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July 22nd, 2009
04:31 PM ET

My Daddy, the Jailbird

Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested last week on a charge of disorderly conduct.
Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested last week on a charge of disorderly conduct.

Elizabeth Gates
For The Daily Beast

Earlier this week, my father was wrongly accused of breaking into his own home. We had just returned from China, and he had flown from New York to Boston to prepare for a few days rest on Martha’s Vineyard. As my father was settling in, a police officer named Sgt. James Crowley showed up at his home.

Sgt. Crowley said he was responding to a call from a woman who described two black men breaking into her neighbors’ home with backpacks on. He demanded to see proof of residency and my father showed him both his Harvard ID and his state ID without hesitation. Shortly afterward, a miscommunication ensued, and my father was handcuffed and taken to jail. Our family is both saddened and outraged at this, and as I watched his mug shot scroll across various news stations last night, I couldn’t help but wonder what he was experiencing.

Daddy, how did it feel to read in the police report that although you had been cooperative with Sgt. Crowley, while he was standing uninvited in your home, that your behavior had been reduced to “loud and tumultuous” after asking to see to his badge? Were you surprised at the inaccuracy of the police report?

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Filed under: 360° Radar
soundoff (84 Responses)
  1. Kelly

    my problem has never received the attention of Obama or any news coverage. I am just a white girl and a single mother. The only reason I think the police chose to arrest me is because of a possible gender bias...I did not do anything to the police to make them think I was a bad person. I have never used drugs in my life. and they even drug tested me and it came back negative. it was a humiliating experience and I am angry that the police can get away with trying to destroy a person in such a way...People always trust the police but they get away with murder way too often

    July 23, 2009 at 9:45 am |
  2. Kelly Day

    I have had similar experience with Police. Many police are not giving appropriate training for circumstances. I do not know why they would suspect him of breaking into his own house unless they just do not have a brain inside their head.
    I was attacked two years ago and my attacker called the police and accused me of attacking him. He is a 200 lb athletic very muscular football player and I am 140 lbs and I have the build of a ballerina...very little muscle and I do not engage in any sports. I was covered in scratches, bruises, blood and my hair had been ripped out. However, the police believed my attackers story and they arrested me...I tried to get to the phone to call for help but the attacker would not allow me to use the phone...

    July 23, 2009 at 9:43 am |
  3. marilee

    Too bad the photographer didn't have a recorder on site. Indications are that the officer could have handled it better, that is, as soon as he saw the identification (staying outside the house), that should have been the end of the issue.
    However, I have had the privilege of speaking with Prof. Gates at various events. With all due respect, I have witnessed perceived self-importance, entitlement, lack of engagement and even dismissal, intended or not, leaving this one fan disappointed with his behavior. I would not be surprised if he fanned the flame from the outset with loaded rhetoric. Gates tends to use the race card quite readily without checking the impact of his own behavior. The fact that he was arrested after showing his ID tells me he was confrontational with total disregard for authority. Cambridge police serve a huge multicultural community and transient student population. They tend to be very tolerant. While there may have been missteps on both sides, I bet Prof. Gates is hardly the innocent victim.

    July 23, 2009 at 9:18 am |
  4. James D

    In the picture, arent the 2 white cops holding him? What is the Black cop doing?, ....walkin away. I guess if u weren't ever black then u probably wouldnt understand. Black ppl are not the only ones that do crimes... as a matter of fact i had a couple of White friends that do whatever they can to break the law just becuz they know they can get away with it. Smoke cocaine, weed, drink, steal, ...etc. where is the statistic about that? Hmmm?

    July 23, 2009 at 9:17 am |
  5. James D

    I do believe that this professor was harassed by the police because of the color of his skin. If the professor reacted in any kind of defensive way its probably because of the way he was approached. I know ,... the same exact thing happened to me. All I could think of is "what do I have to do to prove that I'm respecting the law? I'm a 24 year old senior at one of the best Universities, don't use or traffic drugs, don't steal, don't kill, or do i start any fights....sometimes i feel like giving up but i know in my situation i can only keep trying and moving forward to achieve the goals i set for myself. Very hard to do as a Black male. Please do something about these issues. ...Did i mention i got finger printed and received a ticket for riding my bike in the late afternoon at the age of 14.

    July 23, 2009 at 9:08 am |
  6. James Mason

    I like what our president said. We can't easily determine whether there was a racial element or not. We do know, that Sgt Crowley used his arrest authority on someone who he knew was properly and legally in his own home.

    We also know that the most that Sgt. Crowley could come up with was "Loud and Tumultuous". No allegation of incitement to riot. No allegation of a threat to any individual or himself. No allegation of a threat to commit any crime. Taking the police complaint in its best light, how can this be anything but arresting an individual for constitutionally protected speech?

    The arrest authority is serious stuff – entrusted to the police for their own safety, the safety of the public, and the proper administration of justice. It isn't a petit form of instant punishment – yet that's precisely how it was used here.

    Sgt. Crowley may or may not owe Professor Gates an apology, but he does owe one to the community who trusted him to be a professional and not a bully.

    We're all waiting Sgt Crowley....

    -jrm

    July 23, 2009 at 8:57 am |
  7. Msemakweli of Atlanta

    Most of us from Africa didnt know that blacks were treated like this in America. Even in South Africa it has not been this bad. Pse learn to live together as both whites and blacks came to America to look for greener pastures. The realy owners of this country are the Native Americans as we used to call them Red Indians. Anyone else who is not part of these Red Indians is an Immigrant and mind you what happened to Gates will happen to you one day.

    July 23, 2009 at 8:37 am |
  8. Sick and Tired

    Dear Ms. Elizabeth Gates:
    Please plead, beg, and conduct an intervention with Professor Gates to convince him to bring action against the individual sergeant responsible for the unlawful arrest, the officers present at the time of the unlawful arrest, the police department and the city of Cambridge. And ask him to sue for the maximum and perhaps start a college fund with the proceeds.
    Please also ask him to file a civil rights complaint with the justice department.
    Too many times these types of crimes are committed against the powerless under color of law and nothing ever changes. This time it's being seen by the world and Professor Gates is an undeniably respectable man. This is a Rosa Parks' moment.
    The ONLY way to get the message across is by court action that relieves the individual officer, the police department and the city of significant funds.

    July 23, 2009 at 7:06 am |
  9. Carroll E. Gant, JR. aka "QuietStormX"

    WOW.... To ask for TD in your own HOME, or being asked to step out. Ah.. Did this policeman know who DR. Gates is? Then to handcuf him then arrest and post mug shots. Arrested for "disorderly conduct" the standard charge police use to justify the arrest. One of a pattern I've experienced driving then stopping for my ID who's car is this... The President was correct in calling the Officer who arrested DR. Gates, stupid! Then for the officer to be indigent saying he won't apologize. He should be made an example of and fired or demoted very low.

    July 23, 2009 at 6:29 am |
  10. Katonya

    It really amazes me how differently blacks and whites view the exact same siuation,and though it amazes me i realize that often times it has to do with life experiences. As africian Americans we see situations such as these almost on a daily basis so when it happens to someone who has prominent status such as the professor, so many refuse to belive that it happens. I read comments like what would he think if he returned home and his home had been robbed; You are missing the point, the officer should have responded to the call, he was wrong when he established that he was indeed the homeowner, and still arrested him. Professor Gates has every right to have been upset, and in all actuality had the right to express his concern without being arrested. Having worked in law enforcement, I know first hand that these types of situations occur in our society.

    July 23, 2009 at 6:29 am |
  11. Donna Livaudais

    How can I give my whole story to a reporter? This can happen to you!
    There was no one in charge of the estate as the executors are dismissed from their duties and administrators are too......
    Donna Livaudais

    July 23, 2009 at 6:27 am |
  12. Al

    When my house alarm signaled the police my house was being broken into [it was a false alarm] and they showed up to my house. I was questioned and had to produce a government issued I.D. (which I did produce and they verified). I never called the police names or yelled at them (me being hispanic). I cooperated. I also did not produce my library card, credit card, or Blockbuster card as proof of who I was. Too bad professors cannot be fired for being racist.

    July 23, 2009 at 6:23 am |
  13. Nita in Philadelphia

    Who wouldn't be outraged or become outraged if after proving your residency and RIGHT to be in your home police officers do not promptly exit!

    I tell you it really is an eye opener to see comments on this blog which clearly show just how the vision of the America is so different based on your skin color. For those of you who are white in America please DO NOT apply your experiences to those of people of color. You will never know or feel or experience what a person of color experiences, be it when looking for gainful employment, health services or judical treatment. Your view is radically different.

    Mike in NYC you scare me the most because I wonder if I sit in an office next to you......

    July 23, 2009 at 6:08 am |
  14. Kofi, TX

    Truth will set you free. If we cannot accept the truth of the circumstances, then these conflicts will not be resolved. Dr. Gates' position that NOW he understands what it is to be Black in America is embarrassing.

    July 23, 2009 at 6:00 am |
  15. april

    True police must alway think of the negative out come when called to a 911 call. And the story is probably not as clear as it should be. We can only speculate what really happen. Was it racial profiling? possibly. Racism will never die...we can only educate and hope that the gap narrows.

    July 23, 2009 at 5:58 am |
  16. Nita in Philadelphia

    My goodness exactly what is it going to take for us to gain assurance of ABSOLUTE EQUALITY. I work for one of the Big 4 Accounting firms and live in a exclusive gated community yet I know wonder if I were pulled over by an officer, would it matter that I could PROVE I belong there or will the authority of a random officer slap me in the face to remind me of my blackness.

    I feel something rising up in my that has simmered under the surface as I have attempted to assimilate, but the boiling point is coming and it may end up as explosive anger for unjustice, indefensible behaviors of police officers.

    It took five police to manage a small black man who walks with a cane, hmmmmm?

    July 23, 2009 at 5:54 am |
  17. sam lewis

    i am a black male and i was pulled over by a white cop for having a head lite out on my car, i also had a warrant for my arrest for failing to appear in court for a traffic violation, i explained to the officer that i didnt have a valid drivers licence and that i was just on my way home from work, he told me that because of my honesty and the way i carried my self that he would let me be on my way. so wiht that said its just how you treat people if you expect the same in return, i could have been an A-hole and so could have the police.

    July 23, 2009 at 5:24 am |
  18. Johnsie Mebane

    As I read some of these comments I realize that until you walk in our shoes you will never understand the problem of Blacks in this country.
    Blacks have had to tolerant this kind of treatment since slavery. Most white people just will not understand because they have never been treated with this disrespect because they are white.Everytime one of our Black Brothers are disrespected he's suppose to turn the other cheek and understand that the police are just doing their job. Some of the folks that are writing racist and those people have so much hate for Blacks that they feel we are all stupid and our complaints about
    disrespect

    July 23, 2009 at 5:23 am |
  19. Christine

    There are some very interesting points made on this forum in which there is a lot of room for speculation. I think President Obama should have stepped around this, but instead stepped in the pile of poop. Yes, I would appreciate if my neighbor called police for suspicious activity, yes I would appreciate police investigating the call. But, all in all the only ones who know exactly what happened are the people who were there, and even then they all have their own preceptions. I think the whole thing was a big misunderstanding, but the police should have left once identification was shown whether they, the police, were disrespected or not.

    July 23, 2009 at 4:25 am |
  20. jimmie ashford

    disorderly conduct( police catch all charge) must be public. mr. gates was in his own home,as proven by officers own statement "thank you for complining with my original request you are under arrest" mr gates had too be coruested outside to be arrested. seems to me cops demand what they dont give .RESPECT . officer used his power to arrest ,cause his feelings were hurt . how dare a citizen ask me for my b # and name.

    July 23, 2009 at 3:51 am |
  21. james zeigler

    I am so tired of white peope disreguarding the rights of other americans ,the man was in his own home. the officer was shown two peices of I.D. that said I live here ,has there been a rash of 80 year old blackmen breaking into homes there.
    and what's really ashame is that Gates went to jail faster than Bernie madoff nobody took him from his house and he stole billions ,there is still a backward element in this country where whites get away with crimes because their given the benefit of their white skin.
    the officer arrested gates because he talked to back to the white power structure, remember your still black boy and we still have charge over you and I'll show you by arresting you falsely.
    imagine if your enemy was the majority beware ,because that day is coming

    July 23, 2009 at 3:45 am |
  22. Eric

    Blackmen are constantly persecuted in this country. This is a case of cowboys and indians; master and slave. But, we both know true history.

    July 23, 2009 at 3:38 am |
  23. Mark Stevens

    For those that have never gotten a ticket, or had a dog bite you, or a neighbor file false charges against you... what a perfect world you live in.

    A Washington State lower court ruled that the "police" are entitled to break the law to enforce the law.

    That includes having a crank phone call getting your wife involuntary committed. Several state laws were broken on that fiasco, also include an $800 medical fee to have a doctor do nothing more than ask to my wife "are you having any thought of suicide" which happened to my family.

    Oh yeah, I'm real white

    July 23, 2009 at 3:37 am |
  24. Murielle

    I think the officer was wong,if the profesor show you his

    ID,why there's a probleme.For me it's a racist act.

    July 23, 2009 at 3:34 am |
  25. Phll Miller

    Here is the problem with the whole race debate. Truthfulness.

    I am a white and I live in a predominately black community. What do I see daily ?
    Crime, gangs, drugs being sold, gunshots, stores with bars and cop sirens every few minutes. I just heard a gunshot while I was writing this.
    This is not about racism-whites are too busy and tired trying to make ends meet in their own lives to sit around and figure a plan to discriminate against blacks. In Los Angeles, they are destroying their own communities and where is the leadership to say enough is enough? Where is the money that certain individuals won in racial discrimination lawsuits? Certainly it is was not put back into the community-I would suspect it is put in their own bank accounts.

    Why was the no mention in this story that one of the arresting officers was black?

    Another point to note-it will come down to money as usual. Why are all the discrimination lawsuits mostly about black people? Very few Asian-practically no white. By the way, a large majority of white people do not come from privilege or money and never owned any slaves.

    This case is no case. It was a policeman was doing his job. The Black Community needs to look inwardly to solve the problems of crime and education. If police are stopping blacks, it is perhaps because they are committing more crimes. Not perhaps-no they are. Look at the prison population.
    As a country we need to grow up and stop pointing the finger at everyone else and get on with improving our own lives

    Get to the truth and you will find that the truth is not pretty.

    July 23, 2009 at 3:27 am |
  26. pt

    Lets for a moment forget about the race issue. Whatabout the fact that he handcuffed behind his back and couln't use his cane. Did they think he was going to run?. I believe disorderly conduct is different from resisting an officer.

    July 23, 2009 at 3:26 am |
  27. Daniel Naranjo

    There are a lot of white people that get the same thing. What I have found is that it is us against the police and/or if your from the age of round 17 to 50 and male then you are a suspect at all times. See when we were kids we were told to go to the police but when we reach that teenage age it goes imedietly to suspect. The old days you could show and give respect to the police and they would do the same but nowadays they cannot stay under the radar, they have the beat and discriminate and profile.

    July 23, 2009 at 3:19 am |
  28. desirae

    OK this is for all the white people. Black people are scared of police, because of the past. That neighbor did not know who was her neighbor come on I'm sure Mr gates didn't just movie there. Oh all you white people don't try to tell a black person how they should feel You have no idea to wake every morning being black. Thank You

    July 23, 2009 at 3:19 am |
  29. ShirlisaMarie

    Mike in NYC is so mad that a Black man is his President. You got it whether you wanted it or not: and I'm thrilled: quit whining. Racism is alive & well and it lives in the heart of Mikes': it's in your face now Mike & America. Can't say it doesn't exist, so stop whining. I have that conversation with my Black son on a regular basis, & he's 1/2 white: stay out of trouble and be nice to whitey cause he will kill you or lock you up if he can get away with it. Jenny, police officers know what they're signing up for when they're sworn in...I don't feel sorry for them. I dated an officer who said that he is trained to target Blacks, as wrong as it is. Denial, Mike, and anger & jealousy: may they give you comfort.

    July 23, 2009 at 3:17 am |
  30. Barbara

    After taking the time to read all 46 comments, I must admit that my assessment of this unfortunate incident changes. As an African American female, my initial opinion was one of racism, plain and simple.However, after placing myself in each party's shoes, I believe the best of intentions went awry. The neighbors were doing what they thought was protecting their neighbor's home. Like me, thye do not know their neighbors. The professor was offended as I would have been regardless of my ethnicity. Police officers were doing their jobs and had no hidden agenda when thye questioned the professor. Through it all, emotions got in the way and the end result was unfortunate. In my opinion, the outcome could have been the same for any male given the set of circumstances. There are many real life examples of racial profiling but this is not one of them.An understaning of each party's position clearly reflect how good intentions went so badly in the wrong direction! I would suggest more sensitivity and understanding moving forward – peace please.

    July 23, 2009 at 3:16 am |
  31. Daniel Naranjo

    I have to slightly disagree. It is not just colored people in America that is profiled and discriminated against. I am majority white and I have gottin profiled, accused and discriminated against not just the police but even from the public. Example, approx. three yrs. ago I was working in Dana Point, Orange Co. after my first stop I went to a big shopping center where a friend worked and proceeded to walk to my friends work which happens to be a jewelery shop. I waved to my friend to come out and waved to his boss. Me and my friend were talkin for a few mins when these two sheriff out of know were pulled there guns on us and did the hole 9 yards like we were harden criminals. Within a couple of mins of being hand cuffed and lying in da middle of the parking lot, about 12 cars, 3 bikes and helicopter surrounded the complex. Well to make a long story short when they let me go after theatining me to never come back I left and bout an hr. later that same friend called me to tell me what happened. As I was walkin in da middle of the parkin lot some lady was walkin to and called 911 to tell them that I have a gun in my hand and that I was bout to robe the jewelery store. She seen a gun in my hand? It turned out they were wrong and the sheriff still proceeded to threatin me. This happens to me all the time but now more from the public. So you see why I have to disagree. We need to stop focusing on colored. We need to make it all are profiled and discriminated against.

    July 23, 2009 at 3:09 am |
  32. Tom

    Sorry, this is not about racism. I was stopped by the Cambridge police whom I'm guessing have a strong dislike for the liberal atmosphere here. They treated me in an arrogant, pretty-much intimidating way over a simple traffic ticket–and I'm white. I'll never forgive nor forget the impression I got from the Cambridge cop that you better keep your mouth shut or question me, in any way. This is not true of all police, for sure but the fish rots from the top, as they say–they get away with it til the public glare opens up some eyes of those who want to know the truth.

    Tom
    Cambridge, Mass

    July 23, 2009 at 3:04 am |
  33. a wise kid

    people in this world there will always be some one that wont see it your way race started problem between people srrys are needed but will not be meet and god knows at the end play your cards right and be good dont try for somthing u know u wont get fight bigger wars like water in africa

    July 23, 2009 at 3:04 am |
  34. Kuliti

    I want to know if we can change black history month to July or aug. It is summer, hot just like the mother land. Please talk about that. Thank you much.

    July 23, 2009 at 3:03 am |
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