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A Fair Cop

Sunday, professor Louis Henry Gates retreated from his threat to sue Sgt. James Crowley. Friday, President Obama retreated from his charge that the Cambridge cops “acted stupidly.”

As Crowley has not budged an inch — his arrest of Gates was correct, and there will be no apology — there is no doubt who won this face-off. Game, set, match, Crowley and the Cambridge cops.

It is, indeed, as Obama said Friday, a “teachable moment.”

And those most in need of teaching are the professor, the governor of Massachusetts and President Obama. By charging or suggesting Gates was a victim of racial profiling, all three were guilty of having reflexively reverted to racial stereotypes about white cops.

Here is the chronology.

Answering a 911 call about a break-in in progress, Crowley encountered the professor inside the house. According to Crowley’s report, his request for Gates’ I.D. was initially rebuffed, and he was accused of hassling Gates because he was black. The professor made a slurring reference to Crowley’s “mama.”

The professor then raised such a ruckus Crowley arrested and cuffed him.

Once in the street, Gates bellowed, “This is what happens to a black man in America.” Gates then called Crowley a “rogue cop.”


Gov. Deval Patrick declared Gates’ arrest “every black man’s nightmare.” Obama said the Cambridge cops had “acted stupidly” and went on to elaborate, on nationwide TV, on the sad history of racial profiling of blacks and Hispanics by police.

Thus the two most powerful black elected officials in the U.S., with no hard knowledge of what happened, came down on the side of a black professor, their buddy, against a white cop and his department, implying racial motivation in the arrest of Gates.

Yet there is still not a shred of evidence for their rush to judgment.

Crowley’s partner in the arrest was a black officer who said he stands “100 percent” behind Crowley and that Gates acted “strange.”

Sixteen years ago, Crowley gave CPR to an unconscious Boston Celtics star, Reggie Lewis, in an attempt to save his life. The memory of his failure caused Crowley to break down in tears and haunts him to this day.

Crowley was selected by a black police lieutenant to teach fellow officers about racial profiling. He has been doing this for five years.

And watching TV coverage for a week, this writer has yet to hear one cop anywhere condemn Crowley’s handling of the incident.

Outside the fevered imagination of Louis Henry Gates, then, where is the evidence Crowley engaged in racial profiling?

The victim here is Sgt. Crowley, not professor Gates.

Crowley is the one defamed as a “racist” and “rogue cop.” He is the officer whom Gov. Patrick implied perpetrated “every black man’s nightmare.” He is the cop on the Cambridge force who, Obama told the nation, “acted stupidly.”

If anyone has grounds for legal action, it is Crowley. Indeed, upon what grounds would Gates sue?

That he was wrongly arrested, when Crowley, his black partner, the Cambridge P.D., the police union and 1,000 cops would gladly come to Cambridge to testify that Crowley went by the book?

Moreover, no one says Crowley abused Gates in any way. And there were witnesses in the street to the arrest. And Crowley apparently had his mike open, and a recording of the incident exists.

But if Obama’s racial reflexes served him badly Wednesday night, his political instincts served him well him on Friday. For he must have sensed that this confrontation was shaping up as three powerful black men coming down hard on a white cop with a stellar record who had only done his conscientious duty.

Obama picked up the phone, called Crowley, regretted his choice of words about him and the Cambridge P.D., walked into the press room and told the nation Crowley was a “good guy,” he himself had misspoken, that he and the sergeant had talked about getting together for a beer.

It was a goodly slice of humble pie the president ate there, but it was a class act. To ask more would be churlish. As for Patrick and Gates, they, too, should eat a little crow.

The president’s decision to go before the White House press corps also suggests Obama is acutely aware of the political peril here.

For while his black support is rock solid, his white support is soft. And Americans will usually side with an Irish cop over a Harvard don, especially when the professor is pulling rank and the cop is right.

“This isn’t about me,” says Gates. Sorry, professor, it is about you. You have shown the country why William F. Buckley won laughter all over America when he wittily observed that, rather than be governed by the Harvard faculty, he would prefer to be governed by the first 300 names in the Cambridge telephone directory.


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#1 Comment By Hankest On July 28, 2009 @ 8:07 am

A cop enters your house, uninvited and asks for ID. You lose your temper, yell at him, then give him ID to prove you live there. After which you continue to verbally go off on the cop.

That sounds like pretty much how i’d react and i’m a white guy. i don’t think i’d deserve to be arrested for getting pissed and yelling at the civil servant. I guess that makes me a lilly livered liberal now huh?

This is not about race, it’s about cops arresting people for speaking their minds. Some of these cops need to get some thicker skin.

#2 Comment By cb On July 28, 2009 @ 8:35 am

Where, exactly, did Obama suggest that racial profiling was involved?

Also, what permits the arrest of a man for saying unkind things in his own home? Even if we grant that Gates was being a jerk, being mean to an officer is not(and should not be) a crime.

“his white support is soft. And Americans will usually side with an Irish cop over a Harvard don, especially when the professor is pulling rank and the cop is right.”

To suggest that, as a white man(how’s that for condescending racism?) I should somehow prefer a cop who arrests people who have simply said mean things is absurd. It is quite possible to recognize Gates’ error while still valuing a free society which permits a man to speak his mind–especially in his own home

#3 Comment By TomB On July 28, 2009 @ 8:51 am

Hankest wrote:

“That sounds like pretty much how i’d react and i’m a white guy. i don’t think i’d deserve to be arrested for getting pissed and yelling at the civil servant. I guess that makes me a lilly livered liberal now huh?”

No but it does make you dumb, which would then account for having the kind of unthinkingly hostile personality it would take to do what you are saying you would.

What possible ill motive could you impute to such an officer? Every molecule of what he did was aimed at either making sure that Gates did indeed own that house, that Gates was not under duress and that nothing illegal was going on, or protecting himself such as when he asked Gates to step outside where he knew he couldn’t be ambushed by others hiding inside the house or etc.

Everyone on the planet knows what happened here: Gates is utterly unfamiliar with cop work and so shot his mouth off and got arrested, and then for three seconds until he saw that other people do understand cop work he was just in his version of heaven being the race victim when all the cop was trying to do was protect him and his house.

What I think is hilarious and just utterly missed in all this came up when I saw Gates give an interview where he said one of the first things he told the cop was that he was a Harvard professor and still the cop kept asking questions.

Apparently Skip Gates is against racial* profiling, but class profiling, ah, now that’s another thing. He’s from Haaaaarvaaad you know….

#4 Comment By cb On July 28, 2009 @ 9:15 am

“…or protecting himself such as when he asked Gates to step outside where he knew he couldn’t be ambushed by others hiding inside the house…”

I’m intrigued by how many points are being fabricated about this matter. This reasoning for stepping outside was not cited in the police report, and in fact the report seems to suggest that the officer stepeed outside after the matter of identification had been resolved. How is it that you have determined the officer was in fear of being “ambushed” after he had determined that no crime had been comitted?

#5 Comment By Hankest On July 28, 2009 @ 9:35 am

Let’s see, you get home from a business trip, your door is stuck, you finally get in, you turn around and some cop is in your house asking for ID. Yeah, i’d be pretty pissed. I’d be especially pissed if once i showed the ID, the cop did not leave immediately.

Whether you think Gates was wrong to go off like that or not, i can’t see any reason for him to be arrested. Nor any reason for the cop to stick around getting abused once he saw Gate’s ID. But then i’m dumb to think you can mouth off to a civil servant in your own home without fear of being arrested for simply the act of mouthing off.

#6 Comment By Jack Tracey On July 28, 2009 @ 9:47 am

Gates is a liberal racist who indeed loved every minute of this whole experience. He’ll get a book deal and probably move up in the world.

The cop is probably okay, but he was not man enough to listen to some stuck up jerk of a professor insult him without using the power entrusted in him for the protection of his community to teach some jerk a lesson. All cops have the power to do this, and that is frightening. Being a jackass is not a crime, so it should not result in an arrest. Kelly Vlahos’ article on the subject pretty much says it all.

I don’t really care to hear what Obama has to say on the subject… or what kind of beer he prefers. Anyone who’s ever known a liberal ivy-leaguer already knows what he has to say… and that he prefers cider.

#7 Comment By Philip Giraldi On July 28, 2009 @ 10:07 am

I believe I am correct in saying that it is police sop to have someone step outside if there is a possible home invasion going on because that removes the victim from the immediate vicinity of the possibly armed criminal and enables him to speak freely to the policeman and/or escape. Crowley did not know if there was someone else in the house, possibly armed, and appears to have been sensible in his response.

#8 Comment By Hankest On July 28, 2009 @ 10:23 am

Philip, maybe read the police report written by the Officer Wilson. Apparently he told Gates to go outside because Gate’s screaming and the house’s acoustics made it hard for him to work talk on the radio. He already knew who Gates was and knew there wasn’t a break-in.


#9 Comment By Hankest On July 28, 2009 @ 11:08 am

Bottom line, Jack Tracey’s pretty much right. Gates baited the cop by getting in his face and the cop bit by arresting him. The cop was stupid, Gates will sell a new book.

Obama was like the cop, stupid for allowing a reporter to bait him with that idiotic question. He too was stupid for taking the bait.

#10 Comment By Angela On July 28, 2009 @ 11:32 am

Sheriff Mack said the cop was wrong. The lawyers at Volokh Conspiracy said the cop was wrong because it isn’t illegal to be mad and yell at a cop.

Gates sounds like a jerk, but he had no legal requirement to present identification.

#11 Comment By Barney Rebble On July 28, 2009 @ 11:51 am

Ted Williams, on Greta Van Susteren’s On the Record, gave a perfect analysis:

Gates and Obama were wrong for playing race card where it was not needed.

Cop was wrong for not completing ID on the spot (on the porch or sidewalk, of course), and then leaving. He got hooked into an arrest for personal and ego reasons, totally violating Gates’ property rights.


A lot of idiots, who were also not there, will buy into claims of the chattering-class, and not consider what may have been the actual facts. For example:

As Gates at first refused to ID himself, Crowley was required to go into the house.

As Gates was belligerant, Crowley needed to go outside where there were additional witnesses, and also because Gates may have been trying to get himself outside, because of possible unknown danger. There were 2 reported men in the house, but was the other man visible and identified?

Idiots will assume that because a driver’s license was offerred, that the College’s house was in Gate’s name, and that Gate’s ID had that address on it.


All 3 of these people hurt race relations in the US, and hurt the cause of sanctity of property rights. They all 3 owe me, the American Public, an apology.

#12 Comment By TomB On July 28, 2009 @ 12:23 pm

In response to my post cb wrote;

“How is it that you have determined the officer was in fear of being “ambushed” after he had determined that no crime had been comitted?”

Firstly because I saw a news report in which that question was put and the answer said it was for reasons of officer security, which I suppose could mean not only ambush but making sure Gates was not under duress or so the cop could speak freely on his radio or even to isolate Gates from his interior surroundings so as to place him under arrest (for the DC) more safely or etc.

Secondly because my profession has made me familiar with cop work.

As Giraldi said, it’s somewhat SOP in many situations to try to isolate a person from an area in which some danger could lurk. That’s why in some circumstances you’ll see cops ask folks to get out of their cars so that, for instance, there can’t be sudden reach for a hidden gun or etc.

And as for this happening “after the identification has been resolved” that means nothing. As the primary cop’s (African-American) partner said, and as a civilian witness said, Gates was acting strangely.

From there of course you can go on about a person’s Constitutional rights to act strangely, but in terms of urging either public opinion or the law to require cops called to a scene to utterly ignore same before first making sure of their own safety and secondly ascertaining within the bounds of reasonable discretion on their part that no criminal activity is going on, good luck with that. I think you’ll find it’s called “good police work.”

#13 Comment By waltinseattle On July 28, 2009 @ 12:43 pm

so lets hear the “open mike.” then one side or the other can just shut up! As for you “white guys” who would be upset….well, I guess your macho enough to resent having to pay for the police anyway.

And so what if the guy provided I.D.? That is NOT the last of it since the issues around the suspicious entry are not resolved. What if there were a Restraining Order by the wife, the resident against the husby, the wife beater? Its the cops DUTY to eliminate all possible scenarios, and then …remove himself in his own good time from the home of a citizen who should know enough to thank the officer for his concern and diligence. The only profiling here was anti cop prejudice. I have a bit of it myself. It keeps me from bad encounters with those who justify it. Course some of them even use that…”you act like you know the routine, been in trouble before???????” to start the intimidation. Smile, comply, be clean….go on when they’re done.

#14 Comment By Jack Tracey On July 28, 2009 @ 2:46 pm

Why was the man arrested? What wrong did he commit other than being rude and disrespectful to a police officer? Even if every standard operating procedure was followed to the letter, I just don’t see how being a jerk to a fellow citizen is not a crime, but being a jerk to someone with a badge will still land you in a jail cell.

#15 Comment By Read the 911 Call On July 28, 2009 @ 6:02 pm

F**k the Police

#16 Comment By TomB On July 28, 2009 @ 7:33 pm

Jack Tracey wrote:

“I just don’t see how being a jerk to a fellow citizen is not a crime, but being a jerk to someone with a badge will still land you in a jail cell.”

Well Jack this is exactly what I meant by talking about how people in general (and Gates in particular obviously) just don’t have any good idea about the latitude police have. And the limits of that latitude represents the limits of your ability to be a jerk without consequences.

Regardless of what it’s called—disturbing the peace or disorderly conduct or refusing to obey a lawful demand of a police officer or obstructing justice or interfering with an investigation or etc.—the very vagueness of those words which have long been upheld as being not overly vague should give people pause right there.

That’s not to say it’s right, but for all the anger at the Courts’ “siding with the criminals” (which they no doubt have on occasion), the average person would just shake their head at the latitude the cops have been given.

Maybe best example: SCOTUS case of Mapp v. Ohio (1961) imposed “exclusionary rule” on the states meaning that evidence seized illegally—contrary to 4th Amendment—was excluded from use in state prosecutions.

Okay, so along comes Terry v. Ohio, 1968 S. Ct. case. Officer sees three men he believes to be acting “suspiciously.” (He thought they were casing a store for a robbery.) Stopped them on the street (a “seizure,” never disputed I don’t think), and then even searched them. Found pistols, charged ’em with possession of concealed weapons, they moved to exclude, lost, and appealed.

“No probable cause!” they said, and went to the Supremes. And, soto voce-like, the Supremes agreed. No probable cause. But no, the exclusionary rule wouldn’t be applied said the Court, too bad. The convictions would stand. Let ’em sue for civil damages, ha ha. (With Chief Justice Warren writing the majority opinion!)

And “Terry-type” stops and seizures are still the law of the land.

Still a great boggler of first year law students.

Wanna get a chuckle out of a cop? Ask ’em what they can do if you flip one the bird and then veer even one inch out of your lane of travel without signalling. Or even just wiggle a little “erratically.” Ask how hard it would be for them to use same to get you out of your car, introduce your face to the hood of same, handcuff you, arrest you, take you “downtown,” search you up your fundamental orifice if they want and all the lesser ones too, take your car and search the living hell out of it from stem to stern including probably every piece of locked luggage within too, and God knows what else.

Even worse, descending from the theoretical to the real consider that the term “probable” as in “probable cause” can only mean by its very definition “more likely than not.” But then go and watch some exclusion hearings at your local courthouse and see how “probable” has in essence just become “vaguely reasonable, to a naturally suspicious cop.”

Rather interesting that Mr. Gates, who I believe purports to be a scholar at least somewhat concerned with the African-American experience in our society which of course includes a disproportionate involvement with the criminal justice system, seems to have absolutely no idea the authority that cops actually have. And so when the cops act as they routinely do with him, he spouts off and African-Americans naturally feel that the rules are different for them only because no-one—not even people like Mr. Gates—has bothered to take the time to understand what rules have been developed and applied to everyone.

Want to lessen African-American feelings that the cops break the rules when dealing with them? Just give a lesson as to what the rules actually are.

Not that there isn’t racial discrimination in policing and in the *use* of those rules; there sure is. Just that a good deal of the perception of discrimination is that the cops don’t have the right to do all sorts of things that in fact they sure as hell do.


#17 Comment By Kirt Higdon On July 29, 2009 @ 3:50 am

I think everyone pretty much agrees that the laws are broad enough that cops can arrest and otherwise molest you on pretty much any excuse – not to mention taze you, as Will Griggs so frequently documents. It’s just that most of us find this a rather undesirable situation while others such as TomB are quite happy to be living in a police state.

#18 Comment By TomB On July 29, 2009 @ 8:03 am

Kurt Higdon wrote:

“while others such as TomB are quite happy to be living in a police state.”

You misread me badly Kurt. I only explained it, not endorsed it. (Which indeed I don’t.)


#19 Comment By Thomas O. Meehan On July 29, 2009 @ 12:56 pm

This situation highlights how police procedures have been hammer forged out of the fight between the ACLU, Lawyers Guild et als, on one side and the government and police Unions on the other.

Several commenters have speculated that the officer needed to get Gates out of the house for his own protection. The police report states that Gates in fact followed the officer out of the house. My guess is that the officer had a belly full of Gates and was allowing him to follow so that he could make an arrest on the grounds of disorderly conduct.

The post sixties drive for greater “professionalism” in law enforcement was driven by government lawyers desire to limit police officers discretion. They felt that policemen used their discretion to victimize minorities and impose middle class value judgments to questions of public order. This really took off with the war on drugs. If you train a whole department that getting drug seizures and arrests is the holy grail, you’re going to get a whole lot of intrusive policing.

The result of this is a militarized police force, trained to view all of us as suspects all the time.

One thing that I can’t help addressing as someone who once wore a blue uniform is the following. Considering that this happened in Cambridge, why didn’t the responding officer know Gates face? I lived for a long time in Princeton NJ and I’m sure that all the Princeton PD guys knew the campus/community high profile citizens. University settings are notorious for attracting eccentric and unpleasant residents. Both campus cops and locals usually have an idea of who the high profile ass*****’s are. My totally unscientific guess is that Gates may have been incensed at the lack of deference paid him by a COP who “Should Have Known” him.

It needs to be remembered that the officer was told by the dispatcher that this was a “possible B&E in progress.” B&E means breaking and entering, a felony and a serious situation. If I had responded under my old training, I would have been in a heightened state of vigilance.

I miss the days when policemen where trained to know the difference between “citizens” and the criminal underclass. Citizens, within reason, were to be treated with due respect and a bit of forbearance while the lowlifes were given the boot. Oh, and any officer who couldn’t or wouldn’t tell the difference got booted off the force.

#20 Comment By Barney Rebble On July 29, 2009 @ 1:04 pm

In Seattle, as a computer dept manager for a large manufacturer, I sometimes had to go to the airport to pick up parts or some person.

One such, about 7 pm, nice weather, mid evening. Pulled over, black cop (I am white). Said one of my taillights was out. I had checked earlier in the day, and I was surprised, I started to get out and check. He firmly ordered me to stay in my car, and I did. He was talking on his handheld radio, and after a few minutes, the dispatcher’s voice rather disapprovingly came over the radio, and said, “You’ve got the wrong car. It’s not him.”

I angrily got out of my car, over his voice firmly commanding me to get back in and “just drive off.” I walked to the back of my car, and both taillights showing. I told the cop that I didn’t appreciate his lying to me, and that I intended to file a complaint. He walked to his car, pulled out a clipboard, and started walking around my car, inspecting. Just then another cop car pulled up, and I started to walk to it. A loud speaker voice from the second car ordered me to return to my car. I shouted at the second car that I was being harrassed. The second officer (who was white) had rolled down his window, and he said to me, “I’m just an observer. I have no power to interfere. Return to your car.”

I got a ticket, $150, for one taillight cover being “dirty”. It wasn’t. The second cop refused to come look.

A month later, I got to court so angry I was shaking. I waited for an hour, the judge talked a few seconds, and then asked me what I thought. I got halfway through my first sentence, “There never was any dirty lens cover…”. The court clerk, a lady, standing beside the male judge, glanced down at paperwork, then up, and they both chorused simultaneously, “Officer Terry!”

The judge instantly banged his hammer gently, and declared, “Case dismissed. Next.”

I stood, dumbfounded, trying to search for words, and the judge remarked, “If you don’t want any trouble, leave now, while things are going your way.”

Luckily, I wasn’t some reverse-racist, with a reverse-racist friend for a president, and maybe a harvard professorship. Or my troubles might have been more that just an outraged memory. This discussion makes me realize that I was pretty full of myself back then, even more than now-a-days.

#21 Comment By SomeDude On July 30, 2009 @ 11:53 am

“I just don’t see how being a jerk to a fellow citizen is not a crime, but being a jerk to someone with a badge will still land you in a jail cell.”

Because a cop is not an ordinary citizen, and when one gives you a command-what is known my own state as a ‘lawful order’-you are legally bound to comply. If that entails asking you to step outside a dwelling, show ID, move along, etc, you can’t reply by telling him where to stick it. You are required to co-operate. All of which is really moot to the issue of racism anyway. Crowley might be the biggest SOB there is, but could still have just as well done the same thing to a white man.

Are we to seriously hold that any disagreement at all between a black man and a white man, be he a cop or otherwise, is de facto racism? Well, in the world of identity politics it is, which guarantees that “racism” will exist for as long as human beings have disagreements. In other words, until the end of time.

It’s undeniable that people like Gates have a vested interest in keeping “racism” alive. Having African-American studies become a matter of quaint antiquarianism just doesn’t serve the way ongoing controversy does to sell books and get TV appearances. This requires African-American studies to continue to be be activist, as opposed to merely historical, and that demands that there must always continue to be something to be active about. Popular culture views history as boring, whereas controversy brings fame and fortune.

Furthermore, leftist Critical Theory sees any cultural criticism as a good thing and this mindset is calcified into identity politics. An end to racism would mean the denial of an important avenue of such criticism. This is why white kids, without a racist bone in their bodies, go off to college only to be “educated” about how they really are racist. It’s the idea of unknowing racism. In a case like Crowley’s, even if he genuinely believes he is not a racist, well, he still is, but just doesn’t know it, and thus needs to be taught. So we’re back to any situation like this ‘of course’ being the result of “racism”.

#22 Comment By David On July 31, 2009 @ 6:03 am

Lots of different opinions. We the public need access to
the actual audio tape (not the 911) of the proceedings. Why is it not
available to the media? Is it suppressed?
I think Patrick J. Buchanan has stated the actual events

#23 Comment By peter lafond On July 31, 2009 @ 9:19 am

When most of the airwaves are dominated by unreflective right wing diatribe, while the television is at best a soft right concern with anchors tripping over themseleves not to “offend,” the right wing guest it is no wonder people are ” rushing to judgement, ” before, ” getting all the facts.” If Gates had been white this would not have happened. Boston can give lessons on prejudice to any southern concern.