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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. Lisa Carter

    Forget the panels, with all due respect. It's the three guys in the Oval Office with beer on Thursday that will determine the next spin on this overblown drama. Yes, let's have the boys decide what should happen next over a beer.

    While I have no problem with beer or alcohol, I fail to see the example being set for "race relations" by incorporating alcohol or any other substance into the mix. Maybe gangs should just sit down around a hookah or some meth and sort out their differences.

    Maybe they'll play spin the bottle and decide who is to "blame".

    A "teachable moment"? Give me a break.

    July 28, 2009 at 4:23 pm |
  2. Christian Anderson

    Nobody should ever be arrested just for being indignant. It happens all the time, and it is an abuse of power.

    July 28, 2009 at 2:33 pm |
  3. C

    Matt, again you are acting stupidly by commenting on a previous situation that has nothing to do with this situation!!!! Can any of you get that?

    July 28, 2009 at 2:29 pm |
  4. Chuck_NY

    Cliff Rockefeller said on July 27th, 2009 3:26 pm ET

    "Finally, somebody that is willing to see that not everything is related to race. The police were there to protect the home and its owner. The lesson ..."

    Cliff - Although the police were there to protect the home and its owner, the police ended up protecting the home from its owner 😉

    July 28, 2009 at 2:25 pm |
  5. KARTHLYN S. JLAKA

    Well as I once said "the other side of the story is never heard or if heard nothing is done about it". These are some of the reasons, why the Law enforcers think, they are all above the law. Their reports are finally and many people get the worst because a cop made up a story.

    I tell you and I will always say this, if you know God or not, you will be rewarded for whatever you do to others, especially if someone has to suffer because of some false statement (s).

    Thanx

    July 28, 2009 at 2:02 pm |
  6. Dave D

    Can anyone tell me what the professor might do to a (white) student that treated him the way the professor treated the cop ?

    That would be fun to watch...feel free to try it ! Oh yes, and please video it.

    July 28, 2009 at 1:52 pm |
  7. Matt

    I witnessed exchanges between Dr. Boyce Watkins and Attorney Jeff Toobin on AC360, (along with the attorney for Ms. Whalen, who phoned in the 911 call regarding Dr. Gates). I am frankly flabbergasted by the offhand manner in which Mr. Toobin handled the matter – blaming President Obama for getting involved (I say this in spite of the fact that I believe that the President would have been better served to have referred the matter to others. However, this matter is bigger than Professor Gates and Sgt. Crowley).

    I am not an attorney. I do happen to be a black college professor who has had a white policeman stop at my house to “make sure the owners were at home” – after seeing me working in the yard. I am frankly concerned about the discrepant facts in the police report and the tape of the 911 call. Policemen are supposed to get it right. People go to jail on their testimony all the time – because they are trained observers and listeners. It is not all right to let the policeman off the hook. Everyone seems to think that he simply did his job. The tape makes it clear that he did not do it well – details are altered; he acted stupidly as stated by President Obama. I understand that yelling at someone in one’s home is not a crime under Massachusetts law. So, what is justification for the policeman to react as he did? Such questions deserve a review and an answer.

    July 28, 2009 at 11:26 am |
  8. Larry

    Cassie, the President didn't involve himself in a local matter it was a question asked to him, when he was talking about HEALTH CARE. Also by making laws to stop racial profiling is still not going to work, because its the police words vs the victims words. An like Cassie says "There are two sides to this coin. One is that many african-americans choose not to stay in school and grow up facing trouble with the law".

    Some folks make me sick.....

    Anyways is he going to get charged for filing a false report?

    July 28, 2009 at 11:01 am |
  9. Kim B

    This question is continually raised...

    Why were the charges dropped? I'll tell you why, because Professor Gates is a "good friend" of the President of the U.S. Like most times in life, it's all in who you know.

    I firmly believe that the President not only owes Officer Crowley an apology, but also America. For him to make a remark as he did without knowing the facts shows me that he... ummm.. ahhh.. in my opinion.... ahhh... acted stupidly.

    July 28, 2009 at 10:39 am |
  10. Nee

    Let me first share a couple of stories. In a dominantly white neighborhood, two police cars escorted a black woman out of the town because they assumed that there was no possibility she could live there, owing to the fact that she is black. A woman.

    In another town, a black good samaritan man stopped to help a white woman change her tire on a lonely road. The police got there and the only question they could ask was "Are you okay ma'am, what did he do to you?"

    If any black man hears such stories,is it not only natural that he develops anger and resentment towards the police?

    On the other hand, think about stereotypes white police officers endure as a result of the resentment blacks (men especially) have towards them.

    Race and 'multiculturalism' is Ameria's most powerful asset and yet, it happens to the America's most prevalent liability. Unfortunately it will never go away as long as the country remains multi racial. Maybe we should just learn to use it for our good instead of allowing it to destroy us. Shame on us all, Americans. The world is now watching the most powerful nation struggle with race.

    July 28, 2009 at 10:08 am |
  11. Jason

    Me, the Lousy Cop
    Well Mr. Citizen, I guess you have figured me out. I seem to fit neatly into the category you place me in. I'm stereotyped, characterized, standardized, classified, grouped, and always typical. I'm the "lousy" cop.

    Unfortunately, the reverse isn't true. I can never figure you out.

    From birth you teach your children that I am a person to be wary of...and then you're shocked when they identify me with my traditional enemy, the criminal.

    You accuse me of coddling juvenile criminals, until I catch your kid doing something.

    You may take an hour for lunch and several coffee breaks each day, but point me out as a loafer if you see me having just one cup.

    You pride yourself on your polished manners, but think nothing of interrupting my meals with your troubles.

    You raise hell about the guy who cuts you off in traffic, but let me catch you doing the same thing and I'm picking on you.

    You know all the traffic laws, but never got one ticket you deserved.

    You shout "Foul!" if you observe me driving fast enroute to an emergency call, but literally raise hell if I take more than ten seconds responding to your call.

    You call it "part of my job" if someone strikes me. But its "police brutality" if I strike back.

    You wouldn't think of telling your dentist how to pull a badly decayed tooth, or your doctor how to take out your appendix, but you are always willing to give me pointers on law enforcement.

    You talk to me in a manner and use language that would assure a bloody nose from anyone else, but you expect me to stand there and take it without batting an eye.

    You cry, "Something has to be done about all the crime!" but you can't be bothered with getting involved.

    You've got no use for me at all, but, of course, it's OK if I change a tire for your wife, deliver your baby in the back seat of my patrol car on the way to the hospital, save your son's life with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, or work many hours overtime to find your lost daughter.

    So, Dear Citizen, you stand there on your soapbox and rant and rave about the way I do my job, calling me every name in the book, but never stop a minute to think that your property, your family, or maybe your life might depend on one thing – me, or one of my buddies.

    Yes, me, the lousy cop.

    July 28, 2009 at 9:31 am |
  12. C

    OK all you white people haters! There were black officers on the scene who felt things were handled by the book and that gates was being an out of control nimrod when they were there to protect his property. SO, should we only have black officers handle black calls and white officers handle white calls and Hispanic officers handle Hispanic calls? I for one want to be the good guy but not if your finger is in my face because you feel entitled to do so.

    July 28, 2009 at 8:58 am |
  13. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    Tola, if you listen to the officer's radio call he WAS calm. The only one going berserk was Gates, who could be heard in the background. Crowley was cool and collected requesting back-up. The 911 caller on the street stated that she heard shouting, but only Gates not Crowley. When the President made his statement he admitted he didn't have the facts. So he should have kept his mouth shut.

    July 28, 2009 at 8:56 am |
  14. Mel

    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 28, 2009 at 8:19 am |
  15. Rick C

    In my opinion this situation is less about race than power. Gates clung to his rights and was agitated that he was being hassled in his view. He probably had more cards in the race game than Crowley. But he was agitated nonetheless and after all he was in his own home.

    It should not have resulted in an arrest unless he was threatening. Failing to be a submissive Black male to a cop is not a crime. Crowley wanted Gates to toe a line he was not ready to toe in his own home. Many would have acted similarly without a racial element I suppose.

    As a black male I can rattle off twenty or more actual instances of being profiled. I have even had a white police officer apologize to me for following instructions on "who to stop." Of course this was after I showed him my alumni card to the huge university in the area.
    I have had an officer pull a gun on me while at an ATM after dark. (No arrest,no explanation, no request for ID) I guess he thought i was laying in wait or something. I was stopped for traffic (without citation...simply a routine DWB warrant check) at least 13 times over 3 years in mid and southern Indiana. It may have been even more I only started counting after 4 I think. I worked as an engineer for the power company so I was in a lot of rural white areas. I even once had a non citation traffic stop result in a canine search because I had just purchased a box of arm & hammer baking soda to deodorize my fringe. "surely i'm a crack or heroin or whatever its used for dealer". That was the last straw though I got nothing but a sense of satisfaction from addressing that incident with appropriate civil rights advocates.

    In the case at hand I would appreciate someone seeing something suspicious at my home calling the police. I would assume I would not got to jail if I were in the same position as Gates. Neither should Gates have been.

    Gates reaction was likely akin to the Stevie Wonder song lyric you might have the cash but can't cash in your face. Look up the lyrics and I can attest to the EXACT renting portion scenario occurring to me once. For ME the key to not letting this be too big a part of MY daily brainwave is realizing things do get better and I don;t have to have chip on MY shoulder. That doesn't mean I accept any of the true crap when it happens but its a better way to live for me that's for sure.

    I believe real injustice deserves real attention whereas this incident has gotten way too much. This case is a more of a yawner for me as opposed to real profiling or racism but obviously it has opened easily opened wounds and sentiments in some and "settled up...get over reverse discrimination" sentiments in others.

    But for all those that think they would have had their car stopped for no reason and then have dogs running around in the hatch of your vehicle because you plan to deodorize your fridge... I get it. For all those that realize it would never happen to YOU but don't realize it would and did happen to me ...that's not your fault but now you know.

    I hope that only helps and doesn't hurt in any way. God bless.

    July 28, 2009 at 7:48 am |
  16. Art

    This whole thing is a joke. We, as a society, need to stop crying wolf. This went way beyond where it should have gone. Who's guilty? Both of them.

    July 28, 2009 at 7:40 am |
  17. Longwalker

    The one common thread in most of the comments ( on both sides of the issue) is the difficulty that the commenters have with the facts. I would suggest that, before commenting, you construct a "time-line" of the incident and insert on that "time-line" every verifiable fact in the proper sequence. That alone will shut up over 90% of the commenters.

    July 28, 2009 at 7:01 am |
  18. A.Lee Edwards

    Mr. Cooper,

    In my opinion, the crucial points surrounding the Gates matter, panel discussion, were allowed to be circumvented, even after presenting some evidence. Unfortunately, Sgt. Crowley misrepresented several facts: pursuant to your panel discussion, 27 July 2009.

    One is at a lost to understand why the discussion did not stick to the contents of the police report, the 911 call, and TV interviews: cleverly, guests just had to assign some fault to Prof. Gates.

    To me stating that "two black men were seen with back packs"–contrary to eyewitness' account–breaking into a house, is like a weapon being placed into the hands of a victim fatally shot, after the fact. And to actually say that the resident produced an ID demonstrates even lesser reason to have allowed the situation to escalate.

    This incident was a mistake, but it also appears somewhat egregious. Yes, we should move to a positive outcome, however, to fail to identify the wrong, clearly, only sends us in a backward direction.

    You know, if more men inquired as to the hue of their "private parts", perhaps they would begin to understand that we all are more alike–emanating from a same ancestry–than unalike. Then, and only then, will we be able to distance ourselves from anti-cultural/ethnicity: fact-backed opinion.
    One is willing to bet, that that is very unlikely to occur.

    July 28, 2009 at 6:30 am |
  19. A.Lee Edwards

    Mr. Cooper,

    In my opinion, the crucial points surrounding the Gates matter, panel discussion, were allowed to be circumvented, even after presenting some evidence. Unfortunately, Sgt. Crowley misrepresented several facts: pursuant to your panel discussion, 27 July 2009.

    One is at a lost to understand why the discussion did not stick to the contents of the police report, the 911 call, and TV interviews: cleverly, guests just had to assign some fault to Prof. Gates.

    To me stating that "two black men were seen with back packs"–contrary to eyewitness' account–breaking into a house, is like a weapon being placed into the hands of a victim fatally shot, after the fact. And to actually say that the resident produced an ID demonstrates even lesser reason to have allowed the situation to escalate.

    This incident was a mistake, but it also appears somewhat egregious. Yes, we should move to a positive outcome, however, to fail to identify the wrong, clearly, only sends us in a backward direction.

    July 28, 2009 at 6:19 am |
  20. Ursula

    (1) Having Conrad sit in the back seat of the police car until he calms down: acceptable. Actually taking Conrad to the station and booking him: unacceptable and a waste of taxpayer money
    (2) Maybe stupid was not the right adjective to describe the testosterone battle between two supposed-to-be "community leaders". However, if I spent my days trying to get support for a healthcare bill because millions of people don't have it and thousands are dying without it; trying to figure out what our role in two wars is/was/should be; trying to get answers on how to improve the economy so Americans can go back to work and have homes again; trying to squeeze in ways to preserve our planet, trying to etc. etc. etc. If I did give this the time of day, I would send both men an email and tell them to get their act together. The country needs real role models not a couple of jerks walking around with their chests poked out.

    July 28, 2009 at 3:16 am |
  21. KARTHLYN S. JLAKA

    Oh sorry, the date for the story above is Nove. 19, 2008 and not 2009 pls.

    Thanx

    July 28, 2009 at 1:59 am |
  22. William Courtland

    Because in the end: all real criminals can be defeated by loonie toons.

    It is how you can tell the difference between a real citizen and a criminal; with the use of a toon. Releasing toons to this task however would be extremely difficult; so without tigers...

    Now where loonie toons dwell, and I might have mentioned this before: but there was this little hen pecked chickenhawk which never got on screen much, but never be blasted if that little varment ain't going to go get a real job; a real toon getting a real job out in the real world. Offering teaching services to kids about the animal kindom, and their domesticated purposes... This a lesson so to avoid the regular abuses animals suffer; when locked in cages or bacements...

    So we have mentioned; that a market index switch exists, and that Yakko, Wako, and Dot are the only three who understand it location. This switch of course will flip the economy back over to a different regulated index: a switch which was designed into the market system before the onset of world war one, but which had been operated solely by the accidential remote programmed into a rerun of the original Loonie toons series: of which this program was cancelled; yet the toons kept it alive, setting the economic base from fiat, to housing, to banking, to stocks, or orange juice, and to Acme products, and someone wrote in coyote, but it was scratched out and replaced with carrots... and near the end a lone little digit which had no meaning to anyone... presumably meant stop: but stop was at the other end, and toons do not like the idea of pause... and warming toilet seats...

    Now this little chicken hawk, he became more worldly, he ventured out into the world after reaking a havoc of toon breed upon the old tooniverse... but this havoc was just of his character... just while he was still written into toon world, and this was just another reason why he wanted to get out. little hen pecked chickenhawk... just because he had a worm, and could fit and get more... the cameras didn't really care about abit of the things those hens did to that little chickenhawk... the little innocent one...

    Now Foghorn is without a leg, the economic switch has yet again been stopped due to the de-animation of yakko, wako, and dot. The Tooniversity is going into debt, and the ink is again becoming too expensive...

    Now this adult chickenhawk, he wants out, see he figured out how to get old: he would just watch the re-runs of loonietoones inside tooniverse: and in the process of watching his elders...

    July 28, 2009 at 1:45 am |
  23. M

    Why is it that everyone is always so quick to yell "racial" issue. Why do we always have to turn to that. First off...none of us were there to know what truly happened. Maybe both were in the wrong. How do we get beyond this racial thing if everyone always brings up the "racial" card. Really...how do we move on??? My husband is a police officer and I'm proud to say he is one of the good guys. Yes, there can be some who make mistakes... But don't forget- they are the people who put their lives on the line. Whether or not this could have been some dangerous situation- you can never understand the position of a police officer unless you are in their shoes. And you'll probably never understand the fear an officer's family feels every time they go out. Sounds like many Americans are now profiling police officers. Let's look at the issues and not the color ...

    July 27, 2009 at 11:55 pm |
  24. Dave D

    Isn't there ANYTHING more important going on besides this ? There is Black in America, Black in America 2, back to Black in America. That seems to be all I see on CNN these days.

    Wrong is right and white is wrong. We get it already, move on

    Not to change the subject, but what about the politicians that argue against health care reform, and NOBODY dares to ask them on camera if, and how much, campaign contributions they get from the health care lobby. Do you have an agreement that you WON'T ask the questions that PROVE who they really represent ? Do you even need to confront them directly ? Can't you find out another way if they're on the lobby dole ? And if you think it's what you want us to know, you'll tell us right ?

    July 27, 2009 at 11:55 pm |
  25. Glen

    Since Eric Holder wants us all to be brave, why not address one of the leading problems that lead to perceptions of profiling. Specifically the large numbers of crimes committed by black individuals and the resulting need to investigate those crimes. Let's use homicides as an example. The numbers vary a little from year to year, but in any given year, according to the FBI, black individuals commit anywhere from 52-55% of the homicides in the nation. Blacks as a demographic group only make up about 13-14% of the population. Homicides are committed by black individuals at a rate four times the overall representation of blacks in the population. Out of necessity, investigating these homicides leads to questioning a disproportionately large number of black individuals who had nothing to do with the crime. If one is on the receiving end, this can look like what is often referred to as profiling. What would critics have homicide investigators do, remembering of course that most of the victims of these homicides are themselves black?

    July 27, 2009 at 11:53 pm |
  26. nm mom

    What is this – a police state? A senior citizen getting arrested in his own home? This is not China, this is the US. I have two brothers that are cops and they both say the worst thing that can be done is to give a badge and a gun to a bully. Unfortunately for every 20 good cops there's always got to be a bully in the bunch that ruins it for all of them. If a person like Sgt Crowley is teaching a class on racial profiling, no wonder why we have trouble with police. He obviously lied in his report. The 911 caller never identified the person as African American yet that was placed in the report. I suggest any person who thinks that Gates over reacted, think about how you would feel if you came home tired from a trip, couldn't find your keys and then are confronted and arrested by the police. Now think of it happening to your elderly father. I don't think you would be too happy about it either. Unfortunately, there is a long history about this happening disproportionately to Black Men and Latino Men. So there is a reason why a man of color would be defensive.

    July 27, 2009 at 11:52 pm |
  27. Leonard Thomas

    How about some peaceful civil disobediance in reaction to the arrest of a person speaking loudly on the porch. Perhaps the neighbors go out on their porches on the same day of the week at the same time of day and quote loudly some appropriate words until as such time as the police are given proper training in the arrest of a person for disorderly conduct. Because of the backing given the arresting officer by superiors, obviously, the training must begin at the top and trickle down.

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    July 27, 2009 at 11:49 pm |
  28. dale in az

    This blog has beaten this rightful arrest to death, so all I'm going ot post is that SGT Crowley should be commended. Were I faced with the same situation as Sgt Crowley, Mr Gates would have been provided an immediate opportunity to stare at the wood grain of his porch at very close range in about 4 seconds prior to his arrest.

    July 27, 2009 at 11:47 pm |
  29. Mary Bonk

    I am a white, educated, middleclass female, and, I too, have experienced OVERREACTION by a cop. Cops have a certain training, and they have to follow "orders", and they have their "brotherhood" that needs to be protected, and, to a certain extent I can understand it. But, in the case of Professor Gates, I truely believe the cops and their necessary brotherhood, overstepped what was necessary. It sounds like a "pissing match" between a youngish male cop, and a very tired middle-aged man confronted by a hostile person in his own house. Class and Race both play a part in this debacle. Lets try to figure this out and educate ourselves and the professionals that we count on to keep the peace between all of us. Thank you.

    July 27, 2009 at 11:46 pm |
  30. valwayne

    Robert Zimmerman is exactly right. The attitude of the Elites in this country came through lound and clear . The Harvard Elite including Prof Gates and President Obama are the ones that did the profiling here assuming that the officer was engaged in racial profiling if not outright racism, and second that he behaved stupidly because the Harvard Elite thinks that all policeman are stupid. Its a sad day in this country for our police when the Chief Law Enforcement Officer and President of the United States makes it so clear that he mistrusts and despises them.

    July 27, 2009 at 11:44 pm |
  31. Les Mangum

    Why was it necessary for the police to ask the woman living next door to the professor the race or ethnicity of the possible burgulars. A person breaking the law is doing so regardless to their race. Would it really help the police to know if the suspects were black or white. Do they know there are blacks and hispanics who look white. If the police would have speed to the sceen and saw a black man and a white man fleeing the sceen would it be smart to let the white man go and stop the black man. suppose it was a black man but not the one they stopped. And the black man who look white got away. If this sounds loopy it is, but not anymore than the Mass. police departments questions about the suspects color.
    I really like you Anderson, but I think issued a bobble head pass to Tuban and the nice woman Lawyer you had on, tonight when someone should have gotten a ticket for not looking at the subject the way a black man walking the streets of America would.

    July 27, 2009 at 11:43 pm |
  32. Paul

    I believe profiling occurred. In the stress of the moment, Professor Gates profiled the officer as a working class cop he could badger and insult and call a racist - and profiled the cop as someone who would take it, and turn and walk away with his tail between his legs. However, the cop is of a younger generation, who was confident from his experience that he was not a racist... and stood his ground... even against THE HARVARD PROFESSOR. (Harvard is the power in that city).
    Racial profiling is a huge problem. But this incident was not racial profiling, other than what the Harvard professor did (under extreme jet lag, surprise and stress).
    The CNN coverage has been so bias in favor of Professor Gates. In fact, the panelists on both sides of the issue - supposedly arguing the pro and con - have mostly been personal friends of the professor... calling him "Skip Gates."
    A teachable moment? Maybe President Obama can extract a teachable moment... if anyone can... he can. I am glad he is our President now, and not Bush. There are simultaneous realities. One is that many blacks feel so much intense pain and anger... they can not conceive that other realities are possible or justified... other than their pain. Blacks are not to be blamed for this in any way... it is INTENSE PAIN and the legacy of racism. But, if we don't try to understand the subtleties of issues, we will not learn in the teaching. Soledad O'Brien's series on Black In America is a farce of stereotypes.

    July 27, 2009 at 11:42 pm |
  33. tony

    i think prof. Gates. He feels is been violated and disrespectful of his high status in society. So when the police did not give him the respect he wanted. He use race to get the cop in trouble. This time he has calculated wrong that this is high decorated cop with expert in racial profiling. This matter should go away in couple days when the president who have nothing better to do and interfere with local matter. Why can we all just get along and move on....

    July 27, 2009 at 11:27 pm |
  34. dana

    Whether or not Sgt. Crowley was told that the suspects were black and by whom that was included it in his report is a minor point. The fact is, is that they were indeed black!!
    What difference does this make. The caller admitted that she talked to Crowley outside the house but she states it was brief. Maybe it was. But the police officer had talked to many different people (the dispatcher, the lady in the street, the ECC) and he was processing a lot of information from various people while also trying to deal with the yelling hostile uncooperative Prof Gates. The caller apparently did mention suitcases which could be called backpacks. Frankly, people that want to make this a big issue regarding the police report are dwelling on minor points. Prof Gates is denying that he ever referred to Sgt. Crowley's mother so what are we to believe. I think we can believe that Prof Gates lost his cool and got himself arrested, much to surprise and embarrasement. He sounds like an arrogant a** that needed to taken down a notch. Unfortunately, Obama came to his rescue so no reality check there for Prof Gates.

    July 27, 2009 at 11:26 pm |
  35. Sam

    This race issues are getting crazy everyday. Pres. Obama was right the first time and he shouldn't have backed down. It goes to show no matter where we achieve in life we somehow have to bow down no matter what. The professor wasn't wrong.

    July 27, 2009 at 11:23 pm |
  36. Nivlac Skacj

    Cassie you said "There are two sides to this coin. One is that many african-americans choose not to stay in school and grow up facing trouble with the law. " What gives here? This is racist. This is discriminatory. This is wrong. Dropping out of school and getting into trouble with the law are mutually exclusive. It is not against the law to not finish school so why would that guarantee trouble with the law later. As long as people are allowed to propagate racists thoughts and feelings you express we are in for a lot of trouble. Both men were in the wrong but only one did something illegal. The prosecuter took one look at the case and ordered it dropped. Guess which man acted illegally?

    July 27, 2009 at 11:22 pm |
  37. Mike

    No matter how educated and wealthy you are, everyone should know better than to throw a tantrum against a cop. I try to look at it all without any possible skew, from the media or myself. Have wealthy, white politicians/lawyers/etc been arrested before? Yes. A harvard professor should be intelligent enough to make a situation like this run in his favor. However much I disagree with the 'arresting factor' which was the yelling, I'm sure I would like this professor very much and it would be cool to get drunk with both of them at the same time.

    July 27, 2009 at 11:22 pm |
  38. VC,MD

    Jon, I think you are suffering from selective memory loss. The report says that office Crowley identified himself twice and Dr. Gates kept asking him four times. It was Dr. Gates who refused to show an ID and started calling the chief. I am sure that now he understands that it's easier to show your ID and start abusing the police officer who is trying to ensure your safety. Please remember that Office Crowley was still looking for the second person who could well be hiding behind a curtain with a gun in his hand.

    July 27, 2009 at 11:21 pm |
  39. Dave

    I see alot of people quick to jump on the cop ONLY because he is a cop. Laws are what are enforced not public opinion. YES you can be arrested for Disorderly Conduct in your own home. In all 50 states. Those who say this law doesn't exist get your facts straight. If Mr. Gates did not show proper I.D. when requested he could have been charged with Obstruction also, but he wasn't.
    Gates got his charges dropped because he is friends with President Obama. Obama tried to weigh in on something he didn't have the facts on, and it hurt him politicly. He now is backing off his statements.
    Gates himself did not contest HIS actions as reported by police. The only thing he contested was he showed his Collage ID when asked for Identification. Police look for an ID with Home address information containing other personal information. Not ID that say he can get into a collage. This way they can run it and verify the ID. Gates is the story book boy who cried wolf.

    July 27, 2009 at 11:20 pm |
  40. Nivlac Skacj

    The number of racists with computers is alarming. I'm sick of whites always saying the black man should have backed down and kissed the white man's behind. The Constitution gives Mr. gates the rights to act as he did. The Massachusetts law gives Mr. gates the right to act as he did so why do so many whites feel Mr. gates should have backed down. What Mr. gates did was not smart but very legal. What the police officer did was not smart and illegal. Blacks too have rights guaranteed by the Constitution and state laws. This is a case of the police officer getting mad when the black man did not treat him as his master but instead as an equal. Both men acted stupidly in this situation but only one of them broke the law. Check Massachusetts court cases and you will find that the police have been slapped on the hand because of this type of behavior before. This is not an isolated case. It is time to start believing some of the millions of blacks who have claimed illegal arrest, profiling and general denial of their Constitutional rights. Some, not all, of these people were justified in their complaints.

    July 27, 2009 at 11:17 pm |
  41. Arnel Basabe

    I'm glad the president of the United States of America is smack down in the middle. All eyes in every corner of this continent will watch and receive a much needed dose of education from the whole experience. Starting with Dr. Gates and Sgt. Crowley, let this be a lesson that regardless of your education background and accomplishment we need to practice some common sense. Be the bigger person and save each other face. Thus avoiding this ruckus and get on to the more important issue like Health care in America. I'm sick of paying 600.00 dollars a month for insurance and still paying for her deductibles.

    July 27, 2009 at 11:16 pm |
  42. VC,MD

    Why police dropped the charge – because all so called anti-racist liberals started calling the commissioner, the mayor the Governor and even the President. The police decided that it's not worth to spend too much resources on prosecuting Dr. Gates. And I am sure in four hours Dr. Gates would have realized that in USA having the President as your friend does not license you to abuse police officers. I am sure lot of people have no clue how many charges are dropped daily even for the heinous crimes like kidnapping and murder.

    July 27, 2009 at 11:16 pm |
  43. peter mory

    Sounds like Crowley is a great guy. When he arressted a citizen for loudness, why did his judgement and training break down.

    July 27, 2009 at 11:15 pm |
  44. Charles

    There are a lot of comments pro and con. That's good this is AMERICA. but if you live in this country and don't believe in law enforcement or the American Justice System maybe it's time for a change. Iran, perhaps!

    I have heard plenty of pleadings of racial profiling it's an old chant. Anybody ever done a study on who was profiled or were they just not guilty as Mr. Gates claims. There are State Highway Patrols in this country that stopped enforcing narcotic trafficking because of racial profiling "issues". Only to find people were arrested in other states with contraband and went to jail.

    July 27, 2009 at 11:15 pm |
  45. Annie Oakley

    Suz, where in the world are you getting the distorted notion that police officers are here to be "servants" to the public??? For goodness sake – next you'll be expecting them to carry your groceries out to your car for you, wash your windows, and check your oil! They're here to serve and protect. "Serving" the public (a dominant role) and being a "servant" (a submissive role) are two completely different matters. They "serve" by maintaining the peace and enforcing the law. By doing so, we all benefit by getting to live in an all-around safer environment. Prof. Gates was displaying behavior that is largely considered to be "unsafe" (jimmying his way into a house with the help of another man, screaming like a crazy person at a cop, refusing to show proper ID....etc. etc. etc.) which prompted the 911 call and all actions taken against him thereafter. Prof. Gates held the power to keep that situation from getting as ugly as it did simply by obeying the cop's request for an ID right at the onset. Prof. Gates is the servant, in this case, and should have rendered ID when asked. Then he wouldn't have to continually see his mug shot on every news site / paper / program he encounters.

    July 27, 2009 at 11:13 pm |
  46. David Morin

    Why would the dispatcher take valuable time to ask about the ethnicity of the two men forcibly entering the house? Hmmmm... Assuming Crowley throws down on Gates, the smart play is to get your hands in the air and tell the officer the location of your ID, which upon hearing, the smart play for the officer is to quickly establish the identity of the men by looking at their ID, which upon doing the whole incident might have lasted about 3 minutes.If both these fine men had been at their their very best, they could have probably resolved the matter in quickly and both left smiling. What have I learned from this? Meet the neighbors and have a picture of myself on the living room wall. What would Ghandi have done, Professor Gates? What would Elliot Ness have done, Sergeant Crowley? We all have something to learn from this one, would'nt you say, Mr Obama?

    July 27, 2009 at 11:10 pm |
  47. Rob Simmons

    I am a 39 yr old clean cut professional black man, and a veteren of the US armed forces. I have never been charged with a crime, but have been arrested approaching 10 times in my 39 years.

    The first time was when i was a college student. It is an experience that i will never forget!!!! I was the recipient of a six month internship in another city that was about 3 hour away from my home. Because i was away from home and during that time it was hard to get places to take "out of town checks" , So i opened a checking account in the city where i had the internship. At the end of the internship, I closed the checking account and went back home. Several months later back home, there was a knock on the door and there were 2 white police officers that were asking for me. I was told that I had written a bad check for $9.00 to a grocery store and they were there to arrest me. This was the first i had heard about this check so after talking with my parent the officers said that they would allow me time to try and clear up the matter. The next day, I drove back to the city where i had the internship and took care of the bad check. Turns out the check had not been processed at the grocery store for several weeks and by the time it was processed my account was already closed. it cost me more than $200 to clear the matter up. A week later, the same 2 officers show up at my house while my parents weren't at home. I answered the door and they immediately grabbed me and threw me to the ground and handcuffed me. One of the officers said "look 'n-word', we gave you a chance to clear this up, and now we're taking your black ass to jail" . I told then that i had cleared it up, and that i had the paperwork proving that the matter had been resolved in the house, but they would not let me show it to them. I was taken to jail, finger printed, photography, and humiliated!!! I was in jail for several hours until my parents were able to get me out.

    These kinds of things happen to law abiding black men every day, and I don't think if you have never experienced this sort of thing you understand what some of us have had to deal with in our lives and what racial profiling does to us as individuals.

    July 27, 2009 at 11:09 pm |
  48. Pepe Santos

    Disorderly conduct simply means someone is out of control and their behavior is potentially dangerous to themselves or others. When a policeman is present, he is responsible for what is happening. That is a BIG responsibility. The report says Gates refused to cooperate with the officer by yelling at him, accusing him of racial bias, and refusing to calm down after the officer demanded Gates show him identification.

    Gates does not dispute any of this. If this is not disorderly conduct, what is?

    It is my opinion that the average Joe would not have had the charges dropped so fast, and Gates was treated preferentially. Hopefully the esteemed professor has learned that he should follow the law that he pretends to respect, and not act like an idiot when the police come to protect HIS property.

    By his own admission, he alone generated this situation by conducting himself in a disorderly manner while the police were trying to uphold their sworn duty. And he was then given preferential treatment because he is a professor, not because he is black, green yellow, purple, or any other color.

    I salute the officer for doing his job and I admonish Gates for being lawless and acting like a fool in front of the world.

    July 27, 2009 at 11:08 pm |
  49. observer

    We have two new facts that have surfaced today as a result of Mrs Whalen coming forward and the 911 tapes that were released. We now know that Sgt Cowley lied at least twice in his report. Why should we trust anything else he says about the incident. In case you missed it at now point was there any report of two black males, the report was specifically only two males and there was also information in the report that they men had suitcases not backpacks. Secondly Mrs Whalen says Sgt Cowley never spoke to her at any time. Now read his report and see how that matches up.

    July 27, 2009 at 11:08 pm |
  50. fred

    Isn't it interesting that "law-and-order" right wingers always want to conveniently forget the law when an assertive minority is arrested?

    Let's review the facts.....

    (1). The 911 recording clearly shows the neighbor who called the police stated that she was calling out of an abundance of caution. She stated - not once, but several times - that the people on the porch had suitcases and may well be the homeowner returning from a trip. She stated that the person may just be having trouble opening the lock on his own door. She did not mention race. So the police had plenty of advance notice Dr. Gates' story could well be true.

    (2). The canard that a burglar may have been hiding inside has no factual basis. The same two people reported by the neighbor were in the doorway, when police arrived.

    (3). The excuse that Dr. Gates' information was insufficient doesn't wash. If the police had believed Dr. Gates was not the homeowner, he would have been arrested on suspicion of felony burglary, not misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

    (4). Once Dr. Gates demonstrated he was the proper homeowner, the police no longer had a legitimate reason to be on his property. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees privacy from police intrusion in one's home. As soon as he showed he was in his own home, Dr. Gates had every right to order the police to immediately leave his property. The police had a duty to obey that order. The law does not require a homeowner to be nice to a cop. It does require a cop to stay off his property without an invitation or probable cause of a felony crime - which the ID eliminated.

    Can you imagine how the right-wingers would have howled if this had happened to a white guy whom the police thought was carrying an unlicensed firearm? Most times, if you scratch a right-winger, you'll uncover a bigot.

    For everyone's information, I'm white. I grew up in the South. If my car is stopped at night, I turn on the interior lights and keep my hands on the top of the steering wheel. Because I'm white, I do this for the officer's protection. If I were black in Boston, I'd do it for my own.

    July 27, 2009 at 11:06 pm |
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