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The Henry Louis Gates "Teaching Moment"

Put the race talk aside: the issue here is abuse of police power, and misplaced deference to authority

The arrest of Harvard African-American Studies Professor Henry Louis Gates has certainly got everyone talking. Unfortunately, everyone's talking about the wrong issue. 

Responding to a 911 call from a woman who observed Gates prying open the door to his own home, Cambridge, Massachusetts police Sgt. James Crowley confronted Gates, and asked him to prove his residency. What happened next is disputed, but it now seems clear that Gates mistakenly presumed that Crowley had racially profiled him, and hurled a barrage of invective at Crowley in response. Crowey has since been backed up by other officers, some of them black, and it turns out he was appointed to teach a clinic on profiling by a black former Boston police commissioner.

This has given law-and-order conservatives cause to crow: A liberal academic and friend of President Barack Obama wrongly accuses a cop of racial prejudice. None of this means racial profiling doesn't exist (law-and-order types seem torn between arguing that profiling is a myth, and arguing that it works). It just means that the story in Cambridge was about something else.

The conversation we ought to be having in response to the July 16 incident and its heated aftermath isn't about race, it's about police arrest powers, and the right to criticize armed agents of the government.

By any account of what happened—Gates', Crowleys', or some version in between—Gates should never have been arrested. "Contempt of cop," as it's sometimes called, isn't a crime. Or at least it shouldn't be. It may be impolite, but mouthing off to police is protected speech, all the more so if your anger and insults are related to a perceived violation of your rights. The "disorderly conduct" charge for which Gates was arrested was intended to prevent riots, not to prevent cops from enduring insults. Crowley is owed an apology for being portrayed as a racist, but he ought to be disciplined for making a wrongful arrest.

He won't be, of course. And that's ultimately the scandal that will endure long after the political furor dies down. The power to forcibly detain a citizen is an extraordinary one. It's taken far too lightly, and is too often abused. And that abuse certainly occurs against black people, but not only against black people. American cops seem to have increasingly little tolerance for people who talk back, even merely to inquire about their rights.

In a locally prominent case from April 2008, a friend of mine named Brooke Oberwetter was arrested at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. for, essentially, dancing. Oberwetter and other libertarians had gathered at the memorial to quirkily celebrate Jefferson's birthday by silently dancing to their iPods. When National Park Police asked the group to leave, Oberwetter hesitated, stopping to ask one officer to explain what laws or rules they had violated. He arrested her, on the charge of "interfering with an agency function," a vague charge similar to Gates' alleged public disturbance. Oberwetter was never tried, though she was handcuffed and detained for several hours. She has since filed a civil rights lawsuit against the officer and the Park Police. Oberwetter wasn't profiled: She's white, female, and the daughter of a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

In the wake of both Gates and Obama escalating the arrest into a national debate about race, too many conservatives took the instinctively authoritarian tack represented here by Washington Post staff writer Neely Tucker:

One of the common-sense rules of life can be summed up this way: Don't Mess With Cops.

It doesn't matter if you are right, wrong, at home or on the street, or if you are white, black, Hispanic, Jewish, Muslim or whatever. When an armed law enforcement officer tells you to cease and desist, the wise person (a) ceases and (b) desists.

The End.

Perhaps on an individual level, this is sound advice. As a general rule, you ought not provoke someone carrying a gun, whether your criticism is justified or not. As a broader sentiment, however, it shows a dangerous level of deference to the government agents in whom we entrust a massive amount of power. And it comes awfully close to writing a blank check for police misconduct.

If there's a teachable moment to extract from Gates' arrest, it's that arrest powers should be limited to actual crimes. Instead, the emerging lesson seems to be that you should capitulate to police, all the time, right or wrong. That's unfortunate, because there are plenty of instances where you shouldn't.

The most obvious case where deference to authority can be counter-productive—both in practice and in principle—is when police attempt an unlawful search or seizure of your person and property. But there are plenty of other instances as well, particularly with the spread of information technology.

Photographing or videotaping police ought to be a protected form of expression under any reasonable interpretation of the Constitution. Yet at the website Photography Is Not a Crime, photographer Carlos Miller has tracked dozens of cases in which police have unlawfully demanded someone cease photographing on-duty cops. Typically, police demand photographers hand over their cameras, and those who refuse are often arrested. In some of the cases, the preserved video or photographs have vindicated a defendant, or revealed police misconduct. Miller started the site after he himself was wrongly arrested for photographing police officers in Miami.

A week before the Gates incident, the NAACP launched a new website where users can upload video, photos, and text accounts of police misconduct from their cell phones. Just days before Gates was arrested, Philadelphia newspapers reported on a local cop who was captured by a convenience store's security video brutally assaulting a woman who had been in a car accident with his son. He then arrested her and charged her with assaulting him. The officer then demanded the store clerk turn over surveillance video of his attack. The clerk says other officers made subsequent demands to turn over or destroy the video. To his credit, the clerk refused. The video vindicated the woman. The officer has since been suspended.

After Oakland police officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed subway passenger Oscar Grant at point blank range last New Year's Day, police attempted to confiscate cell phone photos and videos of the shooting. Fortunately, not everyone complied. Mehserle will now be tried for murder.

In the last few years we've seen numerous other incidents where cell phone videos and photographs, surveillance video, or handheld video cameras have both exposed police misconduct and shown officers to have falsified police reports. In most of these cases, the police at various points attempted to confiscate, alter, or destroy the photographic evidence.

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  • ||

    You guys are going to have to start hiring ring girls for the rounds.

  • ||

    Brillant article. I agree 100%.

  • ||

    There's a huge knob slobbering PR press conference going where they Cambridge city executive is going to investigate this situation to to make it a learning experience.


    Every fucktard and his dog is now going to try and get air time out of this. I can here the Loony Tunes song now. Like retards moths to flame. God if only the flame was a bug zapper.

  • ||

    The entire WH meeting should be broadcast live as a teaching moment.

  • ||

    I'm just glad someone on the blog has finally mentioned this incident. I figured you all were going to let it just flying right under the radar.

  • ||

    Really?

    "mouthing off to police is protected speech, all the more so if your anger and insults are related to a perceived violation of your rights"

    Agreed that free speech should be protected under any circumstance, but ask yourself the operative question: does yelling get you anywhere when an armed man approaches you, assuming he thinks you're a burglar? It's hard to imagine how a cop could understand a man's innocence when he's yelling out racial profiling claims in the middle of the night.

    "If there's a teachable moment to extract from Gates' arrest, it's that arrest powers should be limited to actual crimes."

    Most of what is being written about are the problems of the Supreme Court and Congress and the assumption that a police officer can adjudicate those lofty and complex codes into reasonable law enforcement. This is expecting the best when in fact the best is often the enemy of the good.

  • ||

    You know, we don't need your sarcasm and attitude, NutraSweet. This is a very serious incident and needs to be discussed endlessly.

  • ||

    Michael Jackson died!

  • ||

    Episiarch-

    there was a piece of common sense in his comment. You would think this could be reduced to a misunderstanding among neighbors, but it's turned into racial this and police brutality that.

  • ||

    Once again I lament the inability to express sarcasm with written words.

  • ||

    Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.

  • ||

    Anna Nicole Smith is gone guys... get over it

  • ||

    What we owe law enforcement is vigilant oversight and accountability, not mindless deference and capitulation.

    Excellent line. But no one is going to do just that and the union backing police is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, in the US. Which means oversight is almost guaranteed to be minimal.

  • ||

    [i]asdf[i/]

  • ||

    'Commenting on Gates' arrest, National Review's Jonah Goldberg wrote that he counts himself among those who are "deferential to police," and willing to "give cops the benefit of the doubt for a host of reasons." That's a common position among conservatives.'

    In the comment to which Balko links, Goldberg says that his emails (apparently from conservatives) are evenly divided between pro-cop and anti-cop:

    'About half the readers think Gates is hilariously in the wrong. The other half, give or take, think that the cop was transparently to blame for the whole mess. That's a gross generalization of several dozen e-mails, but I think it reflects how conservatives, like Americans generally, are of two views when it comes to cops. One side is inclined to distrust them, see them as potential abusers of authority - mere men with badges and guns. Another side is deferential to police. That is not to say they condone abuse or sanction cops being above the law. But they give cops the benefit of the doubt for a host of reasons.'

    Let's not generalize about conservatives.

  • ||

    I just don't have the time to read the multi-hundred-post threads on this issue. Is there a condensed version like we have with health care? Also, how exactly was Feral Pig involved on the night in question?

  • Dave W.||

    Great article, Mr. Balko.

    Now the quibble: I do wish yu had discussed the issue of whether Crowley should have enetered Gates' house. To me, it is the entry into the house that seems: (i) the most clearly illegal part (because no probable cause when Gates showed up at door); (ii) the part most suggestive of racism (white guy would have been allowed to fetch id with policeman remaining outside); and (iii) the most troubling from a libertarian perspective (man's home is castle and all that).

  • Citizen Nothing||

    The Balko article at last. Thank God. (No sarcasm intended.)

  • ||

    Oh, for the good ole days, when two men who had a disagreement could simply shoot it out in a duel! Trial this and deposition that, screw it, give em pistols at twelve paces!

    Hmmm, that probably favors the guy who has been packing daily for the past 15 years, but so what, think of the pay-per-view revenues!

  • ||

    Free minds and flogging dead horses™

  • ||

    Also, how exactly was Feral Pig involved on the night in question?



    In the bushes. There are unsubstantiated reports that he was hurling porcine insults at the officers.

  • ||

    Marshall, I'm going to have to give you a D+ on that. Not a great effort.

  • ||

    Hmmm, that probably favors the guy who has been packing daily for the past 15 years, but so what, think of the pay-per-view revenues!

    You need to spend some time at the local gun range and watch officers train. Hell a fair percentage of them can't get their service weapon out over the fat roll with anything resembling speed. Plus armor your wife and neighbor, you might lose, but can take comfort in knowing they aren't going to win.

  • ||

    FUCK FaIlEd To ClOsE.

  • ||

    You should up the grade to at least a C.

  • ||

    Has Radley Balko ever watched an episode of the TV show "Cops"? I doubt it.

  • ||

    Hey guys, I heard something about some black guy at Harvard getting arrested. TOTALLY bogus. Anyone else hear about this?

  • ||

    The "disorderly conduct" charge for which Gates was arrested was intended to prevent riots,

    Huh? It was used to arrest town drunks who accosted people in the public square from day one. Not saying that the statute should necessarily apply in this case, but that's a bit TOO restrictive.

  • ||

    I see this thread veering off badly, so for the record, this is exactly the article I was hoping to see from Balko, and it came after the facts were in. Well done.

  • ||

    This is libertarianism on stilts. Consider a policeman facing a mob screaming epithets and threats at him. His options are: to pull his gun and possibly kill someone, to run away, or arrest, or threaten to arrest, the verbally violent citizen(s).

  • ||

    The old saw is that to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. So to Gates this looked liked racism, and to Balko this looks like police abuse of power. But I don't think it's either.

    The cop was investigating a break-in in progress, possibly a dangerous situation. He wanted to make sure everything was on the up-and-up before leaving. To Gates and Balko and most folks here, once Gates identified himself, the cop should have left. But did Gates show him ID that proved that was his address? It's unclear. Even then, maybe Gates was locked out of the house by his wife or boyfriend or something. Maybe it was a domestic violence situation. Maybe there were burglars in the house, and Gates was speaking under duress. It seems like good police procedure to have Gates step out of the house, and answer a few more questions, just to make sure.

    And maybe I'm not libertarian enough to think that disorderly conduct laws aren't needed. Would society really be better or freer if everyone felt they could shout at cops and make a scene under every circumstance?

  • ||

    Was it not Gates who framed the debate by accusing the cop of racism? All other cops I've seen cited in the press ond on-line agree that Crowley was right to ask for ID. Would Gates have accused a black cop of racism at that point? If so, it is laughable. If not, then why is not gates who did the racial profiling?

  • Alan Vanneman||

    "Not saying that the statute should necessarily apply in this case..."

    Because yelling at a cop in your own home is kind of like drunkenly accosting strangers in a public place.

    Sorry, Tulpa, but I got to go with FrBunny: Yea Balko!

    I only wish someone had asked Obama if Gates' arrest wasn't simply an example of preventive detention. After all, Obama is claiming the right to lock people up, forever, after they've been found INNOCENT in a court of law. I guess if you want to be free, it helps to be a professor at Harvard.

  • ||

    Just so I can call myself productive today (and make a bid for a staff position at Reason):
    Reason on Gates' arrest here, here, here, here, here,

  • ||

    here, here, AAAAAAND here.

    DAMN LINK LIMIT!

  • ||

    Once again, Radley proves why he is my favorite writer on the staff: though the stories he shares are horrifying, his analyses are spot on.

  • ||

    "DAMN LINK LIMIT" is by far your most obscure cliché yet.

  • ||

    > "Crowley is owed an apology for being portrayed as a racist, but he ought to be disciplined for making a wrongful arrest."

    This one line from Balko's column sums this whole thing up rather nicely.

  • ||

    After Oakland police officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed subway passenger Oscar Grant at point blank range last New Year's Day, police attempted to confiscate cell phone photos and videos of the shooting. Fortunately, not everyone complied. Mehserle will now be tried for murder.

    Any police officer who participated in an attempt to seize photographic or video evidence of what took place was a conspirator in that murder and should similarly be put on trial. The fact that this is not what will occur is a testament to how corrupt our society really is.

    We pretty desperately need a federal law that makes a police attempt to confiscate evidence of police misconduct an automatic bullet in the federal pen on the first offense.

  • ||

    Great article, sums it up nicely.

  • ||

    I had a similar experience to Professor Gates many years ago. I had just moved in to a new home and I locked my self out. I didn't know any of the neighbours yet but I knew how and where to break in. I might add I was dressed a bit rough as I had just spent a week camping and fishing up north.

    So what did I do? I called the police. When they came I identified myself, explained the situation and they watched me break in.

    The police thanked me. End of story.

    Mind you, I didn't go to Harvard.

  • ||

    Question, wasn't the house that Gate's entered owned by Harvard University and wasn't this the same house which had been recently broken into?

    I am a renter, just like Gates and I understand the landlord owns the property, not the renter.

  • John||

    Excellent work, Mr. Balko. I especially enjoyed this insight:

    This deference to police at the expense of the policed is misplaced. Put a government worker behind a desk and give him the power to regulate, and conservatives will wax at length about public choice theory, bureaucratic pettiness, and the trappings of power. And rightly so. But put a government worker behind a badge, strap a gun to his waist, and give him the power to detain, use force, and kill, and those lessons somehow no longer apply.

    The conservative response is a good sign of how the conservative movement is just saying empty words when it talks about limiting government power.

  • ||

    I had a similar experience to Professor Gates many years ago. I had just moved in to a new home and I locked my self out. I didn't know any of the neighbours yet but I knew how and where to break in. I might add I was dressed a bit rough as I had just spent a week camping and fishing up north.

    So what did I do? I called the police. When they came I identified myself, explained the situation and they watched me break in.

    The police thanked me. End of story.

    Mind you, I didn't go to Harvard.

  • ||

    "Put the race talk aside, Balko argues: the issue here is abuse of police power, and misplaced deference to authority."

    Balko is completely correct. That imbecile Gates did nothing but obfuscate a very serious law enforcement issue by screaming racism to cover up an emotional meltdown.

  • ||

    FrBunny | July 27, 2009, 12:58pm | #

    "DAMN LINK LIMIT" is by far your most obscure cliché yet.


    Touché

  • ||

    "I didn't go to Harvard"

    Considering the fact that Harvard University is not only bankrupt and broke, it tends graduate a large number of people who;

    -are incapable of correctly paying their taxes,
    -do not know how many states comprise the Republic,
    -have little understanding of the US Constitution,
    -are abject failures at understanding history,
    -are abject failures at understanding basic economics.

    I would say that you saved yourself from receiving $300,000 worth of misery, pain and failure.

  • ||

    Most of what is being written about are the problems of the Supreme Court and Congress and the assumption that a police officer can adjudicate those lofty and complex codes into reasonable law enforcement. This is expecting the best when in fact the best is often the enemy of the good.

    If the charges are dropped within 24 hours without a court order, my guess is it wasn't that hazy a legal question.

    Let's not generalize about conservatives.

    Mad Max,
    Of course, if you read the Corner's comments on the case, 100% are deferential to the police. Including some anonymous writing from an LAPD officer wondering why minorities don't trust the police*. My guess is those "conservatives" Jonah references are libertarians. If you could produce one Corner post that wonders why the hell a guy is getting arrested for something not illegal, I'll concede your point. Otherwise, Balko is right, is cop knob gobbling fest over there.

    Here's a quote from the LAPD officer at the Corner:

    At that moment I can assure you the officer is not all that concerned with trying not to offend you. He is instead concerned with protecting his mortal hide from having holes placed in it where God did not intend. And you, if in asserting your constitutional right to be free from unlawful search and seizure fail to do as the officer asks, run the risk of having such holes placed in your own.

    * Apparently, he was asleep during the Rampart scandal or thought they got railroaded.

  • ||

    PM | July 27, 2009, 12:43pm | #

    This is libertarianism on stilts. Consider a policeman facing a mob screaming epithets and threats at him. His options are: to pull his gun and possibly kill someone, to run away, or arrest, or threaten to arrest, the verbally violent citizen(s).


    Depends on whether or not the cop had a reasonable belief he or others were in danger. If it was just a bunch of people yelling, without any actual threats or danger, no arrest should be made. If there was physical danger, threats of violence, that's different.

    I don't believe Gates was a threat to the cop's safety, nor do I believe he threatened the cop with physical harm. Correct me if I'm wrong.

  • ||

    I don't disagree with all your supporting points but your overall point I do. Rather I'd go the other way and expand it to you should be able to be arrested for acting unhinged with more than just the police. If you yell and scream at a clerk or waiter and it is on tape or a cop hears it... you too should be arrested for disturbing the peace.

    Now, if you're calmly asking about your rights or doing a video, of course it is an abuse of power to arrest you. But if you're yelling or not following legitimate instructions (and asking you to step outside in a break in / intruder situation is legit)... then you should be arrested.

  • ||

    Oh, with regard to Radley's question about why conservatives oppose bureaucrats but love the police:

    Conservative and libertarian positions often overlap even though both groups adopt their positions out of different motives.

    Libertarians oppose statist bureaucracy because it threatens liberty. Conservatives oppose it because it threatens property. Property not in the sense of the property right itself [which libertarians support even more fervently] but in the sense of wealth itself and its position in the social order. That means that conservatives will oppose interfering bureaucrats just like libertarians, but will wholeheartedly endorse police, because they see the police as protectors of property against the thieving, scheming [and probably Red] proletarian mass, particularly the darker-skinned elements of that mass.

  • ||

    People get arrested for yelling all the time (at cops and at others). Maybe they shouldn't be or it isn't actually legal, but it happens all the time. It's de facto treated as an arrestable offense.

  • ||

    We pretty desperately need a federal law that makes a police attempt to confiscate evidence of police misconduct an automatic bullet in the federal pen on the first offense.

    Now can you see why I thought typos rated their very own law.

    RC'z Law: Typos in a comment will frequently be more amusing or insightful than the intended comment.

    Also, how exactly was Feral Pig involved on the night in question?

    I thought he arrested Gates for disorderly conduct.

  • ||

    Thanks for steering the conversation in the right direction.

  • ||

    Question, wasn't the house that Gate's entered owned by Harvard University and wasn't this the same house which had been recently broken into?

    I am a renter, just like Gates and I understand the landlord owns the property, not the renter.


    A landlord (generally) has fee simple title to a property, but (generally, depending on the lease), a renter has every other right associated with the ownership of real property, particularly the rights of possession and exculsion. That is, under the common law and in the absence of anything to the contrary in a lease, a lessee has the the right to exclude anyone from the property, including the lessor. A lessor can be guilty of trespassing on land he owns if he is there without the permission of the lessee.

    Please remember, this is a general discussion of the common law of property - the situation will vary by jurisdiction and the terms of a lease.

  • ||

    Fcktard academic picks a fight with a cop and gets inconvenienced with charges that are dropped.

    This is like using 2 Live Crew as a test case for free speech.

    Can we please pick a better example?

  • ||

    If you yell and scream at a clerk or waiter and it is on tape or a cop hears it... you too should be arrested for disturbing the peace.

    Troll often here, Thomas?

  • ||

    We pretty desperately need a federal law that makes a police attempt to confiscate evidence of police misconduct an automatic bullet in the federal pen on the first offense.



    Now can you see why I thought typos rated their very own law.

    I wasn't trying to type "billet".

    It is my understanding that a 1-year sentence is colloquially known as a "bullet". I was arguing for an automatic mandatory 1 year sentence, like the sentences in some states for carrying an unregistered handgun.

  • ||

    My father and brother were both cops, as were four of my cousins. I have known probably three dozen other cops socially in my life thus far. And I agree with this article 100%.

    Every cop I have ever known, every single one, has viewed their power of arrest as a trump card they can play to resolve disputes in their favor. On duty or off, in the right or in the wrong, it didn't matter.

    Cops do a dangerous and nessecary job, and they deserve our respect. But they are given extraordinary power with which to do that job, and human nature dictates that not all of them can be trusted with it. Those that abuse it should be fired, at a minimum.

  • ||

    Every cop I have ever known, every single one, has viewed their power of arrest as a trump card they can play to resolve disputes in their favor. On duty or off, in the right or in the wrong, it didn't matter.

    Cops do a dangerous and nessecary job, and they deserve our respect.


    The first paragraph seems to negate that last sentence. My respect is earned, not given. A police officer that abuses their power of arrest in order to resolve disputes illegitimately does not deserve my, nor anyone else's, respect.

  • ||

    Geotpf: My point above was that Crowley was (quite reasonably) trying to establish whether or not there was any danger. By flipping his lid and refusing to answer, Gates was interfering with that, so he may well have deserved to get arrested.

    The fact that the charge was dropped later proves nothing. That just shows the police department didn't want to deal with the hassle, or succumbed to political pressure.

  • ||

    "Responding to a 911 call from a woman who observed Gates prying open the door to his own home,"

    Incorrect, Mr. Balko. Gates was renting it. Why is this fact important?

    The door was clearly forced open, as the police observed. Gates, in addition to being belligerent and uncooperative (according to witnesses), chose to use his Harvard faculty ID card when he finally started cooperating, which does not list an address on it. And which is not neccesarily a valid form of identification.

    So, while standing on this thin ice of uncertainty, what does this so-called scholar (who doesnt know the difference between Shakespeare and Robert Burns http://www.ocregister.com/articles/gates-professor-black-2506786-racism-sgt) do? He refuses to cooperate, and insults the cop's mother.

    Gates has only himself to blame for this incident. He is 100% at fault. And now his bogus charity is getting scrutiny for suspicious finances.

    Gates is the wrong poster-child for libertarians to adopt. Let him twist in the wind.

  • Sulteric||

    You can mouth of to a cop in your own home (although if you invite one in you're a maroon). The minute you step out the door and into the public domain and there is a crowd outside, that changes.

    He was asked multiple times to knock it off, even once they got outside. Now that there were other cops, campus security, and civilians all gathered around he had no choice but to arrest him.

    I don't see how Crowley did anything wrong. The article is bovine scatology.

    RELEASE THE TAPES!

  • ||

    Hey, Mo...

    "My respect is earned, not given. A police officer that abuses their power of arrest in order to resolve disputes illegitimately does not deserve my, nor anyone else's, respect."

    How much respect will insulting your mother earn a person?

    If you get pulled over for speeding, will insulting the cop's mother increase your chances of avoiding a ticket, or decrease them?

    Respect is a 2-way street.

  • ||

    I guess it's time to get out the laminated card again, since Sulteric has absolutely no idea what disorderly conduct is under MA law:

    Here is a recent gloss by a Massachusetts court (adopting Model Penal Code s. 250.2(a)):

    A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if, with purpose to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, he: (a) engages in fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior.... 'Public' means affecting or likely to affect persons in a place to which the public or a substantial group has access; among the places included are highways, transport facilities, schools, prisons, apartment houses, places of business or amusement, or any neighborhood.

    Massachusetts courts have rejected MPC s. 250.2(b) as a violation of free speech rights. So this provision is not part of Massachusetts law:

    (b) makes unreasonable noise or offensively coarse utterance, gesture or display, or addresses abusive language to any person present.

    And here are some squibs:

    Arrest under Massachusetts "idle and disorderly person" statute was unlawful under Massachusetts law, where defendant was arrested for yelling, screaming, swearing and generally causing a disturbance but, though the yelling was undoubtedly loud enough to attract the attention of other guests in hotel, it did not rise to level of "riotous commotion" or "public nuisance." U.S. v. Pasqualino, D.Mass.1991, 768 F.Supp. 13.

    And -

    Defendant who did not physically resist his arrest arising out of a domestic violence incident could not be convicted of disorderly conduct based solely on his loud and angry tirade, which included profanities, directed at police officers as he was being escorted to police cruiser, even if spectators gathered to watch defendant; defendant did not make any threats or engage in violence, and his speech did not constitute fighting words. Com. v. Mallahan (2008) 72 Mass.App.Ct. 1103, 889 N.E.2d 77, 2008 WL 2404550.

    And -

    Defendant's conduct, namely, flailing his arms and shouting at police, victim of recent assault, or both, after being told to leave area by police, did not amount to "violent or tumultuous behavior" within scope of disorderly conduct statute, absent any claim that defendant's protestations constituted threat of violence, or any evidence that defendant's flailing arms were anything but physical manifestation of his agitation or that noise and commotion caused by defendant's behavior was extreme. Com. v. Lopiano (2004) 805 N.E.2d 522, 60 Mass.App.Ct. 723.



    http://www.volokh.com/posts/1248465451.shtml

    The tapes can't matter. It doesn't matter if Gates yelled, it doesn't matter if he used profanity, it just doesn't matter.

  • ||

    I think Bubba about sums it up. How about this resolution; Gates has to stand up and admit he acted like an asshole four year old and the cop admits that acting like an asshole four year old should not be a crime.

    I gaurentee you that most of the people on here saying that cop should have walked away would, if someone confronted them the way Gates appeared to have confronted the cop, have kicked the person's ass.

    Should the cop have been better than that? Sure. But lets say that what Gates did is not a crime. Let's say every person who sees a cop in public scream "asshole!!" at their top of their lungs. That is, by the definition given here, not a crime. But honestly, is that really a good idea? To some on here I am sure it is. But I don't think it is. Is it that much to expect Gates to act with the maturity level above a three year old?

  • ||

    I wasn't trying to type "billet".

    It is my understanding that a 1-year sentence is colloquially known as a "bullet".


    I learn something new every day around here. RC'z Law recognition hereby withdrawn, Fluffy.

    Seems like the Lopiano case you cite disposes of the issue that the cop had any basis whatsoever for arresting Gates.

  • ||

    Let's say every person who sees a cop in public scream "asshole!!" at their top of their lungs. That is, by the definition given here, not a crime. But honestly, is that really a good idea?

    Hmm. Can I get back to you on that, John?

  • ||

    Understand to, the cop had to respond. He also had to make sure that Gates actually lived there and there was nothing going on in the house. This time it was a race baiting Harvard Professor. The next time it will be an angry soon to be ex husband violating a restraining order waiting for his wife to come home to beat the shit out of her.

    If the cop looks at an ID and just walks away and doesn't do any checking and it is the ex husband waiting to beat his wife, it will be the cops ass. Of course when that happens, everyone will be on here screaming about lazy incompetant cops. Initially I was sypathetic to Gates. But, the longer this goes, the less sympathetic he is. Also, Reason doesn't help in the legitimate cause of stopping police abuses of power, by harping on such an undeserving case.

  • ||

    Fluffy, those are great cites. I wonder how many other states have so limited their disorderly conduct charges.

    I have had friends on multiple occasions charged with DC for a lot less than those (though not in Mass.)

  • ||

    Incorrect, Mr. Balko. Gates was renting it. Why is this fact important?

    The door was clearly forced open, as the police observed. Gates, in addition to being belligerent and uncooperative (according to witnesses), chose to use his Harvard faculty ID card when he finally started cooperating, which does not list an address on it. And which is not neccesarily a valid form of identification.


    You didn't answer the question - why is it important?

    Gates may not have had fee simple title to the home, but assuming there was a normal type of lease, he "owned" the leasehold estate.

  • ||

    "Seems like the Lopiano case you cite disposes of the issue that the cop had any basis whatsoever for arresting Gates."

    If it is settled law, Gates can sue for false arrest.

  • ||

    "The door was clearly forced open, as the police observed. Gates, in addition to being belligerent and uncooperative (according to witnesses), chose to use his Harvard faculty ID card when he finally started cooperating, which does not list an address on it. And which is not neccesarily a valid form of identification."

    If that is true, I wish people would be harder on Gates. What a fuckwad. Show the guy that you live there and what was going on and thank him for coming out. I would like the police to come out to my house if someone reported a burglary.

  • ||

    How much respect will insulting your mother earn a person?

    If you get pulled over for speeding, will insulting the cop's mother increase your chances of avoiding a ticket, or decrease them?

    Respect is a 2-way street.


    If I committed a violation, it's not an issue. He can't give me a ticket for making a "yo' mama" joke. I'm not saying Gates wasn't an ass, I'm saying arresting someone for being an ass is the problem. If we arrested everyone that was being an ass, the cost of prison construction would dwarf TARP.

    Also, considering he got arrested after the officer determined it was his residence (as admitted by the officer) means that there wasn't a justified arrest.

  • billo||

    I think Mr. Balko has it exactly backwards, and in order to make his point conflates multiple different scenarios. Arresting someone for taking a photograph is not the same thing as arresting someone who is agitated during the investigation of a possible break-in.

    Investigation of things like break-ins and domestic violence are particularly dangerous for both cops and the folk they are dealing with, in large part because it's not easy to tell the difference between a person who is agitated because they are a little pissed off and just want to vent and someone who is agitated and working their way up to a violent act. I'm a forensic pathologist, and I've investigated some of these killings. The bottom line is that you really can't wait until someone pulls a weapon or throws a punch.

    And the argument that we should all know that Dr. Gates could *never* do something like that is specious. Harvard professors have been known to use drugs. Harvar professors have been known to have psychotic breaks. Harvard professors are quite capable of getting involved in domestic violence issues.

    Those cops aren't there to be your psychiatrist. They aren't there to be your social worker. They are there to do pretty specific things -- and one of those things is to maintain control of the situation. It's not supposed to be a fair fight.

    The fact is that most folk who get agitated are just agitated. But there's a minority who end up escalating until there's violence and someone get's hurt. The idea is to stop it before it gets to that point. That's why these protocols are in place, and that's why folk who support these protocols are lining up behind Sgt. Crowley.

    I've investigated a lot of these deaths, and an arrest is a lot better than a death. I discuss it here .

  • ||

    "mouthing off to police is protected speech, all the more so if your anger and insults are related to a perceived violation of your rights"

    So is running down Martin Luther King drive yelling "Nigger! Nigger! Nigger!", but just try it some time. I doubt I'll see much sympathy from Reason for anyone foolish enough to try it.

    You can prattle about your rights until you're blue in the face, but common sense informs us that needlessly mouthing off to someone in a position to make your life difficult is a very, very bad idea. Can't say I have a lot of sympathy for anyone stupid enough to try it.

    Whatever the laws of the land may say, the laws of nature tell us that when you step on a rake, a solid whack on the forehead is the most likely outcome. Discretion is sometimes the better part of valor.

  • ||

    No one "deserves" to be arrested. If you break the law, you should be arrested. (Assuming it's a criminal law for which a summons would not be more appropriate).

    Based on Fluffy's cites, the behavior for which Gates was arrested was not a crime in Massachusetts.

    I have no problem with the police responding to the house to investigate the burglary. I have no problem with them requiring an ID with an address from Gates. I don't think it's that big a deal for the cop to enter the home if Gates at first refused to show ID. However, the copy should have given his full name and badge number to Gates (the police report only states he identified himself as Officer Crowley).
    The biggest mistake was arresting Gates when he had not committed a crime. If you beleive Gates committed a crime, you are going to have to show (cites please, preferably to a reporter I can find in Westlaw or Lexis), that the cases Fluffy brought up do not apply.

  • ||

    What Mr. Balko ignores is that cops, like most of us, want to be able to go home at night to their familly. They are walking into confrontational incidents, knowing they are often targets and not knowing who is hostile, and/or armed and dangerous. For their own protection, as well as for all of us they need to control agressive suspects. Prof. Gate is not well known enough to be instantly recognizable.

  • ||

    "So is running down Martin Luther King drive yelling "Nigger! Nigger! Nigger!", but just try it some time. I doubt I'll see much sympathy from Reason for anyone foolish enough to try it."

    flip this around. What if it had been a black cop and a white home owner and the white guy had started throwing out racial slurs and getting in the black guy's face? That is not a crime. Yet, I doubt the resident liberals on here, or Balko for that matter, would be too outraged.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    "Yet, I doubt the resident liberals on here, or Balko for that matter, would be too outraged."
    You really believe that, John? You are so full of it...

  • Citizen Nothing||

    This crap is why I detest conservatism nearly as much as I detest liberalism.

  • ||

    "Yet, I doubt the resident liberals on here, or Balko for that matter, would be too outraged."
    You really believe that, John? You are so full of it..."

    Absolutely I do. And I wouldn't be outraged either. Was this a wrongful arrest? From the cases Fluffy gives, yes it was. But as wrongful arrests go, it is pretty far down the list. I am sorry I can't get that upset about some jackass who screams and mouths off to a cop and gets himself arrested. If I am the cop's supervisor, I take him aside and tell him "hey walk away from it next time" and leave it at that. Reason wants to make a federal case out of it and thinks that it is the same as trying to force witnessess to give up photos of a crime. I am sorry, but it is not that big of a deal.

  • ||

    flip this around. What if it had been a black cop and a white home owner and the white guy had started throwing out racial slurs and getting in the black guy's face? That is not a crime. Yet, I doubt the resident liberals on here, or Balko for that matter, would be too outraged.

    Yes, because yo' momma jokes carry the same cultural and historical baggage that the n-word does. Give it a rest.

  • ||

    Marshall, I'm going to have to give you a D+ on that. Not a great effort.

    To be fair, Epi, I think that I should get some bonus points for attempting to change the subject, to anything other than a 400 post rehashing of this topic.

    And what about extra points for "life experiences"? I stepped on a rusty nail once.

  • ||

    Cn,

    So you think it is okay for me to go find the first black cop I see and say "hey nigger who gave you a badge"? If the cop says fuck it and arrests me on some BS charge, you are going to think that is an outrage and not just an overreaction to my being a complete asshole?

  • ||

    Great column. Agree 100% with all points.

  • ||

    I think it makes you a cock, but it's not arrestable. Thank you 1st amendment.

  • ||

    "Yes, because yo' momma jokes carry the same cultural and historical baggage that the n-word does. Give it a rest."

    So the first amendment doesn't protect racial slurs? Last I looked it did. It may be offensive and loathsome, but it is not illegal. If your bitch is that it shouldn't be a crime to insult a cop, it shouldn't matter what the insult is.

  • ||

    What Mr. Balko ignores is that cops, like most of us, want to be able to go home at night to their familly. They are walking into confrontational incidents, knowing they are often targets and not knowing who is hostile, and/or armed and dangerous. For their own protection, as well as for all of us they need to control agressive suspects.

    Sure, sure. They also need to know how to de-escalate a situation, and when to walk away even when someone is yelling at them.

    Besides, the danger of being a cop is vastly overrated. While its not especially safe, there are plenty of jobs more dangerous.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    What Mo said.

  • ||

    "I think it makes you a cock, but it's not arrestable. Thank you 1st amendment."

    That is absolutely true. But there are levels of wrongful arrests. Some wrongful arrests are more wrongful than others. And a wrongful arrest that is the result of someone being a complete asshole and getting in a cop's face, is not that big of a deal.

  • ||

    So you think it is okay for me to go find the first black cop I see and say "hey nigger who gave you a badge"? If the cop says fuck it and arrests me on some BS charge, you are going to think that is an outrage and not just an overreaction to my being a complete asshole?

    I'd back up your right to be a class A prick. The officer has no basis for making an arrest.

    However, if he locks his badge and gun in the trunk, then beats the shit out of you with his nightstick . . . I think I could live with that.

  • ||

    "Sure, sure. They also need to know how to de-escalate a situation, and when to walk away even when someone is yelling at them."

    Is it really that easy? Lets say cops as a rule walk away from billigerent civilians. As a general rule, when someone gets billigerent they walk away unless that person has committed a crime in their presence. That would seem to have a lot of second order effects. I would guess the first time, a cop walked away from an angry civilian who later when on to do something awful, the same people who were yelling at the cop to walk away will be screaming for his head then.

  • ||

    "However, if he locks his badge and gun in the trunk, then beats the shit out of you with his nightstick . . . I think I could live with that."

    So could I. But I doubt many could.

  • ||

    HENRY LOUIS GATES INCDIDENT 10 YEARS FROM NOW:

    Professor Gates creates Institute of Advanced Racist Studies, using scientific equipment he discovers new forrms of racism previously undetected.

    Sgt Crowley wins Police Oficers' Medal for controversial "indecent exposure" arrest of Cambridge area Grandmother in her own shower. The Fraternal Order of Police, and the police oficer's union stand by the arrest.

  • ||

    kinnath,

    I disagree. The nightstick is part of his state issued police equipment. If he put that away and changed out of his uniform and did it with his fists, I would be cool with that.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Being a cop isn't supposed to be easy. At least half of them should wash out in the academy or in the first few years on the job. And the good cops should welcome it.

  • ||

    "However, if he locks his badge and gun in the trunk, then beats the shit out of you with his nightstick . . . I think I could live with that."

    So could I. But I doubt many could.


    Assault < Arrest?

  • ||

    Besides, the danger of being a cop is vastly overrated. While its not especially safe, there are plenty of jobs more dangerous.

    From someone who has held two of BLS most dangerous job titles I always laugh at how much people like to puff up the danger of police and fire. Fire gets the most since getting paid to sleep and BBQ isn't exactly dangerous.

  • ||

    gets me the most*

  • ||

    yeah, beating the shit out of someone is not accepted, civilized conduct.

  • Jim Treacher||

    I think the Cambridge police were wrong to beat and tase Henry Lous Gates just for living indoors.

  • ejay||

    Sir, just how many small deals add up to one big one?

  • ||

    I both agree and disagree with the premise of the article. I am in full agreement with you that the police should not have any power to arrest people for being discourteous, as the First Amendment should absolutely protect their opinions of the police officer arresting them. I also agree with the premise that police falsely arresting photographers and citizens for documenting police activity is wrong.

    However, I have to disagree with the idea that race baiting isn't a major issue in this incident. Racism can never be conquered to any real degree in this country so long as people like Gates falsely play the race card, and leaders like Barack Obama continue to disseminate the "all black men are victims" meme. The President should know better. It's the boy who cried wolf writ large.

    As an attorney, I can tell you that many white people have been arrested, in the end, for nothing more than being an extreme jerk. They don't get the President supporting them, nor a mayor making mea culpas for her city, or the cop investigated.

    The right response by Obama was to say nothing. If he had to say something, then it should be simply that both sides overreacted, shake hands and walk away. That's where he's ultimately come down, but only after polls told him he wasn't making himself popular with his comments.

  • ||

    If I am the cop's supervisor, I take him aside and tell him "hey walk away from it next time" and leave it at that.

    BINGO. And Gates sounds like he really did need a time out. It took him days to get his story straight, as it was.

    Dude was belligerently weird. Cop arrested him and let his superiors sort it out.

    At some level, isn't that how it's supposed to work?

    It's not like they shot his dog...

  • Mike T||

    Perhaps the officer should be reprimanded, but this is a case that should not be used to cite police abuse of authority. Most people can put themselves in the officer's shoes and think that they might behave in a similar fashion if they responded to an honest call about a breaking and entering (which is a very serious crime that can turn deadly) and got so badly abused. Right or wrong, that's just human nature and you have to be careful about who you make the posterchild of your movement.

    If you want to draw public attention toward sympathy for the right to use violence against the police in self-defense, you need to use good examples where the average person will sympathize with the victim. That incident in Chicago where the drunk pig nearly bashed a tiny female bartender's head in would be a great example. A case where someone beat up a cop for trying to "seize" (actually, steal) a large amount of cash on their person would work as well.

    As long as people can either see both sides or sympathize with the cop, people who want to make the case for strengthening the public's rights against the police shouldn't touch such a case with a 10 foot pole.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    "While its not especially safe, there are plenty of jobs more dangerous."
    Exactly. Where are all the memorials to lumberjacks? Outside of Minnesota, I mean.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Most people WOULD respond as the cop did. That's why most people shouldn't be cops.

  • ||

    Good as far as you go, but you leave what may be the most interesting aspects, as details tumble out, of the Gates matter untouched.

    1. I presume Gates was letting his connections to the mayor, the governor and the president be known and promising to make the officers regret ever having offended his august person. In that case, as I understand it, an arrest report becomes the best way for the officers to get the facts into an arrest report, a public document. Look what bad shape the officers would be in at this point if the media did not have the arrest report to draw on.

    2. Thanks to years of lobbying by women's groups, there's no more ID check, quick glance around, then donut time. What Obama called "acting stupidly" was actually the police following procedures intended to curb domestic violence.

    Yes, police can often be thin-skinned; however, it is also the case that in these procedures they use agitations and refusal to comply with requests as indicators that all may not be right. It is far more likely someone is overwrought from the emotion of a crime on-going than by the sight of a couple of people in uniform, after all.

    I would hope you would revise and extend your remarks with aspects like these in mind.

  • ||

    "Fire gets the most since getting paid to sleep and BBQ isn't exactly dangerous."

    Don't forget driving out to office buildings to reset the mistakenly set fire alarms a couple of times a day.

    It is true that the danger of being a police officer is vastly overrated. It is still a nasty job. Most people in the world are animals. And cops have to routinely deal with the worst of them. I wouldn't want to be a duty cop for love nor money.

  • ||

    Assault < Arrest?

    Violent response by a private citizen in response to "fighting words" < abuse of authority by a gun-wielding agent of the state.

    Regarding violence in response to fighting words -- YMMV.

  • ||

    Timber cutter/feller or logger. Lumberjacks really don't exist anymore, like river pigs. The damn silly bastards on boats get memorials, of course they usually die in bunches.

  • ||

    That should be "an arrest becomes" rather than "an arrest report becomes".

  • ||

    Violent response by a private citizen in response to "fighting words" < abuse of authority by a gun-wielding agent of the state.



    Oh good grief.

  • ejay||

    Reason wants to make a federal case out of it and thinks that it is the same as trying to force witnessess to give up photos of a crime. I am sorry, but it is not that big of a deal.

    Sorry, forgot to cite what I was responding to. Also forgot how many people have lots of time on their hands.

    To the above comment I respond, once again: just how many small deals add up to one big one?

    One more thing (or seven, don't know yet): Fluffy, congrats on a few great posts. Your first one, actually, nailed it. Conservatives, in general (and more than half), support state powers that, well, conserve the status quo. And their status. I speak as a former conservative and young nutball (got hold of Welch's Blue Book at about age eight).

    When I found my dad's WW2 memorabilia (he was Army intel and OSS, and was at the Nuremberg Trials), I wore a few pieces of Nazi chest jewelry to school in the 7th grade. I wasn't sent home, but my lefty lady science teacher went apoplectic.

    For the life of me, I couldn't understand why. There you have the conservative mindset. I found two books at age 11 that changed my life: Road to Serfdom by you-know-who, and How To Talk Dirty And Influence People by Lenny Bruce. Want to be a "real libertarian"? It's impossible without having read that book.

    The second one, I mean.

  • ||

    Oh good grief.

    Thanks

  • ||

    Yes, because yo' momma jokes carry the same cultural and historical baggage that the n-word does. Give it a rest.

    I would argue that today, calling a white cop 'racist' -- indeed repeating the charge at full voice in front of his employers -- the citizens of Cambridge, Mass -- has far more practical 'baggage' than some hurt feelings.

  • ||

    "Sir, just how many small deals add up to one big one?"

    I suppose if the cops made a habit of dreaming up ways to arrest Gates, it would be a big deal. As it is, Gates has pretty much been shown to be a complete loon and his arrest shown to be technically wrongful but not much more. Sometimes things are not indicitive of a larger issue. Sometimes they really are isolated incidents.

  • ||

    "When I found my dad's WW2 memorabilia (he was Army intel and OSS, and was at the Nuremberg Trials), I wore a few pieces of Nazi chest jewelry to school in the 7th grade. I wasn't sent home, but my lefty lady science teacher went apoplectic.

    For the life of me, I couldn't understand why. There you have the conservative mindset"

    What the hell are you talking about? That is both amazingly stupid and insulting.

  • ||

    The big downside of police work isn't the danger, it's everyone hating you. I wouldn't take what they take for what they get paid, personally.

    disclaimer: this is not a statement of support for any particular police action. I just think their job sucks.


    Also, for the record in response to an earlier allegation RE: Teh librals - I am also against arresting white people for made up crimes.

  • ||

    the cost of prison construction would dwarf TARP

    Dwarf Tarp will now be the name of my new clothing line.

  • ejay||

    "Sir, just how many small deals add up to one big one?"

    I suppose if the cops made a habit of dreaming up ways to arrest Gates, it would be a big deal. As it is, Gates has pretty much been shown to be a complete loon and his arrest shown to be technically wrongful but not much more. Sometimes things are not indicitive of a larger issue. Sometimes they really are isolated incidents.


    I don't mean just Gates-related incidents. I mean ... jeez, what the hell difference does it make what I meant? Has anyone here ever changed his mind based on a bon mot?

    Please note the old-fashioned male pronoun in that last sentence. I guess I still am a conservative!

  • ejay||

    "When I found my dad's WW2 memorabilia (he was Army intel and OSS, and was at the Nuremberg Trials), I wore a few pieces of Nazi chest jewelry to school in the 7th grade. I wasn't sent home, but my lefty lady science teacher went apoplectic.

    For the life of me, I couldn't understand why. There you have the conservative mindset"

    What the hell are you talking about? That is both amazingly stupid and insulting.


    God, here we go again,

    MY conservative mindset, in the 7th GRADE!

    The thing that stays with you as you grow up is the thick skin you develop, however. I still have it. So you can react however you want and I will toodle along outa here.

    Damn, you really do have to be quite careful 'round these parts. I will cop (hey, a pun) to bad judgment for not adding "my" the first time.

  • ||

    Where are all the memorials to lumberjacks? Outside of Minnesota, I mean.

    Here, for one

  • ||

    In the end, it boils down to trust. The idealized picture of law enforcement is the sheriff and deputy in a small town or the local cop on a familiar beat. These individuals get to know the groups they're dealing with on a personal level and therefore know how to treat each situation to maximize the good (they are also thwarted from cheating the system because each person knows them and is responsible for them still having a job). Nowadays in large cities, the people the police know are other police. They're duty becomes to make their fellow police happy, proud, respectful of them by keeping the populace (their paychecks) in line. Government as an abstract is their boss and conformity is their goal. Regardless of how much they are hemmed in by rules and regs, this is the way the relationship breaks down and one of the key reasons things get out of hand like this.

    What we need to aim for is to change the dynamic, remove the police clustering incentive and restore the personal relationship between police and the public. Every human relationship requires trust and alot of people are losing trust in their protectors.

  • ||

    lol ejay. Did you intend to compare conservatives to 7th graders wearing Nazi medals?

    lol

  • ||

    Think he's talkin about for those that died. Since almost every harbor town with commercial fishing has a memorial for those lost.

  • ||

    I think that the marginal nature of the police offense here is, paradoxically, what has given this debate such legs and what has engendered such bad feelings about it.

    Crowley didn't beat Gates with a nightstick or sodomize him with a mop at the stationhouse. All he did was arrest him in order to humiliate him and teach him who was boss.

    But because that's all that happened, millions of Americans stood up and said, "Yeah? Well, that's how cops should act!"

    We have some posters here who are personally sticking up for Crowley because they don't believe his actions were racist. And because that's why THEY are sticking up for Crowley, they assume that's why everyone else is sticking up for Crowley. But that's just not the case. The average citizen is sticking up for Crowley because they think that the police response to anyone giving them lip should be a blackjack to the face followed by a quarter mile drag while tied to the back of the squad car.

    So maybe Gates isn't the best "posterchild" for this issue, but in terms of the national discussion and not just the discussion on this one board, the alternative to advocating for Gates is to let the entire discussion about this incident be dominated by people who think that the police should arrest first and ask questions later.

  • ||

    'What if it had been a black cop and a white home owner and the white guy had started throwing out racial slurs and getting in the black guy's face? That is not a crime. Yet, I doubt the resident liberals on here, or Balko for that matter, would be too outraged.'

    What is your basis for that assumption?

    Balko has defended people whom others would dismiss as white trash. He appears to me to uphold limited-government principles in the context of police abuse.

    Do you have evidence to the contrary? Could you link to it?

  • ||

    Nice, L_I_T. I'd go so far as to say that's the problem with most of society's cherished institutions these days.

    I don't know how to go about fixing it; centralized, bureaucratized, impersonal authority is getting more rampant, and the ratchet seems to only go one way.

  • ||

    Dude was belligerently weird. Cop arrested him and let his superiors sort it out.

    If I just got off a 20 hour flight from China and then came home and found that I couldn't get into my house, necessitating a break in of my own house, I'd probably have a short fuse too. I probably wouldn't be throwing out "yo mama" jokes, but I'd be pretty snippy if I was accused of breaking into my own house.

    I would argue that today, calling a white cop 'racist' -- indeed repeating the charge at full voice in front of his employers -- the citizens of Cambridge, Mass -- has far more practical 'baggage' than some hurt feelings.

    Being called a racist is now the worst thing you can be called? Michael Richards is that you?

  • ||

    Think he's talkin about for those that died

    Well, they's all daid by now.

  • ejay||

    lol ejay. Did you intend to compare conservatives to 7th graders wearing Nazi medals?

    What was your political acumen in 7th grade? Hopefully more astute than mine. (Astute acumen?) I thought conservatism was the Elks Club Americanism Committee (dad was chairman), Goldwater AuH2O stickers (7th grade for me was 1964), bombing Asians, all that.

    Now, interestingly, I had other influences. For example, dad RESIGNED from the Elks when they would not consider our neighbor, a brilliant black Philco-Ford engineer, for membership. The Days were our great friends, the wife was a babe, the son my best buddy... and I am very, very happy to have grown up without racial prejudice. In fact, my first wife was black and American Indian.

    Man, would she ever go on the warpath for BBQ ribs!

    Okay, jeez Louise, does that make me racist NOW? Hey, I got to call my in-laws "blood" and [n-word] and everything, without being shot (or arrested). To this day, my former father-in-law, who made a fortune working his ass off laying terrazzo floors, calls me the "blacker cracker," which he thinks is hilarious.

    Um, can I use these terms with kids around?

    After wrapping it up with that last query, I debated with mice elf for about 15 minutes before substituting [n-word] for the spelled-out version. And there's another whole thread's worth right there -- only certain people can use certain words? But after my "7th grade Nazi" gaffe I really didn't need the trouble. I feel somehow, well, reigned in by cultural forces. Now THAT'S conservative!

    Damn. Did it again.

  • ||

    Surprise, surprise, Radley Balko thinks a cop overstepped his authority. Knock me over with a feather.

  • ||

    "The first paragraph seems to negate that last sentence. My respect is earned, not given. "

    So you disrespect every stranger you meet until they prove they are worthy of respect? I can't imagine that getting you far in life.

    Get real, normal people automatically show respect for other people and expect it in return.

    The problem is a cop is disprected by everyone he meets, and much of it largely having nothing to do with him, but mere prejudice. So after awhile, they assume if you look at them funny you are going to be a trouble maker, and they will get tough immediately.

    It's a crappy position they are placed in, and there are crappy bullies who like to be cops which don't help the 99% of them that are normal people.

  • ||

    "Don't know know who I am? Don't you? I'm the guy who lives in this fucking house!"

    We'll see how you act if the cops take you from yours without a warrant or a crime.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    So when do the 99% stop protecting the 1%?

  • Richard Lorenc||

    And then there's the arrest of the fellows who comprise the Motorhome Diaries crew. They were arrested and held by the Jones County, MS sheriff in May for little more than videotaping the cops who pulled them over. Their story--and others' who report issues with the sheriff--is online at http://www.jonescountysheriff.com.

  • ||

    Another way of interpreting Sgt. Crowley's position as an "Anti-Bias instructor." I've run across the following several times in both my career and in volunteer positions: Put the employee who is the most guilty of an offense in charge of the project or training program to stamp out the offense. You hope that during their training, research, or teaching, they uncover enough self-awareness to change their personal views and/or behaviors. Remember the term "cognitive dissonance" from Psych 101? It's harder to keep a point of view if you are made to repeatedly stand up against that point of view. Perhaps Sgt. Crowley's supervisors also had this management idea in mind when they appointed him to teach about "bias."

  • ||

    As a former police officer, I have to tell you that when I am on a scene, I am in charge. It is necessary and appropriate for my safety and everyone elses. I have the right and authority to detain a person, even in handcuffs until I have ascertained what is happening. This is especially true of a belligerent, uncooperative person. Prof. Gates, as stated before, mistook an officer trying to control an unknown and potentially volatile incident with racial profiling. This seems to indicate a preconceived bias on his part toward the police. It is further possible that Prof. Gates would like to add a page or two to the history of racism in America or at least gain some infamy with his students and purposefully misread the situation. Finally, it is possible that the shouting and bad behavior on the part of the professor was designed to illicit an aggressive response by the officer with an eye on the press and potential law suits. I have seen it happen, many times. Any way you slice it, it appears Prof. Gates believes himself above the law. I would have likely charged him with obstruction, if it were me. The DA dropping the charges likely shows a lack of backbone more than anything else!

  • billo||

    "I suppose if the cops made a habit of dreaming up ways to arrest Gates, it would be a big deal. As it is, Gates has pretty much been shown to be a complete loon and his arrest shown to be technically wrongful but not much more."

    Actually no, and that's the point. His arrest was exactly per protocol, and nothing more. It was technically correct. In spite of the libertarian ideologues calling it abuse and the liberal ideologues calling it racist, Crowley did exactly what he was supposed to do. That's why nobody on the PD side is backing down. The *easy* thing to do would be to throw Crowley under the bus.

  • ||

    As a former police officer, I have to tell you that when I am on a scene, I am in charge.

    thanks for putting it so bluntly.

  • ||

    Great article.

  • ||

    Geotpf,

    Depends on whether or not the cop had a reasonable belief he or others were in danger. If it was just a bunch of people yelling, without any actual threats or danger, no arrest should be made. If there was physical danger, threats of violence, that's different.

    Excuse me? Have you worked many riot situations? Apparently not with that ignorant attitude.

    The scenario described is EXACTLY how a riot starts. Especially in inner cities, where the hatred and distrust of the police overrides any logical conclusion. I used to live in Detroit, and although I've never been a cop, I've witnessed these very situations boil over a number of times.

    Until you've been in such a situation, you don't know what you're talking about.

  • ||

    thanks for putting it so bluntly.

    Thanks for not addressing the point.

  • ||

    M Holt: You're really reaching here. So Crowley's black superior assigned him to teach racial profiling class because he thought it would teach the racist a lesson? I suspect Occam's razor applies in this case.

  • ||

    If I were a cop, I wouldn't even try to enforce the law proactively. SCOTUS has said I have no duty to prevent crimes. Why stick my neck out trying to determine if this person is the burglar, the homeowner who has the burglar inside with a knife to his kid's throat, the husband who just waltzed through the restraining order, etc.? Far better to come by after the blood dries, bag and tag, and maybe solve the crime. You fools don't pay me near enough to risk my life and put up with your bullshit and second-guessing.

    Guard your own damn street.

  • ||

    finally, an article pointing out that the broader issue is the policeman's ability to arrest somebody on their own property after being spoken to with disrespect

  • ||

    Apparently the 911 tapes have been released, and having just heard them I want to revise something I said last week: I said it was possible that the 911 caller was racist, since she had seen 2 black men and assumed they were criminals. This turns out to have been false. The caller indicates on the tape that she didn't see what was going on well enough to know what race the men were.

    I'm not sure how you have so limited a view of the event that you don't know the race of the men [in the day time], but still see enough to suspect a break in. But I guess that's what she did.

    I have the right and authority to detain a person, even in handcuffs until I have ascertained what is happening.

    You can detain people, sure. Do you have the right to arrest them on a charge you know to be false?

    The more I look into the state of case law surrounding the disorderly conduct statute in MA, the more it looks like there's no way Crowley could have made a good faith mistake here. The statute has been so eviscerated by the courts that it's practically been eliminated. A police officer in MA continuing to make arrests under this statute in the way Crowley did makes about as much sense as a cop arresting someone for violating a sodomy statute somewhere and pretending he didn't know the SCOTUS had overturned all such laws.

    The DA dropping the charges likely shows a lack of backbone more than anything else!

    No, it shows a knowledge of the state of the law in Massachusetts.

    See, everyone? I try not to be a last word freak but every time someone knew shows up with "What do you mean? Contempt of cop actually IS a crime, it's not made up at all!" I get sucked back in.

  • ||

    Interesting to see how the anti-police fanatics have had to shift gears on this issue. Last week it was about racial profiling (including Obama's comments) and how the cops MUST be guilty of it. Now that it is clear that the cops did no such thing, the focus has shifted to "Crowley should have known better than to arrest a black man that had committed no 'real' crime". So if the consensus changes tomorrow to say that Crowley acted properly and in accordance to government-written protocol, THEN what will the anti-cop bloggers say?

    Gates flew off the handle when asked to show his ID... he should have said, "Thank you officer for checking on my house, and making sure that I am the owner. You are doing a good job". Instead, he said (in his mind, at least), "this cop thinks that since I am black I must be a thief. No way in hell am I gonna help him do his job. He better walk away or I'm gonna scream and curse at him". So the only thing the cop could have done to satisfy Gates would have been to trust him, screw protocol, and walk away.

  • ||

    Thanks for not addressing the point.

    On the contrary, that was exactly the point.

  • ||

    Actually no, and that's the point. His arrest was exactly per protocol, and nothing more.

    No, it wasn't.

    http://www.volokh.com/posts/1248465451.shtml

    Once again:

    Defendant who did not physically resist his arrest arising out of a domestic violence incident could not be convicted of disorderly conduct based solely on his loud and angry tirade, which included profanities, directed at police officers as he was being escorted to police cruiser, even if spectators gathered to watch defendant; defendant did not make any threats or engage in violence, and his speech did not constitute fighting words. Com. v. Mallahan (2008) 72 Mass.App.Ct. 1103, 889 N.E.2d 77, 2008 WL 2404550.

    If the Massachusetts courts specifically have ruled that you can't be charged with disorderly conduct for engaging in a loud, angry, and profane tirade against police, even with a crowd present, then it simply cannot be "protocol" for Cambridge police officers to do exactly that. Or, if it is protocol for them to do so, then it's time to clean house at the Cambridge police department.

  • ||

    Interesting to see how the anti-police fanatics have had to shift gears on this issue.

    Do a site search. I said both parties were jackasses, but the arrest was unwarranted.

  • ||

    Interesting to see how...cue nonsense.

    Interesting to see how you obviously weren't here last week.

  • ||

    So who has the greater God-complex: the surgeon or the uniformed officer?

  • ||

    Gates and the officer are all wet and so is Balko in this instance. There such a thing as walking a mile in somebody's else's shoes. The officer was called to the scene of what was at a minimum a possible B&E. In that situation a responder would assume that the person is armed. So now you have one side to the party already charged up for a tense situation.

    Gates made it worse by keeping the officer charged up emotionally. There is such a thing as defusing the situation. You can do it without giving up any rights or being submissive. First thing a cop looks for are where is the person's hands and are they empty?

    Second ask the officer is there a problem in a calm demeanor. A huge percentage will tell you straight away. That's your clue why they are there and why you are the prime suspect. In Gate's case he should have suggested a look at his driver's license and offered without the attitude. The officers problem was not taking the ID at face value. But by then it had become personal on both sides which is a losing situation.

    Balko in this case is wrong because the issue is not the officer, like those on the Mall, but the law provided for their use. Go after the law, not the application.

  • ||

    Mehserle is/was not an "Oakland police officer"

  • ||

    I have no problem with anybody asking a question of a police officer. Yet, when a police officer feels threatened or concerned that a situation could escalate, that person needs to take action. When a police officer is trying to ascertain who you are & you don't want to show ID & want to insult instead, I think the police officer is within their rights to ensure the situation in contained by handcuffing the person in question.

  • ||

    . . . I think the police officer is within their rights to ensure the situation in contained by handcuffing the person in question.

    we have one vote for uniformed officer.

  • ||

    Just try mouthing off to the German Polizei, the French gendarmes or the Brits...

    You'll get your head cracked in.

    That's the way it is.

    Never argue with a man (or woman) who has a gun. You can be totally silent, if you want to, but don't talk back. If you don't want to show your ID, then don't but shut up - let them hall you downtown and then show it to the police there. If you don't have it on you, then so stae and let the police officers tell you what to do from there.

  • ||

    If it hadn't been for the President's intervention, then maybe the overriding issue would be police abuse of authority.

    But here we have the President of the U.S. - who already is being encouraged by his supporters to have somewhat of a Messiah complex - getting involved in the case, siding with his friend Gates (which is to be expected), then taking it upon himself to mediate the dispute.

    So, let's see - a reporter asks him about the Gates case, to the Pres is 'forced' to answer, and of course he is 'forced' to call the arrest stupid and to comment on racial profiling, which has nothing to do with this situation.

    Then, having been 'forced' to intervene, he is 'forced' to intervene again as an impartial mediator, offering his good offices and a couple glasses of beer at the White House. Crowley feels obliged to say that he supports Obama 110%, even though the President is mistaken about racial profiling. Apparently, since Crowley works for the People's Republic of Cambridge in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, he is expected to show respect to the President even when the President is wrong. Sound familiar?

  • ||

    Just try mouthing off to the German Polizei, the French gendarmes or the Brits...

    Vote number two uniformed officer.

  • ||

    Contempt of Cop is not a crime. It's stupid, but it's not a crime.

    I am not familiar with MA's disorderly conduct statute. As I stated, I would have charged a belligerent person who was refusing to provide me with the information I needed to effectively conclude my investigation with obstructing a police officer. The officer would have been extremely derelict had he left the scene without getting said information. What would the headline have been then?

    It's not about what Prof. Gates said. It's all about the fact that he refused to cooperate with a very simple investigation. An investigation that the officer had been tasked, by a call from a concerned citizen, to conduct.

    It would have been far more appropriate to thank the officers for coming and watching out for his neighborhood and home than to get belligerent and uncooperative.

    Fluffy, looks to me like you get sucked back in because you are arrogant enough to believe you can have a read on a situation that is unlike anything you could ever imagine dealing with. Cops have to make decisions in the dirt and grit that will get picked apart weeks or more later by narrow little people in safe little computer chairs. Shut up about things you could possibly handle in your greatest of moments.

  • ||

    It's not about what Prof. Gates said. It's all about the fact that he refused to cooperate with a very simple investigation.

    There is no requirement to cooperate.

  • ||

    Cops have to make decisions in the dirt and grit that will get picked apart weeks or more later by narrow little people in safe little computer chairs.

    Vote number three for uniformed officer.

  • ||

    All this over a case of 'When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong'.


    But really, great article. Oh, and I don't think I've ever heard the libertarian/con distinction put quite so well, Fluffy.

  • ||

    As I stated, I would have charged a belligerent person who was refusing to provide me with the information I needed to effectively conclude my investigation with obstructing a police officer.

    Your problem there would be that Gates didn't refuse to identify himself.

    BTW, the SCOTUS has ruled that a person asked to identify himself by a police officer must do so, but that's different from providing identification or proof of your identity or address. If Gates said, "I'm Henry Louis Gates" or provided a college ID with his name on it, he has satisfied the legal burden on him. You can't charge someone with obstruction if they accurate identify themselves, sorry.

    Fluffy, looks to me like you get sucked back in because you are arrogant enough to believe you can have a read on a situation that is unlike anything you could ever imagine dealing with. Cops have to make decisions in the dirt and grit that will get picked apart weeks or more later by narrow little people in safe little computer chairs. Shut up about things you could possibly handle in your greatest of moments.

    Tough fucking shit for the cops, baby doll. My rights as a citizen are what they are, and if the cops don't like it they should fucking quit. If Crowley doesn't like it he should fucking quit. We'll find someone else to pay 170k a year to so they can hand out public urination citations to college kids.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Cop is in my house to make sure I'm not a burglar. I've shown him my ID. I can now scream any damn thing (except direct threat) I want at him until he gets the fuck off my property.
    Does the cop have a problem with that? He should find a new line of work.

  • ||

    In sum, Obama is exhibiting the same kinds of characteristics which are so objectionable in certain types of cops, but as Pres, Obama may in a position to do more damage.

    You work for what may be among the strongest Democratic cities in a Democratic state. The Democratic President - whom many in your state regard as a powerful political healer with the capacity to resolve our country's problems - has just denounced you as acting stupidly, in the context of comments about America's history of racial profiling and general racial oppression. It turns out that you arrested a friend of the President. Then the Pres invites you to dinner so you and the Pres's friend can work out your differences.

    Whatever may be the case with the usual cop/citizen encounter, is there any doubt where the power imbalance lies here?

    And the offenses of which Crowled is guilty are not the same as the offenses of which Obama, with Nixonian indirection, has accused him.

  • ||

    In general, the article's point about free speech and invective hurled at cops is well taken. But in this case, Crowley had turned to leave, having satisfied himself that Gates belonged in the house and there was no danger of an intruder.

    At that point, Gates came after Crowley.

    Gates could have had a peaceful denouement at that point. He was not just exercising free speech. He was baiting the white officer, above and beyond anything reasonable.

    Gates was the racist here and he went out of his way, stupidly out of his way, to bait the officer.

    Under these circumstances, I would say that Gates had his arrest coming.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    ...or what Fluffy said.

  • ||

    of which Crowley is guilty

  • JOHN||

    Always seems to me that innocent people on being stopped by the police for "nothing", always act so stupidly towards the "those guys" willing to sacrifice their life on the public's behalf. As Gates was innocent, all he had to do was explain and identify as requested and the police would have gone quietly on their way. No, Gates the black biggot he must surely be, started giving the cop a rough time and running his mouth. Most cops I know don't need problems like this, on routine calls that could easily have ben resolved if Gates had just been civi and cooperated.

    Instead he runs his mouth, refused to identify and as he was becoming a real pain, the offficer arrested him before the situation got out of control and possibly led to a resisiting or assault situation.

    It's must be hard enough to be a cop, without the biggots (black & white)always raising the issue everytime the biggots show just how stupid they really are.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    "Under these circumstances, I would say that Gates had his arrest coming."

    I'm sure 80 percent of the country agrees with this.

    Jesus. We're doomed, I tells ya'.

  • ||

    Mr. Balko has a solid point. However, deference to cops is not a abrogation of your rights, it is also common sense.
    Put yourself in an officer's position; he or she doesn't know if the person in front of them will stop at a loud impassioned (and protected) first amendment exercise, or if they will work themselves up to physical action. Should we allow everyone to yell and scream obscenities at the police and tell those officers that they can't step in and defuse the situation (and ensure their personal safety).

    It's a tough line to draw on the ground and I think their needs to be room for both sides and the extreme situations should be dealt w/individually.

  • ||

    R.C. Dean at 2:20 pm
    "Sure, sure. They also need to know how to de-escalate a situation, and when to walk away even when someone is yelling at them."

    That's exactly what Crowley did. Exactly. And Gates came after him. Gates WOULD NOT let the situation die.

  • ||

    Whoops, excuse me! I must have wandered into the Huffington Post.

  • ||

    1) Gates charged racism;

    2) NYT, WaPo, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, Time and Newsweek accepted the charges as true without doing any anlysis;

    3) the facts came out and blew the charges up in Gates' face; so

    4) the media seeks to change the subject to anything else (How about abuse of police authority in the abstract? Anyone?)

    5) Balko ought to get off his pampered behind and go police the streets of America's major cities, it might broaden his perspective.

  • ||

    I imagine somewhere in there preceded a warning that if Gates didn't calm down (read "shut up"), he'd find himself handcuffed and in the back of the cruiser. Its a typical warning of cops to those pulled over for traffic infractions. Typically, they're bored or unhappy with their assignment and having to deal with jerks all day and therefore the only thing that makes them feel better is that they have the power to command grudging respect from citizens. When they don't get it, they utilize the weight of disgruntlement of the system (read: fellow police) to coerce the citizen. The system is set up to perpetuate these situations.

  • ||

    Fluffy wrote- "Tough fucking shit for the cops, baby doll. My rights as a citizen are what they are, and if the cops don't like it they should fucking quit. If Crowley doesn't like it he should fucking quit. We'll find someone else to pay 170k a year to so they can hand out public urination citations to college kids."


    That's what I was looking for...

    Contempt of Cop is apparently not a crime, but Contempt of Fluffy sure looks like a "hangin' offense in these parts!"

    You're a punk.

    Folks, you can't put a cop, or anyone for that matter, in an impossible situation then condem them for making a decision. Of the choices he had, the officer took the most courageous route. If he had walked away, he would have been derelict. If he did his job and protected the neighborhood/citizens by the only means he had available to him, he was going to be branded a racist. He chose his duty over his reputation. That's character.

    You

  • ||

    BTW, the SCOTUS has ruled that a person asked to identify himself by a police officer must do so...

    You have the case for this. I don't think it's true. I believe what was upheld was as state "stop and identify" statute requiring people to identify who they are. Therefore if there is no state lay there is no need to self identify. The way you worded this it sounds like all people in the US must self identify.

    Not all states have these.


    Police force--officers of state--powers to arrest (Kansas City).

    84.710. 1. The members of the police force appointed in pursuance hereof are hereby declared to be officers of the state of Missouri and of the city for which such commissioners are appointed.

    2. They shall have power within the city or on public property of the city beyond the corporate limits thereof to arrest, on view, any person they see violating or whom they have reason to suspect of having violated any law of the state or ordinance of the city. They shall have power to arrest and hold, without warrant, for a period of time not exceeding twenty-four hours, persons found within the city or on public property of the city beyond the corporate limits thereof charged with having committed felonies in other states, and who are reported to be fugitives from justice. They shall also have the power to stop any person abroad whenever there is reasonable ground to suspect that he is committing, has committed or is about to commit a crime and demand of him his name, address, business abroad and whither he is going. When stopping or detaining a suspect, they may search him for a dangerous weapon whenever they have reasonable ground to believe they are in danger from the possession of such dangerous weapon by the suspect. No unreasonable force shall be used in detaining or arresting any person, but such force as may be necessary may be used when there is no other apparent means of making an arrest or preventing an escape and only after the peace officer has made every reasonable effort to advise the person that he is the peace officer engaged in making arrest.

    3. Any person who has been arrested without a warrant may be released, without being taken before a judge, by the officer in charge of the police station whenever the officer is satisfied that there is no ground for making complaint against him, or when the person was arrested for a misdemeanor and will sign a satisfactory agreement to appear in court at the time designated.



    In my state. This only applies to the city listed. At least that is what I am told.

  • ||

    noticed the mis spell... sorry, sloppy

  • ||

    5) Balko ought to get off his pampered behind and go police the streets of America's major cities, it might broaden his perspective.

    Go ahead and read all the posts and articles written when the MSM was crying race. Then come on back. I'll keep the crow and foot warm.

  • ||

    This is the best analysis and commentary I've read in years. It neatly sums up the abuse of police powers in this country, and the acceptance of it by all of the classes for differing reasons: The upper class accepts it because it provides order and protects their place in society. They know that their status protects them from any potential abuse from police. The middle class accepts it out of apathy and response to mass media propaganda that always paints cops as dutiful but sometimes flawed human beings. The lower class accepts it out of fear, since they bear the brunt of police abuse without any means of class or financial protection.

  • ||

    There needs to be respect for laws & those who who are paid to uphold them. Otherwise we will fall into anarchy. Seems to me Mr. Gates should have thanked the officer for checking to make sure everything was OK at his house rather than berate him .

  • ||

    It is so ponderously frustrating to think that it's seemingly just so understood that in a confrontational (read "Show me some ID") situation, an officer would bow and scrape to anyone, white guy, important guy, whatever, and cut him some slack. A cop has to be the presence of the law. The law doesn't work if the citizenry refuses to acknowledge it. That goes for each and every one of us, not just us slackers on the dirt. You want a screwed up neighborhood? Don't allow the cops to do the job given to them.

  • ||

    Oooh, the power. Post a Gatesgate item and watch the puppets dance. It's friggin' hilarious!
    Saying the same thing 50 times isn't enough, repeat offenders?

  • ||

    I love the inundation of first (and usually last) time posters that show up on reasons blog to tell the authors how stupid they are.

    I'd love to know the statistics on which articles get the most of them. Law and Order threads seem to have a high rate of incidence. Yes, libertarians have a distrust of authority. Get over it, its not going to change.

  • ||

    My comment is in response to the comment quoted below:
    "Agreed that free speech should be protected under any circumstance, but ask yourself the operative question: does yelling get you anywhere when an armed man approaches you, assuming he thinks you're a burglar? It's hard to imagine how a cop could understand a man's innocence when he's yelling out racial profiling claims in the middle of the night."

    I've never had a cop approach me at night while trying to break into my my own home. But I remember this dude from 1999, Amadou Diallo, was in a similar situation. He was shot to death by several police officers looking for a rapist that was not Diallo. In fact, there was evidence to support that Diallo was shot even after he was shot to death.

    Think about it; if Diallo had yelled and screamed instead of trying to obey the officers' commands, he may not have been shot. First, the commotion would have attracted people to their windows to tell him to shup the F up. The potential witnesess may have discouraged the cops from shooting him to death. Maybe one of them would have had a cell phone video camera rolling. Secondly, he might NOT have reached for his wallet gun, you know the one that one of the cops said he saw in Diallo's pocket in the dark vestibule in front of Diallo's building at 3am. Finally, it would have made the cops more annoyed than antsy and they would've have moved in to shut him up. No cop would shoot a potential criminal if other cops are already beating him up (friendly fire and all).

    Anyway, my point is this; if I were in Gates' position, I'd yell and scream too. I may have been arrested too, but at least I'd be alive to talk abou it.

  • ||

    I don't often comment, but just wanted to say this was an excellent article. Great job.

  • ||

    Should we allow everyone to yell and scream obscenities at the police and tell those officers that they can't step in and defuse the situation (and ensure their personal safety).

    Yes, we should. And not only that, but as has been demonstrated numerous times, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts already has. Crowley chose to ignore the law to demonstrate that he didn't have to take any lip.

    Folks, you can't put a cop, or anyone for that matter, in an impossible situation then condem them for making a decision. Of the choices he had, the officer took the most courageous route. If he had walked away, he would have been derelict. If he did his job and protected the neighborhood/citizens by the only means he had available to him, he was going to be branded a racist. He chose his duty over his reputation. That's character.

    Officer Crowley did not and does not have the legal authority to protect the neighborhood from Skip Gates' opinions, even if those opinions are false and even if he shouted them and used profanity to communicate them. Period.

    If Gates wanted to stand on his porch and tell the police officers present that they were no good racist pigs, and wanted to call them every name in the book, they had no more right to try to stop that than they would have had the right to search his house without a warrant, or to confiscate a firearm for which Gates had the appropriate permit.

    You want this to be about Crowley's response to the call, and it has never been about his response to the call. Crowley admits in the police report that he was satisfied that Gates was the resident of the house. At that point, the call was over, and the confrontation was no longer about the call, but was about what Gates thought and said about the call. And Crowley didn't like what Gates thought and said about the call, or how he said it, so he arrested him.

    The citizenry is entitled to be policed by officers who will respect the law and the rights of every citizen, and not disregard both every time they're annoyed - or even when they're scared. Last time I checked, just about every academy test to become a police officer in this country was oversubscribed, so if it's too much for Crowley to be "second-guessed" when he trumps up bogus arrests, there are plenty more people willing to give the job a shot.

  • ||

    Balko's article would have been quite a wallop if it hadn't been for the ridiculous comparison to some frivolous "statement-lite" prank by his privileged white girl buddy Brooke Oberwetter.

    I remember reading about this prank in Reason when it first occurred, and thinking the furiously-blogged outrage resembled masturbation more than any profound observances about civil rights violations.

    Betty and Veronica deliberately trying to see if they can get into a scuffle with the Riverdale town cops so they have something to blog about the next day down at the malt shop really doesn't compare to -- and doesn't deserve space in the same piece with -- an infuriating tale about a respectable black man trying to get into his own home in broad daylight.

  • ||

    You have the case for this. I don't think it's true. I believe what was upheld was as state "stop and identify" statute requiring people to identify who they are.

    You're right. The case was about a state statute, and not about a generic police order. That's different, you're right.

  • ||

    I am surprised at the number of people who allege that they would refuse to be policeman under any circumstances. I suspect they are not being completely honest. If being a cop paid significant more that they earn now, I think most would trade. Personally, I'd accept almost any job to feed my family. Dig ditches, cut up corpses, fix toilets, or even scrub the booth at the XXX videodrome. Thus, I read these folks as saying: "Cop looks like a hard job. I'm glad I get paid more to do something easier. But if I got laid off, and my kids needed health insurace, then, of course I'd strap on a badge & work for the local PD, FBI, ATF, or whomever was hiring. A lot of those guys earn six figures, and I know there's a long line of folks begging for that job. I'm just happy & lucky to have better options."

    Or do i assume to much?

  • ||

    The author must be kidding.

    Gates thought he'd get an easy ride if he was racially profiled. He had no idea that Gates was the absolute WRONG guy to accuse.

    I think Gates is the racist, and he shoul dbe the one apologizing to Crowley.

    Also, Obama looks the fool for having jumped in on something he knew nothing about. Again, the race card came out pretty quickly, showing just where Obama comes from.

    Yes, folks, there's plenty of racism in America. It's just "not your daddy's racism"...

  • Gustavo Arellano||

    PERFECT article on the subject. Viva Reason and Matt Welch!

  • ||

    I think this is part of the post 9/11 we have to support our police/firemen/army mentality.Understandably the country reacted to the way law enforcement kept control and realized the importance of a police force in times of emergency.

    Strangely, police seem to be able to stomach taunts from street gangs where blue-busting or whatever it's called is common practice. It's when the ordinary citizen mouths off, or tells them they have rights that they seem to go ballistic.

    I can see where Professor Gates jumped to the conclusion that he was being racially profiled and overreacted. I'm sure people who have locked themselves out of their house have had similar stories of the police coming to investigate--but it usually ends with a laugh and a helping hand.

    What happened here was a presumption of guilt on both sides. Do the police have the right to arrest if you refuse to obey their orders? Depends on whether you have a knife in your hand or other condition. Yes, I agree that the police seem to feel anything they say is an order and should be obeyed.

    I think Gates did not want to step outside of the house because then he could be arrested for creating a disturbance. Apparantly there is a difference if you're inside or outside. Altho I'm sure the police could arrest a bunch of rowdy teenagers who are partying up to the hilt even in a private home--as long as someone complained.

    Anway I wrote an article called, Professor Gates, the policeman, Obama and Amos and Andrew for www.associatedcontent.com because the incident reminded me of a 1993 movie based on a similar premise. Only there the Mass. police captain was portrayed as an idiot who would go to any lengths to cover up his blunder. The police are very touchy about looking like idiots!

  • ||

    Here's where I agree with you.

    I agree that no police officer has the right to arrest, detain, or otherwise harass a citizen based soley on the fact that said citizen is insulting the officer. The uniform requires thicker skin than that.

    BTW, fluffy, I'm sorry I called you a punk, etc. I readily admit that I was baiting you. I suspect Prof. Gates was doing the same to the officer.

    In many ways it is the foundation of our country. However, the majority of police officers out there are not racist bad guys with an axe to grind (there are a few that are), but, rather, ordinary people charged with a pretty crappy job. Many of them have a strong sense of duty and honor and deserve a little slack. Especially when they are placed in truly impossible situations.

  • ||

    Being emboldened by his position in a prestigous school plus being close friends with the President of the United States our professor decided to make a verbal and arguably abusive example of the policeman instead of letting the situation abate and cool down. It is true that one can actually talk their way into jail. No I am curious what the response time might be should the good professor need police assistance in the future?

  • ||

    Also let's remember, when the arrest was made, several other cops had already come on the scene. There was no threat of violence here, and the officer certainly had no reason to think he was in danger of an old man that needs a cain to walk.

    So it all boiled down to the cop not liking what Gates was saying. IE thought/speech police.

  • ||

    Cannot disagree more with Balko's small army of straw men. Police officers responding to a break-in in a high crime area are not government bureaucrats, and hostile disrespect before the cop knows what he is dealing with is the polar opposite of "mindless deference". The good news is that this incident blew the cover off President Obama's phony image as a post-partisan and post-racial president. He reverted immediately to his old persona as a knee-jerk community agitator, which is what he really is. Rev. Wright would be proud.

  • ||

    "Strangely, police seem to be able to stomach taunts from street gangs where blue-busting or whatever it's called is common practice. It's when the ordinary citizen mouths off, or tells them they have rights that they seem to go ballistic."

    How did the officer go ballistic? He told Gates to stop after going outside, and if the story is accurate even told him if he didn't he'd arrest him. Ballistic would be hitting him with a baton till he's unconscious or tasing him for the smallest offense. Or for example launching into a tirade on being asked for your id when cops are investigating a potential break in.
    Seriously, the cop is there to make sure that Gates's house isn't being robbed and he is there to uphold the law but also the laws AUTHORITY. It's STUPID to provoke an officer there to try to protect Gates (since that is what he was doing). He's outraged that the cops are askign for his id? He's impeding an investigation that protects his own property. And in fact he broke into it!So the witnesses were doing there civic duty in reporting the crime, and the officer is doing his civic duty in getting facts and evidence that ultimately protect Gates. People who like to express their absolute right to belittle cops need to recognize that they have a responsibility for how an interaction with the cops ultimately wind up and if they are needlessly beligerent they shoudn't be surprised if it goes badly for them.
    Gates even controlled the situation to the poitn where it was more important for him to express his anger than to not go to jail. If he simply quited down, he wouldn't have been arrested, and further he would realize taht he had no cause to even be angry in this case.

  • ||

    I was 14 yo. living in Falls Church VA, when the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 were passed. From the vantage point of being now 61 I am stunned (considering a black president in office) that these antics continue.

    Sooner or later the African-American people, as a whole, have to do there own readjusting and self reflection. I feel they have been accommodated well. I am tired of having to overlook the AA race-advertising I have seen for years in order to be politically correct.

    Gates, to me, is an old time Negro with a chip on his shoulder. He is from the old bad days of race relations. Its been 45 years. How long does the populace, at large, cater to this kind of asshole.

    MLK prayed that the downtrodden might be judged on "character" and not on "the color of skin." That is what I have been doing for years and years. I would not dare to publish my observations. Truthful observations are no longer fashionable in this country.

  • ||

    This article was total BS. Cops have a duty. They resppond to trouble. A lady reports two people that look suspicious. A cop shows up and just asks some questions and this gates clown flips out and starts on the typical black response to law enforcement. Hell if he wasnt doing anything wrong why get your ass up. No this was a typical dickhead communist trying to blame someone else because he wasnt man enough to be civil and answer a few questions. He should be lucky he wasnt shot. The only lesson from this is if you ever need help or are in trouble who are you going to call gates, a hippy or a cop. Gates, like the program he teaches is worthless. The real lesson is that race baiting still works among blacks and is used as an excuse for everything they do that is out of the norm

  • ||

    As a mother of a black son that attend a mostly white university in a predomiant white texas town racial profiling really scares me. Always tell son who has been had been followed for no reason before, just cooperate and keep your mouth closed. This article hit it on the nose, it may have not been racial profilling, but why should I have to tell my son never to question officer. He should be free to do so, but he and I know better.

  • ||

    Doesn't matter if Gates was an being an asshole or not (and accounts differ) bottom line it wasn't an arrestable event.

  • ||

    First i would be angry also with the circumstances of the case as reported . I myself having been a victim of racial profiling. ie store robbed by black men you area black man therefore we must pull you over. most commonly called DUB(driving while Black ) not to be confused with WUB (waking while Black ) have experienced both . and as far as ID i also showed my university id IT was good enough to let them know i had a right to be there and had my name by which officers can yes they can look you up for address . Since i am now a computer support person and have supported Talon and other Police software i now this to be true. SO yes Virginia Racial profiling does exist in America no matter what experts you bring that says it doesn't eor all of us (Black ,Latino and Even Whites in the company of Blacks )

  • ||

    Balko's an idiot !!

  • ||

    Johannes Mehserle was an officer for a local transit district "BART", not an Oakland police officer. Shortly thereafter, four persons who were Oakland police officers were shot and killed by a wanted rapist who, in keeping with the spirit of your posting, declined to give undue deference to authority.

  • ||

    A landlord (generally) has fee simple title to a property, but (generally, depending on the lease), a renter has every other right associated with the ownership of real property, particularly the rights of possession and exculsion. That is, under the common law and in the absence of anything to the contrary in a lease, a lessee has the the right to exclude anyone from the property, including the lessor. A lessor can be guilty of trespassing on land he owns if he is there without the permission of the lessee.

    Please remember, this is a general discussion of the common law of property - the situation will vary by jurisdiction and the terms of a lease.


    You just raised another good example of a person who may have an ID for a residence they are not lawfully allowed to be in. My buddy had a landlord who wandered into the house whenever he felt like it. Don't know if he had previously lived there and possessed an ID with that address, but it is another example of why it would be negligence on the cop's part to say "Okey dokey" and leave when a man who is acting suspicious after an apparent forced entry into a residence shows you his "legit" ID while screaming at you.

    I think Mr. Balko intentionally skipped over one important aspect of this story. Mr Gates deserved to be shot after his ~"do you know who I am" rant. That's grade A asshole material - with that attitude I'm surprised he isn't in law enforcement himself.

  • ||

    I agree that racial profiling by police is real and on-going. But where I live we abbreviate it d-W-b.

  • ||

    I believe Mr. Gates did the profiling in this instance. He should have been grateful that the police responded in a timely manner to a call in his neighborhood. There are some places where they only wish the police were that responsive.

  • ||

    Gates has every right to condemn the officer if he believes he is racist, or that he was treated unfairly in some way. But I think he crossed a line when he made the attacks against the officer PERSONAL. He was obviously trying to incite a confrontation with the officer and got what he asked for.

  • ||

    First i would be angry also with the circumstances of the case as reported . I myself having been a victim of racial profiling. ie store robbed by black men you area black man therefore we must pull you over. most commonly called DUB(driving while Black ) not to be confused with WUB (waking while Black ) have experienced both . and as far as ID i also showed my university id IT was good enough to let them know i had a right to be there and had my name by which officers can yes they can look you up for address . Since i am now a computer support person and have supported Talon and other Police software i now this to be true. SO yes Virginia Racial profiling does exist in America no matter what experts you bring that says it doesn't eor all of us (Black ,Latino and Even Whites in the company of Blacks )

    I'm a blonde haired, hazel eyed devil and I've been pulled over because a dark haired cop thought I was the suspect she was looking for. It might have been racism as the cop looked like she might have been Italian. But I'm going with sexism. What is "Virginia Racial profiling"? Discrimination against hillbillies?

  • ||

    I think everyone arguing in favor of Crowley's behavior needs to actually read his arrest report. There is a lot of misunderstanding about the sequence of events, even now. The officer was well appraised of the situation and had determined that Gates was the resident. There was no more concern about unknown factors. He didn't like Gates' mouth, period.

  • ||

  • ||

    keith | July 27, 2009, 6:28pm | #
    Gates has every right to condemn the officer if he believes he is racist, or that he was treated unfairly in some way. But I think he crossed a line when he made the attacks against the officer PERSONAL. He was obviously trying to incite a confrontation with the officer and got what he asked for.


    Agreed. Gates wanted confrontation. Crowley did not. Blame is pretty damned easy to assign.

  • ||

    OK, cool, so the new standard in this country is, if someone with an ID showing he at sometime has lived at that address screams invective at the cop, that's it, and the cop must walk away immediately?

    Especially if the cop is white and the screamer is black?

    Furthermore, I sure hope no one you love is ever held hostage in the next room, or bleeding to death because the "man of the house" at the door is under orders to tell the cop to leave.

    I can't wait for the next time Gates' house is broken into. He could call Barack for help. Surely no bystander is going to give a crap, nor are responding officers.

  • ||

    I have had a dim view of how often police arrest people simply for asking questions since bona fide journalists were forcibly arrested by Minneapolis-St.Paul police in riot gear during the 2008 Republican National Convention. I am typically respectful of, but not deferential to, police, except in emergency situations where I don't have all the facts. The encounter with Prof. Gates was not an emergency situation, but neither man behaved appropriately, in my opinion.

    I agree with the author of this article

  • billo||

    Fluffy:

    "No, it wasn't. [according to protocol]"

    Yes it was. The bottom line is whether or not the cop felt that he was losing control of the situation and whether or not he felt there was the possibility of violence. If the cop does, then he can arrest. Loud and agitated behavior in situations where there is no reasonable fear of threat is one thing. If there is fear of danger, then there's another.

    Once again, it all boils down to whether or not the cop feels that he or she is losing control of the interaction. It is not necessary that the cop wait until someone gets shot.

  • ||

    An armed cop with what looks like 2 other armed cops was afraid of a 60 year old black man that I could beat to a pulp with one hand tied behind my back and half bottle of scotch in me?

    I'm gonna have to call bullshit on the fearful cop defense.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Gates, back in the day:

    "As always, whitey now sits in judgment of me, preparing to cast my fate."

    Gates, last week:

    "Don't you know who I am?"

    "Why because I'm a black man in America?"

    Pompous, arrogant, all-whites-are-racist-unless-they're-Democrats style responses. Add a dash of I-went-to-Harvard-therefore-I-am-smart-and-superior, and have Emeril add a dash of "BAM!". Stir well.


    Was the cop racist? In this case, it would seem to be a rare occasion where racism did not play into an arrest. Was the arrest warranted? No, it shouldn't have happened.

    "Crowley is owed an apology for being portrayed as a racist, but he ought to be disciplined for making a wrongful arrest." - Dead spot on, Balko.

  • ||

    There are some places where they only wish the police were that responsive.


    Didn't Public Enemy have a song about this?
    Now I called 911 a long time ago.
    Don't you see how late they're reacting.
    They only come and they come when they wanna
    So get the morgue embalm the goner.

    So if the police or EMS comes late then they and are intentionally letting people die because they just don't care. But if they do come and respond and ask for id, then they are harrasing people.
    Remember, this is a response called in for this police officer to investigate. And someone did in fact break into Gates's house. The fact that there was an innocent explanation doesn't mean that the police officer is going to know that going in or that the call to come to his house was based on a racial pretext.The witness couldn't identify the person breaking in based on race. The officer is simply responding to a call, and not knowing who lives at a house, but having to investigate it will need to ascertain basic information and get some degree of cooperation. This is Gate's house.
    This officer would be negligent if he DIDN"T ask Gates for his id and ascertained, with some degree of certainty that he was who he says he was and that he wasn't talking to say a robber who broke into Gate's house.
    Gates, being both the occupant of the house AND the one who broke into it, thus causing this whole issue to escalate, and the only person who had all the pertinent information could have easily stopped before turning it into an incident by simply cooperating with the officer. For all these people talking bout racial profiling and how you can talk back to the cops if you want to, why would you when you have all the information that would prevent cops from harrasing you? And if instead of simply providing information you go into a diatribe and escalate a confrontation with the cops aren't you to blame for the cops treating you hostily?

  • ||

    I am a retired police lt. Our department had it's share of racial complaints as well as officer misconduct complaints. We put video cameras and microphone on the officers and in the cars. We have had the camera's for over 10 years and haven't had a complaint yet that was legitimate. Police should welcome cameras as they vindicate them far more than convict them. It makes the officers much more professional.

  • ||

    I remember reading about this prank in Reason when it first occurred...

    Are you serious? It was people dancing in public and it hurt the little piggies' vaginas.

    'Wah! People having fun! We can't have that! Respekt My Authoritay! I has such important job getting welfare check (read: paycheck) from government so you have to listen to me!'

  • ||

    One VERY important fact to clear up:

    The police officer arrested Gates AFTER the officer ascertained Gates' identity and right to possession of the premises.

    IMHO, the moment that the police officer determines that no crime is taking or has taken place, the ONLY thing the officer should be doing is getting into his vehicle and leaving the scene.

    Fluffy's legal citations of Mass. case law show that yelling, even at an officer, isn't enough cause to charge a person with disorderly conduct.

  • ||

    "As always, whitey now sits in judgment of me, preparing to cast my fate."

    I've been critical of Gates and his obsession with race, but that statement seemed like youngster sarcasm to me.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    JB, that's as may be, and it's true that his "whitey now sits in judgement" statement was, indeed, made a long time ago.

    My point is, it seems he still lets that resentment seethe inside him, DESPITE the many advancements made in race relations - that is, when they're not set back by the Jesse Jackson types who still believe whites are the only ones who can be racist because "they have all the power".

    Bullshit. Racists come in ALL flavors, and are to be called on it whoever they are.

  • ||

    Billo:

    Has it occurred to you that the officer could have COMPLETELY eliminated any perceived "threat" from Gates by getting in his vehicle and driving away from the scene?

  • ||

    Radley Balko should try working for a living and doing his research. And maybe checking both sides of an issue a bit more. Johannes Mehserle was NOT an Oakland police officer! Balko does not understand basic research!

    Balko also fails to mention the two Oakland police officers killed recently when they stopped a car. The suspicion is that the cops were overly polite to the black driver. The killer then killed two MORE cops hours later, for a total of four murdered cops. Hey Balko: write about the four murdered cops! In 2007, 69 cops were killed by gunfire, 15 killed by cars; hundreds of others wounded.

    Balko knows he cannot argue the facts of the Gates case, so he tried to confuse the issue. He ignores the many witnesses at the scene. Police procedures may differ in locations, but asking to see picture ID with valid proof of address is sensible. Gates at first refused. He acted erratically. He did break in the house (which is owned by Harvard University not Gates). And how did the cop even know for sure Gates was allowed in the house anymore? The cop did not even physically search the screaming Gates.

    Having Gates step outside is smart because Gates couldn't claim later the cop beat him up inside the house. And the cop didn't know if other loonies were in the house. Gates continued to rage. Perhaps the officer should have done more; perhaps the cop should have searched the house in case the raging Gates may have killed someone. But the cop did not. He was always polite to Gates, even repeatedly telling Gates to calm.

    Balko's, and others, claim that anything and everything can be shouted at police no matter where they are, is just plain nuts. Cops have to ignore threats, curses, 'fighting words', thrown objects. Balko wants cops to have less rights than Balko has. Amazing. About a year or two ago in San Francisco, a cop suffered a fractured skull during a typical street protest. An 'alternative press' person had the incident on video, but refused to give the video to the police, courts, or anyone. The attacker got away with it. Amazing. So much for Balko's video whining.

  • ||

    Great article, thank you!!!

  • ||

    There is a lot of talk about accountabiity, but only for the police. If Dr Gates is supposed to be a respected academic then shouldn't he show some restraint as opposed to making inflamatory accusations in the vain of other selfserving race hustlers like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.
    Gates is the one who made a big deal out of this. If he was right, then the police should be held accountable. But if he didn't, then helikewise should be held accountable and appologize publicly to the police and the University and go before a diciplinary hearing for false racial accusations. An offense a white professor would have been fired.

  • ||

    jlnum03: You have confused a number of issues; the article does not suggest that police shouldn't take reasonable precautions to ensure their own safety and the safety of others. Police or citizens being murdered or assaulted is a crime and a tragedy...however it has nothing to do with this case.

    It is not clear who said what to whom and hopefully we'll find out over time. We are blessed to live in America where we are innocent until proven guilty; that goes for both Gates and Crowley. We should not pass judgement on either until we know the facts.

    However what is clear is that the First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees us freedom of speech and it is particularly important that such speech be guaranteed when it is speaking out against government or government action. Gates did not yell fire in a theater and Crowley did not claim that he felt physically threatened; he arrested him on charges of "disturbing the peace" which is the issue the article contends is a problem.

    The point of the article was that berating a police officer is not a crime and it is an abuse of his authority for a police officer to arrest someone for doing so...more importantly, it shows a disregard for the Constitution that is particularly dangerous when it comes from an officer of the law.

    Gates may have been a complete jerk (or maybe Crowley was), but either way, it doesn't give Crowley the right to arrest him...that seems clear from the fact that the charges were dropped.

    Police have the right to defend themselves and others from physical attack, however they have *no* right to control the free speech of citizens (whether that speech is rude, obnoxious, or otherwise distasteful); and to suggest that they should have such a right shows disrespect for the Bill of Rights.

  • ||

    Balko's, and others, claim that anything and everything can be shouted at police no matter where they are, is just plain nuts.

    Another guy who doesn't know what he's talking about.

    http://www.volokh.com/posts/1248465451.shtml

    Defendant who did not physically resist his arrest arising out of a domestic violence incident could not be convicted of disorderly conduct based solely on his loud and angry tirade, which included profanities, directed at police officers as he was being escorted to police cruiser, even if spectators gathered to watch defendant; defendant did not make any threats or engage in violence, and his speech did not constitute fighting words. Com. v. Mallahan (2008) 72 Mass.App.Ct. 1103, 889 N.E.2d 77, 2008 WL 2404550.

    I don't feel bad double and triple posting, since you yokels refuse to read the thread.

    Balko wants cops to have less rights than Balko has.

    Funny, Radley doesn't have the right to arrest people who berate him or tell him he's wrong. Radley can't arrest YOU, for example, no matter how angry or pissy you get.

  • ||

    FLuffy, the poster at 7:20 is, imo, just trolling for some action.

  • ||

    I am someone who "actually read" the police report listed "online"....and...combined with the statements of the "Black Officer" who arrived at the scene...it appears that the Police Officerl, acted "reasonably"...based on the circumstances.

    Remember...Mr Gates was "asked to step out of the home"...and this was actually to ensure that the police officer could be certain that the (2nd Man) reported to be breaking in the home...was not some "criminal" who possibly was in the home...and ...could have been holding Mr. Gates (hostage) with the threat of "shooting him..unless he gets rid of the police"....

    There have been a number of attempts at "HOME INVASION ROBBERIES" where criminals..."threaten people with a gun or knife.., and then, force them to get their ATM/BANk cards at home, and then, go and empty their bank accounts".

    These types of crimes have been reported in the past year, many times in the news.

    I know that I would want to police to ensure that no criminal was holding me, or my wife "hostage", if someone had witnessed a possible "break in" at my home.

    I would have "cooperated 100%" and "thanked the Officer" for responding to ensure my family was safe..(This is the NORMAL reaction of HONEST, "regular" people.)

    Mr Gates...apparently does not see, that a Police Officer is actually there to "protect him"....and instead...saw this as an opportunity to "mouth his RACIST Comments"...and then use his "POWER" as a "Mr Big Harvard Professor" to get away with his actions...

    SURPRISE.....the RICH, POWERFUL GUY ...IS GETTING AWAY with his "crime"....because that is what happens in AMERICA!....

    Everyone knows they "dropped the charges" because MR GATES is the PRESIDENT's FRIEND...as like all "powerful people"....he gets "Better Justice", than the rest of us.

    MR GATES is now actually the "OPPRESSOR" of the little people, because he has joined the "ELITES" of AMERICA. IN THAT WAY...he is really NODIFFERENT...than...SAY ...Former PRESIDENT--George BUSH JR....who got into the LAST SLOT in the AIR NATIONAL GUARD...(to avoid Vietnam)...

    ...SO...."Welcome to the Power Structure of The USA"....But please ..Save the PHONEY RACE CHARGES for your MILLIONARE BUDDIES over LUNCH at the HARVAD CLUB... Any average person knows...""You lied to CYA"..and then, had to use CONNECTIONS to "get away with your actions"!---But, That is reality in today's ...AMERICA...Rich and Powerfull people get away...with everything!

  • ||

    GMAB-

    The police are not accoutable. Have you ever heard of the legal concepts named "immunity" and "qualified immunity?"

    Do you think that America was founded by folks who were deferential to the king's men? Don't you think that they recognized that a scoundrel of the first order was the type of person who always showed "respect" for the king's men?

  • ||

    JamesinTacoma:

    You miss the point of the article entirely - that being:

    Why did the police officer feel the need to arrest the legal occupant of a home AFTER said officer determined that no crime had taken/was taking place?

    There was no problem whatsoever in how the officer handled the situation UP UNTIL he decided to place Gates under arrest.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Everyone knows they "dropped the charges" because MR GATES is the PRESIDENT's FRIEND...as like all "powerful people"....he gets "Better Justice", than the rest of us.

    ***

    Years ago, when uber-conservative thug John Ashcroft was governor of Missouri, one of his nephews was arrested in an indoor marijuana-growing operation sting.

    Guess who didn't do one day of jail time.

    My point isn't that people should be doing time for growing pot... it's that, if you're related to the governor, shit gets shoved under the carpet toot-sweet and in a hurry.

    Similar to what didn't happen to Ted Kennedy's effing nephew a couple of years back. That sort of thing. You don't screw with the powerful, because they'll scream "DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM???".

  • ||

    Sounds like the Cynthia Mckinney case all over again. An African-American gets caught doing something wrong and immediately they play the race card. Fortunately these type of people are in the minority but just about everyone runs across someone like that at one point or another.

  • ||

    Jamesin Tacoma-

    Are you blind? Have you not read Fluffy's posts with citations to the Massachusetts jurisprudence on the subject of M.G. L. ch. 272 s. 53? The charges were dropped because the district attorney's office understood that a conviction could not be supported on the facts.

    Don't tell me that you are ignorant of the fact that courts have universally held that both individual police officers and police departments do not have a duty to protect any individual absent an express agreement to do so-and even then, the duty to protect has been narrowly construed by the courts.

  • ||

    Of course the article is right. I find that Americans are very quick to defer to athority, especially when it is in a uniform. Look at the way the military is idolized even in the face of devasting evidence that they torture innocent people and commit war crimes. People in positions of power are able to break the law with impunity just because of their position. Your country is more and more becoming a police state.

  • ||

    The Libertarian Guy-

    The charges would have been dismissed. The facts can not support a conviction and the Supreme Judicial Court has made that clear. The District Attorney's Office recognized this. Does not take a legal rocket scientist to figure it out.

  • ||

    I am white. There was a man who tried to kill me, he actually thought I was dead but I wasn't. Short story, I filed charges and his brothers were cops in the next town. The charges were lost and the homicide detective called me and threatened me and my family! Since then, I have a great fear of cops but I don't trust even one of them.

  • ||

    Notice how all of the statists fail to mention that Crowley has been feeding at the public trough for nearly the entirety of his adult life?

    Notice how all of the statists fail to mention that Crowley is a member of a public employee union?

    Notice how all of the statists fail to mention that Crowley does not make or produce anything and that he is a tremendous drain upon the productive capacity of free people?

    Notice how all of the statists fail to mention that Crowley has willinigly participated in the prosecution of the drug war and has profited thereby?

  • ||

    Kay-

    Cops are cannon fodder. They are slaves. They are the kids who were second string on the football team and got rejected by the prom queens. They are the guys who, very often, follow in the footstpes of their dads, uncles and older brothers onto the public sector gravy train.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Speaking of statists... someone brought up Cynthia McKinney earlier.

    In her case, she deserved to be arrested because she used to be in the House of Representatives. Can't think of a bigger criminal enterprise than that.

  • ||

    Notice how all of the statists fail to mention that Crowley has been feeding at the public trough for nearly the entirety of his adult life?

    Notice how all of the statists fail to mention that Crowley is a member of a public employee union?

    Notice how all of the statists fail to mention that Crowley does not make or produce anything and that he is a tremendous drain upon the productive capacity of free people?

    Notice how all of the statists fail to mention that Crowley has willinigly participated in the prosecution of the drug war and has profited thereby?



    You mean he's a cop? Which is a known and practically a given at this point. It'd be a pretty big pain in the ass to type all that out every time, I'm just gonna assume everyone knows what cop means. ;-)

  • ||

    Rodley is the reason I will never become a libertarian, as his cunt-brain refuses to accept the nasty speakers'-fees thoughts going thru n-word Gates' brain and blames Crowley for taking shit from a nasty shit who refused to id himself---that's what the police report says and that's what I'll take as the public record.

    Rodley is the kind of fucktard FrBunny & his/her/its ilk like to cite as "reasonable" when it's the usual libtard drivel that the academicide mafia purveys as canonical writ. It's a religious thing, this cunt-brain syndrome.

    What "hmmm" said....

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    snerdly,

    If you don't like it here, go to either DemocraticUnderground or FreeRepublic. You can find a kindred spirit at one of those, depending on whether you're the right-wing asshole type, or their dopplegangers on the left.

  • DamaskinosWasRight||

    It is shameful that the government and police need to be taught that allowing gang stalkers to stalk, harass, torture and murder people with poison and radiation is being an accessory to crimes against humanity.

  • ||

    Being from the minority isn't easy. However, that doesn't give us the right to act the way gates acted. Many police officers have lost their life or suffered serious injuries from individuals who refused to cooperate. If the person cooperates the problem would have been solved. However, a scholar acting stupid thinking that his status is bigger than the law is plain old stupid and inresponsible. Does racial profiling still happens? You bet. Was this a case of profiling or policy stupidity? Absolutely not. One last thing, the president was inresponsible for sticking his nose in somethng he shouldn't have since we have more serious problems and he should have also gathered all the evidences before he opened his mouth which created a bias view of his presidency. Being black isn't easy, and I am proud of it. But we have taken this too far.

  • ||

    Eric: You may have missed the point of the article: Gates *did* cooperate and whether he was an obnoxious jerk or not, by the time officer Crowley arrested him, he knew that no crime had occurred and that Gates was the legal occupant of the house.

    It doesn't matter whether Gates was black or white or whether he was verbally abusive to the officer or not, the officer did not have the authority to arrest him or to constrain his speech. Trumping up a charge to arrest a citizen because you don't like what he is saying or how he is saying it is *illegal*, a violation of the First Amendment, and should disturb any patriotic American.

  • ||

    The police are in constant danger and need to be extremely careful that don't end up getting shot. In addition, if they don't figure who that is in the house they will surely be sued by the owner if the person does not belong there. The "teaching moment" is if a cop asks for your ID...give it to them...they are trying to protect YOUR home...BE GRATEFUL THEY ARE ASKING!

  • ||

    imo Gates was a jerk and looking for a publishing oportunity.

    imo Crowley should have walked away.

    imo Obama should have kept his mouth shut.

    None of these men did any service to the institutions they represent.

    And at least two of them have done a major disservice.

  • ||

    hmm-

    Emphasis my boy, emphasis.

    When you think of Timothy McVeigh, quick, be honest, don't you see him in that orange jumpsuit? How often have you seen the footage? I dare say it has its effects. Today, a friend visiting from Alabama brought up Oklahoma City and the first thought/image in my mind was that orange jumpsuit.

  • ||

    Oh by the way...crying racism diminishes the real racism that does indeed still exist. If you truly care and are sensitive to the issue of racism and are about to shoot off your mouth remember...it is ready - aim - fire as opposed to fire - aim - ready.

  • ||

    The police have no legal obligation to protect you. Period.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    "crying racism diminishes the real racism that does indeed still exist"

    Exactly, as does crying rape when no rape happened, crying child abuse just for revenge, et cetera. All of these diminish the REAL cases of rape, racism, child abuse and so on.

    So far, the only racist in this two-man matchup seems to be Gates.

  • ||

    "Everyone knows they "dropped the charges" because MR GATES is the PRESIDENT's FRIEND...as like all "powerful people"....he gets "Better Justice", than the rest of us."

    No, there's the completely plausible (and probably true) scenario that the Cambridge PD was embarrassed by the whole thing, knew damn well they couldn't get a conviction, and prudently decided to save the taxpayers' money by dropping the whole thing. In reality, a guy who breaks into his own house while carrying a suitcase probably isn't much of a threat to the community. I guess it sucks that Officer Crowley got his feelings hurt, but all things considered prosecution of Gates will solve nothing.

    Libery Guy - I could totally see that happening. Ashcroft is a piece of shit.

  • ||

    None of this would have happened if the officer was black. Gates would have cooperated fully. But because Gates hates white people (it's allowed, he's a black scholar) he immediately calls SGT Crowley a racist. Gates hates whites. Period. Tell me I'm wrong. (Sleeping with white woman doesn't mean he doesn't hate whites)

    Lets play what if.

    What if Gates was was white, the officer was black and "white" gates repeatedly told the black cop "get out of my house you n*gger!". Then followed him onto the porch and shouted it at him. Would that be grounds for arrest?

    Since only whites can be racist isn't calling someone a racist oppressive and derogatory to whites?

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    "Since only whites can be racist"

    That's a load. Of course, I'm assuming you're being sarcastic.

  • ||

    Radley Balko, I agree completely.

  • ||

    No Paul that wouldn't be grounds for arrest.

    Even dumb shit racists are entitled for freedom of speech. As long as he wasn't using "fighting" words, or being otherwise threatening then he's free to be a asshole.

    Also, remember cops are held to a higher standard than civilians, that's necessary because they have power over you in some many situations.

  • ||

    Henry Louis Gates: The man who launched a thousand shitty posts.

  • ||

    Fluffy, you and Libertymike are so full of hot air that you are about to be used as weather balloons. Insulting others does not help your poor reasoning.

    Fluffy loves to constantly repeat and repeat a legal quotation. Too bad Fluffy doesn't read or understand that quotation! Read it!

    "Defendant who did not physically resist his arrest arising out of a DOMESTIC VIOLENCE incident could not be convicted of disorderly conduct based solely on his loud and angry tirade..."

    This was NOT a domestic violence incident! How can you fail to understand what happened? The police responded to a possible Breaking and Entry! A possible burglary in progress! A witness reported two men who seemed to be breaking into a house. Remember? She did not report a 'domestic violence' incident!

    Your quotation is bogus! You used a Domestic Violence citation in a pathetic clumsy attempt to attack the police actions. The citation says when you are arrested for domestic violence, you will not get an ADDITIONAL charge of disorderly conduct. Can't you read Fluffy? Or are you too busy hating?

    Helllloooooooooooooooooo!!! Two men were reported breaking in!! Two! Housebreaking!!! Everything that followed resulted from that. And from the fact (see the witnesses) that Gates acted belligerent, in a rage, erratic...

    Therefore, the cops that responded acted with all due caution. SEE THE WITNESSES! Listen to the 911 call.

    'JamesInTacoma' stated his very reasonable opinion (and real facts) and was attacked for it. Two men were reported breaking. Only one man was visible at the house. A good cop would account for the second man, try to ensure Gates was innocent and safe.

    LibertyMike, you poor troller. Are you blind? Have you not read Fluffy's posts with citations to the Massachusetts jurisprudence on the subject of M.G. L. ch. 272 s. 53? Do you not see the words "Domestic Violence"??? Do you have any idea of what domestic violence means legally? Do you know what breaking and entry is? Do you understand the difference??

    BTW: if you attack my posts, respond to my entire post. Don't cherry pick. Cops are cursed, threatened, shot, killed, have objects thrown at them, injured. Video showing attackers are withheld. And Balko wants cops to take it all with a smile.

    If Gates had found a dead man in his house, or been attacked, if the cops left...we all know he would have sued the cops.

    Fluffy, LibertyMike... I know you will now never call the cops for any reason. Make us that promise.

  • ||

    Come on jlnum03 you can't really be that dumb are you? Or are you just a troll.

    The fact that at the start of the officers call it had to do with breaking and entering had ZERO to do with the DC charge. At the time of the arrest the cop had already admitted that

    1. Gates was the owner of the house
    2. Gates posed no threat to the officer.

    Therefore, the arrest was ONLY based on the fact that Gates was running his mouth, WHICH has already been established was not a sufficient basis for arrest.

  • ||

    You are all over the place in your blurb. If you had stopped with the advice not to mouth off to the police and not to argue with people carrying the guns, I would say that I agree with that philosophy. The police have to make a lot of on-the-spot decisions. Don't complicate their problem! I always identify myself, prove it with my ID, and tell them where and why I'm moving my hands, especially when they have their weapon drawn or their hand resting on that weapon.

  • ||

    Sorry, but there are indeed two issues here: race and police power. Just because the good sargent does not exhibit overt racism does not mean he does not have covert and maybe unconscious racism. Anyone who has had deep relationships across race knows how people who think they have no racism still exhibit racists attitudes and behavior, despite their relationship. Given that we all have been negatively affected by our cultural indoctrination of racism, I agree with Dr. Cornel West who says we are all recovering racist. At least those who are consciously struggling to overcome this indoctrination--oppressor and victim alike--are recovering racists. Yes, racism,and I don't mean prejudice which is quite different from racism, permeates our culture that much. We have much work to do and must begin with admitting the breadth and depth of this hiearchical and structural racism we live with everyday.

  • ||

    Police officers deserve the same courtesy we afford anyone else we encounter in public life-basic respect and civility. If they're investigating a crime, they deserve cooperation as required by law.
    All Prof. Gates had to do , which most of us would, was to cooperates with the investigating officer. As yet I have not read any information in any article as to why Prof. Gates did not cooperate. I am sure that if the Prof. was teaching a class he would not expect, accept, nor tolerate a student declining to abide by the rules set in his class or seminar. Why is this case any different? Why did he not just abide by the officer request, which I believe would be considered the proper procedure the officer is required to follow. What if it was not the Prof. nor his home and the officer allowed him entrance and just drove away? I suppose the President's comment would be how the officer didn't protect person, property ,and community.
    Does the Prof. believe everyone knows him and where his resides.
    It sounds to me that the Prof. was arrogant, defiant, and uncooperative for reasons other than racism! He got is name in the news as an educated Black man who was a victem with a President publicly sympathizing so as to give his complaint credibility. I guess Gates will be running for office!!!!!

  • ||

    Oh sure, courtesy and respect would have been the right (and certainly prudent) thing to do. Depending on who's account you believe Gates was probably being an asshole. But that's not an arrestable offense.

  • ||

    As yet I have not read any information in any article as to why Prof. Gates did not cooperate.

    I read in the police report that Sgt. Crowley was able to ascertain Gates's identity and was quite confident that Gates was the actual resident of the home, and hence not a burglar.

    That sounds pretty cooperative to me. Crowley was able to get his job done. Surely if Professor Gates prevented Sgt. Crowley from doing his job, the good police officer would have mentioned this in the police report explaining why he arrested Professor Gates?

  • ||

    It occurs to me that now would be a great time to break into the Gates house... no cops are going to show up.

    Who's with me?! Across the Charles!

  • ||

    To the author of this blog entry: Don't try to divert the attention from the mistaken racial profiling accusation by claiming cops have gotten too sensitive. It IS about the profiling, and it was from the start. This news story wouldn't have gotten so big if it was simply about a cop who got too sensitive. When it was assumed by everyone and their mother that Gates was being racially profiled, THAT was the issue at that time. Now that it's determined that this accusation was in fact false, it's not the issue?

    I don't care what skin anyone's color is - you're mouthing off to an officer of the law. If Gates wanted to be a bigshot smartass and run his mouth, he got what was coming to him. It says right on the recording that he was being uncooperative. Again, if an officer of the law is trying to get information and you're being a pain in the butt, that's suspicious. The police don't have time to sit around and play games with people who aren't giving them information.

  • ||

    I am so sick of this story. Can we get something about tits?

    There have been a ton of marijuana stories in the MSM lately. What's the latest fellas?

  • ||

    We don't know what Gates said to the cops. He must've been rude and abusive and out of control and did not stop when asked to. He pushed the cops to stop him aggressively. He asked for it.

  • ||

    The Harvard "professor" is a racist and it is obvious! The officer was acting appropriately and the "profesor" was not. By the way, not only is he a racist but so is the Idiot in the White House. I gues Jeremiah Wright was a bigger factor than his supporters were willing to admit! This is a no brainer.

  • ||

    Come on kroneborge, you can't really be that dumb can you? Or are you just a troll? Or both?

    Gates was out of control from the git-go. Before anything was proven. He could have been arrested at the beginning. He was given every break. We have a difference of opinion.

    It does not matter what you or I think. The DA let it go due to politics. Obama and Gates are proven to be knee jerk racists. Gates will make more money. Obama secured his base. Cops will be more hesitant to do their jobs. Which will make Kroneborge happy.

    I hope kroneborge gets a neighbor who will bellow out his opinions outside loudly for hours. Krone will say "Gosh. I love free speech."

    Vassie Welbeck-Browne says she is a racist. Cool. I am not. She supports Cornell West, who has been rebuked at Harvard for being a lousy teacher. West, another race pimp, is part of the African Studies industry.

    West has branded the U.S. a "racist patriarchal" nation where "white supremacy" continues to define everyday life. West is very well-off.

    West is quoted on PETA flyers: "Although most people don't know chickens as well as they know cats and dogs, chickens are interesting individuals with personalities and interests..." Whoa!

    Last week Fluffy was SCREAMING that the woman who made the 911 emergency call about seeing "two gentlemen possibly breaking into a house" was a vicious KKK racist! But that caller NEVER said BLACK men were breaking in! Now, after hearing the very reasonable 911 call voice tape, Fluffy attacks the caller for NOT saying that black men were breaking in!! Fluffy asks "If you saw the two men, why didn't you say they were black?" Maybe she didn't see their color Fluffy! What do you care anyway?

    But that's Fluffy for you. Here is a typical Fluffy reply, to someone who said a cop's job can be tough:

    "Tough fucking shit for the cops, baby doll. My rights as a citizen are what they are, and if the cops don't like it they should fucking quit. If Crowley doesn't like it he should fucking quit. We'll find someone else to pay 170k a year to so they can hand out public urination citations to college kids."

    Yes. That's all cops do: hand out citations and make 170K. Fluffy uber alles.

  • ||

    LOL Doctor Duck

  • ||

    If he had been arrested inside his home, that's one thing. However, he was arrested after following the officer outside where he continued to berate him in public (drawing a crowd of onlookers, according to the police report). He was even warned to settle down (receiving 'more warnings than the average person', according to Crowley), yet continued to be abusive in public. It's not a matter of someone haranguing an officer; but doing it in public and causing a disturbance.

  • ||

    This is why I can't stand "Libertarian Intellectuals". Have you even considered the alternative to police having the means and authority to conduct investigations?

    When the police show up they have to investigate. It's an important job that enlightened civilization can't survive without.

    Society balances the need to investigate against the right not to be investigated with a concept called "probable cause". In the Gates case there was an eyewitness to a break-in and suspicious behavior from the suspect at the scene. That constitutes "probable cause" and grants the police the authority to conduct an investigation. So far so good -- you haven't argued the police lacked "probable cause".

    When people become so disruptive they interfere with an investigation the police can either stop the disruptor or stop the investigation.

    Here's where you go completely off the rails: you have taken the position that the authority of the police to conduct an investigation -- GIVEN "PROBABLE CAUSE" -- ends not with conclusive evidence of guilt or innocence but with the level of belligerence of persons disrupting the investigation.

    Apparently your right to resist authority trumps society's right to find the battered spouse on the second floor or the dead body half-buried in the backyard. Your right to turn a police investigation into the Libertarian Anarchists' Debating Club trumps the right of victims to justice.

    In Balkoland, where the PD defers to belligerence, resisting authority is effectively a license to kill.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    I think the phrase "teaching moment" is quite possibly the most despicable bit of fallout from this sordid tale.

    Then again, The Ruling Class looks at we wee peasants as nothing but children. Hell, I'm not surprised there isn't a Pointy Objects Czar, telling state legislatures they must institute a ban on running with scissors lest they lose federal highway funds.

  • ||

    Radley, I disagree with your conclusions in the second to last paragraph for one simple reason: people, like Mr. Gates, who "disagree" or "disapprove" of the police actions in the manner in which he did put the police in the position of having to deal with them when there was no reason for that dealings. Had he simply answered the questions, then got his attorney and sued the heck out of the police, he could have made his point much more effectively, and avoided any negative response from the police.

    If you want to say that this is being too deferential, so be it. But, the police don't have the time or the manpower to deal with abusive behavior when that behavior is not needed or necessary.

  • ||

    Balko, you are absolutely correct.

    Gates, however, is still a fucking tool.

    And to all the potential thieves out there in the Harvard area, Gates' house is probably a gimme right now. Have at it, lads.

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    re: DBN | July 27, 2009, 9:41pm

    DBN wins all H.L. Gates threads. If shitty posts were V-2s then Gates would be Wernher von Braun.

  • ||

    If shitty posts were Greeks then Gates would be Helen of Troy.

  • ||

    It seems to me that a whole lot of people are just beginning to recognize their own amazing ability to believe their own B. S.

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    If shitty posts were Greeks then Gates would be Helen of Troy.

    Ooh, touché.

  • ||

    jlnum03,

    You are unbelievably stupid.

    The fact that the case cited was on a domestic violence call is utterly irrelevant to the citation.

    The question is what behavior constitutes disorderly conduct. The courts have ruled that engaging in a loud, profane and angry anti-police tirade can not sustain a charge of disorderly conduct in Massachusetts. If you follow the link to Volokh and read the other cases there, and the Masscases links, you will find that virtually no speech that does not directly threaten violence or incite riot can be found to be disorderly conduct in Massachusetts any more. Even speech defying police orders, like "I won't move my car out of that illegal parking space" or "Let's all stand in the way of the tow trucks so the police can't clear this street we've blocked" has failed to support a disorderly conduct charge in the Commonwealth. You may not like it, but that's just the state of the law at this time. The entire subsection of the law dealing with loud or abusive speech has been struck down, and the subsection left standing has been limited to situations where fighting or aggressive behavior begins to inspire a riot in onlookers. That's just the way it is.

    Last week Fluffy was SCREAMING that the woman who made the 911 emergency call about seeing "two gentlemen possibly breaking into a house" was a vicious KKK racist!

    Actually, my first statement was that Crowley almost certainly did not racially profile Gates, and that there was no racial element to the incident. I then said that maybe the caller was racist unconsciously. If you dispute this, link to the post in question.

    But that's Fluffy for you. Here is a typical Fluffy reply, to someone who said a cop's job can be tough:

    Actually, I said that in response to someone who said that a cop's job can be tough, and because it's tough they should be allowed to violate the law and the rights of citizens.

    Want me to sympathize with cops who have a tough job? Fine, I'm willing - as long as that sympathy is not used as a tool to excuse misconduct. I'll give them all the sympathy you want as long as they don't get out of line even once.

    And as for it being a "typical reply", well, my posts here on this topic [and on every other topic, really] are as substantive as anyone's, and usually moreso. But sometimes people need to be told to fuck off, and I am happy to do that, too.

    When people become so disruptive they interfere with an investigation the police can either stop the disruptor or stop the investigation.

    Here's where you go completely off the rails: you have taken the position that the authority of the police to conduct an investigation -- GIVEN "PROBABLE CAUSE" -- ends not with conclusive evidence of guilt or innocence but with the level of belligerence of persons disrupting the investigation.

    I would consider it "disrupting an investigation" if I physically blocked the path of a police officer, or threw an object at them, or ran away with evidence.

    I simply refuse to accept the standard police definition of what constitutes "disrupting an investigation", to wit:

    1. Asking why someone is being handcuffed or arrested.

    2. Standing nearby and yelling that the police are unfair.

    3. Refusing to answer questions put to me where I'm not obligated to answer by law.

    4. Answering with a hostile tone of voice.

    5. Making the declarative statement that I don't like the police.

    6. Videotaping a police investigation or arrest.

    People are arrested on trumped-up charges for doing these very things every day.

  • Kornelia||

    Good article, thank you! To me it seemed to aboud time to state a sad but true-around-the-world fact: People in uniform tent to feel not always the need to be polite. Alowing that to happen without complaining is supporting this attitude of beeing superior.

  • ||

    Just try mouthing off to the German Polizei, the French gendarmes or the Brits...

    You'll get your head cracked in.


    I'm calling bullshit on that first one. I lived in Germany for a couple of years, and the German cops were scrupulously professional.

    -jcr

  • ||

    I think when I get around to building myself a house, I'll put a code lock on my front door, so I won't need a key to get in.

    -jcr

  • billo||

    "Has it occurred to you that the officer could have COMPLETELY eliminated any perceived "threat" from Gates by getting in his vehicle and driving away from the scene?"

    Right. Just like the cops in Minneapolis did when they drove away from Jeffrey Dahmer. No prob. As I note in my post, when cops respond to one of these they are not just looking at the superficial part of the complaint -- e.g. "I don't know what's going on,but maybe someone is breaking in."

    That's how a lot of different scenarios start, some of them dangerous to the cops and to other people. Of course the easy thing to do is to do the most superficial thing possible and drive away. reply to this

  • ||

    How dare this idiot undermines legit racial profiliing. Gates is an intellectual thug and career racist. I am sick of these selfish exploiters who have excelled regardless of race issues and instead of teaching the black kids behind them to do the same they encourage other black kids to be police baiters. They should have locked his ass up and thrown away the key. Barack is cut from the same racist cloth hence his stupid intervention.

  • ||

    Gates instigated the entire situation by continuously crying and yelling racism. The only racist in the entire scenario was Gates himself.

    I too am tired of this same situation going on over and over again throughout the country. Everyone needs to wake up and speak out against all of these racists (Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Barrack Obama, Henry Gates, etc).

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    Gates is an intellectual thug

    I doubt Gates is an "intellectual thug", but that phrase is fucking awesome.

    They should have locked his ass up and thrown away the key.

    ????

  • ||

    Billo the cop already admitted that at the time of the arrest there was ZERO grounds to assume any other law breaking.

    They weren't concerned about kidnapped people in the house, or bodies in the freezer. They were just concerned with running of the mouth. Unwise sure, a crime no.

  • ||

    I guess this really is a "teaching moment." So far, I've read Radley's civil libertarian take on the incident; a Washington Post piece on the class aspect (snobby academic vs. working-class cop); and of course the racial thing. The only thing I can conclude from all this is that an asshole cop met an asshole professor and things didn't turn out well for one of them.

  • ||

    @Fluff:
    Any of those things except (6) could, taken far enough, disrupt an investigation.

  • Marlene ||

    Fine article, thanks for sharing it. The Reason Online piece nicely explains how easily law enforcement rights/powers can be abused. I think that is part of why the possibility of racial profiling is something NO person of color takes lightly. Although Officer Crowley may be a policeman with qualifications to teach others how to avoid profiling, ... Read Morethat doesn't mean he would never mishandle a politically and socially sensitive situation (involving issues of institutional hierarchy and town/gown conflict). Although Prof Gates is a world recognized scholar in American History, specifically African American History, it doesn't mean he could not over react in a specific situation under extenuating circumstances (jet-lag, frustration over concern about the security of his home). I hope the 2 individuals make peace and I hope this country is willing to examine both abuse of police powers and racial relations because of this incident. I am proud the President expressed himself!

  • ||

    I wonder how a report of 2 men with suitcases turned into a report of 2 black men with backpacks.

    Thinking race had anything to do with it is approximately as offensive as the Holocaust, and Gates deserved to be arrested, beaten, and left in jail while some upstanding citizens go to his house and burglarize it.

    Right.

  • ||

    As a comparison, you spoke of your friend, who was arrested for polite inquiry. If that's what happened, then the police were wrong.
    But Gates made no polite inquiry. He yelled and insulted, and it was witnessed and attested to by a citizen. That makes it Public Disturbance, not Contempt of Cop. And that makes it an infringement on another citizen. Which is NOT protected.
    Changing the label doesn't change the facts.

  • ||

    Well Done! The mass media has totally missed the ball on this issue.

    You've gained a regular reader!

  • ||

    But Gates made no polite inquiry. He yelled and insulted, and it was witnessed and attested to by a citizen. That makes it Public Disturbance, not Contempt of Cop. And that makes it an infringement on another citizen.

    Which citizen complained about Gates's yelling? Who said he was being disturbed?

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    "Gates deserved to be arrested, beaten, and left in jail"

    Nobody but demented, brain-damaged white supremacists would say such a thing.

    And they suck as much as the New Black Panthers do.

  • ||

    I agree with this article 100%. I actually had a situation happen to me, similar to Ms. Oberwetter's:

    June 2006, I was walking back to my Dad's house in Applewood, CO, at 2am on a Saturday night, after having perhaps 2 beers at Old Chicago's. I crossed a major intersection, and walked a little ways up the angled embankment of the highway overpass, before coming back down to the sidewalk (not an ordinary movement, but hey, I'm weird when I'm perfectly sober). I was never, however, on the highway, or dodging cars, as officers later put down in their report.

    A number of officers from Jefferson County Sheriff's Department (you know, the guys who botched Columbine) pull up, and start asking me questions. At one point, I ask, "Excuse me officer, can you please tell me what is the probable cause for questioning me?"

    Uh oh. Big mistake. The one officer says, "Now that you've said that, and you seem to be a danger to yourself and others, we're going to have to take you to detox." The others start ridiculing me: "Where'd you get your law degree?" "I don't have one, but I am going to Georgetown University." "Georgetown, huh? That's a shitty school." (By the way, on the report that I saw later, they put down my school as Colorado School of Mines, the closest college. They simply couldn't be bother to remember or check the facts, and put down what seemed most likely to them. That wasn't the only factual error in their reports...)

    So they cuff me, put me in the back of a cruiser, and drop me off at the detox center. There, I get to try to sleep on a cot with a hundred other guys, periodically checking vitals and blood alcohol (something officers had neglected to do at the scene). By the way, ALL of the BATs showed I was at less than 50% the DUI limit if I had been driving, which I had not.

    I get a $200+ fee for the "pleasure" of sleeping in the drunk tank, and a summons to appear at Jeffco Court (affectionately dubbed the "Taj Mahal" by the natives for its shape and taxpayer-funded splendor) two months later. My Dad and I go to work trying to take pictures of the intersection, etc, in preparation for my court date.

    My court date comes around, so I go, and guess what? Charges are dropped, but they never bothered to inform me, just let me stew in fear, thinking that I'd have to argue against a "drunk and disorderly" rap, although at least then I could have presented the facts of my case before a court of law. Nope, they just pulled out, probably to avoid any embarrassing contradictions of facts with their "reports".

    Whatever. I go with my Dad to collect the police reports, which I'm now informed I can have access to. Two officers wrote different reports, in which they claimed I was "wildly dodging traffic" (I walked quickly at a crosswalk, to reduce the time a car had to wait for me?); "ran onto the highway" (pardon me, UNDER the highway); and was "verbally abusive and aggressive to officers" (ie, I attempted to address my civil rights, and the limitations of their powers of search and detention). Full on, stinky sandwich baloney.

    And that's not all. That summer, I was trying to apply to get into the Peace Corps, once I graduated in May 2007. Turns out, the Peace Corps has a strict policy of not allowing anyone to apply for a year after any alcohol-related incident--no matter what the final outcome or vindication. So I got shafted out of that one, too.

    So, basically, these over-empowered, under-worked schmoes in the local sheriff's are cruising around on a late Saturday night, see some college kid (me), and decide to pick on him the second I even dare to question any aspect of their authority. I get to spend a night in detox, I get to pay $200+ in fees, I get to sweat about my court date, and miss a great post-grad opportunity for learning and service abroad. They lie blatantly about the facts and events of the case, and I get no real arena in which to defend myself, because the charges get dropped. And people wonder why, despite the many other nice officers I've met, I sometimes have a problem with the cops.

    I should have filed a lawsuit, but didn't feel it was worth the effort at the time. I guess that's just another way the police state creeps up on you, little by little...

  • ||

    The right to harass an officer on a perceived violation of your rights DOES NOT include making jokes about his mother. That would have gotten Gates a beating out of me, if he's made that joke to me.

    Like spitting on me, jokes about my mother result in me putting my size fifteen boot up your rectum. I fully support the cop's right not to be insulted for doing his job.

  • abercrombie milano||

    My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I'm sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won't get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there's more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I'm not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It's just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight...the Bible's books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on...the Bible's books were written by people with very different mindsets

  • nike shox||

    is good

  • قبلة الوداع||

    thank u

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