Comments: "So What"

Really, I think you got this one right on. What rights does a person have to being in his own home in this police state? B.O. is such a weasel, but then, how did he get where he is, not by challenging authority - I don't think?

I've met many of them (psycho police officers), I've had them literally spit in my face trying to provoke a response that might give them an excuse to use the stick, the gun, or just beat the shit out of me. Understanding, they had the guns and I didn't has allowed me to ignore that sort of stuff until they tire and go away, but not everyone has the personality to not respond to unreasonable force and authority, particularly when in their own home. I never experienced that in my own home but out on their turf, like on the highway. Now everywhere is their turf including your own home. It all goes back to the lack of accountability rule, B.O. temporarily forgot the rule, now he's remembered.

Posted by knowdoubt at July 24, 2009 09:17 PM

Are you aware Obama actually said the police acted "stupidly"?

Posted by Jenny at July 24, 2009 09:21 PM

As soon as I realised that the "stupid cop" statement was the first thing Obama's done that I support I knew it was only a matter of time before he walked it back. Hours latter he's praising the cop and asking him to the White House for a beer.

Plenty of chat about this. Most people get the facts wrong or pretend the facts are not "in". But even if you go only by the cop's own report its clear it was a false arrest and he refused to give his name when asked.

He didn't make the arrest in the house though. He lured the professor outside on to the porch so he could make the charge of creating a "public" disturbance seem a little less ridiculous. He did this by refusing to give his badge number and name unless the professor followed him outside and then making a show of getting his cuffs out threateningly.

And that's according to the cop's own written report!!

Posted by DavidByron at July 24, 2009 09:44 PM

Ok, everyone knows that if you provoke a cop then you are going to pay. They have the power to ruin your day, even if you get off later you have a trial, arrest, etc. It was stupid for Gates to do what he did. Everyone with any sense knows that when dealing with authority figures, you can be technically right and practically wrong. Here is the proper way to deal with a pig on the wing: Speak in soft, deferential tones. Use sir, please, and thank you, no matter how poorly you feel inside. If you are an attractive female and the officer is a male, it doesnt hurt to offer favors. If the officer raises the tone of his voice, look down, away and give a slight tremble. Body language is key, an officer is dealing with dangerous situations every day and if you give him reason to fear for his safety you can expect to deal with the consequences. This means proper posture. Slump shoulders forward and slightly bend at the knees.

Perhaps the officer acted rashly, but Gates gets an equal share of blame for not keeping his head about him.

Posted by justin at July 24, 2009 09:46 PM

OMG, Jenny, the outrage!

In case you're curious where the average MSNBC reader stands, there's this poll attached to the article. 78.6% say Obama's content was unfair. The comments are depressing as well.

"Nonsense! How can you 'diffuse' a self-righteous loudmouth who should simply have been GRATEFUL that police were looking after his house. All he had to do was show his ID (something most white people, who don't see "racial profiling" and discrimination behind every move others make, would have done immediately) and take it from there."

"First of all Obama is NOT our first black president, know why? BECAUSE he is 1/2 white, did everybody forget his mother was very very white...so how can ANYBODY say he is black..
"Second, Gates should have showed his ID and kept his mouth shut instead of acting like a spoiled brat, the police were doing there job. Gates should thank them. "

"Fact: You must do what the police ask or tell you or you are subject to arrest."

"Rational D is not very rational. How can you rationalize with a raving lunatic. This black man is set in this thinking and NO amount of rational thinking would have prevailed.
"Isn't it comical that no matter how much education a black man might have, he still reverts back to someone's mama. Are you kidding me. How sophistacated can this guy really be. It's racist like Gates and Obama that keep kindeling racism in this country.
"I hope someone tries to break into Gates home now.... he'll never get another cop at his place again. He basically painted a target on his house for all Burglars to see. Ha ha ha "

"a sobriety test should have been performed....oh, can't do that because he is crippled, then a blood test should have been performed...oh, can't do that, he was on a junket to China and probably high on opium.
"Gates and Obama owe the NATION an apology for setting race relations back decades, but they wont do it, they want the racial divide wider, it makes it easier for Obama and his ilk to take over america. Very popular strategy amongst communists."

"Soldiers, Firemen and Police have jobs that puts their life at risk every day. They come home every night if they are careful, considerate, professional, and lucky. They are heroes. Gates does not respect this."

Read it (at your own peril) and you'll see I'm not nutpicking (much). These are your neighbors.

Posted by Save the Oocytes at July 24, 2009 09:47 PM

It seems to be more of a he said/she said thing. And Obama did stop short of an apology. No, I don't think Gates should've been outright arrested either, it seems he was just yelling.

Here's a discussion if you're interested: http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=48366

Posted by Jenny at July 24, 2009 10:40 PM

Obama apologizes for the most inane thing imaginable, and apparently it's pretty easy to coax such an apology out of him.

I say he should apologize for killing Afghan children, and invite them to the white house for milkshakes, and treatment for their phosphorous burns.

Posted by grimmy at July 24, 2009 10:55 PM

StO: Straight from MY ALABAMA HEART, one drop of black blood makes him black! (He looks black to me). (Hard to be grateful with the cuffs on, BUT THEN, THAT'S what expensive lawsuits are ALL about. The fuckin' U give 4 the fuckin' U got!

Posted by Mike Meyer at July 24, 2009 10:58 PM

If I'm remembering this correctly, there's even a little more to this story: That patrolman ended up dead a little while later and Miles hints in his autobiography that this scuffle may have been the reason why.

Posted by RTT at July 24, 2009 11:39 PM

Cop OPENLY hassels a friend of POTUS, from Harvard, over what is basically a "2 black guys in the neighborhood call",and STUPID is the wrong word? GITMO is full of people in there for less. (hint: GITMO is still open for business)

Posted by Mike Meyer at July 25, 2009 01:42 AM

When Obama speaks before black Americans he always talks of responsibility but I would have to say that Obama’s response was to shirk his responsibility to say something that might have taken a stance against blatant bigotry.

”Miles, Evans, Coltrane, Adderley, Cobb, Chambers” indeed. For me that was the best Jazz small group of all time. Miles had not only a talent for writing the hippest and most beautiful tunes and pulling out the most gorgeous notes in his minimalist way when he played but he also had a talent for bringing out the best in the musicians in his bands. Especially Adderly, I think Adderly never played better than when he was with Miles.

Interesting discussion on the Dorian mode. In fact that is how jazz is taught these days. Dorian for the II minor, Mixolydian for the V7 and of course the major for the major. Then there are other scale choices. Frankly I don’t care for that approach at all; it’s overly simplistic in one sense and vastly cumbersome in another. But it really doesn’t matter what approach you like or don’t like as long as it leads to where you want to get to. The thing is, you have to watch out for those chromatics Bernard, they’ll get you every time!

Posted by Rob Payne at July 25, 2009 02:23 AM

For those who wish for a window into the minds of some of Chicago's "finest" you can read the full police report from the Gates incident over at the Chicago Police blog posted in the "Police Report" thread:

http://secondcitycop.blogspot.com/

The comments are to die for.


Posted by Coldtype at July 25, 2009 06:57 AM

I don't understand why everybody is so certain that this incident was racially motivated. From what I understand, that cop did not say/do anything to suggest that his actions were racially motivated. Nonetheless, Gates has accused the cop of racism multiple times, during the incident itself and subsequently. The only explanation that I can come up with is that Gates is applying racial stereotypes about interactions between white cops and black citizens to conclude that his arrest was racially motivated. But isn't Gates angry about the purported use of racial stereotypes by the cop in dealing with him? So, while Gates behavior was demonstrably racist, the cop's behavior may not have been.

Posted by Rajesh at July 25, 2009 11:15 AM

No matter what else the cop DID NOT leave after discovering the truth, that NO CRIME was committed. He staid long enough to find a FALSE PRETENSE to arrest Gates---THAT'S what makes it racist. (how many WHITE people does Crowley take THAT much effort to false arrest)(cop also DID NOT ID himself, fake cops kill people all the time in Iraq)

Posted by Mike Meyer at July 25, 2009 11:32 AM

Coldtype, could you please reproduce some here? For reasons I don't fully understand, the Chinese government finds the contents of the cop blog impermissible.

Mike, that reminds me of Public Enemy's "Pollywanacraka" off of Fear of a Black Planet:

White mother, white father, white baby.
White mother, black father, black baby.
Black mother, black father, black baby.
Black mother, white father, black baby.

Posted by Save the Oocytes at July 25, 2009 12:07 PM

StO: SO YOU're trying to sell me the idea that The President is actually white? Face facts, honey, a Black Man IS President. Shocking, terrifying, confusing, yes, but still a fact. YOU'll get use to it by the time 4 years are up, I assure YOU. I happen to like Black People. President Obama seems to be very likeable and reasonable as far as politicians go and a 1000% IMPROVEMENT over Bush/Cheney(whichever one was REALLY the president).

Posted by Mike Meyer at July 25, 2009 12:33 PM

Well, I thought Gates acted like a demagogue race-bater, cop's behavior was quite adequate, and everything worked out just fine.

Posted by abb1 at July 25, 2009 12:59 PM

I don't understand why everybody is so certain that this incident was racially motivated. From what I understand, that cop did not say/do anything to suggest that his actions were racially motivated.

See, this is what happens when people aren't able to think about complicated social problems like racism in anything other than individualistic terms. The vast body of evidence about racial profiling, "driving while black", etc. is simply inadmissible. The cop didn't use the "n-word" with Gates, therefore racism has nothing to do with it, case closed.

Posted by SteveB at July 25, 2009 02:02 PM

I hope to god some of the comments above were sarcasm.

The policeman committed a crime - false arrest, assault and at a minimum disturbing the peace himself. He deliberately abused his position to physically attack a citizen. This was not a "mistake" and yes all the evidence needed for this conclusion is "in", even if you assume everything in his written report is true.

He should be fired and arrested, the other cops present should be suspended, retrained and forced to apologise, the police chief who defended him should be fired. Those officers who've gone public in support of this crime should also be suspended or fired if they don't apologise.

As to whether race was a factor well presumably it was because the Harvard professor has said it was. That's not to say that this corrupt cop wouldn't have assaulted a woman or a white person too; cops have been caught torturing (tasering) little old white ladies for the "crime" of not respecting them sufficiently or not obeying orders that the police are not authorised to give.

So race was a factor no doubt but the bigger issue remains police corruption. By backing down the pussy-in-chief has endorsed police corruption.

Posted by DavidByron at July 25, 2009 02:21 PM

Would the police even have been called if the two men trying to force open the door were white? I'm going out on a limb and guess not, especially since at least Prof. Gates was late middle age and respectably dressed. Therefore, the whole underlying pretext for the police being there was racist, and everything that followed from that on the part of the police was racist. They didn't have to call anybody any kind of name for that to be so.

The officer in question insists that he did everything "by the book." I'm going to go ahead and agree that he did, but that "the book" is rotten and needs to be thrown out.

Posted by MC Squared at July 25, 2009 02:41 PM

The policeman committed no crime, or he would've been under indictment now, not to mention there would've been a civil action underway - that's for sure. There is none of that.

The policeman committed no crime, and, IMO, within the constraints of the law (well, perhaps stretching it a bit, but certainly for a good reason) he delivered exactly the kind of civil service Prof. Gates deserved and asked for.

Posted by abb1 at July 25, 2009 02:42 PM

Here goes STO, just a brief sampling from some of my co-workers:

“It`s sad and embarrasing to see how fast a supposed intelligent and respected college professor of one this nation`s top schools is quick to claim racism”

***

“Obama jumped in and cxalled the police stupid. He later spained that he only said that because he was fron Chicago.

Now how do you 35th and Michigan assholes who supported President shithead feel now that he defines stupidity as ‘Chicago Police Department’ 

Since speaking to some officers who supported this shithead I now realize that you feel cowardly and less manly because of your vote. 

A hint: stop bragging about voting for this goof and learn to keep your mouths shut”

***

“Gates acted like an asshole. That should be expected. He studied W.E.B. Dubois who was an asshole too. Of course if he studied Booker T Washington or Frederick Douglass then there would have been no incident at all”

***

“Makes Gates look foolish, don't you think? That officer has some new material for his next racial profiling class. The only "racial profiling" going on here was towards the white police officer. 

It's Post-Racial America folks, time to put the card back in the deck. Better yet, burn it. The only people that pull it out use it to avoid taking responsibility for themselves.”

***

“This is why society is turning to shit.You have STUPID, IGNORANT, ARROGANT FUCKS like this teaching todays youth how to act.”

***

“I think the president owes these officers an apology for calling them stupid on national tv. Also shit for brains Mary Mitchell would probbaly want to read this report before she plays the woe is me role for the black man. You fuck up you go to jail. Yes racial profiling still occurs. It happens to whites also driving through black neighborhoods.......funny she never reports that. The comments Obama made the other night really shows his inexperience as a leader. Thank god I didnt vote for him.......”

***
“What a well written report. It appears that the Sergeant knew how to cover his ass on this mess.”

Posted by Coldtype at July 25, 2009 04:01 PM

Note: The Mary Mitchell comment refers to the Chicago Sun-Times columnist (know as Moprah in Second City cop land)

Posted by Coldtype at July 25, 2009 04:08 PM

Thanks, Coldtype.

Mike, I'm at a loss to see what in any of my comments would lead you to believe I have a problem with having a black president. I was quoting Public Enemy approvingly, as a succinct statement of the mindset. I know the one-drop rule, sadly, is the standard by which race is still judged by many Americans, and I wish (in vain, of course) I lived in a society where people weren't categorized by skin color at all, where no one noticed such a thing because it had no practical consequences.
I also wish I hadn't had to explain that to you.

Posted by Save the Oocytes at July 25, 2009 04:21 PM

This is from Gates' interview, the very beginning of the incident in his own words:


So I went over to the front porch still holding the phone, and I said "Officer, can I help you?" And he said, "Would you step outside onto the porch." And the way he said it, I knew he wasn't canvassing for the police benevolent association. All the hairs stood up on the back of my neck, and I realized that I was in danger. And I said to him no, out of instinct. I said, "No, I will not."

Remember, this is one of 1997 Time magazine's “25 Most Influential Americans”, a rich guy, personal friend of the US president.

Now, I'm not a psychiatrist, but seriously: is this guy a paranoid schizo or what?

Posted by abb1 at July 25, 2009 04:32 PM

I think this story is more about classism in the media than racism in the cop. The story is not that a black man got arrested for trying to walk into his own home, but that a Harvard Professor got arrested. Things like this and much worse happen everyday to poor black people, and poor people in general, but unless they get brutally beaten on camera or tasered to death it doesn't make the news, and even that sort of thing is hardly considered an outrage anymore.

Remember it was a neighbor who called the police. Once the prick showed up he was looking for trouble, if that meant tasering a little old white lady or sodomizing Bozo the clown, or just the standard negrosmacking, somebody was going to get Protected and Served.

I know very well from associating with many social groups that racism is still widespread in this country. But the depravity of cops extends well beyond that. As a white man alone or a white man with another white man, mild mannered, old car, I have been harassed by police on many occasions, including for such behavior as sitting in a car outside of my apartment building for quietly talking to a friend for five minutes at 10pm, which soon resulted in me humping the hood of a big white SUV, surrounded by six pigs.

StO, you are being used as a straw man by an illiterate; I don't think you are going to get anywhere explaining something that is obvious to anyone coherent. He made his stand against you and your racist ilk and he's not backing down. Clearly you are a moslem just begging to take the napalm death of my President. I noticed also that clearly YOU hate kittens, but YOU are going to HAVE to get used to KITTENS, because kittens are here to STAY, you KittenHATER!!

Posted by Marcus at July 25, 2009 05:04 PM

First:
Fellow officer, there at the incident, black, also a sergeant, says he supports "100%" the action taken.
Second:
Remember the Duke University Lacrosse rush to judgement.
Third:
I'm not dumb enough to believe racial profiling doesn't happen, and happen much too often, but this case needs some serious study, not immediate jumping in with "police state democracy" crap.

Posted by G S Herscher at July 25, 2009 05:18 PM

GS

First, my experience is that most police will back other police against the populace.

Second, Massachusetts law has been clearly interpreted (in a case decided last year) that arresting someone in a situation like this for anything but fighting words, is not correct. Thus, the arrest could not be 100% correct

Posted by BillCinSD at July 25, 2009 07:11 PM

Sheesh, do I have to quote it?

Ok, then.

Nigel Tufnel: "D Minor is the saddest of all the keys. It just makes people weep uncontrollably."

Posted by john at July 25, 2009 07:12 PM

To: BillCinSD
I think you make my point: you say arrest for anything but "fighting words" is not correct, but so far none of us out here know, reliably, what was said by whom and when said. So maybe fighting words were spoken? Which would, from what you say, make the arrest perfectly OK.
We should oool down! Check the facts as well as possible. Don't rush to claim racism, police brutality, pigs are always wrong, whatever, before we have a clearer picture of what went on.

I would be surprised if a sergaent on the Cambridge police force hadn't learned how to say one thing and mean something a little bit different. You're right, buddies stick together, but saying "100%" to support his buddy wasn't required. He could have waffled a bit if he didn't feel "100%".
But the point is, none of us know at this time.

Posted by gsherscher at July 25, 2009 08:06 PM

StO: Its the 1/2 white reference. He's a TAXPAYER WHO WON THE PRESIDENCY, why does it even matter what his racial backgroung is? He either does the job or he doesn't and his race has NOTHING to do with that.
ALL this 1/2 white talk is to assuage the racist fear that AMERICA REALLY elacted a Blackman by proposing that WE ELECT ONLY 1/2 of a Blackman and assured OUR security by electing 1/2 of a Whiteman also. THAT'S what is racist.

Posted by Mike Meyer at July 25, 2009 09:10 PM

"Which leads me to my main point. Eleanor Rigby, Scarborough Fair, So What, and all these Dorian tunes share a certain "mood."

Yes, I suppose they do. But mood is a tricky thing as you make clear with the scare quotes, and thank you for that.

I find this analysis fascinating and something that allows me to reconsider what I already consider an amazing and powerful and most of all, a furtive apprehension, when we write about about music.

Specifically to this piece:

The first two songs are horrible and the last one is brilliant and never gets old. All three are in D Dorian.

Therefore; Miles is great. Any questions?

Posted by john at July 25, 2009 09:47 PM

Now, I'm not a psychiatrist, but seriously: is this guy a paranoid schizo or what?

Are you kidding me? I have learned from this event to never under any circumstances step out of my house if the police turn up. Apparently the professor already knew that but then he's black. It turns out this is a common tactic cops use for false arrests. Get the man outside his house, rile him up and then call "disturbing the peace" or whatever.

You also ommited the folowing sentence from your quote which said,

"My lawyers later told me that that was a good move and had I walked out onto the porch he could have arrested me for breaking and entering."
-----------------------------

The policeman committed no crime, or he would've been under indictment now, not to mention there would've been a civil action underway - that's for sure. There is none of that.

http://www.theroot.com/views/skip-gates-speaks?page=0,0

Gates says,

"I’ll be meeting with my legal team, and we will be deciding what kind of legal action I should take. I haven’t made the decision yet."

He also says he couldn't have shouted because of a medical condition he has.

I don't doubt there will be no indictment of the dirty cop by other dirty cops. The mayor apologised for the police conduct but the cops seem out of control and don't respect civilian authority it seems.

Gates witnessed what the cop said and he says it was racist. There's no reason not to believe him is there? I mean its not like Gates is a proven liar and criminal like the police officer.

Posted by DavidByron at July 25, 2009 10:27 PM

Obama's disposition to talk down to black groups before a wider audience, which Rob Payne alludes to above, has always creeped me out.

Now, Obama very publicly invites Gates and the cop to both have a beer with him, maneuvering Gates into a position in which he essentially has to accept, or seem like a jerk.

The talking heads used to engage in endless pop analyses of George W. Bush and his anti-intellectualism, his desire to belittle others, etc. Yet I haven't heard anything along those lines about Obama's desire to humiliate blacks and other supporters.

Posted by grimmy at July 25, 2009 10:38 PM

Yet I haven't heard anything along those lines about Obama's desire to humiliate blacks and other supporters.

Very clever fellow, this Obama. "Humiliates" you by asking you over to his house for a beer. The fucker.

Posted by SteveB at July 25, 2009 11:11 PM

"As to whether race was a factor well presumably it was because the Harvard professor has said it was"

This doesn't strike to me as a particularly convincing argument.

Posted by Rajesh at July 25, 2009 11:24 PM

Unlike the crooked cop, he had/has no reason to lie.

Posted by DavidByron at July 25, 2009 11:48 PM

Yes, SteveB, humiliates.

As in forces Gates to break bread as it were, with the cop, and in effect force him to act, in a staged media event, as if previously expressed rage at being made to justify his presence in his own home was just him being hot-headed and unreasonable. And as I previously said, if he doesn't accept the invite he is made to look like a jerk.

How is it you cannot understand this? Does Obama have to ask him to hug the cop in front of the TV cameras before you see it as humiliation?

Posted by grimmy at July 25, 2009 11:57 PM

"Very clever fellow, this Obama. "Humiliates" you by asking you over to his house for a beer. The fucker."

Yes, well, cheap shots are certainly great fun, but maybe grimmy wrote his comment in good faith and wanted people to take it seriously.

You could take it seriously by not leaving out the part where Obama invited him over for a beer, along with the policeman who abused his power and humiliated him.

I have no idea whether Gates is happy to do this--it is at least possible that he felt some pressure to put aside his own feelings and go along with what his pal wants him to do for his own political purposes. Or maybe he thinks that having a beer with his buddy and the man who place him under arrest is the best way to attack the problem of abuse of power by the police, in which case it's not humiliating at all.

And I've heard rumors to the effect that Gates isn't the only person who's ever had problems with arrogant policemen, so maybe his own personal humiliation isn't the only thing at stake here.

Posted by Donald Johnson at July 26, 2009 12:17 AM

DavidByron, really?

I am a millionaire celebrity Harvard professor, and a cop shows up at my front door in an upper class Cambridge, MA neighborhood, and he tells me "would you step outside onto the porch" - and that's, according to you, a good, solid reason for "all the hairs to stand up on the back of my neck"?

Well, what can I say? At a minimum - you must double your dose of Prozac immediately.

Posted by abb1 at July 26, 2009 04:38 AM

ABB1 -- I think we can assume, since Gates actually says so, that there was something menacing in Crowley's tone when he demanded that Gates step outside without explaining why he was there. Crowley had a choice at the moment either to treat Gates with hostility as a suspect or with respect as a citizen. Crowley was looking at a well-dressed man talking on the phone inside the house, behaving normally, coming to the door, which showed no signs of forced entry, everything pointing to the "with respect as a citizen" mode and Crowley opted to treat Gates with hostility. Gates' natural reaction to a hostile, armed police officer inexplicably ordering him out of his house was alarm, hence the hairs going up on the back of neck.

Posted by Emma at July 26, 2009 05:33 AM

I don't detect any hostility in "would you step outside onto the porch". This is what the cops say. And I can't imagine a tone this would make this phrase hostile, sorry.

I'm trying: "WOULD you step outside onto the porch"? "Would YOU step outside onto the porch"? "Would you STEP OUTSIDE onto the porch"? "Would you step outside onto the PORCH"?

Sorry, doesn't work for me.

Posted by abb1 at July 26, 2009 05:57 AM

OK. Let's assume that there is no way in the world to say to somebody for no apparent reason "Step out on the porch" in an aggressive, alarming way. How about, "Good afternoon, sir. We had a report of two men trying to open this front door. Have you had any problems here?"

Posted by Emma at July 26, 2009 06:36 AM

Assume that Gates acted like an asshole. Assume the sergeant asked 'Would you please step outside?" in the nicest possible way. Assume Gates said "You are a racist pig, get the fuck out of my house." The officer must leave. No doubt about it. He is unlawfully in the house, no warrant, no arrest, no exigent circumstances. It may offend some that the law allows a citizen the right to remain in his house unmolested under such circumstances, but there it is.

Obama had to defuse the situation because he didn't want to spend the next two weeks trying to educated the sheep like abb1 (who I take to be serious, rather than a poor parodist) that the police have no right to question you without probable cause, no right to be in your home without your consent , a warrant or incident to a crime, and no right to remove you from your home without probable cause and an arrest.

The fact that a police officer with a gun or a taser might illegally assault you is no reason to do what he says, unless you live in a democratic police state and are too terrorized to admit it or too cowardly to contest it as Gates did.

Posted by drip at July 26, 2009 07:18 AM

drip, he responded to a 911 call for a burglary in progress.

Are you really saying that in response to "you are a racist pig, get the fuck out of my house" (which sounds pretty close to what happened there) he should just salute, turn around and leave? Are you insane?

Emma, the phrase is by Skip Gates' account, and I suspect it is quite likely that he did skip (pun intended) a few words there like "please" or "good evening".

In any case, "would you step outside onto the porch" seems perfectly alright to me, this is exactly what I would expect from a cop. But then, of course, I'm not used to being chauffeured around in a limo, so what do I know.

Posted by abb1 at July 26, 2009 07:34 AM

How is it you cannot understand this? Does Obama have to ask him to hug the cop in front of the TV cameras before you see it as humiliation?

Look, I understand that you don't like Obama (I don't either) but I think portraying his lame effort to defuse the backlash to his own comments as a scheme to "humiliate" Gates is a bit over the top.

I was shocked by Obama's statement that the Cambridge police "acted stupidly", because: 1) it's a perfectly sensible thing to say, and 2) I agree with it, and in all my years of observing American presidents, I'm not used to hearing them say sensible things that I agree with.

Right after I heard that, I thought, "Oh, the right wing is going to stir up a shitstorm about this, and Obama, being a Democrat, is going to apologize for it." Which they did, and which he did. But I still give him some credit for uttering the statement in the first place, when he could have easily done a Scott McClellan Standard Response #7: "I cannot comment on an ongoing investigation."

Why do you think he made that statement about the police "acting stupidly"?

Posted by SteveB at July 26, 2009 09:40 AM

SB,
No, I don't see it as a deliberate scheme to humiliate Gates so much as a willingness to do so. In this it's possible that Obama is being just another politician, and not conspicuously worse than average, but given his role as the first non-caucasian president, his buckling will just serve to embolden various bigoted and reactionary elements of society.


Gates doesn't owe it to Obama or the cop to attend the event, but he's being put on the spot, and for all intents and purposes he'll have to. Considering that the "get-together", if and when it occurs will be to placate the cops who made a stink about how one of their own was maligned, asking Gates to attend is asking him, symbolically, to apologize to the cop for supposedly having been obnoxious, even if the actual words aren't uttered.

Being coerced into socializing in front of the cameras with the jerk who arrested you, cuffed you in front of your neighbors and hauled you off, and then being forced to pretend it doesn't bother you-- no big deal?

Maybe if somebody arrested you it would make you feel differently. I'm not wishing this on you, just suggesting a failure of empathy and imagination on your part.

Regarding your question, I'm assuming Obama's initial statement is an accurate reflection of his view. But sincerity doesn't count for much if you later take it back.

Posted by grimmy at July 26, 2009 10:38 AM

drip, he responded to a 911 call for a burglary in progress.
And was given ID and an explanation that Gates was in his own house -- no burglary in progress.

Are you really saying that in response to "you are a racist pig, get the fuck out of my house" (which sounds pretty close to what happened there) he should just salute, turn around and leave?
The salute is unnecessary, and they certainly aren't the words I would have chosen, or that Gates did choose, but if the sergeant wanted to comply with the law, yes, he has to leave the house.

Are you insane?

Maybe, but not crazy enough to surrender my liberty to a police officer on demand.

Posted by drip at July 26, 2009 10:50 AM

Well, it's his job to investigate the report of a break-in. What exactly was involved in it in this particular case I don't know, and neither do you. So, I'm afraid, you're acting as a pompous pontificator here.

Posted by abb1 at July 26, 2009 11:17 AM

What exactly was involved in it in this particular case I don't know, and neither do you. Well it's true that I only know what Crowley said happened and you could know that too, if you wished to. I take his words as the truth and conclude that there was no cause for the arrest. I don't know if the Middlesex County DA reached the same conclusion, but there are no charges pending.

Posted by drip at July 26, 2009 12:08 PM

abb1: The Prosecuter does NOT agree with YOU, he/she dropped ALL charges=the cop was wrong.

Posted by Mike Meyer at July 26, 2009 12:11 PM

Mike, no. The guy went berserk, they arrested him, held him for 4 hours, the guy cooled off, they let him go and dropped the charges. Nothing unusual, happens all the time.

Posted by abb1 at July 26, 2009 12:20 PM

abb1: Ah, they just held him that long as it probably took that long for the prosecuter to hear what was going on, process the paperwork, and, of course, to show Gates who's boss. 4 hours IS relatively a SHORT processing time.
As a wino and railroad tramp, I've had some SMALL experiences in this sort of power play with the police. I've found through the years that when confronted alone with a man with a gun and a club, 'tiz probably best to be polite, BUT when in the RIGHT to ALWAYS say so and take the heat. Gated did EXACTLY what he should have and the cop didn't. I WILL enjoy the LAWSUIT repoting and with ALL this publicity, Crowley will most likely be unemployed soon, budget and job cuts being the norm these dayz.

Posted by Mike Meyer at July 26, 2009 01:09 PM

Abb1, you want to perceive the whole episode through the classism lens, and there's some truth to that, but you insist on ignoring the police abuse of authority and any possible element of racism (even if unconscious).

If it "happens all the time", it means that the police abuse their authority all the time. We don't make a big deal out of it when it happens to some poor person, black or white, but it becomes a media circus when it's a Harvard prof who is a friend of Obama. That's the class angle (I don't buy the crap some are preaching about cops being blue collar and oppressed, so I leave that out).


Posted by Donald Johnson at July 26, 2009 01:10 PM

The guy went berserk, they arrested him, held him for 4 hours, the guy cooled off, they let him go and dropped the charges. Nothing unusual, happens all the time.

In a police state, people are arrested on bogus charges. In a police state, tumultuous behavior, as defined by police, behavior which harms no one, is cause for arrest. In a police state, police decide whether charges should be dropped or processed. In a police state, the inured people find the deprivation of liberty, whether for four minutes, four hours, or four weeks, nothing by which to be perturbed.

Kind of Blue is a timeless masterpiece which, paradoxically, sounded dated after Bitches' Brew. Miles was always seeking to "make it new."

Posted by cavjam at July 26, 2009 01:15 PM

In this it's possible that Obama is being just another politician, and not conspicuously worse than average, but given his role as the first non-caucasian president, his buckling will just serve to embolden various bigoted and reactionary elements of society.

I don't think any of the regulars here (including me) have ever thought of Obama as anything more that "just another politician." In saying the Cambridge police "acted stupidly", he spoke the truth, and in this country Presidents are not supposed to speak the truth if it impinges on our national mythology about the police and the military. And those myths have such a powerful grip on our national consciousness that Obama's apology makes a negligible contribution to their power. In all of this, Obama is essentially a bit player.

Gates doesn't owe it to Obama or the cop to attend the event...

I don't think there's going to be an event for him to attend. I don't think it's a serious invitation, just an awkward attempt to diffuse the situation with some humor. Obama certainly has no interest in prolonging his involvement in this matter.

Posted by SteveB at July 26, 2009 01:23 PM

Rajesh, I really appreciate your thoughtful and measured comments on this.

Posted by John Caruso at July 26, 2009 02:03 PM

Obviously you have no idea what the phrase "police state" means. Hint: it's not a place where people are arrested for shouting insults and obscenities on the streets.

Also, I find this metaphysical "unconscious racism" thing completely ludicrous. It's like you're trying real hard to fit this story into this "poor innocent black kid and a racist cop" template. Well, it just isn't that story, that's all.

Posted by abb1 at July 26, 2009 02:21 PM

What you're missing, abb1, is that NOBODY here is putting Henry Louis Gates up for Citizen of the Year. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the guy's a complete jackass - the fact remains, that in a genuinely free country (as described in our bill of rights) you should be able to be a jackass, even in the presence of a police officer, and not get arrested for it. And the fact that the Cambridge police department, in all likelihood, will end up paying Gates for his troubles should be a clue as to who's in the wrong here.

And my reading of the term "police state" as it's being used here, is "a state where there is too much deference to the police," not "a state where dissenters are marched off to detainment camps."

Posted by SteveB at July 26, 2009 03:24 PM

1. AWESOME Mr. Miles Davis + AWESOME group of musicians making music = FABULOUS music....and then I go and listen to my CD, "Kind of Blue" and listen to All Blues. And I tell myself, the day my soul starts wandering, I hope, all that music will be playing.
Thank you Prof Chazelle.

2. That 'use of excessive force by police' and 'police brutality' is a way of life in our country, is beyond doubt. That majority of the victims are African Americans and Latinos ( which did not spare even individuals like Mr. Miles, whose name was displayed outside the club where he was abused by the police ), has been shown by many studies.

Below are an Op-Ed and an article which discuss the current event relating to Prof Gates and Cambridge police dept.. worth reading.

“Skip” Gates
A Curious Martyr in the Struggle Against Racism

By Paul Street
http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/22126

Obama, Gates and the American Black Man
By GLENN C. LOURY
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/26/opinion/26loury.html?th&emc=th

Posted by Rupa Shah at July 26, 2009 04:04 PM

you should be able to be a jackass, even in the presence of a police officer, and not get arrested for it.

A police officer has discretion.

Suppose you're driving 45mph in a 35mph zone, and a cop stops you. He can give you a ticket, or he can give you a warning. If you smile and call him Sir, he might give you warning, if you act normally, he might give you ticket for 5mph over the limit, but if you start yelling and insulting him - you're sure asking for a full-monty ticket, and he will probably check your blinkers and inspection stickers, and he might test you with a breath analyzer too - just to see if he can get you for that. Agree?

Is any of this illegal? No. Is it unfair? I don't think so; this is how human society functions. Reciprocity. It's normal, it's ordinary, it's totally unremarkable.

Same is the Gates/Crowley story. The cop thought he had enough excuse to arrest Gates and he did, because Gates was asking for it. This is a veteran cop and there were plenty of witnesses, so I assume the arrest was perfectly legal, no problem there.

So, what's the problem? I don't see any. Don't be an asshole - and people (including cops) will not be assholes to you. In most cases.

Posted by abb1 at July 26, 2009 04:33 PM

A must read article about one police dept..... the statistics! Also, how profiling affects the psyche of African American men, regardless of class, to not question the police ( to avoid consequences)!

"Black males' fear of racial profiling very real, regardless of class"
By Richard Fausset and P.J. Huffstutter

Lawrence Otis Graham, the author of books about affluent African Americans, says wealthy blacks may actually be subjected to more racial profiling than other African Americans.
Several African American professionals find professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s recent encounter with police all too easy to relate to. Their lingering question is when to speak up.


http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-racial-profiling25-2009jul25,0,7041188.story

Posted by Rupa Shah at July 26, 2009 04:35 PM

First, thank you Donald Johnson, for your kind and decent words.

but back to - ____

1."Very clever fellow, this Obama. "Humiliates" you by asking you over to his house for a beer. The fucker."

and if that doesn't work,

2.I don't think there's going to be an event for him to attend. I don't think it's a serious invitation, just an awkward attempt to diffuse the situation with some humor.

"You're invited to the white house by the president. Kidding!"


I am done discussing this. If you have another wrinkle to add, by all means I'll let you have the last word.

Posted by grimmy at July 26, 2009 05:08 PM

Suppose you're driving 45mph in a 35mph zone, and a cop stops you. He can give you a ticket, or he can give you a warning.

So you've broken the law and you want the police officer to do you a favor, so you should be nice to the police officer. Can you see how this is different from Gates' situation? He hadn't broken the law, and he wasn't asking the police for any favors, other than to get the fuck off his porch.

Is any of this illegal? No. Is it unfair? I don't think so; this is how human society functions. Reciprocity. It's normal, it's ordinary, it's totally unremarkable.

Nobody's saying there's anything unusual about police using their arrest powers against people who insult them.

I'll go beyond your "don't be an asshole" rule to say we should treat everyone with respect, whether it's the cop on your front porch or the person who sells you a latte in the morning. The question (which you still don't seem to be getting) is whether people should be arrested if they violate this golden rule. Police are the only people in our society who get to throw a person in jail merely because they've been insulted. The fact that you, and millions of other Americans (perhaps a majority of Americans) find this to be completely unremarkable is a sign of creeping authoritarianism.

Posted by SteveB at July 27, 2009 08:39 AM

I don't know if they should be arrested, but if they can be arrested they certainly will be arrested, which is exactly what happened here.

Again: the guy was disturbing the peace by screaming insults and obscenities from his porch at people on the street, and that allows cops to arrest him. And because he was actually yelling at them, they didn't do him the favor of letting it slide. Is this so complicated?

Yeah, and if he was insulting the guy who sells him a latte in the morning, he would've been drinking his latte every morning mixed with that guy's spit (or worse). I think I would prefer to be arrested.

Posted by abb1 at July 27, 2009 09:39 AM

the guy was disturbing the peace by screaming insults and obscenities from his porch at people on the street

Please, tell me what "obscenities" he was screaming at the "people on the street." Even the police report doesn't claim this. Nobody's claiming his language was obscene, and, if he was yelling, it was at the cop, not "people on the street."

and that allows cops to arrest him.

Does it? Why? Again, you're assuming that Gates' behavior was criminal, simply because the police say it was criminal. If that's the case, why isn't the police dept. pressing charges?

The standard you're promoting is that the police should be able to arrest people, not because they feel that they themselves or members of the public are in danger, or because property is in danger, or because a crime is being committed, or because a crime may be committed, but because they feel personally insulted.

Let's apply your thinking to another profession that deals with the public: an emergency room doctor that has to deal with a patient, let's say a drug addict who is still under the influence, who is verbally abusive - should she withhold care, or spit on the needle before inserting it? If not, why not?

There are lots of professions (doctor, public defender, public school teacher) where you're expected to endure insulting behavior from the people you're paid to serve without losing your cool and involving the institution you work for in a potentially costly lawsuit. Don't police have similar professional standards? If not, why not?

And I understand very well that people may often fall short of their own professional standards. When they do, they should be criticized, rather than having the "everyone does it" defense applied on their behalf.

Posted by SteveB at July 27, 2009 10:46 AM

"Also, I find this metaphysical "unconscious racism" thing completely ludicrous. It's like you're trying real hard to fit this story into this "poor innocent black kid and a racist cop" template. Well, it just isn't that story, that's all."

Unconscious racism is pretty damn common. I grew up around people who denied they were racist when they clearly were. Get on the Israeli-Palestinian topic and you'll see unconscious anti-Arab racism permeating the way some liberals talk about it. I'm fairly sure many of them don't know this about themselves--hence the "unconscious" aspect of it.

As for this incident, I actually don't see it the way you conveniently--it's possible there was unconscious racism and that the cop reacted more harshly to an older black man than he would have to a white, but I don't know. The frame I see it in is where someone in a uniform thinks he has the right to arrest someone when no crime has been committed. I also see it in the frame where many Americans give kneejerk support to both the cops and the military. I think there's an unhealthy degree of authoritarianism in our culture and am surprised to see you siding with it. But whatever.

As for Gates, there's also an element of classism in this--if he threw around his connections as the cop claims than he is also an asshole. I don't have much difficulty imagining assholes on both sides of this incident. Real life incidents frequently don't fall neatly into our political categories, but people try to force them into one all the same. You're doing it, just with the classism angle rather than the racism one.

Posted by Donald Johnson at July 27, 2009 12:32 PM

So, cops are not people to you, huh. Nice.

And I do remember something about him shouting (according to the report): "I'll speak with your mama outside," so I assumed there were obscenities. If not, it doesn't matter.

The fact that the charges were dropped doesn't mean anything, they do it all the time. Not important enough to prosecute.

...but because they feel personally insulted

Listen SteveB, I don't know how else I can explain it to you: disorderly behavior and disturbance of the peace is a crime. People are arrested for this crime every day, hundreds of times. It is a crime. If you start yelling at people (even cops) you will eventually get arrested. That's the law. It's a crime.

A doctor will probably just sedate a guy who's insulting him and that's certainly more invasive than an arrest.

Posted by abb1 at July 27, 2009 12:44 PM

Donald, I don't know, the cop is an expert and instructor in racial profiling. If anything, he probably was a bit more polite than he would be with a white guy.

Posted by abb1 at July 27, 2009 12:52 PM

I wonder how you can read "Please, tell me what obscenities he was screaming at the people on the street," and get "cops are not people to you."

And I do remember something about him shouting (according to the report): "I'll speak with your mama outside," so I assumed there were obscenities.

Glad to see you admit this is an assumption. I'm sure you know that "obscenity" has a legal definition that police are supposed to understand and observe, and "I'll speak with your mama outside" doesn't meet it.

If not, it doesn't matter.

OK, so he was shouting obscenities, oh wait, he wasn't, but it doesn't matter anyway. Got it.

The fact that the charges were dropped doesn't mean anything, they do it all the time. Not important enough to prosecute.

Police departments can be pretty obstinate about prosecuting, when they think they have a case. They're also usually smart enough to drop the charges when the case they have is bullshit.

I don't know how else I can explain it to you: disorderly behavior and disturbance of the peace is a crime.

Well, this is our fundamental difference: you think a crime was committed because the police say a crime was committed. I say that under our system, it's judges and juries that get to decide whether a crime was committed. Except, in this case, a judge and jury will never get to see the case because the Cambridge police dropped the charges. If the police thought they had any chance of sustaining these charges, they'd pursue it, if only as a bargaining chip in negotiations over a settlement of the inevitable civil suit.

And, if I was a tax-paying citizen of Cambridge, MA, that's what would anger me most: my taxes are going to a substantial settlement to an already privileged and wealthy man, simply because one of our cops couldn't keep his cool and act like a professional. Thanks a lot, Officer Crowley!

Posted by SteveB at July 27, 2009 01:18 PM

So, SteveB, in your bizarro world no one can be arrested until they have been convicted - is that it?

You know, there were probably a dozen witnesses to that arrest, so where's the ACLU, why isn't there any scandal? So, what's your evidence that the arrest was bad - that the charges were dropped? And that's your whole case?

Ha-ha, what about all those cases when charges are reduced, is that also indication of a police misconduct? C'mon, you can't be serious.

Posted by abb1 at July 27, 2009 01:49 PM

Here:
http://www.cambridgema.gov/CPD/News/newsDetail.cfm?story_id=2250


The City of Cambridge and the Cambridge Police Department have recommended to the Middlesex County District Attorney that the criminal charge against Professor Gates not proceed. Therefore, in the interests of justice, the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office has agreed to enter a nolle prosequi in this matter.
The City of Cambridge, the Cambridge Police Department, and Professor Gates acknowledge that the incident of July 16, 2009 was regrettable and unfortunate. This incident should not be viewed as one that demeans the character and reputation of Professor Gates or the character of the Cambridge Police Department. All parties agree that this is a just resolution to an unfortunate set of circumstances.

Of course they don't want to fight a dream-team of Harvard best lawyers for a $200-worth charge of disorderly conduct.

Posted by abb1 at July 27, 2009 02:01 PM

in your bizarro world no one can be arrested until they have been convicted - is that it?

In some cases, the question before the court is who committed the crime - e.g. we have a dead body, and the state is trying to make a case that the defendant is the one who committed the murder.

But in other cases (like the one we're discussing) it's open to question whether any crime has been committed at all. Think about it: if the case did go to trial, the question before the court wouldn't be who did the "crime" - nobody disputes that Gates was there, and arguing with the police - but whether any crime at all has been committed. If that's not an open question, why would we bother to have trials at all?

To decide, at this point, that a crime has definitely been committed, simply on the police's say-so, is a level of deference to the police that I'm not comfortable with. Obviously, you're fine with taking the cop's word for it. That, as I've already said, is where we disagree.

Posted by SteveB at July 27, 2009 02:11 PM

Yes, it is an open question and, had there been a trial, Gates could've been acquitted. I'm not denying it.

This says absolutely nothing about the validity of the arrest, though.

Suppose cops see someone breaking into a car, they arrest the guy, later the car owner shows up and confirms that this is his friend whom he asked to break into his car. Charges dropped, no crime has been committed, but the arrest is still perfectly legal.

Same here: disturbance justifies the arrest. They didn't have to arrest him, but he gave them a good excuse.

Posted by abb1 at July 27, 2009 03:10 PM

They didn't have to arrest him,

Exactly. He wasn't a threat to anyone, and the cop could have defused the situation by simply leaving. As one New York City cop quoted in one of the news reports put it, "If I can see that I'm the provocation, then I leave."

but he gave them a good excuse.

Well, it's an excuse that's good enough to satisfy some people.

Posted by SteveB at July 27, 2009 03:44 PM

Yes, abb1 , we get it--don't fuck with the man, not even in front of your own home.

I have my own boring story to tell of encounters with state troopers. Boring, because I was perfectly willing to get out of the car and tell them where I was going and not say one even slightly sarcastic word to the nice men who could have beaten me to a pulp with no witnesses around and so nothing happened except that I was stopped for no reason that I could see. One would think Gates would have known better, especially since he's a black man in America, but apparently his class consciousness (Harvard prof, friend of Presidents, gets treated respectfully on PBS shows) got the better of him.

Posted by Donald Johnson at July 27, 2009 03:46 PM

Exactly, Donald.

Posted by abb1 at July 27, 2009 04:42 PM

abb1 has no idea what constitutes a crime, it seems. You cannot disturb the peace without another, non-police officer present. The entire point of a charge of disturbing the peace is that other citizens may be incited to violence. Police officers are not expected to be incited to violence -- there's actually MA caselaw on this. Ergo, Gates committed no crime and the police officer committed a crime: this is the conclusion one reaches by reading Crowley's own report. In other words, even pretending Crowley isn't a liar and his report on Gate's words that night weren't also lies, he's still a criminal. And abb1 would rather back a criminal thug than a citizen who has committed no crime.

Posted by No One of Consequence at July 29, 2009 06:34 PM

http://www.distantocean.com/2009/07/the-nonevent-of-the-century.html?cid=6a00d834200af253ef011571546fab970c#comment-6a00d834200af253ef011571546fab970c

Posted by abb1 at July 30, 2009 03:59 AM