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July 27th, 2009
09:45 PM ET

Police profiling: The lost lesson in this teachable moment

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/07/27/gates.arrest/art.jim.crowley.wcvb.jpg]
Robert Zimmerman
AC360° Contributor and CNN Political Analyst

As I spent my rainy Sunday in New York watching all the well balanced, politically correct and diversified panels discuss the arrest of Professor Gates, I was struck by the glaring reality that no one on the panels that I observed was a member of or associated with the police profession.

Yes, there were political pundits, sociologists, media commentators, radio talk show hosts, the occasional academician and the inevitable author or two. Many sounded like they were reciting their favorite scenes from Law and Order as they tossed around phrases describing the arrest and their interpretation of why the charges were dropped. Almost all agreed that they did not know what specifically precipitated the arrest, the reasons for it or how race was a factor. However, there was a conclusion among many that race was a factor. This was a particularly stunning conclusion considering the exemplary career of Sergeant James Crowley. For five years Sgt. Crowley taught a class on racial profiling at the Lowell Police Academy. He was hand-picked for that assignment by former Police Commissioner Ron Watson, who is African-American. President Obama described Sgt. Crowley as an "outstanding police officer and a good man" and said that he has "a fine track record on racial sensitivity."

Racial profiling or biased policing is a well documented, shameful and tragic aspect of law enforcement history. It also exists in many other aspects of our nation's culture and society. In examining this issue, I took the daring initiative to actually speak to a respected member of the police profession on this matter. In fact, I spoke to one of our nation's most highly regarded and successful leaders in policing, Los Angeles Police Chief Bill Bratton. In addition to his present position and serving as the President of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, he formerly served as the New York City Police Commissioner and the Police Commissioner for the City of Boston.

Chief Bratton reviewed with me the extensive measures that police have aggressively taken to address the issue of racial profiling in the past 15 years. He pointed out that this issue is being confronted through changes in law that make racial profiling illegal and give the Federal government enforcement powers to combat it. In the selection process for new recruits, police are required and trained to look for signs of bias and prejudice. Additionally, new policies and procedures are continually being developed to strengthen supervision, documentation and the investigation of citizen complaints of racial profiling. Many police cars also now have video equipment to monitor police and their interactions with citizens. The police profession has been addressing the issues of race and bias more openly than American society as a whole.

The teachable moment from this experience should seek to raise awareness of racial profiling and bias policing, and the ways to address it. However, the lesson will be lost if we do not also address the dangers of police profiling- the automatic assumption that racial profiling is the issue when an encounter or arrest is made of a person of color by a white police officer.

soundoff (354 Responses)
  1. LOLA

    IF CNN will post my comment (they usually don't), I would like to point out to Pete that the prosecutor's office didn't proceed with the charges because of politics and the media.

    BTW, anyone notice that the chain of "power" and the "elites" in this situation are all black people (i.e., Cambridge Mayor, Massachussetts Governor and President of the United States are all black). All of who appeared to jump to the conclusion that the cops were wrong. Enough already! There's always going to be some people, of all colors, who are racist . The world is NEVER going to be completely non racist – grow up and learn how to deal with it! (this coming from an American Indian so no crap about how I'm white and don't know what I'm talking about!).

    July 27, 2009 at 9:45 pm |
  2. Joey Flores

    The next time Mr. Gates leaves for China or Europe or some other destination and asks his neighbors or the local police to "keep an eye on his house"; I wonder what their response will be?
    Be a good neighbor. Pick up the mail and newspaper if needed.
    Watch over their home as you would like them to look after your own place.
    Mr. Gates could have walked to his neighbors house and asked for his house key, explaining the loss, instead of shouldering the door.
    I'm a lucky guy. I'm tight with the neighbors and we look after each other.

    July 27, 2009 at 9:44 pm |
  3. FR

    I am a police officer of hispanic descent and have been for 26 years. I too have listened to the comments of the analysts, politicians, pr personnel and just about an expert from every field except law enforcement. In no was this case an issue of racial profiling, rather a Harvard Professor who somehow felt he was above the law. It seems that all of those people who personally know Professor Gates seem surprised that he was capable of being discourteous and rude to a law enforcement officer. He had been arrested in my city, not only would he have faced a charge of disorderly conduct, he most certainly would have also faced charges of Obstructing Official Business and Resisting Arrest. In listening to the tapes there is no indication that Sgt. Crowley ever "overreacted." His demeanor was calm througout the situation. My curiosity lies in the dropping of the charge of Disorderly Conduct by the local prosecutor. I feel that an investigation should be initiated against the local prosecutor to determine if he was presurred or persuaded to drop the charges because of interference from the Mayor of Cambridge or the Governor of Massachussetts or perhaps even from the U.S. Justice Department or the Office of the POTUS. Such an instrusion would constitute a charge of Obstructing Justice. I also feel that both the Mayor and Governor need to apologize to Sgt. Crowley.

    July 27, 2009 at 9:43 pm |
  4. ronald

    yeah was there 1 guy or 2? the ladying calling in said there was two men but there was one? i am a bit confused... aren't we all

    July 27, 2009 at 9:43 pm |
  5. Eric

    ....oh and by-the-way....how did the officer manage to hear...and
    no-less write in his report.....the words "black" and "backpack"...when in fact the words were never spoken....by ANYONE...and oh yes...
    I almost forogt...how did Officer Crowley find his way to be interviewed by one of greater Boston's most conservative talk stations WEEI by radio personalities that made fun of developmentaly disabled students....research their faux-pas at WEEI and you'd be amazed at thier mis-representations.

    July 27, 2009 at 9:43 pm |
  6. John, born in Cambridge

    As we get more information, this looks, as the Wall Street Journal suggested like a case of bad town-gown relations. When asked for his ID, Professor Gates presented first his Harvard University ID without an address. He was communicating that he was someone special and superior to the policeman. This was not a smart idea in Cambridge where some people think they are better than everyone else. In other cities persons who are stopped say they are buddy-buddy with the mayor or the gov.and start pushing the policeman's buttons. A policeman is like an umpire. He will let you exercise free speech. Beyond a certain point he perceives it as abuse and action is taken. A cop is trained first to maintain public safety. He's not there to give psychotherapy.
    If the professor then called the cop a racist, he escalated the situation needlessly. There is no denying that there are many cases of racial slights and many cases of racial profiling. As more facts come out it
    appears this is not one of them.
    If Professor Gates had been diligent and learned a little more of Sgt. Crowley's background, he would not have called him a rogue cop. This was patently unfair.

    July 27, 2009 at 9:42 pm |
  7. JDB in EC

    Professor Gates is a bigot and was caught in the act of bigotry. He should be required to take one of officer Crowley's classes. Gates should have been thankful that a police officer of any color was willing to enter into a potentially dangerous situation to protect Gate's house. Gates is a snob. When he realized he couldn't get his way, he threw a temper tantrum. How dare some lousy cop tell him what to do. If it had been some poor slob on the street – of any color – he would have been arrested, charged and fined. You've made it Gates. You're now a Massa!

    July 27, 2009 at 9:40 pm |
  8. Jonathan

    There seems to be a recurring theme here that "mouthing off" or being "obnoxious" to a police office is a crime.

    Perhaps on the street. Perhaps in a public place where you don't want a situation escalating. Perhaps if someone is drunk and there is a possibility they might hurt someone, even themselves. Maybe. But mouthing off is not a crime, and in the America I grew up in a man's home was his castle.

    July 27, 2009 at 9:40 pm |
  9. camb citizen

    you have to put yourself in a cops shoes before you open your mouth. Cops everyday put their lives on the line and hear just about every story out there. If a person was breaking into your home would you want the police to catch him? The cops have no idea who actually lives in the house. Gates could show his id and say he lives there. How do you know he actually does? He didn't show is drivers license with his address on it. No he showed his Harvard Id that does not show your address on it. That's why the cop called the harvard pd to found out what was going on. Confirmation. There was no reason for the good professor to go on a verbal rampage. What does the cops mother have to do with this incident? Sounds to me like he is picking a fight. If he had an issue with the cop then there are legal ways to address them. He is a HARVARD PROFESSOR. This goes to show you what are we actually teaching kids now a days.

    July 27, 2009 at 9:40 pm |
  10. Ralph, San Deigo, CA

    Just another example of pulling the "race card." There is fault that can be assigned to both parties. If the police officer is to be coined a racist, then so too is Mr. Gates. We all know Mr. Gates would not have cried racism had the results been the same with an African-American police officer. And why is this news anyhow... In San Diego, a Border Patrol agent was shot and killed by Mexican drug smugglers/ human smugglers and there is little mention of this, CNN. Seems to me that we should talking more about protecting our borders rather wasting out time on this "promoting" this none issue. Thanks for providing Obama the smoke screen CNN.

    July 27, 2009 at 9:39 pm |
  11. Nancy

    I am white and i truly believe that if Professor Gates was white and the situation was exactly the same that there would have been no arrest.

    July 27, 2009 at 9:39 pm |
  12. karuna

    There is nothing teachable from this incident! The only thing I've learnt is that if I am of color, I will cry 'racism' whenever confronted by the law, regardless of what I have done, and if I am white, I will still cry foul. Perhaps the President will come to my aid and have all the pundits take sides. What is teacheable here? Both sides will teach their kids and grandkids that everything that happens is because of racism. Because of what was said, race relations have fallen back a couple of decades, and so much for us wanting to move ahead. Our President bears major responsibility for this setback.

    July 27, 2009 at 9:39 pm |
  13. Tola

    Professor Gates should not have been arrested because he identied himself by providing his photo I.D. This man just returned from a long trip,over 20 hours, looking forwardto resting in his own home, only to be arrested?.I believe if the officer had approached him in a calm way,he would have responded in a respectful manner knowing full well that the officer is only trying to protect his interest. I really don't want to be biased, but i really feel the act of the police man is an irresponsible one, it doen't matter how good he may be in the sight of his colleauges,this has shown that he's deficient in some areas, so this will be a teachable moment for all. I am sure the president knows prof. Gate very well before he made that statement. If Pro Gate was known to be rude, i'm sure the president would not have made that statement. The conclusion of the matter is, let us respect one another, and get over racism, God is love.Blacks are human being as well.fayegb@msn.com

    July 27, 2009 at 7:10 pm |
  14. Pete Long

    @ Francisco and Mari

    Please try walking in an Officer’s shoes with your stomach in your throat every time you get that 911 call. The reason dispatch asked Ms. Whalen for the race of the potential perpetrator was to help the first on the scene to identify and sum up the situation as quickly as possible. Sure beats, “The suspect has one head, two arms, two legs and oh yea is wearing jeans.” Freedom of speech, would you yell, “Fire” in a crowded movie theater if there wasn’t a fire? Gates is playing that card only with race, please read my other posts. And if this young country we call America isn’t to your liking please…please follow Alec Baldwin’s grand proclamation and move to France! Oh hmmm…he’s still here.

    July 27, 2009 at 7:08 pm |
  15. Jon

    One thing that really caught my attention about what has been reported that the officer apparently refused to give the professor his badge number or name, even after the professor provided his ID to the officer. I'm sorry if I have this wrong but aren't police officer REQUIRED to identify themselves AS police and not just someone who has a uniform? Until they do so, they are just another person and have NO authority at all. Disorderly conduct, in your own home, is a tough one to claim unless you can prove that someone disobeyed the instructions of an identified police officer. However until identified I would never voluntarily give up my freedom to defend my own home from intruders dressed as police, firefighters or costumed hero-look-alikes. Seriously, if I show up with some friends and we are dressed to LOOK like authority figures, are you all gonna be sheep and let us cuff you and haul you away without positively identifying ourselves as people empowered to use restraint on citizens? You should demand that police provide proof that they have the authority they claim to be, and to prevent escalation of issues, the police should demand it of themselves as well because officers that don't stir up the trouble like this for ALL the other cops.

    July 27, 2009 at 7:01 pm |
  16. nycgirl

    Robert Zimmerman hits the nail on the head.

    July 27, 2009 at 6:51 pm |
  17. Larry

    Why is the fact that there were two (2) suspected persons not explained? The police went to the address based upon expecting to encounter two(2) intruders, possibly armed.

    July 27, 2009 at 6:48 pm |
  18. ML

    @Mari The police ask callers for all kinds of ways to identify the suspects - race is one, gender is another, height is another, color of shirt is another, length of hair is another, etc. That's how police catch the criminals.

    July 27, 2009 at 6:45 pm |
  19. Pete Long

    1) Yes Gates’ house had been previously broken into; was Gates’ the resident at that time, I don’t know. Yes there is a current list of home burglaries in Gates’ neighborhood.

    2) If I told my neighbors (or not) that I was going to be out of town and showed up in clothing and a car that they didn’t recognize I would hope they would call the Police. When the officer arrived I would respectfully and gladly give my drivers license to them and thank them for their prompt response in protecting my property and my well being.

    3) The charges were dropped because Gates’ self serving disrespectful tantrum was a misdemeanor. The Cambridge Police Department and Prosecuting Attorney chose to drop the charges to save tax dollars and time given the offense wasn’t that serious and there were no priors on Gates‘; this is not an admission that the charges were not legitimate. If you follow the news this is done all the time.

    July 27, 2009 at 6:31 pm |
  20. dina

    The liar Crowley is getting caught today. He can run but he can't hide. There are too many holes in his story and I'm glad because he was in the wrong. Everyone knew it and now everyone is SEEING it.

    July 27, 2009 at 6:26 pm |
  21. kat

    How can one profile.....someone they dont know? Just not right...now matter what color you are

    July 27, 2009 at 6:25 pm |
  22. Chuck

    John said the following:

    "John July 27th, 2009 3:54 pm ET

    Angela – the officer didn’t leave right after Gates showed his license because there was a disturbance going on where Gates was acting like a fool, causing a disturbance, yelling, mouthing off, and causing a scene which is disorderly conduct. It doesn’t matter that Gates was on his front porch. If you are causing a scene in the view of the public so as to create on-lookers to notice by yelling and cursing, that is disorderly conduct, which is against the law. ..."

    John - what you are saying sounds to me like, Prof.Gates broke (non-existent) "Contempt of Cop" law. John, if you say 'f-k u' to me in public (with 7-8 people looking on) , can I arrest you? You can sware at people and you are ok, but you say the same to a cop and u get arrested? Your law of 'Disorderly conduct' sounds like 'do not mess with cop' law. Is the 'disorderly conduct' law a declaration that cop is the master of people?

    July 27, 2009 at 6:21 pm |
  23. Renee

    Some of you folks on here are really acting stupidly with your comments. Stick to this story not all cops everywhere are a part of this story. Get the facts before you comment. Everyone of you would have screamed the same racist crap if the cop would have taken his word left and a robber was in the house with a gun.

    July 27, 2009 at 6:20 pm |
  24. Fay - California

    A lot of commentors are acting as though Gates' initial reaction to being arrested in his own home is completely irrational – why wouldn't an African American man feel some unease when being confronted with a police officer? There is a history of tension between blacks and the police that is well documented – it really shouldn't be suprising to anyone that Gates' would feel trepidation and perhaps feel that he's being unfairly targeted.

    July 27, 2009 at 6:16 pm |
  25. latonia weathers

    This happened to me too.. and I am an African American Woman. The Baltimore County, MD police came to my house by mistake supposedly and bust into my bedroom…where I was on my bed unclothed. They had scared my 12 year old daughter into letting them in. When I asked what were they there for…they said they had received a call for domestic violance. I told them that they could see they had the wrong house..the only people in my house was me and my 12 yr old child…my husband was at work. It was about 7 officers…all white. The Officer Frick..said he wasn’t going anywhere and for me to get up off the bed. I told him I was going to call the Commanding Officer at the station..he said go ahead. I called and spoke with the Commanding Officer. I explained they had the wrong house. He told me to put Officer Frick on the phone..and he told them to leave. I put on my robe and was escorting them downstairs..and Officer Frick continued to run his mouth to me…I told him to just get the Hell out of my house. All the other officers were out the door…when Officer Frick went out the door…I went to shut the door..and he put his foot back in the door…he then said I assaulted him. He told me I was under arrest for assaulting a police officer. One of the other officers tried to talk him out of it..but he told me to put my hands behind my back. My 12 year old child was screaming and crying. I told them no one was home with her..but he continued to arrest me. I told my daughter to call my husband at work and tell him what happened. I was taken from my home in handcuffs and my child was lefe alone at home. When I got to the station…I asked to speak to the Commanding Officer…I had spoken with on the phone…I was told he was gone. I was held there for several hours until I saw a Commissioner..and was released to myself. The next day I went to the station and spoke with the Commanding Officer..who said the charges were dropped..for not enough evidence…I told him I still wanted to go to court…because I wanted the Officer brought to justice for what was done to me…he said there was nothing I could do..he said if I wanted to write a letter..it would be put in the Officers file..and would stop him from getting promotions. I wrote the letter thinking that was the end of this all. Over the next years, everytime I have applied for anything..Real Estate License, Life Insurance License, or any job..that requires a Criminal Background Check…this has haunted me..I have had to be humilitated time and time again, because this shows up on my record…so I wrote this to say it happens to ALL African Americans…not just the men…if you can do anything to get this off my record…please let me know.

    July 27, 2009 at 6:15 pm |
  26. Valerie

    The President never says the cop was a racist he just said he acted stupidly referring to the fact that after viewing Gates 's id , he still arrested him.

    July 27, 2009 at 6:03 pm |
  27. hokie

    Cops continue to abuse their power. My husband says all the time that the job is not for a human. I really wonder if cops wouldn't abuse their power if they were paid better.

    The article says police forces are trained to look out for biased employees. Come on are you really going to tell me that some small town in the south isn't going to overlook someone who is racist.

    Also white police chiefs love hiring racist black beat cops ...who make it even harder for black civilians.

    I believe if there was a higher age requirement and/or more education required before someone is allowed to be a cop we would be better off.

    The way it is now most cops come in out of highschool with something to prove.

    Cops are no longer out their protecting and building their community. They are out their for the business of locking folks up, fining people, and filling up the jails.

    July 27, 2009 at 6:01 pm |
  28. Mari

    @ Francisco.... Kudos! Well said!

    As a Latina, I have looked at this story from another point of view. Where is the common sense people???

    IF you are in your OWN home, and show I.D. why does the cop, not say "okay, have a nice day"? The professor was NOT armed, he has FREEDOM of Speech or are we now living in a Police State?! IF the arrest was lawful, WHY were the charges dropped??

    Also, I read the 911 call, posted here by CNN. Another question: the neighbor, Ms. Whalen, did not recognize her OWN neighbor?? I know my neighbors, even IF its only from waving hello.

    And WHY did the 911 operator ask Ms. Whalen for the RACE of the "suspected intruders" aren't we all ....... HUMAN?

    The far-right wants to keep harping on this issue, they want to deny racism exists, that's fine. You go ahead and live in denial.

    I for one, believe that common sense was not involved that Prof. Gates mouthed off, Segt. Crowley overreacted. Two wrongs.

    Bravo to President Obama for inviting Gates & Crowley in for a beer.

    July 27, 2009 at 5:55 pm |
  29. Katherine Mattingly

    Why does everyone seem to be missing the point of what the issue is. It's not the arrest situation that happened. that is a non issue. just a local cop doing his job. The issue is when you have a president of a country coming out and starting a statement with how he dont have all the facts and dont know what all happened and yet says things just after that like the cops acted stupidly. He has no reason other than emotion to say that. He has to understand as a president you just dont say things like that without having all the facts. It shows a lack of leadership ability to do so. Thats what the real issue is, not the local issue that should have stayed local.

    July 27, 2009 at 5:50 pm |
  30. Eleazar Limas

    hopefully this will defused police officers from abusing the power given to them... They must learn to protect and serve not draw their weapon to get someone to stop and/or obey their command sometimes they may just need to scuffle a little bit with-out hurting or fatally wounding someone or themselves... a bruise here or there won't hurt anyone...

    July 27, 2009 at 5:47 pm |
  31. Allen

    Here is a short story that might shed some light as to why the police officer continued to ask questions to include calling for backup. One summer evening a guy tried to steal the battery out of my brother’s car. My brother startled him and he took off running with my brother in chase. The guy jumped over the fence into a yard some distance from our house. At this point my brother called the police and they showed up at the house. The family inside were not very cooperative stating they knew nothing about a battery being stolen and they had been in the house all evening. The police cleared the house just the same and guess what they found. They found this guy hiding in the back room closet. The family was now very appreciative of the police.

    Based off this experience I can see that the officer might have thought someone else was in the house. That is why he continued to ask questions.

    July 27, 2009 at 5:47 pm |
  32. MP on LI, NY

    Jesse A. Rodriguez –

    I would like to recommend that you step outside the sphere of your own experiences, if you can, and realize what's ACTUALLY at issue here. You're obviously commenting on what you've seen and heard SO FAR, which seems to have prompted opinions divided sharply along racial lines. Many of us who are of African descent, once hearing about what happened, were initially concerned about exactly WHY he was arrested.....Did he hit the cop with his cane???....Was he drunk and/or possibly arguing with or assaulting a neighbor when the police arrived???....To hear that he was mouthing off to the officer, which many of us have seen OTHER people do, in his OWN HOME, in a case where the police were called to investigate a possible burglary AT THAT HOME, made many people of all persuasions VERY upset...Nowhere in that state is this a valid reason for an arrest.

    Now, I really don't know what planet the Cambridge police department and whoever supports their position are on, but if an officer arrested someone in my precinct for THAT reason, then had the charges DROPPED with 24 hours, I doubt that the arresting officer's superiors would say "Great job....you did the SMART thing by arresting him in his OWN HOME for yelling at you, but we have no choice now but to drop all charges...but don't worry, you're good!!".............No, I think that words like STUPID, IDIOTIC and UNNECESSARY just might have been used instead! Which speaks to what the President said....It was a STUPID thing to do.

    And now it gets even better.......now the 911 tapes show NO MENTION of any "big, black men with backpacks", nor did the neighbor EVER speak to him....So what's it doing in HIS police report???!!!! HE LIED ON HIS OWN POLICE REPORT!!!!....In the same way that ALL racist cops do to cover their a$$es!! THAT'S THE RACIAL PROFILING!!!

    So, folks should really try to let whatever negative views they have of black people not cloud your common sense, since the obvious liar here is Sgt. Crowley in his own report.

    July 27, 2009 at 5:44 pm |
  33. Pete Long

    Angela makes everyone’s point that Obama didn’t have all the facts before he spoke and unfortunately many have been preconditioned to believe that racism has occurred when a person of color yells, “racial profiling.” The fact is a very liberal Afro-American professor was collecting cannon fodder for his documentary/book and more than likely wanted to create a “stink.” Gates gave Officer Crowley his Harvard ID and not his drivers license, the ID didn’t have Gates’ address on it. This is why Officer Crowley had to call Harvard’s campus Police Department to confirm his address. Gates just finished an international trip so he must have had his drivers license with his current address but more importantly a United States Passport within easy access. But no, Gates gives the officer his Harvard ID with no address and bunch of lip about the officer’s mother (before and after he was identified) and ironically that’s when Gates met the officer’s original request and came out on the front porch so he could continue to use Crowley as a verbal “punching bag.”

    July 27, 2009 at 5:42 pm |
  34. Eleazar Limas

    Police around the country fabricate their reports especially when they have a co-worker that will back–up their report being placed to a DA and many innocent people get chagred because it's the officer that carries creditbility and the one being charged has no say to his defense... many police call each other up to see how many they have stopped and see who has the most citations given. especially when it comes to DUIs... they compete with each other many just pull people over with no probable cause but on their reports they make all these claims the driver was doing while driving, when in fact the driver was driving normal breaking no laws...

    July 27, 2009 at 5:36 pm |
  35. Franky_PA

    I am with you all the way...least of all, I believe that the prez showed a bias when he took Gates side, rather than wait to find out the facts. It was merely an unfortunate incident and had the prez not got involved and helped fan the fire, it would have simmered down and cooler heads would have prevailed.

    Just because anyone is scholared and honored does not make everything they do or say gospel. Any police officer that puts his life on the line everyday, should have received the prez's support ,,,yes, I know there are exceptions, but again..it makes my point...that the PREZ also assumed. It was a local matter...not a federal case.

    July 27, 2009 at 5:36 pm |
  36. Larry

    Obama can say anything; to his groupies everything he says is like it came from the lips og GOD.

    July 27, 2009 at 5:35 pm |
  37. Don

    Francisco,

    The neighbor never got a good view of who was forcing the front toor. She couldn't even tell their race.

    His house had been broken in to recently along with many in that neighborhood.

    Like ML stated the police removed the disturbance. Gates followed Crowley outside screaming, Crowley warned him twice, a crowd started gathering, Gates was arrested.

    July 27, 2009 at 5:33 pm |
  38. Tim, Roswell Ga

    If Sgt Crowley is such an expert on racial profiling he should also have known that the situation was volatile; and once he had determined that the prof had all rights to be there in his own home, he should have taken all necessary steps to defuse the situation. Instead he decided to show power by arresting him because the prof who was probably cranky from a long trip and a fight with his front door was protesting his perceived treatment. Since when has it become a crime to protest in your own home? Did he physically threaten the office? I agree when the president said the arrest was stupid. When is the police going to learn that once they determine that you are not the bad guy they should switch into the SERVE AND PROTECT mode irrespective of color? This issue is more than racial profiling. It has a lot to do with the general treatment of minorities by police regardless of their social status. I have seen too many whites mouth-off to police without getting arrested. It is a different code of conduct for minorities.

    July 27, 2009 at 5:30 pm |
  39. Fran frank

    It's very difficult to be a Police Officer in our society and make decisions in a second....I think the officer made his best call and I also think that Professor Gates must have been terrified it certainly was not a good day for either and the weekend talk has not moved us forward but just opened old wounds.

    July 27, 2009 at 5:18 pm |
  40. Francisco Abreu

    Some questions on the issue:

    1) Was the neighbour that called the police identified? Why has he/she done that? Isn't Gates know by his neighbours? Is that a dangerous neighbourhood that keeps everyone at the edge?

    2) Gates was angry. Well, I think I would be angry as well if the police showed at my door demanding proof of residence. And that based on what? A call from an interested neighbour? I've seen that in totalitarian states where neighbours watch neighbours, but things should be different in a free country.

    3) Was the arrest lawful? If yes, why the charges were dropped? Pressure from the media, from the White House?

    July 27, 2009 at 5:11 pm |
  41. Larry

    Compare the salaries of the professor and the police officer; does it make sense?

    July 27, 2009 at 5:11 pm |
  42. Richmond Pam

    In spite of the giant steps we have made towards racial equality we do not live in a perfect world. This seems to be a situation where no one is without fault. It was an odd situation and the good Samaritan who called the police certainly opened Pandora's box!

    July 27, 2009 at 5:10 pm |
  43. Sherman

    Zimmerman has an uncanny ability to see both sides of an issue, no matter how politically charged the topic. It seems that this unfortunate situation continues to grab the media spotlight.

    July 27, 2009 at 5:04 pm |
  44. ML

    Good comments here. Maybe the more we talk about it, the closer we get to understanding what all happened. Regardless of what happened INside the house, the arrest was for what happened OUTside the house. When it's nighttime and someone is shouting outside their door and the lights start coming on in the neighborhood and neighbors start gathering at the scene, that is by any definition disturbing the peace. It doesn't matter what the shouter is shouting. To stop the disturbance, the police remove the shouter...and often drop the charges later, when he/she calms down.

    July 27, 2009 at 5:01 pm |
  45. RLWellman

    Looks like President Obama's true colors came through with his comments made before even knowing the facts.

    July 27, 2009 at 4:59 pm |
  46. Anne

    Angela, I questioned that also but then I did see a pundit on TV who did have the good idea to speak with police contacts. He said that their are frequent situations where the address on the ID match but the person definitely shouldn't be there, e.g., a divorcing spouse, or a stalker ex-boyfriend. Also, I would expect the officer should make sure that the house is safe. There is only one gentleman there and yet two were reported breaking in. Where is the other guy? Or could someone have already broken in and be hiding in the bedroom? I really don't know all of the scenarios. I do question arresting someone for popping off though. The poor professor just flew in from China (exhausted), found a broken door (angry and frustrated), and then someone questions him. No wonder he pops off. But then maybe he should back off now.

    July 27, 2009 at 4:55 pm |
  47. Joane

    This is the president of whom you speak. He can say what he wants, when he wants just like all the white ones did. The ones who vilified black people. Denigrated anyone not like them. They had that right. Where do you get off denying that same freedom of speech to this president. Even if he mis-spoke, you don't shut him up. That opens another keg of worms. Maybe you should look at the history of this country when it came to black men speaking against whites. It ain't pretty.

    July 27, 2009 at 4:52 pm |
  48. KLJ

    Mr. Zimmerman misses the point. For black men, racial profiling happens from police officers of all ethnic backgrounds. In 1978, I was stopped by a white and black officer while driving my father’s new Mercury Marquis. After providing the officers all the paperwork, I asked what traffic offense I had committed. They both responded that I had not committed any offense but they felt no 17 year old should be driving around in a fancy new car. My real crime was driving while black. The black officer provided more harassment than the white officer in that situation.
    One other point Mr. Zimmerman misses is in the actions of Sgt. Crowley. Too much of the commentary has been focused on the initial report of a burglary in process. Upon entering the home and verifying the identification of Dr. Gates, Sgt. Crowley did absolutely nothing wrong. It is in his handling of the events subsequent to that point that is the real crux of the issue. By all accounts, Sgt. Crowley is an outstanding officer. This cannot be the first time he has dealt with an irate citizen. Isn’t he trained to handle such situations? Couldn’t he have simply walked away? If in retrospect Dr. Gates did some things wrong, I would argue the same is true for Sgt. Crowley.

    July 27, 2009 at 4:46 pm |
  49. Louroy

    "... a shameful and tragic act..."? Profiling, as the author continues to say in the article that exists in many places throughout society – has probably been around for as long as most living things. Don't animals "profile" other animals they recognize as predators? Didn't you "profile" your spouse" Don't most companies "profile" when they're spending millions on sales and marketing campaigns? Call it what you will, but if it helps law enforcement agencies to reduce crime and make our streets (and their own lives) safer, I'm all for it. And also, what ever happened to showing our law enforcement personnel respect? Be belligerent to the same person who's going to be patrolling your streets protecting you? That's wrong.

    July 27, 2009 at 4:46 pm |
  50. Renee

    Suz you are kidding right? You were there right? You know for a fact that Officer Crowley entered the home and was a jerk right? WRONG. He was faced with yelling the minute he ask for ID. He never raised his voice not one time. He was followed out of the house being screamed at. I mean come on his fellow officers that are black backed him up to this fact! Why can't you all just admit sometimes the white guy is not always the bad guy?

    July 27, 2009 at 4:46 pm |
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