UPDATED (based on feedback from commenters, new information, and some other data)

Is racial bias ever a factor in police work? Was racial bias a factor in GatesGate, the recent incident in Cambridge Massachusetts involving Harvard scholar Skip Gates and the Cambridge Police? Here, I want to relate an incident in which I was involved in which a very strong racial bias clearly occurred, in which the police tried to arrest a black man principally because he was black even though he was totally innocent, and at the same time, gave undue sway to a white man. First a little context, then the parable.

As the facts emerge it becomes clear that Skip Gates was unlawfully arrested by the Cambridge Police, and that while this may not have exactly been a hate crime, there is a reasonably good chance that racial bias was involved. I have a feeling that Skip Gates himself would be the first to point out that this is not the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone, there are much worse cases where racia bias ultimately victimizes a person of color. I assure you that on the same evening dozens, nay, hundreds, of equally black men very much in their own homes were also busted by racist white police officers at various locations across this country, and they didn’t do anything either.

Why was the arrest unlawful? Well, technically, it was not, but he was arrested under a widely used type of statute that is designed to keep the peace but is in fact used by the police to directly punish people who give them lip.

Clearly, race is a factor in this case, which is in part why we are talking about it here. The very validity of the concept of race itself can and should be questioned, and despite modest efforts of educating the public (like this exhibit), a questionable social model of biological race persists in Western society. (See this and this.) Racism is at the root of well known horrific historical events and singular murderous acts. Racial bias affects people’s jobs, people’s health, and increased a person’s chance of being in prison if their skin is not white. Racialized thinking and racism can be very bad for the health of those with subaltern status (usually that means “non white”). Racialized thinking and racial bias can lead to unabashedly bald faced blaming, to absurd fear-based bias amongst members of the same, upper class, to outrageous acts of senseless violence, and to deeply insulting political decisions. Despite a lack of research, there is evidence that race plays a role in policing from the police (staffing) end of things. Driving while black, shopping while black, and apparently being in your house while black, are representitive outcomes of a racialized society. Racial profile and policing can go hand in hand.

This will all get sorted out and there are already strong indications from Cambridge that the ultimate outcome of Gatesgate will be a positive and forward moving learning experience for all. So, while that is happening, let me tell you my story about black and white and the Cambridge Police.

So, here’s the story. I knew someone who lived in an apartment building on Irving Street south of Kirkland. This was an apartment that I had formerly lived in, and which is about 400 feet from where Skip Gates lives. At the time, I lived in a dorm with Barack Obama. Well, OK, not really, but I did live in the law school dorm and Barack Obama was in law school at the time, so it may well have been him leaving the moldy sour cream in the refrigerator all the time. Who knows?

Anyway, one day the person I knew on Irving street called me. It was after dark, and as usual, I was in the lab (where I spent most of my time when I was not in the field in those days) which was not very far from this particular address on Irving Street.

“Somebody is breaking into my apartment. They tried getting into the back door but that dead bolt you put on there last year held.”

“Did you call the police?”

“Yes, and I also called the neighbors upstairs. The guy got into her apartment, but saw her and got scared off. He was carrying a VCR machine or something.”

“OK, well, keep the door locked. I’ll come over … I bet I beat the police there!”

And I did. I jogged the three blocks and rang her up on the intercom.

“I’m downstairs.”

“I just heard him again trying to force a door. You better get out of there because if he comes out the door ….”

“… if he comes out the door, his ass is mine!”

“No, wait, that’s danger….” click. Delusions of grandeur swept over me as I flicked off the intercom and walked outside onto the street. To take care of this.

There were effectively two ways out of this building. There was the main entrance, where I had just been using the intercom, and the back stairway which led to the same street as the main entrance via a hallway. There was also a rear entrance but it led to an alley with a tall locked gate, so it wasn’t really a way out.

It was early Spring and cold. There was no snow on the ground, but easterly breezes from the ocean had kept the air rather crisp. I was wearing my long black wool Harvard Coop coat (which I still have, by the way) and my dark brown cowboy hat. (Which I guess I still have too. I don’t get new clothes that often.) I shoved my hands menacingly into my pockets and stood menacingly by the curb near the secondary door, expecting the bad guy to come out into view at any time, so I could menace him. But what I was really waiting to see, besides the belated Cambridge Police force which had been summoned by this time about 15 minutes earlier, was the getaway car. There was no way that one person was in there robbing electronics without someone around here with a car to drive the electronics away in.

I was about to start looking in each of the many cars parked on the street for the one with the bag man hiding in it, when I saw headlights heading down Irving Street, which was one way going south. I could tell right away that this was not a police cruiser or detective. In fact, the car was a compact and it was driving very erratically. As the car got closer, I identified it thus: A stolen dark red small ford sedan with a standard transmission being driven by a man who does not know how to drive a standard transmission, and who persists in looking furtively around.

He got one look at me, staring at him menacingly, gave a start and got out of there. He rushed haltingly to the end of Irving and turned right. Just at that moment, from a side street just north of me, there turned a Cambridge Police Cruiser. I stepped into the street and waved the cruiser to a stop. Walking over to the window, as it rolled down, I said to the officer driving the car:

“You are looking for a stolen dark red small ford sedan with a standard transmission being driven by someone who does not know how to drive a standard transmission, and who persists in looking furtively around. That would be the bag man. He just turned right there (pointing). If you’re quick, you’ve got ‘em.”

And with that the cruiser accelerated down the street, bubble gum lights turning on, screeching through the right turn, and a moment later the bag man was in the bag.

A few seconds after that two more cruisers pulled up and pretty soon there were three Cambridge cops standing in front of the building. Before I got a chance to speak to them, the secondary door to the apartment building opened and out came a man. He was about 30 years old, African American, and his name was Jack.

The police immediately grabbed him, one cop on each side, another with one hand on his revolver and the other hand pulling out his whacking tool (some sort of night stick).

“Hey, hey, what are you doing? I’m the manager! I’m the building manager!”

The police ignored him and started to twist his arms back to throw on the cuffs. I walked calmly, and whitely, over to the fray.

“Excuse me, officers, this man is indeed the building manager. His name is Jack.”

Instantly, the police unhanded Jack and stood back.

“Officers, the man you are looking for is still in the building and is carrying one or two electronic devices, unless he’s dumped them somewhere.”

“Hey, man, that’s right. He’s up on the third or fourth floor right now,” added Jack, pointing, pulling out his keys and opening the door for the police to enter the building.

“Thanks!” one of the officers said to me (not to Jack) as the three of them cautiously headed down the dark hallway to the stairs.

I chatted with Jack for a while, the police came out with their man, a tow truck came by to pick up the stolen Ford. A few weeks later I received a commendation from the District Attorney for my efforts.

All I can say at this point is that it is a good thing there was a white guy on the scene to straighten everything out. Twenty years ago. But of course, I’m sure things are very different now in Cambridge, MA.

Comments

  1. #1 Jason
    July 24, 2009

    About ten years ago, I got a knock on the door. Police, saying they had received a call about a b&e at my address. I showed them my ID, and they still made me sit on my porch, neighbors gawking for 15 minutes. I was humiliated and infuriated. But looking back, they didn’t know if I had a restraining order at the address, or evicted, etc. just from my ID. They had to check.

    That said, whether the cop in question was racist or not, he should have understood that a strong history of racism in the police department entitled Dr. Gates to express his anger in his own home. That is a major problem, wrongful arrest results in pretty much no consequences for an officer. A cop and a citizen argue, the cop can just arrest you and then you have to spend large amounts on a lawyer, spend the night in jail, and other serious problems regardless if there was any merit to the charge.

  2. We have three observations about the Harvard professor incident:

    1. We find it interesting that the fact that this was the professor’s home was evidently not established early on way before the dispute escalated;

    2. We find it fascinating that the versions of two members of society, who most would ordinarily view as responsible and honest citizens (this obviously does not include politicians), would vary so dramatically from a factual point of view.

    3. Finally, considering that the reading and viewing public were not present at the scene (and thus have no first hand knowledge), and that there is no video tape to our knowledge of the sequence of events and what was said, how so many have formed conclusions, and made assumptions, about who did what and who was wrong.

    There are some things which Professor Gates might have considered upon the arrival of the police, no matter how incensed he may have been.

  3. #3 Tony P
    July 24, 2009

    Policing is interesting. I remember when I was 17 years old. I was working at the NHD store on Branch Avenue in Providence, RI.

    I see police lights all out in front of the store. I walk outside to see a friend of mines car being searched. Uh oh.

    I knew a couple of the cops and asked what was up. The one cop I knew asked if I knew the guy. He looks over at the other cops and says “Leave it.” then to me and says “Can you drive him home, his license is suspended.”

    Told my boss I’d be back in 20 minutes or so and took him home.

    Occasionally you still see this. About two years ago I’m in the car with a friend. That friend is black and was driving the car. We’re coming back from Woonsocket, RI when a state trooper pulls us over.

    The trooper was great. He comes up and says “No biggie, but your inspection sticker is expired.” What I didn’t know is that they can no longer cite you per se, but they can pull you over for an expired sticker.

    He runs our licenses and comes back to the car. He tells my friend your license is suspended but his (meaning me) is ok, just switch seats and you’re all set.

    Shocked the shit out of me.

  4. #4 Blenster
    July 24, 2009

    I have to respectfully disagree that Mr Gates is a victim of racism. First I am familiar with his past already due to a co-worker who grew up in the same area he did. He has written a book about how racist his childhood and life there was which I have been repeatedly told is a large collection of lies. I tend to trust my coworker and her family and friend’s recounting of these events. Especially the one who are black and most strenuously say he’s “full of shit”. One is apparently rather embarrassed to be distantly related to Mr Gates. It seems to me, then, that his history shows he has a habit of distorting things into whatever shape he feels appropriate. We also have, as evidence, the strong support of this office by a large number of his fellow officers, black, white, and other. We have the fact that he’s highly respected for being impartial and teaches recruits how to avoid profiling. We have a police report (I posted on my facebook a link to The Smoking Gun) that shows that an agitated Mr Gates followed him out of his home and into the public space and was warned twice to calm down due to his disorderly conduct. Only after continuing to carry on was he arrested for disorderly conduct. I see absolutely NO evidence that this is a case of a white cop picking on a black man (though I am not suggesting this doesn’t still happen, my group of friends and lovers is and has been very diverse and I have heard stories and witnessed interactions myself). Instead I see an angry man bent on throwing the race card and causing a scene rather than calmly following an officer’s directions. It’s best to solve these sorts of misunderstandings with lawyers, not with shouting (or worse, attempts at violence or resisting).

    I’ll throw into the pot the fact that I spent 19 hours in a holding cell because the state of Indiana screwed up some paperwork and marked me as “absent” in a court hearing I was clearly at (it went very well for me, in fact, and would certainly not have if I’d have actually missed it) and it was not until I was able to meet my lawyer and see the judge that this mistake was cleared up. Yelling or causing a scene would only have resulted in charges they could actually prosecute me for.

    In short, it’s foolish to yell at the police. There are far saner methods of dealing with the situation. Mr Gates chose not to use one of these other methods and instead caused a public scene and was arrested.

    Blenster

    PS The AP is reporting that a black officer on the scene supports the decision to arrest Mr. Gates for his unreasonable behavior. This only adds to the evidence that the only “racist” at the scene was Mr. Gates.

  5. #5 Virgil Samms
    July 24, 2009

    There are some things which Reggie Greene should consider about the behaviour of police officers.

  6. #6 Ralph Spoilsport
    July 24, 2009

    As one who has also been arrested for disorderly conduct, I agree with Benster. Also, read Bob Somerby’s views at The Daily Howler for 7/23, 7/24.

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    July 24, 2009

    So what if Gates was an uppity black man. That is actually quite legal.

  8. #8 Barn Owl
    July 24, 2009

    I think The Clash had it spot on:

    Know your rights!
    All three of them …

    Number 3
    You have the right to free speech
    As long as you’re not dumb enough
    To actually try it.

  9. #9 Art
    July 24, 2009

    The question is not is Gates was an uppity black man. Nor is it if he was an uppity man generally. Failure to comply with an order and verbal assault are both crimes.

    Gates himself relates that when asked to step out he refused to do so. Also when he was asked the usual questions about the IDs he handed over he refused to answer. He could, possibly should, have been charged with interference with a police officer.

    To that point it may not have gotten him arrested. But the quantity and volume of verbal abuse he leveled at the officers failed to put these relatively minor infractions in a favorable light.

    Now being uppity is one thing but verbal assault is a crime, excessive loudness is a breach of the peace, and being visibly out of control, and potentially a danger to themselves or others, is grounds enough to be detained.

    Of course all this will help Gates with his ‘street cred’ and image as an oppressed black man.

    IMO Gates was handled with kid gloves. Where I live if the police tell you to step out on the porch and you declare that your not going to they generally drag you out using any means necessary. As a friend, a white friend, said: ‘After a minute or two wrestling with those policemen I was looking forward to laying down on my front lawn’.

    Of course the irony is that anyone with any knowledge of the streets knows how it works and understand that when a policeman asks you to step out onto the porch he isn’t making a suggestion. He asks, you step out and smile. Doing so gracefully puts you on the officer’s good side and increases the chances that everyone get along.

    They also know that verbally abusing the police does you no good and that judges, not police, handle the legal nuances.

  10. #10 Kitty'sBitch
    July 24, 2009

    There is a rule that crosses ALL racial line. When the cops get there, pucker up…period.
    Honestly now, I’ve known a lot of police officers in my life and there are a lot of psychological reasons to decide to be police officers, some not so good and some amazingly good. I have seen overt racism, I have seen calls of racism used as an all purpose excuse for some pretty unsavory shit.
    The key is to hold judgement until we get the details. Hell, as soon as this story hit the news I was treated like a racist for saying we should wait to judge until we hear the whole story.
    Should we be on alert for racist acts? Hell yes!
    Should we cast stones as soon as we see racism implied? Fuck no! Are we basing our beliefs on evidence or aren’t we? We can’t have it both ways.
    I think it’s a great idea for all parties involved to sit down and have a beer together. I’ve smoothed over some heavy shit with exactly that approach.

  11. #11 Pierce R. Butler
    July 24, 2009

    Damned slovenly Cambridge cops!

    Here we have a clear case of a man being a Menace in a public place (complete with Menacing cowboy hat), and the police failed to take all necessary actions to protect the public.

    No wonder that decades of such slackness have left 21st-century Cambridge law enforcement so frightened when compelled to exit their cars in a Menacing neighborhood!

  12. #12 DuWayne
    July 24, 2009

    As much as I really shouldn’t, given I have way too many things, I am obsessive…

    Greg -

    By the accounts I have seen, Crowley is about the last cop anyone would accuse of being racist or racial profiling. He apparently runs workshops on that. Honestly, the only racism in evidence here, is Gates own racist commentary – assuming that because he is black and a cop responded to a call at his address – of someone who appeared to be breaking in, said cop must be racist.

    While I totally think Crowley fucked up, it was in not just giving the man his name and badge number – maybe even a card with a number Gates could call to complain – and then getting the fuck out. But I see absolutely no evidence whatsoever, that his motivations were racial at all. My best picture of this situation, is that there were two men who were both at the end of a really shitty day and both took things way too personally and both overreacted.

    Given what I understand of Crowley, he was probably more than a little pissed off at being accused of racism, when he was just doing his damned job. Does that make it reasonable to take Gates to jail – no. But nor does it imply anything about him being racist.

  13. #13 Quincy
    July 24, 2009

    I don’t know, Greg… sometimes you seem so clear and lucid, and other times, such as this, I have to wonder you are abusing some substance or another- Windex cut with Comet, perhaps? A hate crime? Seriously?

    So what if Gates was an uppity black man.

    Gates and his defenders like you are the ONLY one who have brought race and racial language (uppity) into this, and you’ve taken it to the furthest extreme you can as fast as you can. This is all flim flam and propaganda and rushing to the defense of a fellow academic, the facts and truth be damned. Sorry, but from now on I can never take any criticism you make against the religious remotely seriously anymore.

    Ah well, at least you didn’t evoke Hitler, although I’m sure the next “Seed Context” will be “Cambridge 2009 and Berlin 1938 – The Chilling Parallels!”

  14. #14 Kitty'sBitch
    July 24, 2009

    Greg
    I am a little torn here.
    I sort of read your post as saying that this may not have been racially motivated but remember that several occurances are. Perhaps I injected irony where it wasn’t intended.
    I know that this may be too much to ask of you, but could you be clearer on what you’re saying? I’m not sure whether I should attack Quincy or find Jesus (which is what he seems to think the only other option is).

  15. #15 Quincy
    July 24, 2009

    @Kitty: Greg said the cop committed a hate crime. What is unclear about that?

    Oh, the black cop on the scene also says Gates was acting irrational.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-ap-us-harvard-scholar-arresting-officer,0,4731766.story

    And Obama called to talk to Crowley. The President I voted for doesn’t think Crowley was being hateful or racist.

    http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D99L0H700&show_article=1

    I agree mostly with DuWayne above. You had two guys having bad days (with maybe Gates having a worse day… what’s the typical flight time and number of plane changes from China to Boston? I think I’d be ready to bite the head off puppies at the end of that journey), and human nature ensued.

    But these blogger who sit on the sidelines now with their Monday morning quarterbacking and hyperbole is embarrassing. It’s like there a zero tolerance for any human failing or error by these writers.

    The irony here is Greg calling it a case of “black and white” and thus underscoring his complete refusal to see the shades of gray. The whole attitude of many Science Bloggers on political/topical issues like this is stands in complete opposition to a scientific mindset.

    I’m not sure whether I should attack Quincy or find Jesus (which is what he seems to think the only other option is).

    Wow, I sad that, huh? News to me. What I meant was the attacks on religion here, which I wholly agree with, BTW, generally take the form of exposing how religious people ignore facts and pick and choose evidence to their liking. Many bloggers here do the same on political issues. They have their own form of pseudo-religious political blindness.

  16. #16 Barn Owl
    July 24, 2009

    i could see how the situation was as much (or more) about class resentment, as about racism (but with the caveat that I am a blue-eyed white woman, without the experiences and perspectives that Dr. Gates has had). Gates’ house probably contains loads of books, interesting objects and photos from his world travels, and all sorts of other things a less affluent individual might covet. Many university IDs not only have the individual’s name and photo, but also their rank as “student”, “faculty”, and perhaps even “Chair”. Ooops, the officer has irritated not just any Harvard egghead, but a potentially influential Harvard egghead, with a prodigious vocabulary and lots of books and a temper.

    As a person with lots of words and books and a temper myself, I can relate to Gates’ irritation and to the temptation to mouth off. I’ve done so with a police officer who stopped me in my car, for having a state inspection sticker that was two days overdue. I won’t make an excuse for having an overdue state inspection, since it’s easy enough to take care of in Texas, and I’m usually on top of such things. I was respectful and compliant until the following happened:

    In addition to drivers license, registration, and proof of insurance, he asked for my occupation and place of employment – I said “research scientist” (I was a postdoc at the time) and showed my university ID. He responded derisively “Ooooohhhh, you’re one of those LADY SCIENTISTS.” And he snorted, and started laughing. At which point I lost my temper and respectfulness, and proceeded to rip him a new one verbally, and to demand his name and badge number. I sent a written complaint to the police department, but it was one of those independent types associated with an extremely affluent community embedded within a large city, so I think they just blow off complaints from eggheads driving through on their way to or from the university.

  17. #17 the real Al Sharpton
    July 24, 2009

    If Gates is a victim of anything, it is that rubbed off white collar white privilege done got to his head.

    If I, or anyone else I know across the skin-color spectrum mouths off to cops, we get f$#c*ED over. Not that we shouldn’t speak back to them, because we should. However, this is definitely not a black thing, it’s a cops gone wild with authority thing, and the red herring of race is stopping an overdue dialogue about peace, and accountability across the board.

    Like the Arabic rapper says “as you cruise in your Cadillac, my fear is that the tank that just left will turn around and come back” http://www.youtube.com/user/hakimhusein

    The black upper class are every bit as boring as their white counterparts, and diminish the importance of the issue of lower class suffering.

  18. #18 Virgil Samms
    July 24, 2009

    If Gates is a victim of anything, it is that rubbed off white collar white privilege done got to his head.

    I think the word you are searching for is “uppity.”

  19. #19 Virgil Samms
    July 24, 2009

    Failure to comply with an order and verbal assault are both crimes.

    Cattle effluence. When you are in your own home, and someone orders you out, you are not legally obligated to comply. Stop making stuff up.

  20. #20 Kitty'sBitch
    July 24, 2009

    Quincy
    The Jesus crack was just intended as a joke. I always try to cushion emotional issues with silly comments. It’s a sort of defense mechanism. I hope that I did not offend.
    Outside of that, I see nothing in your post with which I would disagree. Perhaps I was searching too far and wide for a giggle to lighten the mood.

  21. #21 the real Al Sharpton
    July 24, 2009

    No, Virgil, the word I intended was “privileged’ as in ‘white-like-me” privileged.

    Except that I meant to bet you or any other WASP that I have taken far more squad car rides, or been beaten, jailed, racially profiled, or otherwise abused by police than you or Sir Gates.

    Does that clear it up Virg? And one other thing: between me, you, AND gates, I bet I have been more ‘uppity’ for other race rights than he or you have.
    Even more clear, pseudo-libby Virg?

  22. #22 Virgil Samms
    July 24, 2009

    Hey Art, please post your address here. I’m going to call the police and tell them I saw someone break into your home. Then, when they show up at your home, you will be obligated to follow their request to leave your home so they can handcuff you in the front yard.

  23. #23 Kitty'sBitch
    July 24, 2009

    Quincy
    The Jesus crack was just intended as a joke. I always try to cushion emotional issues with silly comments. It’s a sort of defense mechanism. I hope that I did not offend.
    Outside of that, I see nothing in your post with which I would disagree. Perhaps I was searching too far and wide for a giggle to lighten the mood.

  24. #24 the real Al Sharpton
    July 24, 2009

    Virgil @ “When you are in your own home, and someone orders you out, you are not legally obligated to comply”
    No, Virgil, you need to read the law. The caveat emptor of “exigent circumstances” make all bad things possible, including being sent from your own home by police order ( think Hurricane Katrina) and verbal assault or harrassment is one portion of the standard that they use to build ‘probable cause’ for the charge of disorderly conduct.

    Virg, stop talking all of that sheltered white liberal jive, man. You are doing a disservice to those of us who actually have lives outside of state-subsidized white collar aspiring profesions.

  25. #25 Kitty'sBitch
    July 24, 2009

    Sorry for the double post, I’m an idiot.

  26. #26 sri
    July 24, 2009

    Wow!! I never thought that this will be such a big news. It went from Gates arrest to Obama apalogy. This has become more interesting than what I thought. So, I collected all the sites or articles (more than 250 sites or articles) related to this hot topic “Cambridge Police Unit Demands Apology from Obama”. If you are interested take a look at news, video coverage, people views and reviews on this topic at the below link.
    http://markthispage.blogspot.com/2009/07/all-about-cambridge-police-unit-demands.html

  27. #27 Crudely Wrott
    July 24, 2009

    The take away lesson of this has nothing to do with racism. It is far simpler.

    If you get mouthy with the police you are on your own, buddy. Don’t think so? Well then, try it for yourself at your very next opportunity.

  28. #28 sri
    July 24, 2009

    Wow!! I never thought that this will be such a big news. It went from Gates arrest to Obama apalogy. This has become more interesting than what I thought. So, I collected all the sites or articles (more than 250 sites or articles) related to this hot topic “Cambridge Police Unit Demands Apology from Obama”. If you are interested take a look at news, video coverage, people views and reviews on this topic at the below link.
    http://markthispage.blogspot.com/2009/07/all-about-cambridge-police-unit-demands.html

  29. #29 Greg Laden
    July 24, 2009

    OK, now, honestly, each and every one of you who is saying that if you get uppity with the police then tough shit what happens to you next, answer honestly the following question: Have you ever been arrested by the police, hand cuffed, and tossed in jail? If not, shut up. If so, we can talk.

  30. #30 Sivi Volk
    July 24, 2009

    I love this assumption that talking back to the cops means you deserve to get hassled or arrested or beaten. Just because that’s what /happens/ doesn’t mean it’s right or good.

  31. #31 the real me
    July 24, 2009

    Greg@ “If so, we can talk”
    Thanks for that. BTW, WTFHUBL? ( where the f#ck have you been lately?)
    I think I mentioned the last time it happened to me: tasered in the back in the middle of the night on a public sidewalk by Latin and European descended security guards while being “white” in a theoretically “black” neighborjood…life on the margins, eh? And then hauled downtown by the black male cop with his lesbian white female partner…

    new thoughts anyone?

  32. #32 Bill James
    July 24, 2009

    Greg: Have you ever been arrested by the police, hand cuffed, and tossed in jail? If not, shut up. If so, we can talk.

    So… what’s your story Greg?

  33. #33 Kitty'sBitch
    July 24, 2009

    Greg
    Yes, several times.
    I’m from what they used to call “the wrong side of the tracks”. In my immediate family of five, I’m one of three convicted felons. What would you like to talk about?

    No, talking back to the cops does not mean you deserve to be arrested, but if you’re respectful, the persentages go down significantly.
    I’ve had my issues with the police. I know what a nightstick feels like on the back of your head, I know how it feels when it’s your word against the word of a police officer, I know what it’s like to be prejudged by the police, none of this has any bearing on the case we’re discussing until the evidence comes out. As the evidence trickles forth, it seems to point in a different direction than you are claiming.
    Just wait a little while and see what comes out.

    By the way Greg, that’s bullshit and I hope you know it.
    My Jail time doesn’t make my opinion any more valid than anyone else. That’s not what this is about. Who the hell has been arrested and walked away saying “Wow, the cops were so even handed and fair.” Yeah, on top of knee-jerk reactions, let’s load this up with anecdotal evidence and personal bias. I’d hate to judge this based on merit.

  34. #34 Crudely Wrott
    July 24, 2009

    at #29

    Yup. But never for being a wise ass. I got arrested for breaking law.

    But.

    One time during my twenties and riding my motorcycle with a certain degree of abandon (not dangerously) I got pulled over about eleven one night. I was stopped at a red light when the cop pulled up on my right and indicated that I should pull over. The light turned green, I made a left and immediately pulled to the curb. The cop accelerated hard after me and slid to a stop pretty damned close to me.

    The door of the cruiser popped open and out leapt a cop at the low end of the height limits. He rushes up to me, I’m now standing beside the bike which is shut down, and gets directly into my face, on tiptoes. His diatribe includes the following information:

    He had told me to shut the bike down and push it to the curb. Because of the noise of his engine and mine and the fact that I was wearing a helmet I took it that he wanted me to go to the curb. Which I did.

    He immediately began to berate me for the sole fact that I was on a motorcycle and since all motorcyclists consider themselves to be hot shit, then I was guilty of considering myself hot shit and above the law. I can still feel the drops of spittle on my face as he tried to intimidate me. He pushed his chest into my solar plexus.

    He communicated nothing related to law enforcement. His entire diatribe was centered around him being a little guy with a cruiser and a gun and a badge. Once I saw this it became clear what he was intending. His continued provocation informed me that he actually wanted me to take a swing at him so he could take me down. About that time I could see the light of his back up approaching.

    I took a step back from him, held out the key that unlocked the saddle, told him he could find the registration and insurance documents there. He stuck out his hand and I dropped the key into it as two more cruisers made TeeVee cop-car stops on the deserted street. And then I leaned forward just the least bit and let him have a big raspberry, returning the favor of a shower. I turned my back and took a few steps away.

    The newly arrived cops didn’t seem too interested in me. Without turning around I heard the three of them talking lowly. One of the new cops came over with a ticket book and wrote me a ticket for reckless driving. The cop that pulled me didn’t even so much as look at me again and seemed to be under the watchful eye of the other new cop. Since I knew that my “reckless” (but not dangerous) maneuver would be frowned upon in court, I happily signed the ticket.

    I rode home reflecting that I had never before had such a useless and unpleasant experience with a law enforcement officer. I was offended at his behavior but, seeing as he was young and small, literally, he might be excused. Perhaps something involving a motorcycle had caused him some pain. Perhaps he had tried to learn to ride and fell over. Perhaps he had a father that forbid such things.

    As is my curse, I also reflected on how it might feel to be in his shoes, looking through his eyes, tilting at his windmills. And I couldn’t blame him.

    I realize that I am an exception to the current rule that any offense is an infringement of right. Pick a dozen other guys and I’ll bet six would have mouthed off and two would have taken a swing. (dog knows I was tempted).

    In those cases there would be little difference between cop and ner’do’well. That fact right there, that insight, is enough to inform me that mouthing off to authority is likely to get your ass arrested.

    That and the efforts of my parents and teachers and such to teach me not only respect for authority, but how to go about earning it have given me ample reason to respond with respect and reserve to cops; a little bit goes a long way.

    Did I ever tell you about the time that the same cop pulled me for speeding twice within five hours and only ticketed me the first time? No? You ought to hear it . . .

  35. #35 DuWayne
    July 24, 2009

    In spite of not actually being one of the people you were aiming it at, I too have been in jail. Like Kitty, I have gotten my ass kicked by cops (though thankfully no felonies) too. And you know what? That doesn’t make a lick of difference in the validity of my opinion on this. And while I absolutely believe that Crowley fucked up – fucked up bigtime even, I also will underscore Kitty’s point about dealing with cops. When you don’t get all shitty with them, it makes it less likely they will fuck with you.

    That doesn’t make it right when they do. Like I said at Ed’s – Crowley should have just given Gates his fucking badge and name – maybe passed him a card to call and complain and then gotten the fuck out. Then he should have gotten in his car and called it in, letting his superiors know that he just pissed someone off – someone who is going to probably be calling to complain.

    He sure as fuck shouldn’t have arrested Gates.

  36. #36 Kitty'sBitch
    July 24, 2009

    Oddly, one of the things that has stayed with me over the years is the toast you’re served in jail.
    There is a certain flavor from toast that’s made from stale bread. It reminded me of the toast you get in school cafeterias. It doesn’t seem like that would be pleasant, but it actually was.
    Another great breakfast story was the morning I was awakened to the sound of nearly a dozen fellow inmates cheering and screeming because we were being served a generic form of Captain Crunch. Kinda made the hardasses seem more human. It was like a bunch of kids on Christmas morning.

  37. #37 Crudely Wrott
    July 24, 2009

    That, DuWayne, is funny aspect of the story as I hear it.

    Are not an officer’s name and badge number legibly displayed on his or her front side?

    Does Cambridge not do it that way?

  38. #38 DuWayne
    July 24, 2009

    CW -

    Name is usually clear, but the badges aren’t always – they’re always embossed, but not always otehrwise demarcated. Besides, you don’t always have something to write it down with – though in this case, I would imagine that it was rage making that all rather difficult.

    None of that matters. I haven’t been in an incident with a cop – not one – where the cop hasn’t handed me a business card with his name and badge number on it – unless I was getting a ticket. And having been an avid hitchhiker and later an avid protester – big on civil disobedience and also having been a general ruffian (read, musician) as well as an occasional cannabis facilitator, I have been in a great many incidents with cops. Even in the last crappy neighborhood I lived in in Portland, the cops would always give you their card – even if they were just on foot patrol and were politely introducing themselves – every time (and that wasn’t them being dicks – community policing and a way to pass informants, without blowing them – they weren’t harassing anyone).

    I am not sure that it is the law or policy everywhere, but in MI a cop isn’t allowed not to provide their name and badge number when requested.

    And in this case, it would have been a very good way to defuse the situation. Make it clear that you are sorry any offense was implied, give him the info he wants and let your superiors know what the fuck just happened, so they don’t get blindsided when the guy calls fucking pissed.

  39. #39 Greg Laden
    July 24, 2009

    Kitty:No, talking back to the cops does not mean you deserve to be arrested, but if you’re respectful, the persentages go down significantly.

    Well said. Words to live by, in fact.

    Let me explain why I asked the question about being arrested. In theory, this should not affect the validity of someone’s opinion, but in fact it does, and I’ll be happy to explain why.

    Most people who have not had their hand bound behind their back in hand cuffs, who have not been tossed in the back of a police car for a while, who have not been driven to a police station, printed, photographed, probed, tossed in a lonely prison cell over night, and worst of all, fed that horrible thing they feed you in the morning and if you are lucky that is all tha thappens to you, don’t quite get one entire side of the equation.

    Putting this a slightly different way, when I hear someone say that Gates deserved to be busted because he did not pucker up or clamp down or whatever metaphor one likes, I seriously wonder if the person who says that has a clue as to what they are saying should happen to another individual.

    So, no, your opinion is shit, in my mind, if you don’t know what you are talking about. It is quite possible that you can have an idea of what both sides of this equation is like having not been through it yourself. I really think that is possible. But I also think that most people are not thinking through what they are saying.

    As to my story? There are several, and for another time. And again, I don’t begrudge someone the ability to have a clue without having ever experienced the arrest process. I just happen to think that most people who have not experienced it are too blithe with throwing around the idea that if someone else behaves in a way you don’t think is right that the logical next step is to toss them in jail overnight.

  40. #40 Crudely Wrott
    July 24, 2009

    I wasn’t aware of the business card policy, DuWayne (haven’t been arrested or ticketed in a long time). Sounds like a reasonable thing. In fact, I’m glad to hear it. A small strike for transparency.

    As to the case of our good scholar, I wasn’t there at the time and, having not heard the reported recording of the incident via the officer’s microphone, cannot really comment directly on the merits of this particular case. I can only draw upon my experience, the experiences of others, and my own reason to create and understanding of the incident.

    I lean towards the notion that Gates would not have been arrested if he didn’t keep running his mouth. I could be wrong. But such a thing would be very common.

    I’ll know more later when I have more information. As will we all.

    However it plays out it will be instructive.

  41. #41 Crudely Wrott
    July 24, 2009

    @39

    Bingo.

  42. #42 DuWayne
    July 24, 2009

    It occurs to me, as I look at that in quotes on Greg’s comment, that I didn’t explain why I tend to take a solid “yes sir/mam, no sir/mam” approach…Because even if you know you’re going to get arrested and go to jail, it dramatically lowers the chance that you will get your ass kicked by the cops – who, trust me, are probably going to get away with it.

  43. #43 Crudely Wrott
    July 24, 2009

    @42

    Bingo.

  44. #44 Crudely Wrott
    July 24, 2009

    Enlightened self interest is a notion that occurs to me whenever there is a need to interact with authority. After all, that is what authority does and turn about is fair play.

  45. #45 Greg Laden
    July 24, 2009

    My experience has absolutely been that if you give the cops a hard time they beat the fuck out of you and rape your friend. If you keep your mouth shut they only beat yo up a little. Depending on how much trouble they had to go through to catch you. They actually get really pissed at car chases.

  46. #46 Crudely Wrott
    July 24, 2009

    Greg, you got that right. Don’t run.

    Better to stand one’s ground and, when possible, to do so without provoking the force that backs authority. Perhaps even catching it in its own snare, or, dare to dream, making it stop and consider some larger ethic. With style and grace, of course. Ah, to dream.

    I started these run-on comments noting that someone might have gotten mouthy and now I see that I have rambled on even so. Nice post, Greg. You’re getting an interesting response. G’night. I have to work on a ladder in the morning.

  47. #47 tincture
    July 25, 2009

    I have a feeling that Skip Gates himself would be the first to point out that this is not the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone

    I wouldn’t be so sure.

    And I love that the 911 report said that two big black men were trying to break in with backpacks on. Now that is the worst racial profiling I’ve ever heard of in my life. (Laughs.) I’m not exactly a big black man.

    An accurate phone call is the worst case of racial profiling he’s ever heard of in his life.

  48. #48 heather sf
    July 25, 2009

    Just thought I’d chime in…

    I’ve also been arrested, sometimes violently, multiple times, I’ve been maced, then taunted until I looked up so they could mace me again, etc. Spent a chunk of time in jail, have a felony, had all the fun of jail like being denied medical care for MRSA staph that came from the facility…

    And I am firmly, firmly on the side that anyone who has ever really dealt with the cops knows that you don’t yell at them. That’s crazy. I don’t know if I think Gates should have been arrested, I probably agree that the cop should have just given him a card and gone on, but it is some crazy ass shit to go yelling at the cops, whether you’re in your front yard or not. And the only people who would do something like that is someone who thinks they are untouchable for some reason (Harvard professor…or me when I’m really drunk). I can’t imagine that situation happening and the cop NOT arresting someone.

    Perhaps there is a conversation to be had around police power, or perhaps we as a society can decide that if we’re going to have people POLICE us (which I think we probably all want if we consider the other options), then we should not yell at them or act threatening because these guys deal with crazy shit all day long and we need to be real clear what we are and are not doing when interacting with the police.

    So while there is probably some aspects of race that leak in around the edges of this situation, because hey, we’re in America, and I don’t know what this business about post-racial is, but we ain’t there yet…this really seems to be about someone that doesn’t know how to act around the cops.

  49. #49 travc
    July 25, 2009

    This case seems like a really poor one to use as a model of racism or even abuse of power by the cops. Those happen far too often and need to be addressed. But from all I’ve seen, this is an understandable case of temporary stupidity.

    A few points though.

    The “you don’t argue with cops” argument is a very very wrong one. Yeah, it has truth to it, but that is a bad thing. It is counter-productive and most often wrong to get irate at a police officer, but it should not be illegal.

    There is a hell of a lot of prejudice in evidence here… coming from the commenters and media talking heads though!

    Many people are excessively deferential to authority, leading to the “don’t argue with cops” and other such “it is Gates’s fault” lines of argument.

    Others (especially those with bad personal experiences with police) assume the cops must have been acting as racist and/or fascist thugs. It really doesn’t look like that is the case here.

    Anyways, I think Obama had it pretty much right. The cops did something “stupid” (in retrospect at least). However, people do stupid things for quite understandable reasons all the time. From what I’ve heard, Gates showed his on extremely poor judgment… though that doesn’t mean arresting him was called for.

  50. #50 PlaydoPlato
    July 25, 2009

    There’s something missing here that no one has mentioned: police professionalism.

    How is it possible that a cop, especially one supposedly sensitive to racial issues, could not understand the racial dynamics in play during the incident? Sure, Gates should have kept his mouth shut. That would have been the rational thing to do, but the fact is, humans aren’t rational creatures.

    Crowley, having greater experience with diverse groups of people in stressful situations, should have ‘read’ the situation: a high-achieving, very likely innocent, black man being humiliated in his own home is likely to behave in the manner that Gates did. The professional thing to do would have been to diffuse the situation, suffer some verbal abuse from Gates, and leave.

    Finally, for those of you who still think Crowley was justified in his actions, why were the charges dismissed? If Gates was worth arresting, he should have been worth prosecuting. Apparently, someone above Crowley thought the arrest was unwarranted and unnecessary. There’s a disconnect here.

  51. #51 Enoch
    July 25, 2009

    I’m sorry, but the fact that if one gives the cops shit means that they bust you is simply not justification for them busting you. I can’t believe so many people think this, and we still pretend to live in a free society. An attitude adjustment is needed here, I’m afraid.

  52. #52 Enoch
    July 25, 2009

    PlaydoPlato: Exactamundo. Well argued.

  53. #53 Greg T
    July 25, 2009

    This blog is so over the top in its provocative style that I conclude that it’s and obvious troll for traffic.

  54. #54 Greg Laden
    July 25, 2009

    Greg T, please go away, I don’t want you or anyone else reading this blog. It is my private blog. Stop reading it now. Just. Go. Away.

    I agree with Enoch that PlaydoPlato has it right, but this is certainly not something that has not been noted. It is the whole point. Arresting people because you don’t like their attitude is not professional. That there are people out there who feel that if someone is extra annoying that they should be arrested is very disturbing. Remember the white lady who got arrested because of a sippy cup? Everybody fell in line with supporting her. This was a man in his own house, and so many people are against him that I can only conclude that it has something to do with the variables in this comparison: Female, white, mother, with baby vs. Uppity Black Man. Do the math folks. It is OK to admit that your thoughts on this matter are rather biased, even racist.

    It is hard to not be racist in a society in which you are raised and trained to be so (and I’m speaking here to and over everyone, white, black, red, blue, and clear). Mr. Uppity Black Man was being racist, Mr. “I Train White People” White Guy Cop was being racist. But there is a very important difference between the distraught citizen and the cop who is supposed to be in control.

    Yes, indeed, some professionalism would have been nice.

  55. #55 tincture
    July 25, 2009

    Mr. “I Train White People” White Guy Cop was being racist.

    How so? Remember, being a racist does mean being an asshole but being an asshole doesn’t mean being racist.

  56. #56 Greg Laden
    July 25, 2009

    tincture, that’s you being a moron twice.

  57. #57 CyberLizard
    July 25, 2009

    What I found most disturbing about being in jail was the fact that the toilet was also the sink and the water fountain. The “hamburger” they served was some blend of not-quite-meat served on stale wonder bread, but the beans were actually delicious. Very simple, but seasoned well. I would have asked for more but, you know, I was in jail. Didn’t seem the right time be all, “Please, sir, may I have some more?”

  58. #58 tincture
    July 25, 2009

    Ahh well w/ logic like that how could anybody disagree? Like you’ve already mentioned, this is your blog and of course you’re entirely free to use it to hide from any questions you want.

    Note to self, asking Laden a question he cannot answer = moron.

  59. #59 aussie
    July 25, 2009

    Police in the US are just plain scary. I said “Hi” to a policeman (a normal, civil thing to do – just not in the US). He threatened me with his gun.

    This is not normal, folks. I don’t live in the US any more.

  60. #60 Irene
    July 25, 2009

    tincture, maybe you need to ask a question that makes sense.

  61. #61 tincture
    July 25, 2009

    Sorry Irene, I was asking Mr Laden how “Mr. “I Train White People” White Guy Cop” was being racist. The second part of my comment was to remind Mr Laden that being a power mad bully does not automatically make “Mr. “I Train White People” White Guy Cop” a racist.

  62. #62 Greg Laden
    July 25, 2009

    Tincture,

    Being a power mad bully does not make this particular cop a racist. I am guessing.

    Please see post above for context of the guess.

  63. #63 DuWayne
    July 25, 2009

    PlaydoPlato -

    There’s something missing here that no one has mentioned: police professionalism.

    Actually, quite a few of us have mentioned this exact point – repeatedly.

    heather sf -

    And the only people who would do something like that is someone who thinks they are untouchable for some reason (Harvard professor…or me when I’m really drunk).

    Or people who are so fucking tired of being targeted and being fucked with that they are done playing nice and respectful.

    I can’t imagine that situation happening and the cop NOT arresting someone.

    Seriously?!? Where have you had all these interactions with cops? Because while I could see it being more problematic in the better parts of smaller cities and municipalities, it is pretty inconceivable that cops would have the time to arrest every asshole who talks smack to them in million+ population cities.

    Greg -

    What evidence exactly, are you basing Crowley’s actions being racist on? Note I am not saying what evidence do we have that he was an unprofessional asshole – I just want to know what of the information we have, implies he was being racist.

  64. #64 tincture
    July 25, 2009

    Mr Laden, because he was raised in a society were you think he was trained to be so? I dunno, lots of people seem to be able to live w/o being racist just fine. Call it weird, but I just have a thing about accusing people of being racist w/ no evidence.
    Actual racism shits me off but calling anything and everything involving two people or more of different skin shades racism, can only serve to dilute the term until it’s totally meaningless. Not to mention it’s just rude to accuse people of something they did not do.

  65. #65 Greg Laden
    July 25, 2009

    It is not really true that plenty of people are not racist. (Unless plenty is not a large number.) Cop culture tends to be a racist culture. Cambridge is not a particularly racist place, comparatively. As Mike Barnicle pointed out, this could be a barnie-townie thing as well, and there is definately a townie culture with the Cambridge Police (which the Harvard Police tend to mitigate a bit). There is no doubt that our entire criminal justice system is a gigunda racist mess.

    I think the question is not when do we put racism on the table in a case like this, but rather, when do we take it off.

  66. #66 tincture
    July 25, 2009

    Right I get it then, innocent until proven guilty. Gotcha. No evidence of this actual cop acting in a racist way but he’s a white cop so he probably is. And that in itself is not racist at all.

    Take what you’re saying about the cop and substitute a black person or jewish person. See how it sounds then.

    I’m honestly having a hard time believing that’s what you’re saying.

  67. #67 Bruno Mitchell
    July 25, 2009

    You fail to explain your opening premise that its “clear” Gates was “the victim of a hate crime.” That’s a pretty bold statement to make and just leave unsubstantiated, when you claim it’s based on “facts.”

  68. #68 Tsu Dho Nimh
    July 25, 2009

    In a statement to The Root, where he is editor-in-chief, Gates said this is how the incident started, “He said ‘I’m here to investigate a 911 call for breaking and entering into this house.’ And I said ‘That’s ridiculous because this happens to be my house. And I’m a Harvard professor.’ He says ‘Can you prove that you’re a Harvard professor?’

    He goes on to explain, “Now it’s clear that he had a narrative in his head: A black man was inside someone’s house, probably a white person’s house, and this black man had broken and entered, and this black man was me.”

    So … in Gates’s own words, the cop explained why he was there and Gates jumped to the “it’s because I’m black” conclusion within seconds.

  69. #69 Tsu Dho Nimh
    July 25, 2009

    In a statement to The Root, where he is editor-in-chief, Gates said this is how the incident started, “He said ‘I’m here to investigate a 911 call for breaking and entering into this house.’ And I said ‘That’s ridiculous because this happens to be my house. And I’m a Harvard professor.’ He says ‘Can you prove that you’re a Harvard professor?’

    He goes on to explain, “Now it’s clear that he had a narrative in his head: A black man was inside someone’s house, probably a white person’s house, and this black man had broken and entered, and this black man was me.”

    So … in Gates’s own words, the cop explained why he was there and Gates jumped to the “it’s because I’m black” conclusion within seconds.

  70. #70 heather sf
    July 25, 2009

    @DuWayne- Most of my interactions with police have been in major cities, though I’ve had interactions with small town or medium city police as well. I’d read earlier that Gates was asked to stop yelling twice. If you’re in some sort of power struggle with the police and they are asking you to stop doing something that your not stopping, arrest is probably coming. Sure, they get yelled at and harassed a fair amount, but in situations they are actually involved in…what else happens when you don’t do what they say?

    But anyways, after thought, I come to recant my original position that this wasn’t mainly about racism. Here’s the actions that I think make this about racism:
    Sure, the cop had a report of black men breaking in, but Gates was dressed in semi-professional wear
    He proved he was the owner and the cop took a while to mull over the cards
    After learning he was the owner the cop didn’t become helpful

    If any upper class white person had a call like this, would it even progress like this?

    And, actually I think my police contact has made me lose perspective on what normal police interaction should be. It’s not actually a crime to insult the police (really, look it up) or maybe even yell at them, and I think I tend to the side of extra deferential when dealing with the police. So even though he acted in a way I probably wouldn’t have, I don’t think Gates should have been arrested. But I do think anyone that deals with the police would have seen it coming…come on, he made a your mama joke to a cop who clearly wasn’t joking…

  71. #71 Greg Laden
    July 25, 2009

    Timncure, there is evidence that this may have been a racist event. The evidence is not conclusive, and the reality of life and human interaction is such that simply saying that something is a racist event is not really sufficient to explain it. You seem to believe that racism is rare and that an extraordinary level of evidence is required to suggest it. But the reality is that white cops have been knocking black heads forever, and your denial of that reality is absurd.

  72. #72 Kitty'sBitch
    July 25, 2009

    Greg
    Have you thought about the parallels between this event and the accusations of misogyny that were hurled at you a while back?
    Sure, there is racism everywhere. Does that justify an attempt to destroy the reputation of what seems to be a good man and a good cop? That is what Gates was attempting until the facts caused him to backpeddle.
    Did the officer overstep his bounds? Sure, and I hope he regrets it.
    How did you feel when someone leveled a hateful accusation against you? I can tell you that it made me sick to watch it. That’s why I came to your defense, and that’s why I ask that we let the facts speak for themselves in this case. I don’t mean the “We’re all racist because it’s a racist society” facts. Unless you’re ready to cop to the misogyny that you’re aparently guilty of after all. I mean, this is a misogynistic culture, right?

  73. #73 Art
    July 25, 2009

    Virgil Samms @22 – Gates was not arrested because he stepped out of the house. He was arrested because he refused to do so and verbally assaulted the police at the top of his lungs while they were attempting to investigate a report. The police chose to couch the arrest in terms of disorderly conduct and it fits as well as any of a half dozen other minor crimes. Once Gates was in custody long enough to cool down the charges were dropped and he was let go. Pretty common.

    What is it with the libertarian mindset that says that the house is important? What … you think Gates could quickly close the door and taunt the police from an upstairs window with cries of … ‘Sanctuary’ and the police would be powerless to do anything? It isn’t so. That’s why they have forced entry teams.

    Nothing special about a houses in this case. Being in the house would not stop police from arresting Gates. Fact is that if there is sufficient cause to arrest you the police are perfectly capable of going into the house and arresting you there.

    Most police simply prefer not to arrest a person in a house if they can avoid it for practical reasons. An arrest in a house increases the chances of: property damage, injury as people thrash around on the furniture, odds of someone pulling out a weapon, or an accomplice coming at the police from behind. It is safer for both the officers and suspect if the arrest is made in a less confined space.

    So call the police. When asked to step out, unlike Gates, I will step out. When asked about the ID I hand over I will, unlike Gates, answer the questions. Unlike Gates I will remain calm and not verbally assault the police as they try to do their job. I will be patient and allow them to run the IDs on their computers to check that they are valid and that I do not have any warrants.

    Once the police know who I am and that they have the situation under control I might ask for badge numbers and names. If they haven’t already they will likely present me with their card. If I feel they have been biased or abusive I may express my opinion in a normal voice in as colorful a language as I like. Odds are they will at some point pull a complaint form off their clipboard that can be submitted to the officers or mailed to the department. On the back of the form is the contact information for the various input and control mechanisms within and around the police department. The department PR office, internal affairs, ombudsman’s office, citizen review board, chief of police, mayor, state police, FDLE, FBI and both the state and federal justice departments were on that list(complete with contact names, phone numbers and both mailing and e-mail addresses)last time I saw the sheet. Lots of places and ways to get your rant on if you are so inclined.

    I suspect that the entire process of the police responding to your false report, including having my opinion heard and concerns addressed, will take less than ten minutes and that I will not be arrested or suffer anything worse than the time wasted. The difference is that I will remain civil and cooperate with their efforts to do their job. Had Gates done the same it would have gone differently for him.

  74. #74 Greg Laden
    July 25, 2009

    Kitty, I’m glad to see you recognize that the officer stepped over his bounds. The motivation or explanation is likely to be complex. I am not a judge, jury, and executioner, but rather just a person with an opinion, and my opinion is that racism likely (but not with total certainty) plays a roll.

    Insisting that overwhelming evidence must be produced to consider racism when a white Cambridge cop busts a black man who is in his own home is insulting and counterproductive, don’t you think?

    And there is a considerable difference between those accusation of misogyny against me and what we see here. White cops busting black heads = dog bites man. Generally respected but snarky anthropologist is misygonist because a dumbass like Phyisoprof has a bug up his ass = something somewhat different.

    Is I have said numerous times, this is probably complex, and hopefully a dialog will come out of this which will improve the way uppity black men and overly confident white cops interact in the future. Since at the present the prisons are filled with uppity black men many of whom were destine for those prisons because of their skin color, and not pinkish middle class white boys you will pardon me if I insist that racism be seriously considered and kept very much on the table.

  75. #75 Stephanie Z
    July 25, 2009

    tincture, why are you asking Greg to put a black in his cop scenario instead of asking him to put white in his uppity man scenario? He said there was probably racism on both sides.

  76. #76 DuWayne
    July 25, 2009

    Greg -

    I’m not asking for overwhelming evidence that Crowley’s actions were racially motivated – I am asking for any. Because I’m not seeing anything that indicates racism on his part from Gates own statement on the matter.

  77. #77 Greg Laden
    July 25, 2009

    DuWayne, if Professor Gates ends up with a clear and unequivocal statement after some time and consideration goes by that states that the blackness of his skin was in no way a biasing factor in this police officer’s assumption that he was a criminal (initially) and/or in pushing the decision to make what turned out (indubitably) to have been a bogus arrest, then that will be the end of it.

    In the mean time, I reiterate that I am not a judge and jury, I prefer that the guy did not act in a racist manner, but my opinion as a bystander to all of this is that it is likely that racial bias was a factor.

    I do not start out with the assumption that there is not a racial bias involved. I start out with the assumption that there IS a racial bias involved. Again, see previous paragraph, paragraph two, just above. I pretty much believe in principles of our criminal justice system, as flawed as its implementation is. Innocent until proven guilty yadayadayada. But I am not the judge and jury, I am simply expressing my opinion as to what happened, and when I see a white cop bust an uppity black man in his own home who has not committed a crime, I guess racial bias.

    I made a mistake in the post I wrote (above, remember the post?) I made the inflammatory snarky statement in the beginning, then I told the parable. Please consider the parable. Did you get it? Let me restate it in abbreviated form:

    Police are at a crime in progress. A black man who is supposed to be there and is totally innocent and is in fact there to help the police is spotted by white cops, white cops grab him, white cops ignore his protestations, white cops are trying to cuff him.

    A white man whom the cops don’t know from Adam walks over and essentially tells the cops to leave the black guy alone and they do instantly without further consideration. This is a minute after the same white guy who the cops don’t know ordered a cop in a cruiser to pull over and arrest a man in a car (who, incidentally, was black).

    We live in a world in which this shit happens. My assumption is that this shit happens.

    Things will sort themselves out in Cambridge and it will be interesting.

    By the way, and this is an extension of what we’ve spoken about in the past regarding behavior, the cop acting in a racist manner doesn’t make him any different then lots and lots of white (or other color) people that we all know and love. He’s just a regular guy, he’s probably a great guy. He’s probably mostly disgusted with racism even. I keep using the words complex and subtle to more than hint at this point. But this is the blogosphere, so maybe there is nothing complex and subtle.

    think about it and get back to me, I’ve got a post to finish on either linux or gender-biology, can’t decide which.

  78. #78 becca
    July 25, 2009

    I think terming this one a Hate Crime is overly inflammatory, although if you want to excuse it as a gratuitous excuse to link to Stephanie Z that’s cool.

    Greg- in 74, did you just argue that you can’t be a misogynist because you don’t fit the profile? ‘Cause that would be the height of irony.

    Anyway, quibbling aside…
    Racism increases the odds someone forcing their own door open will have the cops called on them for breaking and entering.
    Racism increases the odds someone will see the cops as potentially threatening rather than helpful people there to ‘protect and serve’.
    Racism increases the odds that a cop will see someone as a threat.
    Racism would be part of this story even if Gates were the most egalitarian black cop on the earth. Commenting on how race may have played a role != calling Gates a racist.

    inspired by Barn Owl…
    File this under “blessings I would have never expected to count”:
    I’m so glad I’m a cute little blue-eyed white girl type lady scientist, so that when a cop pisses me the fuck off, I can ask for his name and badge number and complain without being taken into jail.

    Of course, this is somewhat predicated on the assumption I don’t loose my temper first. But even if I did, the cops might drop it. I’m not very likely to be taken as a threat. I don’t even have a cowboy hat.

    Why, now that I’m pregnant, I bet I could even get away with driving half a ton of garbage down to the city dump in a red VW microbus!
    and creating a nuisance.

  79. #79 Stephanie Z
    July 25, 2009

    Actually, Becca, I think what he said in 74 is that CPP is a dog.

  80. #80 Kitty'sBitch
    July 25, 2009

    “…and creating a nuisance.”
    Fantastic.

  81. #81 Morgan Atwood
    July 25, 2009

    Greg Laden says: “I assure you that on the same evening dozens, nay, hundreds, of equally black men very much in their own homes were also busted by racist white police officers at various locations across this country, and they didn’t do anything either. “
    You assure us? That’s nice. Why don’t you prove it to us. Statistics, arrest reports, news articles, or it didn’t happen.

    Laden also says: “So what if Gates was an uppity black man. That is actually quite legal.”
    No. Actually, it’s not in this case. Being an uppity black man, or any sort of black man, is perfectly legal. Being uppity with the police (black, white, purple or indigo-blue) is however not legal when it interferes with what they are doing. When a police officer, on duty and in commission of his/her duties, engages you in a dialogue, you are not allowed to be uppity. The exact definitions of interference with an investigation, or whatever they label the charge, differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but it amounts to the same thing.
    Understand the context of my comments: I’ve never been put in jail, but I’ve been hooked up. I hadn’t done anything, and we resolved that there. But, beyond that, I’ve worked around law enforcement and with them for several years in various public service/first responder capacities. I have a good understanding of how it works. And how god awful the process can be for these people. Everyone should have an inkling, and enough empathy, to put it together at least a little. And from there, they should have the idea that mouthing off to the po-po is a bad move.
    It is really hard sometimes to be a perfect professional with someone yelling at you. Particularly some days. Most cops do things the rest of us couldn’t be paid to do, on a daily basis, and that takes a toll on a person. As a FireFighter, an EMT, a Cop, any of that family of professions… one more person screaming at you (and they won’t be the last, they just won’t be) is about as close to the last thing you need as you’ll ever get. It may not be ideal, but its absolutely human to lose some degree of professionalism with such people.
    Frankly, until someone with the experience of wearing that badge (its a shit magnet), and doing that work all day, every day, comes along, I don’t think anyone here has the experience to properly judge the police in this type of circumstance. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a rabid police supporter, and am wary of the police and of their misdeeds many times. But, most without the relevant experience who try to critique law enforcement come off sounding like spoiled children bitching about the playground monitors.

    This is a tempest in a tea pot. A clusterfuck, as the CPD officers are probably calling it. I do not think this situation has prompted relevant social discourse, merely served to further muddy the waters about race and status in this nation.

  82. #82 tincture
    July 25, 2009

    It’s disturbing to me the number of times the term uppity has been used to describe Gates in this thread.

    Stephanie Z :

    tincture, why are you asking Greg to put a black in his cop scenario instead of asking him to put white in his uppity man scenario? He said there was probably racism on both sides.

    Stephanie Z, I wasn’t asking Mr Laden to do that. I was asking him to replace “white cops” in his statement that, to paraphrase,
    “Lots of white cops are racist so this one probably is too.”
    w/ another group such as black people or jewish people to see how that sounds. I’ll help, it sounds like this,
    “Lots of jewish people are racist so this one probably is too.”
    “Lots of black people are racist so this one probably is too.”

    Seen in context, it’s clear just how discriminatory Mr Laden’s and Mr Gates’ mindset may be.

    Greg Laden :
    You seem to believe that racism is rare and that an extraordinary level of evidence is required to suggest it. But the reality is that white cops have been knocking black heads forever, and your denial of that reality is absurd.

    I said nothing of the sort and you know it. Mr Laden, now you’re channeling Andy Schlafly.

    Greg Laden :
    I start out with the assumption that there IS a racial bias involved.

    And you honestly don’t see any problem w/ that? I think I’m done here, there is obviously nothing I can say to make you aware of your own rank hypocrisy.

    PS: I also disagree w/ pretty much everything Morgan Atwood just said. The law is the law and cops don’t get to make it up as they go along, which appears to have been what happened here.

  83. #83 Stephanie Z
    July 25, 2009

    I spent seven years working with cops. Not directly, but I worked across the street from the main St. Paul police station and they were my customers. I worked during the slow times, so we laughed and chatted, and I got to hear a certain amount about being a cop.

    I also got to see very nice cops turn into counterproductive assholes when challenged on things that have nothing to do with the law. As sympathetic as I am to the pressures placed on the people who have to enforce the rules, counterproductive is counterproductive. One thing that cops need to be trained in and to remind themselves is that they need to see that situations are under control, not that situations are under their control.

  84. #84 Dacks
    July 25, 2009

    If you accept the idea that the cop was simply overtired, why hasn’t he apologized? Arresting someone, taking away his belt, shoelaces, etc., putting him in a cell for a number of hours – this isn’t the same as raising your voice when you’re a bit irritated.

    I’ve been wondering if the “Stockholm Syndrome” might apply to some of those who defend the need for the police to establish themselves as top dogs: could they be identifying with law enforcement? Or is it the hope that “good behavior” will keep THEM from being the victims of police abuse?

  85. #85 Stephanie Z
    July 26, 2009

    From a police officer:

    “Let’s say I do a stop,” he said. “I question, and it’s nothing. ‘Sir, I’m sorry, I apologize.’ What’s the reason for staying, if the anger’s directed at me? If it’s directed at a third party, a storekeeper, I stay.” But if the officer himself is the provocation, the officer should leave, he said, and added that Crowley had not used such common sense.

  86. #86 José
    July 26, 2009

    I don’t know if race was an issue in this incident, but you have to understand that it involves someone who definitely has been treated badly because of the way he looks, and also remember that the incident took place in an area where racist behavior by cops is well documented. The police officer should know better.

    I would never fault someone for being compliant in the face of a bad police officer (I’ve done it), but that’s only the correct strategy for minimizing personal damage. The fact is, if there aren’t people who raise hell in these situations, things won’t change.

    To the people who suggested that the black cop publicly agreeing with the handling of the situation somehow shows race wasn’t an issue, that’s silly. These cops are on the same team. That’s what they’re expected to do.

  87. #88 Greg Laden
    July 26, 2009

    [78]: Glad someone notice the link. As far as suggesting that I be Over Inflammatory, why would anyone ever think that I would do that?????

    But yes, you make my point very nicely, thank you. Which was the whole point of the story about the black guy getting grabbed even though he is the building manager vs. the white guy (me) actually being able to tell the cops … Ohn, never mind. I would love to see some acknowledgement by someone that they actually READ THE FUCKING POST and maybe even got the point. Plus, acknowledging that I was awared a commendation and all would be nice to.

    [81] Are you actually asking me to do primary research for you? These basics are so widely documented and known … you are starting off your argument by saying that unless I go out of my way to carry out and produce physical tests roving that the sky is blue, the it is not blue. Sorry, but you are barking up the wrong tree here.

    I hadn’t done anything, and we resolved that there.

    Good going, Kemosabe. Did you happen to read the post?

    I have a good understanding of how it works. And how god awful the process can be for these people.Everyone should have an inkling, and enough empathy, to put it together at least a little. And from there, they should have the idea that mouthing off to the po-po is a bad move.

    No, you demonstrated in the opening of your comment that youreally have no idea of how this process plays out on the ground. In this case,you have misidentified the victim and you are using the “its so hard to be a cop: excuse to jail people who actually didn’t do anything illegal. You are advocating for racialized police state.

    This is a tempest in a tea pot. A clusterfuck, as the CPD officers are probably calling it. I do not think this situation has prompted relevant social discourse, merely served to further muddy the waters about race and status in this nation.

    probably true.

  88. #89 Greg Laden
    July 26, 2009

    [82]: Right, in fact, I have no problem putting whatever term you like in the sentence. Racialized thinking is widespread.

    No, I don’t see a problem at all with starting with an assumption of racial bias. Again (and again and again and again) I’m expressing my opinion on what may have happened. When one does that (expressing the opinion) one is not bound by Due Process. There is nothing hypocritical about this at all.

    [85] Nice quote.

  89. #90 Greg Laden
    July 26, 2009

    Please note that the post is updated.

  90. #91 sailor
    July 26, 2009

    Something I find really scary about Crowley, is that according to newspaper reports he thinks he was absolutely in the right and that he has completely got beyond racism.
    Seems to show a lack of self awareness to me, whether this incident was racist or not.

  91. #92 Kitty'sBitch
    July 26, 2009

    I can’t help but better understand why the right has such a distaste for “libruls”. I’m like the stereotypical self hating Jew here.
    I thought we were the community that values evidence.
    Is racism a problem? yes
    Does that make every claim of racism valid? no
    All of the evidence has not surfaced yet, but I find myself moving further into the NO RACISM in this case because so many claim, without evidence, that it MUST BE RACISM. What I really don’t understand is that the evidence so far seems to point to NO RACISM and that only seems to increase the white noise of MUST BE RACISM.
    I have called for people to wait and see the evidence, but I’ve changed my mind on that. This will only work if the evidence points toward your preconceived opinions.
    Also
    The world is six thousand years old, vaccines cause autism, and 911 was an inside job.

    P.S.
    Greg, I can’t believe you would publish such a misogynistic post.hehe

  92. #93 Greg Laden
    July 26, 2009

    Is racism a problem? yes

    Agreed. I think people who are not its victims tend to underestimate how much of a problem it is.

    Does that make every claim of racism valid? no

    I agree but there are conditions under which one is more vs. less likely to be right in making this claim, as an initial estimate.

    … I find myself moving further into the NO RACISM in this case because so many claim, without evidence, that it MUST BE RACISM.

    That’s dumb and you know, it, Bitch! The claim must be based on the evidence at hand, not on the behavior of arm waving libruls and/or yahoos who are expressing their opinion one way or another!

    What I really don’t understand is that the evidence so far seems to point to NO RACISM and that only seems to increase the white noise of MUST BE RACISM.

    I’m not sure that the evidence is pointing away from a racial bias being a factor. What evidence is that? That Mr. White Cop is all sensitive and shit? I think the evidence needs to settle down a bit still. Or yet, depending on what part of the country you are from.

    P.S.
    Greg, I can’t believe you would publish such a misogynistic post.hehe

    Ha! Wait until you see my next, post, Bitch!

    (can’t wait to see the selective quote mining on this comment!)

  93. #94 Kitty'sBitch
    July 26, 2009

    Greg
    “That’s dumb and you know, it, Bitch!”
    First, let me say that I love this out of context. Seriously though, yes I know it. I meant to include that in the post, but I guess I thought it but forgot to type it. When I went back and read my previous comments, I realised that I was making that move and it bothered me.

    “I think the evidence needs to settle down a bit still.”
    Fantastic, let’s do that. Let’s give it a little time. Before I started losing my mind, that’s all I was calling for.
    This all started with the shock of several people having already made up their minds and seeming unwilling to budge.
    If you roll back through the posts that disagreed with you, you’ll notice that it is not as though we’re a bunch of bat-shit fundamentalist rightwingers. I suppose that last statement shows some of my bias, but i hope you get my point.

  94. #95 don cotler
    July 26, 2009

    Apparently it is not “clear that Skip Gates was unlawfully arrested.” How is your point of view advanced by lying about “context” and then admitting the lie? Insufficient deference to a verbally abusive cop will get anyone arrested. This is wrong, but to conflate it with the serious issues of racial profiling and hate crimes only discredits an opinion that you and I seem to share about those issues.

  95. #96 Greg Laden
    July 26, 2009

    Don,every one of those African American men who are statistically more incarcerated (so to speak) than white Americans started down that path with these kinds of arrests. This is why thet police do this. you canvas a neighborhood, bust, bust, bust, working with city curfews and other tools, until everyone has a record long enough to ensure a conviction when you finally have that opporutnity. I think it is not a good idea to separate these situations on some sense of severity.

  96. #97 the real me
    July 26, 2009

    What all of the Gates defenders seem to be avoiding is that the ‘white cop’ wrote in his report that Gates told him ” I will meet your mama outside.”

    Now. For anyone out there listening–and this includes white liberals with the one or two ‘black friends’–calling someone out there name, and definitely calling out yo’ mama is fighting words in black culture. Gates essentially dared the cop to swing, and no doubt the cop was aware of Gates racial harrassment–it’s like Al Sharpton using Tawana Brawley and race-baiting-for-fame. It is the perpetuation of racism, but in a ‘black-face’ instead of white minstrelsry.

    It may seem like a small thing, but it isn’t, and in my mind, it shows a cop doing his job in a state of heightened race-issue awareness. Guys like Gates are the reason that black racism is not recognized for what it is–racism, just like the rest of ‘em have.

    And NOBODY has more reason to hate cops than me,or the home-invading, narrow and pig-minded paradigms they see the world with, I promise you. But like Greg says, I am also cursed with the empathic mental poison that forces me to see it through their eyes as well–and Gates through their eyes was acting like an entitled pain in the ass, and reclining towards white privileged perspectives of power relationships.

    More importantly, that so-called racist cop was trained by a black cop, and certified by black CO to do what he does with the race paradigms. In my mind, he is likely more black than Gates.

  97. #98 the real me
    July 26, 2009
  98. #99 don cotler
    July 26, 2009

    I refer to a difference not of degree but of category. My
    (white-appearing) son was arrested recently for such a non-offense. (It was he who called the police in the first place, and he was much more reasonable than Prof Gates seems to have been. They offered to drop the charges, but he insisted on winning in court, which he did.) Most of his cellmates were black. Were some in this group there because of race? Probably. Were they all? Obviously not.

    Also, why raise the ante with the self-admitted falsehood about an unlawful arrest?

    Finally, please also admit that, regardless of the shameful and obvious anecdotal support and statistical proof of institutional and individual bias in our justice system, some black men, like any other demographic, are arrested for actual crimes. Your hyperbole (“every one of those A.A. men . . .”) is not very convincing.

  99. #100 Monado, FCD
    July 26, 2009

    Diffidently I point out that teaching other people about how people ought to behave is not the same as being able to be that way oneself, consistently. I attended a course about proper communication in a management context, which was taught by someone whose management style I’d been subjected to in the past. The contrast between what we were told to do and how this person actually operated was as different as, well, day and night.

    Just think of a few self-righteous and hypocritical politicians and preachers if you need more examples.

  100. #101 Stephanie Z
    July 26, 2009

    Real, I’ll let Digby answer your point about seeing it through the cops’ eyes:

    It is very rude of citizens to do that, to be sure. But it is not a crime. The idea that people should not get angry, should not pull rank, should be rude to others is an issue for sociologists and Miss Manners, not the cops. Humans often behave badly, but that doesn’t make it illegal. For people with such tremendous power as police officers to be coddled into thinking that these are behaviors that allow them to arrest people (or worse) seems to be to far more dangerous than allowing a foolish person or two to set a bad example in the public square.

    The rest is very much worth reading as well.

    don, the part of Greg’s statement that you elided is central to his point. “every one of those African American men who are statistically more incarcerated (so to speak) than white Americans” He’s not talking about all African-American prisoners. He’s talking about the mechanisms by which racism and classism are enforced.

  101. #102 Monado
    July 26, 2009

    I got it Greg. You had undeservedly instant credibility. The building manager, who was black (brown, tan) was instantly assumed to be a criminal.

    One thing that I think may have set off Mr. Gates was that he had already been stopped by the police for walking in Harvard Square while black a few years ago. One could be forgiven a little exasperation.

    Someone above mentioned that car chases piss off the police. The excitement levels are so high that even in training exercises, when they are taking turns chasing each other, they tend to jump out of their cars and beat the “perp.”

  102. #103 Greg Laden
    July 26, 2009

    He’s talking about the mechanisms by which racism and classism are enforced.

    Right, and the seemingly inescapable ontogeny for the modal inner city African American male that includes exclusive access to certain disease states, high probabilities of death via certain routes not commonly open to others, and eventual and repeated incarceration.

    Remember the young man who ran from the cops in Detroit a couple of years back and was killed, unarmed? Why did he run? He ran because he had filled up his Ghetto Bingo card with small “offenses” that he was not really guilty of or that in a middle class world were minor (driving with a broken brake light sort so fthings) and was required to serve time next time he was busted no matter what based on some state law. No felonies. Just driving while black long enough that he would finally spend time in prison, losing his job and thus unable to pay for his mother’s chemo or whaver.

    So they ran and the cops gunned him down, put like fourty bullets in him.

    That is why the Uppity Black Professor is a hero not a villian. I really hope the cop does not take a lot of flack for this (and it looks like he is not) but I do want people to think about actual consequences before they judge and convict people so readily.

    Jurors should all be required to spend over night in jury duty, and their living quarters should always be the count lockup.

  103. #104 Kitty'sBitch
    July 26, 2009

    “I really hope the cop does not take a lot of flack for this”

    Absolutely!! Like, I hope someone with a blog doesn’t spend two days jumping through hoops to explain why it’s OK to assume he’s a scumbag racist.

    “I do want people to think about actual consequences before they judge and convict people so readily.”

    What?

    Greg, this is the whole point that a few of us have been trying to make. How could you not have seen that?
    Did you think that we were denying racism? Did you think we were denying racism among the police?
    What the hell do you think we’ve been arguing about?

  104. #105 Kitty'sBitch
    July 26, 2009

    This does explain why you didn’t see the parallels to the accusations of misogyny. We were obviously on an entirely different page here.
    When you posted this, i had just seen the story evolving on cnn. It appeared as though the accusations of racism leveled at the officer were unwaranted and the accuser was backing off of the accusation. The details of the arrest were coming out and being corroborated by witnesses. Word came out that there were recordings of part of the event that did not seem to reflect well on the professor. Everything seemed to point toward the accusations being false.
    Then I popped on your blog and found a post where you seemed to be saying that racism was obvious in this case and you didn’t need any of that pesky evidence.
    I hope you can understand why this was such a problem for me. You seemed to be throwing evidence out the window in favor of a personal anecdote that didn’t involve anyone from the story.

  105. #106 Greg Laden
    July 26, 2009

    Did you think that we were denying racism? Did you think we were denying racism among the police?

    Yes, this thread is full of that (not you, though).

    I hope you can understand why this was such a problem for me. You seemed to be throwing evidence out the window in favor of a personal anecdote that didn’t involve anyone from the story.

    I do not mean to conflate my personal anecdote with this event. I meant rather to point out how run of the mill it is for cops and other people to react differently to others depending pretty much on skin color. I mean, really… you are a cop at a crime in progress. Out pops a guy with a pirate mustache, a Columbine coat and a cowboy hat and another guy wearing work clothes with a name patch and everything …. who are you going to believe? The one with white skin, silly!

  106. #107 peacenik
    July 26, 2009

    “I thought we were the community that values evidence.”

    Good point.

    Also, I grew up in a blue-collar family, but hung out with a lot of privileged kids. As obnoxious as they usually were, I was always amazed at how exceedingly polite and submissive they instantly became when we invariably got into situations involving police. Not just your basic politeness but they’d be all “yes officer” “yes sir” etc. expressions that were otherwise foreign to them (this wasn’t the South). Perhaps it came easier to them as they were secure in their superior position, but I can’t help wondering anyway if this has an effect on arrest rates.

    I don’t know Gate’s background did he grow up poor?

  107. #108 Kitty'sBitch
    July 26, 2009

    Greg
    It seems that this whole time you’ve been fighting from the perspective of the professor with a lifetime of dealing with racism. I’ve been coming at it from the point of view of a police officer who has, seemingly without warrant, been convicted of racism on an international stage.

    I can certainly understand your perspective in that light.

    Another PS
    I loved the pirate mustache. I’ve seen it in photos on this blog. When you shaved it off I bet Tom Selleck felt a disturbance in the force.

  108. #109 sailor
    July 26, 2009

    this I find his other pronouncement suspect.
    Let us look it at this way. Whether race was involved or not, this was a very faulty arrest. Gates did not commit a crime, he was in his own home, however obnoxious he might have been he was not a criminal, he should not have been arrested. Greg is right, those of us lucky enough to have privileged white background do know how to damn well shut up in this kind of situation. But that is not the point. It is not the job of the police to wander around and intimidate the population into “showing respect” and that attitude is why they are mistrusted and do not get as much help from the public as they need.

  109. #110 sailor
    July 26, 2009

    Sorry about the above comment, the top was dropped off. The missing points I was making was that white people totally underestimate how much more black people get treated with suspicion when white people are in charge.
    That there is no way the cop would even know whether race played a role, since much of his reaction would take part at an automatic or unconscious level.
    and that I thus find his claim to be beyond race suspect.

  110. #111 Greg Laden
    July 26, 2009

    When you shaved it off I bet Tom Selleck felt a disturbance in the force.

    I was drunk.

  111. #112 Sharon Norman
    July 27, 2009

    Blah, Blah, Blah…..I am sick and tired of African Americans crying foul and putting white people down. White people get discriminated against too by African Americans. African Americans having been crying for 46 years…The US governement and the American people have bent over backswards to help them out. instead of blaming all their problems on white people and constantly putting white people down, they need to mature, take responsibility for their behavior, and move forward into the modern, multi-cultural world we are living in.

  112. #113 Enoch
    July 27, 2009

    I was drunk.

    Shaving while drunk is dangerous!

  113. #114 Spiv
    July 27, 2009

    Once upon a time I was pulled over by a rather accusative police officer. My crime was driving a sleek looking sports car while young in the middle of the afternoon. Worse than that, the car, being wedge shaped, was not something that tagged well under the current radar technology. I knew this, the cop knew this (or, at least, discovered it as I watched him attempt to tag me 3 or 4 times with a frustrated look on his face as I drove past).

    All the same he raced up and pulled me over, told me I was speeding. Not wanting a ticket for a crime I did not commit, I didn’t much feel like playing ball- especially knowing he did not have any evidence or reason to believe I was speeding. When I asked to see the radar’s readings he refused, and then proceeded to change the subject by asking to search my car. We’ve stepped beyond ‘you’re speeding’ now.

    Being this particular car: the interior consisted of two tiny seats, floor mats, and a glove compartment that could scarcely contain a full sized pair of gloves (which was open, and empty since it normally only contained my registration; which he was holding). There was not so much as a stray receipt or candy wrapper in the whole car. I was so taken back by his request that without thinking I just confusedly scanned over the tiny space inside and turned back to him and announced “I think you just did?”

    Well, this did not go over well and I ultimately ended up stepping out of the vehicle to get frisked, my car “searched” (seats folded back and forth a couple times, floor mats toss on the ground) and a good run of verbal abuse.

    This is the kind of treatment I’ve come to expect from police, regardless of supposed crimes. Regardless of my race (I’m Whitey McWhitewhite anyway). Some cops are just jerks, and the moment you don’t roll over and play sucker you’re in for abuse. That’s a problem.

    So I guess I don’t assume race was an issue here. Only that the cop felt like being a jerk. Perhaps he felt his masculinity was on the line. I don’t know. But it’s a shameful thing either way.

  114. #115 Greg Laden
    July 27, 2009

    Shaving while drunk is dangerous!

    Actually,no, I GREW it while I was drunk.

  115. #116 Kitty'sBitch
    July 27, 2009

    “Actually,no, I GREW it while I was drunk.”

    And Tom Selleck wept.
    That thing had to take at least a couple weeks to grow. That’s one hell of a binge.

  116. #117 t
    July 27, 2009

    Steph @ “very rude of citizens to do that, to be sure. But it is not a crime”
    Yup, I know. The problem is that people who have never been arrested, etc. are all indignant, which is GOOD, but totally unaware–which is not good–of the actual ways that police power is abusive in the case of false and trumped arrests. It is a tactic that they use every single day.

    The biggest problem here in this case is that some idiot-Gates- decided to smear black face on an issue that afects anyone who has ever been f$cked over by cops, and so the abuse of power continues. Next generation will just have a different face on it, but the same abuse.

  117. #118 Greg Laden
    July 27, 2009

    That thing had to take at least a couple weeks to grow.

    Took about ten years.

  118. #119 becca
    July 27, 2009

    Based on statistical averages of most-likely-bad-but-not-worst-possible case scenarios:

    male + sleek sports car + attitude + whiteymcwhitewhite = frisking + verbal abuse + floor mats thrown on ground

    male + sleek sports car + attitude + black = frisking + verbal abuse + presumption of stolen car + person thrown on ground

    Also,
    female + sleek sports car + attitude + white = funny look + patronizing attitude + getting asked on a date

    Look kids, you can acknowledge your own privilege and note the system is screwed up at the same time! It’s fun, try it with me!

  119. #120 Greg Laden
    July 28, 2009

    … Hey! You are profiling!!!!!

    (Loving the image of floor mats thrown on ground by disgruntled coppers)

  120. #121 Tsu Dho Nimh
    July 28, 2009

    Having an ID with an address matching the residence and having a legal right to be in that residence are two different things … ask any landlord who has evicted a tenant, or person with a keep-away order against a spouse.

    I have had ex-tenants stand in an apartment and claim they were legally there as long as a year after the lease was over. Yes, their driver’s license had the address on it, but their non-paying butts had been evicted. They snuck in between tenants and tried to steal the appliances.

  121. #122 the real me
    July 28, 2009

    Becca forgot one part of the equation of “female + sleek sports car + attitude + white = funny look + patronizing attitude + getting asked on a date”

    …which is White female NOT profiled for anything that puts her life in jeopardy, much less profiled when they ARE criminals+sense of white female entitlement+ pathetic disregard for the rights of men who go through this shit every day = a society ill equipped to call entitled white women what they are = cops hitting on entitled chicks whose privilege is masked in the illusion of ‘what is sexy’ to a gun toting cop = matriarchal authority and attitudes masked in police state power into infinity