July 24th, 2009
09:42 PM ET

Evening Buzz: The President, the Professor & the Cop

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/07/24/officer.gates.arrest/art.obama.gates.conference.cnn.jpg caption= "President Obama on Friday explains to reporters the details of a phone conservation with Sgt. James Crowley."]

Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

Pres. Obama did something no one expected today. He popped into the afternoon White House press briefing to say he called the white policeman who arrested black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. Mr. Obama admitted his "choice in words over the arrest" helped fuel the debate over race relations in America. He went onto to say "I could have calibrated those words differently."

You may recall on Wednesday night during his prime-time news conference Pres. Obama said Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley "acted studpidly" in the arrest of Prof. Gates.

But today Pres. Obama said he still believes based on what he heard about the arrest there was an "overreaction" in arresting Gates. He also believes the professor overreacted.

He hopes by speaking up he's getting Americans to think more about their actions. "The fact that this has become such a big issue, I think, is indicative of the fact that race is still a troubling aspect of our society, whether I were black or white, I think that me commenting on this and hopefully contributing to constructive, as opposed to negative, understandings about the issue is part of my portfolio," he said.

Pres. Obama's comments came a couple hours after colleagues of Sgt. James Crowley spoke out in support of him.

"I've known Sgt. Crowley for 11 years... he's done a marvelous job. And for this to happen to him was wrong. Cambridge police are not stupid," said Steve Killion, Pres. of the Cambridge Police Patrol Officers Assocation.

What do you think of the latest developments in this story? Sound off below.

Tonight, we'll talk to an eyewitness to the arrest. You'll hear from a black police officer who was present when Sgt. Crowley arrested Prof. Gates. Find out if he supports the arrest.

Join us for this and more starting at 10pm eastern. See you then!

Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
soundoff (59 Responses)
  1. Helen T.

    About the case with the prof. And the Cambridge officer,when i lost my home to forcloser it took me one month to change my address on all my id's how is the officer expected to take his word that he lived their without investigating first! Our President should have stayed out of it! And not invite the Prof. To the white house,when our police sacrifice their lives to protect the citezens and our president. THANKYOU, for taking my comment. HELEN T. From Nevada

    July 24, 2009 at 10:41 pm |
  2. Na

    I hate that this incident occurred and I hope that it will soon pass. Roland Martin needs to calm down. He's very angry about this incident. We all are but we need to find out ALL the facts before passing judgement. I feel both parties (Gates and Crowley) got upset with one another, harsh words were exchanged, that lead to an arrest.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:41 pm |
  3. rose

    I feel prof gates turned police procedure into racial profiling. I feel if it was a white man it would have been treated the same way. We can not have different procedures for blacks who break the law, everyone must get the same treatment. The president should not say that because a person is black and breaks the law they need special treatment , due to the past. I think it is wrong. It just makes no logic to have different laws for blacks or anyone who breaks the law. This Professor should know better.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:41 pm |
  4. JM

    the smoking gun has a copy of the police report and it is very instructive. reading the reports of both officers at the scene is rather 'teachable'.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:41 pm |
  5. James A. Jarrell

    I believe the police did act stupidly. Not because of racism but because the Professor acted rudely to the officer. It should not be a crime to act rudely to the police. I have observed police who acted rudely to suspects and they are due the same treatment they dole out.

    When the officer found out the professor owned the house he was in the officer should have apologized and left the home. Instead he continued to interact with the citizen who at that point should have had the right to order the officer out of his home.

    This is why the Professor should be able to receive damages in the form of an apology and cash for the damage to his reputation.

    BTW I am a white protestant male so read into my comment any bias you think that I may have because of that.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:40 pm |
  6. Jane Rodgers

    This is reverse discrimination against Sgt. James Crowley! Gates was responsible for his own arrest by overreacting and throwing a childish fit. He used the "race card” to redeem himself. Approximately 90% of all crimes against blacks are done by their own race. Crowley was just doing his job. Gates and Obama, owe Crowley an apology!

    Jane Rodgers
    Pensacola, FL

    July 24, 2009 at 10:39 pm |
  7. Ruth

    I am outraged about this whole issue. Of course what would have happened if a white man would have broke into his home and a black officer came to the scene and I believe that the white man would have been arrested for him being biligerate to the officers and his charges would have never been dropped and the president would have never heard about that whole issue.
    Every one is losing sight about what happened. Mr. Dyson should have commended those officers for responding to his home in such a quick fashion and he is the one that brought up the issue of racism.
    I feel that those officers were doing there job and I am very dissappointed in what Obama stated about that the police were stupid, was he not acting wrong because he stated he did not have all the facts. So he should not have said what he said on national tv.
    Yes I feel he escladed that issue. The whole thing is all Mr. Dyson should have done was showed his ID and told why he had to break into his on home and he could have been in his own bed that night, but instead he had to show that he was racist by his actions.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:38 pm |
  8. Alex Tan

    Its amazing how this is becoming that it takes the President to intervene.

    An officer was doing his job to protect the neighbourhood and the Professor was unarmed. It certainly doesn't take a Ph.d. to apply a little common sense and ask the neighbours whether they know Professor Gates.

    Why can both gentlemen just talk to each other and say I'm sorry I over reacted the other day.

    Why is it so hard to say I'm sorry ?

    July 24, 2009 at 10:37 pm |
  9. Jon

    Something that is not being discussed is the fact that Dr. Gates assumed that Sgt. Crowley reacted the way that he did because Dr. Gates is a black man. This assumption is, in and of itself, racist. The other officer present at the incident said as much when he indicated that the situation might have developed differently had he been the first officer on the scene as opposed to Sgt. Crowley. Race IS an issue in this case; Dr. Gates is guilty of racial profiling.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:35 pm |
  10. DCWitmer

    President Obama said nothing that needs apologizing. He did not criticize an entire police force . He made a comment on one particular incident and one particular officer. I wonder how any one of us would act if we were arrested in own homes as a common criminal. Now add decades of police profiling to your history and maybe just maybe you can put yourself in the Prof's shoes!!!

    July 24, 2009 at 10:35 pm |
  11. Elizabeth Dabalos

    One problem with the reasoning that the second officer (who arrived after the arresting officer) has made is that it was within Sgt. Crowley’s prerogative to arrest professor Gates because he was outside (on his porch) while loudly objecting to the officer’s demands. This may have had some merit if that Sgt. Crowley had not demanded Prof. Gates to come out of the house (“for his safety”), a reason that the officer did not mention to Gates while ordering Gates come outside but put in his report.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:35 pm |
  12. Andrea O.

    We have to stop and take a look at how this whole situation was put in motion. This was a neighbor who called the police of a break in. This is great, however when she described the men as two black men then that automatically put a state of mind of how to react in the police officers mind. What should have said was, there were two men and not put a race to it. That's when it first became a race issue. We all know that minorities and police don't mix like oil and water. Just take a look at the Sheriff from Arizona who constantly conducts racial profiled police sweeps.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:34 pm |
  13. mary

    It's pretty obvious that this is reverse racism. The reason President Obama gave a press conference on the subject was because of public opinion and it was too late. Another point the sergeants name is Crowley not Crawley. The President has lost my vote-I wont forget this one.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:34 pm |
  14. Dale Westerhold

    So Crowley is a racial profiling instructor. Basically, that tells me he knows the buttons to push to get the professor to overreact. You push a little, if that doesn't work you push a little more, get in their face. I'm white, no criminal record and I have had it done to me. I was complaining about a Sheriff's Deputy to the Sheriff. The Sheriff was defending the Deputy and was getting nasty about it. When he saw that he couldn't get me mad he stabbed me in the chest with his forefinger to get me to react. If I had tried to brush his hand away he would have cuffed me on the spot. I knew what he was up to and kept my hands down. This happened right in the rotunda of the courthouse with people watching. He got away with it. My bet is that Sgt Crowley is not the poor victim he is pretending to be(Gosh, gee, I was only doing my job). He should have an Oscar for that performance.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:33 pm |
  15. smith

    There should be more talk about Mr.Gates, from the start he has come off as a racist and extremly arrogan, no one owes him anythingt. As an african american i find his behavior apauling and uneducated and i would not want someone like this teaching my children.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:32 pm |
  16. gulsen Demokan

    The Police made a mistake to go to the Proffessor Gates's house and arrested him. . My husband is a professor .It is not important whether The person they arrested by mistake is black or white The Police Sgt. Crowley should appologise for the mistake he made.. This way of action will bring the peace into the community.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:32 pm |
  17. Daphne

    The reason the charges against Prof. Gates were dropped is the same reason OJ was found not guilty. Money, power or prestige will get you a better deal, no matter the color of your skin, or the truth (or not) of the charges against you.

    A poor, uneducated, un-"connected", person exhibiting the same behavior, under similar circumstances, would have been arrested, without media fanfare, with charges that STUCK, whether they were black, white, brown, ...

    In terms of true fairness, we are not about race, but can you buy or influence pedal your way out of what you created?

    July 24, 2009 at 10:32 pm |
  18. Ada -Mount Pocono Pa

    Hi Anderson

    I don't think that President Obama should invite Sgt Crowley to the White House for a beer. Sgt Crowley was wrong in asking the Prof. to come outside of his house to subsequently arrest him. All those police officers defending the Sgt. especially the minority ones should be ashamed of themselves.
    But the wheel of time spins both ways and Sgt Crowley will DO THIS AGAIN. Next time perhaps it could go a little different for him- because everyone will know the truth. He picked on an old black man, who used a cane, who was in his own home, had already proved that it was his house and Sgt Crowley thinking that he wasn't an important person, but a regular person and only wanting to make a name for himself arrested him.
    Alas, President Obama is a forgiving person and thinks the best of people. I guess we should all take lessons from him. Unfortunately, its not always easy when you are faced with type of discrimination most of the time, by Police and others.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:31 pm |
  19. RJ Smith

    Thanks to Roland Martin for KEEPING AMERICA HONEST! I am a middle-aged white woman, but I just could not imagine being approached about breaking into my own house!!!!! I would not be able to keep my cool as well as Mr. Gates did!

    July 24, 2009 at 10:31 pm |
  20. DCWitmer

    The real point here seems to be that it was NOT a good arrest! You cannot arrest someone in their own home for disturbing the peace just because they are bad-mouthing the officer. Once he provided the
    confirmation of recidency,the officer should have apologized and moved on. It was the officer's responsibility to have the cooler head and he did not! He overreacted and made a bad arrest. Also he should have investigated how a "neighbor" could have misidentified a person she lived next door to and "misinterpreted jiggling a door that sticks" as a burglary!!!

    July 24, 2009 at 10:30 pm |
  21. Linda

    My take,

    The Cambridge police officer responded to a 911 call that there was a break in progress at this yellow house. The officer was told there were 2 black men breaking into the house, which the police dept. knew had been broken into just a few weeks ago. He went there to protect the property and homeowner. It would be normal for the police to ask the person who was inside to step outside, since the officer would not KNOW if there was anyone else in there who may have been armed.

    I think the officer acted properly, according to standard operating procedure and was accused of racism for no good reason. I understand that the prof. may have been frustrated because he just had trouble getting into his own home, but he should have simply done what was asked of him, step outside and provide proof that he lived there. That would have been the end of the story.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:30 pm |
  22. Gen

    Let this go America. Racial profiling is genetic. The human brain is wired to make judgements the moment you first meet someone. The key is to not base your judgements and judge based on attitude and actions.
    And guess what the Professer can be called racist as well. He was shouting slurs and other such things to Sgt.Crowley. Also one of Sgt. Crowley fellow officers said that Professer Henry said "This is what happens to a black man in America when a white woman calls the police."
    If that isn't racist then I don't know what is. And Obama getting involed...presidents shouldn't get involed. If anyone should get involed it's the Internal Affiars of the Cambrige Police. Let this go America and focus on the other issues out there.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:30 pm |
  23. Lola

    Seems like the most important issue is being missed. Was the "caller" a neighbor of Dr Gates? Just looking out for another neighbor?
    Maybe the "caller" should be thanked and offered a beer.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:30 pm |
  24. dj

    How many rational people kick down their doors because they forgot their keys? A more rational reaction to the dilemma would have been to call a locksmith. Professor Gates was apparently angry about the situation before the police arrived. He lashed out at the policeman with the first issue that came to his mind. Shame on Professor Gates. A man of his stature should know better.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:28 pm |
  25. Anthony Rivera

    The reason the Gates, Crowley situation is an issue, cops have a problem with wanting to show there authority and that is taking out on black men the most and that is what happened in this case and several cases in the United States

    July 24, 2009 at 10:27 pm |
  26. Max

    I think the president shot himself in the foot by going on live tv and letting a personal relationship cloud his judgement, again. He didn't have the facts and still started chewing on his foot. Then he goes on national tv again today and starts chewing on his other foot. I didn't know we elected a president so he can put personal issues in front of us. We are just getting to see more and more of what inexperience is doing to our country. His interfierance in this case shows us exactly what this president is all about, micro-management, big government.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:26 pm |
  27. james

    if the cop was black would of the professor acted the same way, or did he get the mouth cause the cop was white and figured he could get away with it

    July 24, 2009 at 10:26 pm |
  28. Ben Clev OH

    As a white 70 yr old man I understand how the professor feels. Was race a factor you bet. People make judgements all the time. Just today while sitting in a public park enjoying the view of the lake a middle aged lady all charged up with her excersise in the park for young people ( a good idea) approached me and asked if they could have my table. They needed another one to jump on. My impression just because she saw an older man sitting there she could take her high pressure rude self importance and force her way on me. People just don't care about one another any more. Sad world and poor example to be taeahing young people if race or age automatic gives you the right to make judgements. Personally I reacted with rage just as the professor did.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:26 pm |
  29. Boni Pritschet

    Legal, but not ethical-following procedure, but bad judgment call –no sensitivity here. Pride took over – why not apologize now - it takes a big person to apologize even if you don't think you are wrong–Please why not take the high road-give the Professor the benefit of the doubt – put yourself in his place –given P.Gates your name and badge number when requested – act like a real professional–and a human being – The Policeman should have just walked away and left in his car.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:24 pm |
  30. Hal Davis

    Let's get off this topic. Why do you have to keep dragging this out? There are more pressing issues that you should be covering.....maybe not as titillating as this one, but more important.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:24 pm |

    As a former African American Police Officer, leaning any merit to the supporting Black Cop in this situation means nothing, Law Enforcement sticks together. Police Officers are trained to deal with the community in these type situations. The fact that this cop's pride over rode this position and it's a shame that whites have yet to understand how deep the wounds are in blacks. switch the roles, I have been cursed out numberous times in these type situation, I was the professional there and act so. How many well to do white men are arrested in their homes no.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:23 pm |
  32. Tom

    I am a 54 yr old white male and a Veteran I never had a comment about race before I always believed that you respect others and live and let live. Today I changed my mind. I am growing tired of the race card always be played. Once a black person makes an allegation everyone believes that person until the white person proves otherwise It appears to me that a white person doesn't stand a chance today. Today because of what happened I believe that President Obama is a racest as well as Mr. Gates.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:22 pm |
  33. E. Rowe

    Anderso I have seen young white men stopped by police and they will cuss at the police display anger at being stopped, and they are not handcuffed nor taken to the police station, they are just given a warning and let go. It is a different standard for Whites and Blacks

    July 24, 2009 at 10:21 pm |
  34. Bill

    Clearly the cop was over reacting when he arrested the prof. As you can see how many people got killed by the cops nationwide, you know what I mean by saying over-reacting.

    It is the not hard to understand that the cops are united on one front. When the California BART shot a poor guy, the cops went on his own for more than a week, while he should have been arrested on the spot by the rest of the cops for manslaughter. You can see what I meant when I said they are "united".


    July 24, 2009 at 10:20 pm |
  35. Thomas Martin

    we are a law and order society
    no way should the cop compromise those values by having a beer at the white house

    July 24, 2009 at 10:18 pm |
  36. Tony

    I think Obama, Professor Gates, and Sgt Crowley have done a lot to continue to very important conversations about race relations in america. If we fail to realize that our skin color should never define our ability to respect each other then we all fail. All 3 should have those beers at the white house and hug each other.

    Tony in Fremont, Ca

    July 24, 2009 at 10:18 pm |
  37. Dexter Ruffin

    Obama should not have retracted his statements made on the behalf of Prof. Gates at the Press Conference. There was no want for "neutrality", as some media critics have suggested. What he said was deservingly impassioned. Furthermore an adverb modifying a verb or type of behaviour as in this case["acted stupidly] is quite a different thing from a blunt nominative accusation that the Cambridge Policemen are stupid, a statement that no president would flatly make, even from the previous.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:17 pm |


    July 24, 2009 at 10:17 pm |
  39. Thomas Martin

    the cop was right
    the president the governor and the prof owe us an apoligy for abusing the system

    July 24, 2009 at 10:17 pm |
  40. mike

    The officer was wrong!!!!!!
    as a public servent he had No Respect for mr gates and assumed he was guilty. thats wrong!!
    this could have ended much differently.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:17 pm |
  41. ronald demond mcglothurn

    I must say that i agree with Roland Martin totally. this was a situation that took place not in a slum neighborhood, but in the prominent environment of Harvard. The policeman obviously had an ego problem. Dr. Gates was in his home, period. Once he found that fact out, he should have difused the situation. I am sure the professor got upset and felt violated and the officer should have understood and should have just left.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:16 pm |
  42. william story

    understanding the sensitivies, still why can't the president simply say, "I screwed up. I used a poor choice of words." Haven't we all been guilty of that at one time or another?

    July 24, 2009 at 10:15 pm |
  43. Annie Kate

    The policeman was not and is not stupid. The professor however acted stupidly in this encounter whether it be from frustration, exhaustion, etc. .This story is over a small event that is getting way more attention than it deserves.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:14 pm |
  44. Barbara Hutchinson

    As a lawyer who has practiced criminal law, everyone should read the police report. It reads like all the reports of when a cop has no basis to arrest a person. Disorderly Conduct is a charge which is lodged all the time without any basis. In addition, the Mass. Supreme Court just ruled that Disorderly Conduct is a suspect charge.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:14 pm |
  45. JM

    the president should have stopped after admitting that he was 'biased' and did not know 'all' the details of the situation.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:11 pm |
  46. maurice

    It is simply amazing how so many people are commiting on this police officer and Mr.Gates. Being a black man in america and seeing the aftermath of speaking your mind respectfully towards a police officer can only say one thing. But I dare not because I may be arrested for disorderly conduct. God bless this country of ours.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:10 pm |
  47. Dolores Di Vizio

    It sounds as if Gates, who has been arrested while trying to enter his own house, and Obama, who has courageously intervened to state that racial issues should end up, and the cop should apologize, were the ones who committed a totally unfair act.

    Is there any reason why the police should be considered perfect? Isn't that a delusional expectation? Why doesn't the police too take a moment to reflect, apologize, and work on improving their attitude that, overall, can be disappointing and unnecessarily presumptuous and arrogant?

    July 24, 2009 at 10:08 pm |
  48. Carroll E. Gant, JR. aka "QuietStormX"

    I did not hear an apology. I saw and heard the President of the United Stated, the Big Man here trying to lower the fire and say hold-up and think.

    July 24, 2009 at 10:04 pm |
  49. JC-Los Angeles

    The destruction of our once proud nation has an awful lot to do with bad decision making and a total lack of accountability.

    President Obama is simply the latest example of a misinformed person making yet another bad decision and failing to accept complete responsibility for his error of judgement.

    What's almost equally unacceptable, is his use of the word "stupidly."

    July 24, 2009 at 10:01 pm |
  50. chanel

    I don't belive that race was a factor in this situation. I believe that Professor Gates overreacted. As and african american, I believe he played the race card like alot of african americans have the tendency to do. I believe that the Sgt. James Crowley had to arrest him based on misorderly conduct which was totally fair. It's a bigger deal than it needs to be. I believe that Sgt. James Crowley was genuine when he says it isn't based on race. I support him and have a feeling Professore Gates was overly sensitive to the situation.

    July 24, 2009 at 9:57 pm |
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