfort with race actually serves to perpetuate the problems we face because of their unwillingness to be honest with others and. more importantly, themselves.  So, I say- hold their feet to the fire.  Never let them forget they are hypocrites.  And, most certainly, don't let them control the debate on race in America.

I appreciate your honesty and agree that we make judgments all of the time on the basis of many factors- age, race, gender, dress, weight, ad nauseum.  In my view, it is when we acknowledge this fact that we are in a position to move towards equality.  

by orestes 2009-07-22 11:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Charge dropped against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

I pretty much agree with what you are saying, but there is a time element here as well.  There is a "Moses" generation and a "Joshua" generation.  Moses, as you may recall, did not get to see the promised land.  There was the whole bit about not trusting God to deliver water from the stone, but more importantly, he simply wasn't ready to make the transition from slavery in Egypt to a functioning society in Israel.  I think this is how race is in America.  The Jesse Jacksons and Ted Kennedys of the post-civil rights era were important catalysts, but it's too much to ask them to forget their upbringing and the prevailing attitudes, etc.  So, we rely on Bill Clinton and Barack Obama (there are probably better examples) to be the ones to bring us the rest of the way.  This doesn't make Jesse Jackson (or the residents of my city) wrong, but they can't close the deal.  It's just not in their nature.

I'll admit that I am imperfect when it comes to my attitudes toward race.  I grew up in an extremely bigoted environment.  But I do what I can.

by the mollusk 2009-07-22 01:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Charge dropped against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

I have very much enjoyed this debate.  But i still say this really does remind me of the movie "Amos & Andrew" with Samuel Jackson and Nicolas Cage.  That is how differently different people can see the same situation in a very different way based on their background.

I grew up in chicago.  The rule of thumb was if you mouthed off to a chicago police man you could just assume you would end up in jail.  But then others can disagree and that is cool.  

d

by giusd 2009-07-21 02:55PM | 0 recs
I said the same thing above.....

But, I got that advice from my white irish Father who knew all the cops on the block when he was growing up.

He never had any fear that the cops might take an extra swing around the block before they got to the station, to make sure He knew his place?

Any white guy of our generation is being COMPLETELY disengenious if they think their or their father's experience with the police is ANYTHING like a young black male in the 50s, 60s, experience growing up with the cops in a big city.

A black father might have given his son the same advice, but it was also to maybe save him from getting the sh*t kicked out of him....

by WashStateBlue 2009-07-21 03:07PM | 0 recs
Re: I said the same thing above.....

no shit sherlock, this sort of 'my experience' is really rather retro, thought we were in new and empathic times, wrong.  

The cops are wrong to arrest anyone for not committing a crime. We ought not fear our police, they're supposedly trained in the law and able to tell the difference between crime and free expression of ideas.  

by anna shane 2009-07-21 04:43PM | 0 recs
From the way some of the cops behave

in terms of powerplay against ordinary citizens, sometimes I wondered what happened to the origin of COPS (CO-mmmunity P-oLice)!

by louisprandtl 2009-07-21 04:48PM | 0 recs
Re: From the way some of the cops behave

i used to unfortunately live next door to drug dealers. the cops came to my house 'by accident' about five times. After the first two, I'd shout through the door, wrong house, they're next door.  

by anna shane 2009-07-21 05:05PM | 0 recs
wow that's pretty bad.

by louisprandtl 2009-07-21 07:45PM | 0 recs
Re: wow that's pretty bad.

it's ordinary.  I mean, they were very apologetic after the first time, embarrassed, but the first time they blinded me with flashlight and asked me to step outside.  It was late, I was in my tatty bathrobe, carrying my dog, probably looking eccentric to anyone who doesn't know people like me.  I did not step outside, thank you very much, and I did not give identification, or make nice, I told them they had the wrong house. But, what if I didn't know the neighbors were most likely their target?  

By the way, I realized that empathy to some is putting your shoes on the other guy, not wearing his.  We should educate?  

by anna shane 2009-07-22 06:10AM | 0 recs
Cops

I thought that term came from their copper badges.

by JJE 2009-07-22 07:24AM | 0 recs
According to Webster, you're right,

Thanks. I was just playing on the word.

by louisprandtl 2009-07-22 08:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Charge dropped against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

I'm small-framed and look young for my age, so even when I was in my late 20's, I still could easily be mistaken for a teenager (especially since I often dress very casually and I rarely don't have a bad-hair day.)  On a few occasions in those days I was talked down to by cops, who had no reason to be disrespectful and accusatory toward me other than, it seemed quite clear, that they perceived me as a member of society (a "kid") to whom being disrespectful and accusatory was OK, absolutely appropriate, for someone in their position of authority.  Had I been wearing a suit and tie, it would not have happened. They had no idea that I was, in fact, a perfectly honest citizen, that I was a home owner, a taxpayer, a working Joe like them, and that I had nothing but respect for law-enforcement.  They looked at me and just saw a teenager.  The quite obvious thought occurred to me, back then, that if (some) cops tended to be disrespectful toward honest citizens simply because they appeared young and not well-dressed - there were no doubt other "looks" - that would cause (some) cops to be reflexively disrespectful toward innocent citizens. What if I were black, I thought.

I have no doubt some cops have kneejerk prejudices that lead them to act very disrespectfully toward honest folks.  What am I to believe in this case?  That the cops were all acting perfectly reasonably and respectfully - while the African American homeowner - one of the nation's most eminent professors - was the one person at the scene who was acting poorly, so poorly indeed that he needed to be arrested.

That seems rather far-fetched.

by Rob in Vermont 2009-07-21 05:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Charge dropped against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

my son used to be pulled over and searched in his teens, for going one mile over the limit.  He 'freely' gave permission to be searched, with a couple of big guys shoving him around first.  Too  many cop movies, that's what i think.  They should study the law, not see it on tee vee.  

by anna shane 2009-07-21 05:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Charge dropped against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

The comments here seem to say more about the preconceptions of the people making them than the allegations on each side and the possibility of weighing one against the other. Some are automatically crediting Gates with total accuracy and truth while presuming everything the police said is a lie. Some, while fewer, seem to be doing the reverse.

I am confident of three things.

1.  While police targeting of minorities can be demonstrated in many jurisdictions, it is much harder to make that charge against individual officers. An officer may have a record of complaints that supports such an allegation. Or not.  However, those who are so ready to tar individual officers with racism charges based upon generalities seem to be committing the same sin as those who suspect all blacks of being criminals because some are.

The department may need to clean up a lot, but that doesn't mean every officer is dirty.

2. As a lawyer, I deal constantly with witnesses on different sides with diametrically opposed stories of what happened in a situation. As Dr. House says, "Everyone lies." Sometimes there is just no way to determine the truth. Sometimes, it takes enormous effort just to disprove one or two statements of fact in a witness's story.

One difference here may be important, though. Neither Dr. Gates nor his attorney are under oath when giving a press release. Police officers are required to be truthful in their reports and can face discipline up to and including firing for false reports. No guarantee of course, but the pressure on the two side is different.

3.   Police officers are charged with keeping the peace. Many of them face life and death situations frequently. Ask any cop who has responded to domestic calls about how quickly one can flair up into violence against one or the other domestic partners or the police. Ask a cop why he or she might want a person to come out where the person is more easily observed and has less potential access to a weapon. You might also ask them whether they have ever had a situation where a well-dressed person ended up posing a serious threat to other civilians or officers.

I still don't now who is right about what happened. Or, more likely, which parts of each story is more reliable. Both police reports and press releases are after-the-fact prepared statements that can hold more than a little CYA.

by anoregonreader 2009-07-21 05:18PM | 0 recs
You summarized it way better than I ever can...

Thanks..

by louisprandtl 2009-07-21 05:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Charge dropped against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

but he still didn't break any law, it's still legal to get affronted, ask police for id's (actually they're supposed to show first), and call them names. There is no law against any of that behavior.  That's why foreigners see us as a police state, cause the police make up rules and later dismiss charges (or not).  Arrest first, ask questions later?  

i know cops, and they admit they try to intimidate citizens. There can be no surprise that some citizens stick up for themselves.  When you need to watch what you say to police officers, you have poorly trained police officers.  

by anna shane 2009-07-22 06:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Charge dropped against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

I agree that cops should always identify themselves and show their badges.  They sometimes don't and that is wrong.  However, if the police conduct a Terry stop (reasonable suspicion of a crime) such as here, the confronted is required to produce identification and may be arrested for failure to comply.  As others have stated, the facts are unclear here, but it appears both may have been within their rights.  That does not mean this was the best way to handle the situation.

by orestes 2009-07-22 09:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Charge dropped against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

lucky for me Barack weighed in?  

by anna shane 2009-07-23 09:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Charge dropped against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

I don't understand your point.  Care to explicate?

by orestes 2009-07-23 01:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Charge dropped against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Sorry, I take the police officers side if he refused to show his identification.  Especially given the circumstances - he was trying to break open his front door.

How are police supposed to know he is legit?  I am sick of hearing the racism card called when it is not warranted.  I know many black males are wrongfully harassed by police, and those police officers should be held accountable.  Its why there are cameras and audio in most cop cars now.

by agpc 2009-07-21 05:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Charge dropped against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

His account is that he showed identification and that things began to flare up when the officer refused to reciprocate.

by Strummerson 2009-07-21 06:01PM | 0 recs
Try clicking through

he opened his back door with his key.

by JJE 2009-07-21 06:03PM | 0 recs

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