July 21st, 2009
05:07 PM ET

Charge against Harvard professor dropped

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/07/21/massachusetts.harvard.professor.arrested/art.henry.louis.gates.jr.gi.jpg caption="Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested last week on a charge of disorderly conduct."]


A prosecutor is dropping a charge against prominent Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. after Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the city's police department recommended that the matter not be pursued.

In a joint statement, Cambridge and the police department said they made the recommendation to the Middlesex County district attorney and the district attorney's office "has agreed to enter a nolle prosequi in this matter," meaning that it will not be pursued.

Gates was arrested last week on a charge of disorderly conduct after a confrontation with an officer at his home, according to a Cambridge police report.

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Filed under: 360° Radar
soundoff (85 Responses)
  1. Greg Reinhart

    It's two different perspective of the same situation, to be candid both stories probably have some truth and some falsehoods but that doesn't mean one person is lying and the other isn't, it's just that we remember the facts that support our own beliefs/biases.

    A bigger story here is how the police consistently interact with their citizens. When did police stop showing the proper amount of respect and decorum towards their citizens? With the authority to detain someone comes responsibilities and skills that help to reduce the tension of the situation. While I'm sure officers do this most of the time, I'm noticing more and more of an indifference by the police when communication with the public.

    July 22, 2009 at 9:59 am |
  2. The Mad Blogger

    I know what to believe; the officer was just responding to the call trying to protect Professor Gates' home and the professor lost his mind. He instantly jump to the conclusion that this was a racial incident and started to make the officers job a lot harder. If he would have just co-operated with the officer this would not be an issue. He conducted himself, not as a Harvard professor but, in a disorderly manner and should be charged as such. How can we expect the America's police force to do its job if we keep allowing people to bring race into every issue. I know not every police officer is straight and narrow but if we are quit to accuse every incident as racial, like a black man with a backpack forcing his way into a house that has been vaccent for a long period of time, then who would want to be a police officer.

    July 22, 2009 at 8:17 am |
  3. John

    This is a simple case............. we all know what happen, the white cop treated the proff. as if he couldnt believe he own that house, the proff was offended, the exchanges words, the white use his uniform to prove that he more power........this happen all the time.

    July 22, 2009 at 7:28 am |
  4. Kevin

    This is not as complex as people think. Police Officer are supposed to be professional at all times and in this case it seems that the Police Officer acted inapropreiately and used his authority to get back at someone who was rightfully and legally present in his home. Once the professor was identified as the property owner the Police Officer should have apologized and this situation should have ended. It appears that the Cambridge Police Department has some racial issues within their Department. They are not alone this happens all the time to Africian Americans all the time.

    July 22, 2009 at 6:17 am |
  5. jeffro

    first of all u will never stop racial profiling and that is sad to say but putting in on tv everytime the news has a chance is surley not helping.what is really the definition of racial profiling anyway.is bieng carded for beer or cigarettes wether ur black or white a example of racial profiling or is it example of someone doing their job.i know this may sound silly to compare or is it?people thrive on what they see on tv.if everytime you turn around there is something on tv about racial profiling people begin to look for it even when its not there.therefore people turn something into nothing.now if gates home was really bieng broken into by two black men this wouldnt even be an issue and he would be thankful.if gates and his driver were just sitting on the porch this wouldnt have happened but no they were trying to break down the door.bottom line the officer was just doing his job.sounds like to me that the true racial profiling came from gates.it happens everyday to both races.but by not advertising it every 5 minutes on the news will help wether u believe it or not will help cut back on the false racial profiling

    July 22, 2009 at 6:15 am |
  6. Rose Rushin

    The man had just arrived back home from a long journey to China, was under the weather due to a minor ailment, found his front door jammed and the LAST thing he wanted to contend with was someone claiming he was breaking into his own home. I am sure he was short-tempered and unable to engage in gracious conversation with a police officer at that point. Didn't the officer believe him or his driver? And the person who reported the incident must not know who his/her neighbors are, although I believe most people would recognize the elderly gentleman Louis Gates, Jr. if not by name by appearance. The same goes for the officer-he does live in the town, doesn't he?

    July 22, 2009 at 6:14 am |
  7. Matt

    The officer was doing his job. The fact that he was investigating a break in does not make him a racist. Harvard Professor or not, it isn't a wise endeavor to shout racial allegations at the police!

    July 22, 2009 at 6:09 am |
  8. carmen fago

    its 2009 dont you think its about time people stopped using the race issue .by not following a police officers orders is breaking the law i think he should still face charges just like everyone else would .its not fair that he should get off ,he was disorderly and disrespectful now isnt that obstruction of govermental justice?

    July 22, 2009 at 6:04 am |
  9. Jc Brown-Adams

    It is hard to understand what really happen in this case, but know one thing racial profiling happens all over the world, and it is up to us as human beings, no matter the race black or white to take it as far or as little as we want it to go. For me its a matter of respect and trust respecting people of their homes, and their positions whether its a professor or police officer, and being able to trust human beings on their word and word alone, not their race.

    July 22, 2009 at 5:45 am |
  10. Lore Fitzgerald

    I think the bottom line is this, what are the laws and the facts? The professor was in his own home and he has rights. He did show his identification, his driver’s license and his university identification. He had every legal right to ask the police officer for his name and badge number and the officer was supposed to oblige. It is not against the law to break into your own home or to raise your voice to a police officer.
    It is our tax dollars that pay the police officer’s salary. He is a public servant. The police are there to protect and serve not intimidate or unjustly arrest private citizens for challenging them or questioning their authority. He was not in public. He was on his own property, private property. Once ownership was established it was the police who were in error and they should have apologized and left the professor’s home with his dignity in tacked.
    The police do not have the right to arrest or shoot someone because they are offended. They are bound to operate within the boundaries of the law. Please notice I did not once mention anyone’s race. I do believe the professor’s civil right were violated. We as private citizens should be concerned and outraged!

    July 21, 2009 at 11:38 pm |
  11. Karen

    In my opinion it doesn't matter, once the ID was issued the police officer should have apologized and left. Gates was in his residence he is has the right to speak his mind. Did the officer feel threatened in anyway?

    July 21, 2009 at 11:37 pm |
  12. Al

    I'm African American and I think the police did the right thing.

    July 21, 2009 at 11:37 pm |
  13. Renate

    I would be glad if my neighbors would call the police if someone was seen breaking into my house, white, black , green or whatever color. Who wants to do the diry work the police men are doing everyday? I dont. I think Gates should apologize to the officer.

    July 21, 2009 at 11:36 pm |
  14. PJ

    Apparently, Gates likes to break into houses and hang pictures of himself and his family everywhere. The officer is guilty of being an idiot, but not a racist.

    July 21, 2009 at 11:36 pm |
  15. a retired peace officer

    what has happened to Mr gates is an insult to all Americans, we have to endure the misuse of the position of trust from members of the justice system as they abuse us,and excuse them when they simply say i am sorry. what are they " the police persons" doing to change racist and arrogant attitudes, before they give a weapon,and power over all of us to an emotional mature office. surely we all know they are not God,or the judge and jury. I'm sorry is a just another insult to all of us.

    this arrogance is getting old . i personally am aware of police and administrators, and many others who are racist . i've heard comments on the job and in social setting . folks are tired of this abuse of power,

    i am a white person,who is wanting America to become what it.s intended to be, a place where we are free to live up to our potential . where we do what we need/want to do without hurting others i am 70 year old and .and before i die, i want to see folks making less excuses for thier racism and sexism . this will move us all toward peace.
    i have lived to see a person of color be elected president,and i want to be here when we have our first women president. .

    July 21, 2009 at 11:36 pm |
  16. Mary

    Professor Gates was denied his 1st amendment right to do as he pleases in his own home. This officer over reacted to getting his "feelings" hurt and abused his authority.

    July 21, 2009 at 11:35 pm |

    I am an attorney.The professor may not realize it but he did not have to let the officier into his home. The officier should have waited on the porch while he retrieved his ID. I cannot believe the officier took it upon himself to follow Gates into his house as he retrieved his Id. An older man with a cane..a criminal does not usually answer the door...what kind of officier cannot figure this out. Ask politely for his ID, wait on the porch, once you receive it, apologize and leave. End of story...the officier needs to learn respect and know he is an employee of the citizens in that community. Racial profiling is alive and well.

    July 21, 2009 at 11:34 pm |
  18. Hmmm

    I see an all too familiar pattern though...Onus is on police to control their actions...

    July 21, 2009 at 11:34 pm |
  19. Brian

    The unfortunate point of this incident is that the officer had good reason to be there given the witness report and Mr. Gates might have been more understanding. I wonder how Mr. Gates would have reacted if the officer had been black... maybe a lighter, more friendly, more cooperative reaction on the part of Mr. Gates?

    July 21, 2009 at 11:31 pm |
  20. Sam F. Turangan

    Broad daylight. Old man was in the house when police came. Didn't run away. From both statements, clearly the police was fully aware that Gates wasn't a criminal. Too bad that the police couldn't control his emotion and reacted to the rather frustrated professor's 'harsh words'. My advice: don't wear the badge and a pistol if you are short temper and too sensitive and unable to cope with the situation. And, is it against the law for the police to apologize? Have some respect, please.

    July 21, 2009 at 11:30 pm |
  21. Jim Davis

    There is no question that the responding police officer overreacted in this instance. Once he identified Dr. Gates as the owner of the residence involved, he should have departed the premises. If in fact the insulting conversations to place inside of the residence, the police did not have authority to bring Dr, Gates outside of his residence to continue the conflict. However, Dr. Gates should have told the police officer to leave his premises in a calmer tone. As a public servant, the police officer, had the burden maintaining good police-community relations. Did race play a role? Yes!

    July 21, 2009 at 11:23 pm |
  22. Evelyn, NYC

    I find it very difficult to comprehend that the Police Officer entered the house at the invitation of someone he suspected to be a burglar? Then, according to the News report, the Officer asked Prof. Gates for identification? It appears that the Officer needs to be re-trained for his own personal safety.

    Prof. Gates and the Officer over reacted. However, the Officer should have controlled the situation better since he had entered Prof. Gates' home.

    July 21, 2009 at 11:23 pm |
  23. Robert, NJ

    I think this is blown way out of proportion. ( A airplane crashes and we will blame the manufacture.) Let start with the neighbor that call the police; it is good, that they where looking out for what is going on in their neighborhood but, you should know and recognize your neighbor's. This is where racism started, how long have the professor live in this neighborhood and his neighbor's didn't recognize him?
    How many times that he alert a good neighbor and say; I'll be out of town could you look out for me? There are cases where the police are clearly out of line but, this is not it. they were just doing their job. He was arrested to defuse a potentially explosive situation.there were no charges file. This to me was not racial profiling. Gates should also apologise to the officer and his neighbor need to apologise to him.

    July 21, 2009 at 11:18 pm |
  24. tracy d.

    I am police officer in the Houston area, I see first hand how people complain about officers. I am not white, I am Hispanic. I am tired of seeing other getting complained on. I have been accused of discriminating against a black and I am minority myself. Only the officer knows what leads to pulling an individual over, an arrest or the next level of force used. It amazes me that people will use their skin color as a crutch to try to either file a law suit, get out a ticket or simply play the victim. When is it ever going to stop. Those complaints are abused and more times than not frivolous. When a real serious discrimination issue against ANY minor group occurs, it is rarely heard of. When are blacks going to stop playing the victim. I was raised to respect, obey and not argue with the police and sort it out later. Most situations escalate when the suspect fails to obey a lawful order. Only the officer knows what he if facing. Only in this country do citizens disrespect the police this much and get away with it.

    July 21, 2009 at 11:15 pm |
  25. George

    From the story the officer asked him for his ID so that he knows that Mr. Gates lives there. It sounds like standard procedure. It sounds like Mr. Gates turned this into a bad situation. That why he ended up in handcuffs. The officer was doing his job by responding to a break in. What would Mr. Gates liked for the officer to do in this situation? Race is not a factor, the officer had to see if Mr. Gates was telling the truth by asking him to produce an ID. Mr. Gates is a professional, he should have kept his cool and not have blown up on the officer.

    July 21, 2009 at 11:14 pm |
  26. darryl

    The fact of the matter is, if a police officer approaches you common sense dictates, comply with any reasonable request. Someone reported a break-in, perhaps racially profiling, and the officer is Obligated to investigate that. He goes by what information he has. Immediately throwing "Because I am a black man" out there is small minded. The answer is no, 'because someone reported a potential crime'. Cooperation is the key word that Professor Gates is missing. Kill with kindness prof....I think you should be held accountable for hindering a police investigation, all you had to do was shut up and show some ID. It HAD nothing to do with race, but it sure does now....

    July 21, 2009 at 11:12 pm |
  27. Rohan

    Everybody is not looking at facts here..and there is no law in the constitution that says you are supposed to be polite to a police officer..Prof. Gates might had over reacted with his allegations but the officer clearly abused is police authority when he took offence to Prof. Gates allegation and told him to step outside his house because he knew he couldnt arrest him inside his home for being to loud and by prof. Gates stepping outside, it played right in the officer's favour because the laws changed dramatically but still prof. Gates was still on his front porch...Is that considered "public place" according to the charges brought against Gates. The thin skin should have just ended the whole confrontation after verifing prof. Gates state ID and/or Harvard IDby telling Gates " Sorry for the misunderstanding and I'm not a racist and was just carring out public service duties as a police officer responding to a burgalry call"..Even if he didnt mean it...that would have ended everything and we wouldnt be talking about this right now....The bottom line is there are always going to be racism in america to some degree..I experienced first hand passing thru Virgina on I 77 on my way to North Carolina with my brother riding along with me when i noticed a unmarked police infront of me, so i slowed down and made sure i was doing the sppeed limit, he inturn then slowed down below the speed limit so I could pass him and then pulled us over for having 2 pine air fresheners on my rear view mirror( Honest to God) then pulled me out of the car to question me on where i was coming from and going and even had his dog sniff me...He found nothing and told me I could go and that he is giving me a break on the ticket being that I wasnt from VA and didnt know about that law about stuff from your mirror...So people if that's not profiling, i dont what else to do or say that can convince a non black person that it alive and well in America

    July 21, 2009 at 11:12 pm |
  28. lc

    I believe Gates, he has no reason or need to lie but the cop is trying to cover his ass for his actions, which were out of line and were an abuse of power. One of the basic tenets on America is to be secure in your own home and the cop trampled over the Constitution when he arrested Gates.

    July 21, 2009 at 11:07 pm |
  29. Estelle

    There will never be true equality in America as long as there are individuals who continue to perpetuate racism. The police should be called when there is "so called" suspicious behavior. What happens when the police arrive is a different story, particularily if the suspects are Black. Once Dr. Gates presented his credentials, that should have been the end of the incident. First, he's fortunate to be alive because so many innocent Black men have been murdered by officers who shoot first; no explanation on earth would have been sufficient. Yes, Dr. Gates deserves an apology; the Cambridge Police Department should be ashamed of this typical treatment that is innate in American law enforcement.

    July 21, 2009 at 11:07 pm |
  30. Munyaradzi Munochiveyi

    The eminent Prof. Gates MUST sue the hell out of Cambridge police. Such brazen racial profiling must never be left un-sued!! After that, Gates must make a documentary on "Police Racial Profiling in America". PBS will fund it!!!!

    July 21, 2009 at 11:04 pm |
  31. D. Lewis

    Hey Anderson, I just can't take this anymore so i had to send a comment in. NO love or trust in any police yes i am a black american. Why? They simply do not honor innocence, nor do they serve and protect honestly. I was 15 when i moved back to New York from a quiet West Virginian town. To my disbelief i am now walking home with over 80 kids to protect me from other projects close to where my family lived. When i left I walked home with 2-3 friends. Well two officers we're riding bikes n went down the street. 1 more an officer Boa is his name if I still remember being haunted by nightmares of them all, rode by i saw the guy who tossed the stick at his helmet. He turned around n beat-up at least 15 kids behind me. I was scared so i ran to the front of the crowd, not wanting to be apart of what was happening. My goodness was that the dumb thing to do, he must've thought it was me. Hoping my cousin would let him know i would never ever do such a thing, he's who i ran next to he was in the front. The officer rolled up next to me rolling his bike on the only over $50 shirt i had given to me by family so i fit in. I told him i'm going to mind my business he can do what he was doing. He called me a wise guy n beat the crap out of me. I almost died girls we're screaming your gonna kill him. Other officers showed up quickly to help him beat me up not knowing what for or if i had done this crime. My neck hanging off of the curb i was turning blue as they had jumped off of a car bumper onto my back like wrestling top ropes action with the club. To be short my school cops I only knew for 2 days heard the description and knew it was me. I was the only guy in the school who said good morning to them. They arrived to break it up but explained to me they had to take me to them. I sat in central bookings for 3 days given no food, officers walked by n said i beat up one of there own don't feed him. I tried to tell the judge either she was full of racism or fixed on the youngsters rebellion at the early nineties, because when i said I'm gonna sue she screamed at me you can't sue you don't have the money as if I was wrong. I was given community service for a crime i had nothing to do with. I called the director of the Christian camp I volunteered n worked for 3 years. He said to come back to West Va. he would look after me. Anderson i despise the judge and all officers since that day I was robbed from my family due to that incident and now have depression over it. They are a over paid mob group if you ask me until the profiling stops. I am gaining a small bit of trust back , but only from my cities officers who are very respectful n patient.

    July 21, 2009 at 11:03 pm |
  32. eva mallek

    Sorry but it happens daily in the land of the free and home of the brave where innocent tax payers are victimized by the police. I was arrested and prosecuted in criminal court without cause based on slander. No one cared to do the appropriate due diligence or in the end arrest those who filed a false police report against me (I'm a 54 year old woman who has a perfect attendance record at work for at least the past 20 yrs and have not even a traffic ticket in my life, work 10+ hrs daily in the financial svc industry) It took 8months of court dates, etc etc and 4 years later the criminals emboldened by the police are still victimizing me. I have called every nonprofit org in the book and no one cares, they only do referrals. I have consulted with attorneys, they've billed me 9K and haven't prsented my complaint in court. I've complained to an independent board who review police dept complaints and they tell me they sent my complaint to the precinct where I was arrested. Never heard back from anyone.The criminal is in possesion of my home and feel my life might be in danger if I go into my house which I fully pay for all expenses while the criminal enjoys the fruit of my labor courtesy of the dysfunctional system The bottom line, if one of us is denied his/her freedoms none of us are free. Who is out there to stand up for us?? I suggest we get the troops back home to fight for us here in the USA. Please Help!!!

    July 21, 2009 at 11:02 pm |
  33. Jonelle G- Jamaica,NY

    It's really sad what happened to Mr. Gates. He's a prestigious professor, a scholar and an extremely well educated black man. However, this is nothing new, it happens all over America, every minute, every day. But this situation is quite complicated, people thought someone was breaking into the house. In my opinion, I believe that the police officers were trying to do there job to provide safety to the neighborhood but it became over exaggerated. Mr. Gates showed the police officers his driver's license & his Harvard ID, to prove that he does live at the residence; there is no reason to arrest him. Mr. Gates may have been really agitated and said a few words, probably he was "really under the weather" since he just came back from a trip. A big misunderstanding went out of control. Luckily, for Mr. Gates, he was not hurt or killed but being Black, Hispanic, or Asian person they’re bound to come across some type of racism. No matter what racism does exist, it will continue to exist even though there is a black president in the White House, but hopefully it will get better.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:59 pm |
  34. The Duke of Kush

    Ok, I'm dark skinned (not from the USA) and I was arrested myself in connecticut for "creating a public disturbance" ( HA, HA, HA, dumb cop) this is just another case of institutionalized racism. Obviously the police are taught "those men are dark skinned, arrest them". It should be clear now that the police are the enemies of dark skinned men all over America, and we need to deal with them, and I'm not talking about a march.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:58 pm |
  35. Sixx King

    This type of action is nothing new to African American men we've been getting abused, murdered and wrongfully convicted since slavery...

    July 21, 2009 at 10:58 pm |
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