"Harvard professor Gates arrested at Cambridge home"
By Tracy Jan, Boston Globe Staff, July 20, 2009
Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., one of the nation's pre-eminent African-American scholars, was arrested Thursday afternoon at his home by Cambridge police investigating a possible break-in. The incident raised concerns among some Harvard faculty that Gates was a victim of racial profiling.
Police arrived at Gates’s Ware Street home near Harvard Square at 12:44 p.m. to question him. Gates, director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard, had locked himself out of his house and was trying to get inside.
He was booked for disorderly conduct after “exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior,” according to the Cambridge police log.
Friends of Gates said he was already in his home when police arrived. He showed his driver’s license and Harvard identification card, but was handcuffed and taken into police custody for several hours last Thursday, they said.
Gates, 58, did not returned calls for comment today.
The arrest of such a prominent scholar under what some described as dubious circumstances shook some members of the black Harvard community.
“He and I both raised the question of if he had been a white professor, whether this kind of thing would have happened to him, that they arrested him without any corroborating evidence,” said S. Allen Counter, a Harvard Medical School professor who spoke with Gates about the incident Friday. “I am deeply concerned about the way he was treated, and called him to express my deepest sadness and sympathy.”
Counter, who had called Gates from the Nobel Institute in Sweden, where Counter is on sabbatical, said that Gates was “shaken” and “horrified” by his arrest.
Counter has faced a similar situation himself. The well-known neuroscience professor, who is also black, was stopped by two Harvard police officers in 2004 after being mistaken for a robbery suspect as he crossed Harvard Yard. They threatened to arrest him when he could not produce identification.
“This is very disturbing that this could happen to anyone, and not just to a person of such distinction,” Counter said. “He was just shocked that this had happened, at 12:44 in the afternoon, in broad daylight. It brings up the question of whether black males are being targeted by Cambridge police for harassment.”
Cambridge police would not comment on the arrest, citing an investigation into the incident by Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr. A spokesman for Leone said Gates is scheduled to be arraigned on Aug. 26 and said the office could not provide details on the arrest until that time.
Friends said Gates is being represented by Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree, who has taken on previous cases with racial implications.
"Henry Louis Gates Jr."
Boston.com - July 23, 2009
Born: September, 16, 1950, in Piedmont, W. Va.
Education: Graduated summa cum laude in history from Yale in 1973. Earned master’s and doctorate in English literature from Clare College at the University of Cambridge in England.
Academic career: Taught at Yale, Cornell, and Duke before joining Harvard faculty in 1991. Served as chairman of Harvard’s African and African American Studies Department from 1991 until 2006, and now directs the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard.
Personal: Divorced, with two grown daughters: Maggie, a doctoral student in American civilization at Harvard, and Liza, a writer for The Daily Beast website.
"No charge, but Gates case seethes"
By Tracy Jan, Boston Globe Staff, July 22, 2009
Authorities abruptly dropped criminal charges yesterday against noted Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., but for Gates and others, it appeared to be a case of too little, too late.
Black leaders continued to condemn the actions of a Cambridge police sergeant who handcuffed the African-American professor outside his own home Thursday. Gates extended an unusual offer to the officer: in exchange for an apology, personal tutoring sessions on the history of racism in America.
Gates, still angry five days after his arrest, broke his silence yesterday to chastise Cambridge police for his treatment, dispute their assertion that he had made inflammatory remarks during the encounter, and seized upon his brief incarceration as a teaching moment on race relations, not only for Cambridge, but for the nation.
“I believe the police officer should apologize to me for what he knows he did that was wrong,’’ Gates said in a phone interview from Martha’s Vineyard. “If he apologizes sincerely, I am willing to forgive him. And if he admits his error, I am willing to educate him about the history of racism in America and the issue of racial profiling.
“That’s what I do for a living,’’ he added.
Yesterday various parties took stock of last week’s run-in between Gates and police Sergeant James Crowley, who is white, and its meaning remained the subject of a vigorous debate.
Thursday afternoon, Gates had just arrived home from a trip abroad when a Cambridge police officer, alerted to a possible break-in at the house, appeared at the professor’s front door and demanded to see identification. According to a police report, Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct after he became belligerent, yelled at Crowley, repeatedly called him a racist, and declared that the officer had no idea who he was “messing with.’’
Gates denies raising his voice at Crowley other than to demand his name and badge number, which he said the officer refused to give. Crowley wrote in the police report that he had identified himself. Gates also denies calling Crowley a racist.
Yesterday, the Police Department and Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone signed a statement with Gates’s lawyers dropping all charges and declared: “All parties agree that this is a just resolution to an unfortunate set of circumstances.’’ They then declined to respond to requests for further comment.
Not so with Gates, who flatly told a Globe reporter, “I’m outraged. I shouldn’t have been treated this way, but it makes me so keenly aware of how many people every day experience abuses in the criminal justice system. This is really about justice for the least amongst us.’’
Some black leaders said that simply dropping the charges is not enough. The police and the city of Cambridge need to address the intricacies of race in a direct manner, they said.
Amid the accusations of racial profiling, many online commentators, bloggers, and analysts came to Crowley’s defense, saying he was putting his life on the line responding to a report of a crime in progress, basically doing honest police work. But for Gates’s bellicosity, those people said, the arrest would not have occurred and the encounter would have gone unpublicized.
Gates, 58, the director of Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, gave his version of the events that disrupted the calm around his home on Ware Street, a tree-lined block near Harvard Square.
“The police report is full of this man’s broad imagination,’’ Gates said. “I said, ‘Are you not giving me your name and badge number because I’m a black man in America?’ . . . He treated my request with scorn.’’
Gates also said he was suffering from a bronchial infection and was physically unable to yell.
Furthermore, Gates said that as a man who is “half white,’’ who was married to a white woman for more than two decades, and whose children are part white, “I don’t walk around calling white people racist. . . . Nobody knows me as some lunatic black nationalist who’s walking around beating up on white people. This is just not my profile.’’
As news of Gates’s arrest spread around the globe and fueled accusations of racism, authorities scrambled to smooth things over. Leone summoned Cambridge police and Gates’s attorneys to a meeting yesterday morning to hash out a resolution.
During the meeting, the police agreed to drop the charge of disorderly conduct, and the parties drew up a conciliatory statement in which they called the incident “regrettable.’’
“This incident should not be viewed as one that demeans the character and reputation of Professor Gates or the character of the Cambridge Police Department,’’ the statement said.
Gates, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Yale, elevated Harvard’s African and African American studies department, and became one of the nation’s preeminent scholars on race, said he plans to use his arrest and his four hours in jail as a springboard: He may make a documentary on racial profiling.
Gates said he has gone out of his way in the past to avoid run-ins with police. When he first arrived at Harvard in 1991, he moved into a large house in the mostly white suburb of Lexington and promptly visited the police station to introduce himself.
“I wanted them to see my black face,’’ Gates said. “I would be driving home late from Harvard. I had a Mercedes. I didn’t want to be stopped for ‘driving while black.’ . . . I should have done that with the Cambridge Police Department.’’
Gates said he is concerned about the “unconscious attitudes’’ that police can hold.
“Because of the capricious whim of one disturbed person . . . I am now a black man with a prison record,’’ Gates said. “You can look at my mug shot on the Internet.’’
Harvard’s president, Drew Faust, said in a written statement that while she is gratified that the charges have been dropped, she remains “deeply troubled by the incident.’’
“Legacies of racial injustice remain an unfortunate and painful part of the American experience,’’ Faust said. “As President Obama has remarked, ours is an imperfect union, and while perfect justice may always elude us, we can and must do better.’’
Civic, religious, and civil rights leaders also said the case shows that more needs to be done to improve race relations.
“On one hand, there is a black man who is a millionaire who occupies the White House, and on the other hand, you have one of the most distinguished racial bridge-builders in the country, a scholar intellectual, being arrested,’’ said Rev. Eugene Rivers III, a black leader in Boston.
“The reality is that it doesn’t make a difference how distinguished or exceptional a black person thinks he or she is or may in fact be,’’ Rivers said. “You can be arrested for breathing while black in your own house.’’
Mayor E. Denise Simmons, the first black woman mayor of Cambridge, said the incident has reminded the city that people need to be vigilant about their own behavior and biases.
“Certain things just should not happen, to anyone, whether it’s Professor Gates, a renowned national figure, or a public works person,’’ Simmons said.
Two months ago, Cambridge held a public forum on race and class at City Hall. It will hold another dialogue on the topic in October with Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
“Let’s not focus on the Police Department,’’ she said. “It’s all of our problem.’’
A BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL
"A professor’s arrest"
July 22, 2009
CAMBRIDGE POLICE and prosecutors found a mature resolution to a dust-up late last week between an officer and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., a leading African-American scholar: They dropped the charges against Gates, who never should have been arrested.
The confrontation between Gates and Sergeant James Crowley isn’t a textbook example of racial profiling. The Cambridge officer was investigating a citizen’s call about a possible break-in at Gates’s home. It turned out to be the noted professor and his driver struggling with a broken door. Gates apparently took umbrage at the officer’s line of questioning, at one point suggesting that the police presence could be explained by the professor’s race. The conversation escalated; the report depicts Gates as haughty and insulting. He was cuffed and charged with disorderly conduct.
Gates told the Globe yesterday that the report is full of the officer’s “broad imagination.’’ Once the officer established that Gates was indeed standing in his own home, the encounter should have ended. Objecting to an officer’s presence in one’s residence should hardly be grounds for arrest.
Still, confrontations with police seldom end well, even if officers are in the wrong. If Gates believed he was being treated discourteously, he could have filed a complaint with the police department’s section for professional standards. Ultimately, though, it was the officer’s responsibility to de-escalate the situation, even by walking away. Police are trained specifically to ignore verbal provocations that come their way.
Cambridge police are well-regarded in the profession for dealing sensitively with the public, according to Northeastern University criminologist Jack McDevitt, a national expert on racial profiling. But even that department needs a reminder that its job is to keep the peace, not to spar with citizens who pose no risk to public safety.
(Cambridge Police Department via AP; Globe Staff Illustration)
(AP Photo/Demotix Images, B. Carter)
In this photo taken by a neighbor, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. is arrested at his home in Cambridge.
Cambridge police surrounded a handcuffed Henry Louis Gates Jr. last Thursday in this snapshot taken by a neighbor. He said he had a bronchial infection and could not yell. (Bill Carter/Demotix Images)
THE BOSTON GLOBE - Op-Ed
"Racial profiling is alive and well"
By Carol Rose, July 22, 2009
THE ARREST of Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. after he was confronted by police while trying to open the front door to his home is the latest reminder that racism is alive and well even in the most wealthy and progressive enclaves of Massachusetts. Although the criminal charges against Gates were dropped yesterday, the incident is the latest clue - for those who need one - that we’re a long way from being a “post-racial’’ society in Massachusetts.
Gates was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct after a passerby called the Cambridge police to report a man “wedging his shoulder into the front door as to pry the door open,’’ according to a police report. A review of the police report suggests that the police officer arrested Gates not because he mistook Gates for a robber but because Gates condemned the behavior of the officer as racist. His offending remark reportedly was, “This is what happens to black men in America.’’
That’s not disorderly conduct; that’s speaking truth to power - which still isn’t a crime in America.
The incident also flies in the face of emerging views in the United States - and in Massachusetts - that we are living in a post-racial society, that race no longer matters, as evidenced by the fact that we have elected an African-American president and governor. But this and similar incidents that take place every day illustrate that we are far from being a post-racial society.
Targeting black men as “suspicious’’ has long been a problem in Massachusetts law enforcement.
Consider the 2003 case of King Downing, director of the National Campaign Against Racial Profiling for the ACLU, who was detained at Logan Airport when he refused to provide identification to a police officer. Downing sued, saying he was the victim of racial profiling, and a jury found that his Fourth Amendment rights had been violated. Apparently, the Cambridge police didn’t get the message that detaining people based on their color is unconstitutional in America.
Maybe the Cambridge police officer was instead following the example set in the case of Jason Vassell, a former student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with no previous criminal history. Vassell, an African-American, was recently charged with aggravated assault and battery in the stabbing of two men inside his dormitory. The incident started when the two men, both white, reportedly smashed Vassell’s window while hurling racial epithets at him, then entered the building and attacked Vassel. The two white attackers got off lightly, while Vassell is facing serious jail time.
Or perhaps the Cambridge police thought that they could just ignore the law. That’s what some 40 percent of 247 Massachusetts police departments have done in response to a state law that requires them to track the race and gender of people stopped by police for alleged traffic violations, according to the Executive Office of Public Safety.
Those departments were found to have apparent racial disparities in traffic citations after a year-long study of citation patterns throughout Massachusetts. Rather than comply with the requirement to track all stops, however, nearly half of Massachusetts law enforcement agencies have simply disregarded the law.
Massachusetts is long overdue to address charges of racism in law enforcement. A good starting point would be passage of a bill introduced by Representative Byron Rushing and Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, both Democrats from Boston. This legislation, “An Act Providing for the Collection of Data Relative to Traffic Stops,’’ would build upon the existing law with requirements that include the collection of more detailed data and the creation of an advisory committee to monitor the efforts.
The Legislature should pass this law as a first step - not a final step - toward acknowledging the ongoing problem of racism in Massachusetts policing.
Carol Rose is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.
"Obama: Police acted "stupidly" arresting black scholar"
By Matt Spetalnick, 7/22/2009
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama said on Wednesday police had acted "stupidly" in arresting a prominent black Harvard University scholar at his own home, weighing in on escalating debate over the treatment of minorities by U.S. law enforcement officers.
Obama, the United States' first black president, acknowledged at a prime-time White House news conference, he did not know all the facts about the arrest last week of Henry Louis Gates at his residence in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
But Obama, reciting details from news reports, left little doubt he felt Gates had been wronged in the incident, which has created a media furor.
Gates, a renowned expert on race whom Obama described as a friend, was detained for alleged disorderly conduct -- a charge that was quickly dropped -- after a confrontation with a white police officer inside his own house.
"I don't know -- not having been there and not seeing all the facts -- what role race played in that, but I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry," Obama said when asked about the case.
"Number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home," he added.
While stressing that his own election last November was a testament to progress in race relations, Obama pointed out there was a "long history" in the United States of blacks and Hispanics being singled out disproportionately by police.
"That's just a fact," he said.
He said Gates' arrest was a reminder that the race issue "still haunts us."
'I'D GET SHOT'
The incident took place last Thursday when a woman called Cambridge police to report that a man was trying to force his way into the house.
Obama joked that if he ever tried to "jimmy the lock" at his current address -- the White House -- "I'd get shot." The digression drew laughter from journalists who until then had peppered him with questions about healthcare and the economy.
Gates, 58, had found his front door jammed after returning from a trip to China, according to his lawyer. But police said Gates exhibited "loud and tumultuous behavior," including accusing police of racism.
A statement on the Cambridge police department's Web site said, "The City of Cambridge, the Cambridge Police Department, and Professor Gates acknowledge that the incident of July 16, 2009 was regrettable and unfortunate."
Gates is director of Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African & African American Research and is one of the most prominent black scholars in the United States.
(Additional reporting by Jason Szep in Boston and JoAnne Allen in Washington; editing by Chris Wilson)
“I am not a racist,’’ said police Sergeant James Crowley.
"Sergeant at eye of storm says he won't apologize"
By Boston Globe Staff, July 23, 2009
This story was reported by Jonathan Saltzman, John R. Ellement, and Erica Noonan of the Globe Staff. It was written by Saltzman.
When Sergeant James M. Crowley climbed the front steps of Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s house last week and unexpectedly placed himself in international headlines, it was not the first time he had a memorable encounter in the line of duty with a prominent black man. Nearly 16 years ago, as a Brandeis University police officer, Crowley desperately tried to save the life of Reggie Lewis after the Boston Celtics star collapsed while practicing in the school gym.
“It bothers him terribly that he couldn’t save him,’’ Crowley’s 74-year-old mother, Verina Crowley, said yesterday, speaking of her son and the famous basketball player.
Yesterday, as President Obama condemned the Cambridge Police Department during a prime-time White House news conference and Crowley steadfastly refused to issue the apol ogy that Gates has sought, a fuller picture began to emerge of the 42-year-old sergeant who arrested the Harvard scholar last week on a charge of disorderly conduct on the porch of Gates’s Cambridge house.
Crowley was a certified emergency medical technician when he performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Lewis, to no avail, after the player’s heart stopped on July 27, 1993. In a Globe interview later that day, Crowley said he rushed to the university’s Shapiro Gymnasium, confirmed that Lewis had no pulse, and frantically tried to revive him.
“I just kept on going,’’ he said. “I just kept thinking, ‘Don’t let him die - just don’t die.’ ’’
Now, 16 years later, he stands accused of racism by Gates, one of the foremost scholars on race in America. Gates had just arrived home to his Cambridge house from a trip abroad to find his front door stuck shut. As he and the driver who brought him from the airport tried to push it open, a passerby called police with a report of a possible break-in. Crowley arrived and demanded that Gates, now inside, show him identification. Crowley’s police report said Gates behaved belligerently when he questioned him, which Gates denied. Authorities dropped the charge Tuesday after it ignited accusations of racism.
But people who know Crowley were skeptical or outright dismissive of allegations of racism. A prominent defense lawyer, a neighbor of Crowley’s, his union, and fellow officers described him yesterday as a respected, and respectful, officer who performs his job well and has led his colleagues in diversity training.
“He’s evenhanded and, in the cases I’ve had with him, he’s been very much in control and very professional,’’ said Joseph W. Monahan III, a criminal defense lawyer in Cambridge and former Middlesex County prosecutor. Monahan has represented several defendants arrested by Crowley for domestic assaults and for drunken driving.
Crowley himself, speaking to the Globe yesterday and again last night in Natick, said he will not apologize and asserted, “I am not a racist.’’
Crowley’s police union issued a statement saying it had reviewed the arrest of Gates and expressed “full and unqualified support’’ for his actions.
“Sergeant Crowley is a highly respected veteran supervisor with a distinguished record in the Cambridge Police Department,’’ said the Cambridge Police Superior Officers Association. “His actions at the scene of this matter were consistent with his training, with the informed policies and practices of the Department, and with applicable legal standards.’’
The city’s Police Review and Advisory Board, which is independent of the Police Department, has set a meeting July 29 to decide whether to launch a formal inquiry into the incident, according to board investigator Joseph Johnson. He said Gates had not filed a complaint with the board and that no one has filed a complaint against Crowley in the last 12 months.
Crowley, during one of the interviews outside his South Natick home, said he was not authorized to discuss the controversy.
“As much as I’d like to respond, I really can’t,’’ said the married father of three, who coaches youth basketball and plays on a local softball team.
His neighbor Ed Shagory, a retired lawyer, was less reticent. He said he has been friends with Crowley for more than 17 years, and “I think the world of him and his family.’’
Shagory said he was upset by the criticism leveled against the officer and questioned Gates’s statement that the confrontation had inspired the Harvard professor to consider making a documentary about racial profiling.
“I think the idea of him already planning a documentary is very premature, and a very unnecessary thing to say before all the facts are even in,’’ Shagory said.
Crowley joined Cambridge police around 1998, according to Sergeant James DeFrancesco, an aide to police Commissioner Robert C. Haas, who was unavailable for comment.
Verina Crowley said James is the third of her four sons, all in law enforcement. Two brothers, Jack and Joseph, also work for the Cambridge police. The fourth, Daniel, is a Middlesex County deputy sheriff.
Verina Crowley said her sons were raised mostly in the Fresh Pond neighborhood where she still lives, attended racially diverse Cambridge public schools, and graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, where she worked for 26 years.
“He is not a racist,’’ she said in the hallway of her home. And Gates “is not the first black person he ever met in his life.’’
Her children, she said, had black friends over to their home while growing up. James Crowley is still friends with one of those youngsters, now a Cambridge firefighter, she said.
“They grew up with black kids, white kids, kids who didn’t have parents, kids who had two parents - everything you can think of,’’ she recalled. Tolerance “wasn’t something you taught,’’ she said. “You just lived it.’’
Her son, she said, remains haunted by the events of that summer day, nearly 16 years ago, when as a Brandeis police officer he was dispatched to the college gym to help an unconscious man - who turned out to be Lewis.
After confirming that the Celtics guard had no pulse, Crowley and another officer began performing CPR, according to an account in the Globe.
“My immediate indication was that I thought he was dead,’’ Crowley said at the time. An ambulance arrived and took Lewis to Waltham-Weston Hospital, but he could not be revived.
Yesterday, more than a dozen Cambridge police officers working at Harvard and Central squares declined to comment for attribution about the controversy.
But several officers, all of them white, described Crowley as a well-liked officer, and one dismissed the allegations of racism.
That officer, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters, said, “Racism is not part of it, and that is what is frustrating. The fact that the Police Department dropped the charges makes the police officer look like he is wrong.’’
Boston Globe correspondent Jazmine Ulloa contributed to this report.
US President Barack Obama speaks in the press room of the White House in Washington, DC. Obama Friday (7/24/2009) telephoned a police officer and regretted his choice of words when talking about the arrest of a black Harvard scholar, which has fanned a race row here. (AFP/Jewel Samad)
"Obama says words ill chosen, calls white policeman"
By Nancy Benac, Associated Press Writer – July 24, 2009
WASHINGTON – Trying to tamp down a national uproar over race, President Barack Obama acknowledged Friday he had used unfortunate words in declaring that Cambridge, Mass., police "acted stupidly" in arresting black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. "I could've calibrated those words differently," he said.
He stopped short of a public apology. But the president telephoned both Gates and the white officer who had arrested him, hoping to end the rancorous back-and-forth over what had transpired and what Obama had said about it. Trying to lighten the situation, he said he had invited the Harvard professor and police St. James Crowley for "a beer here in the White House."
Hours earlier, a multiracial group of police officers had stood with Crowley in Massachusetts and said the president should apologize.
It was a measure of the nation's keen sensitivities on matters of race that the fallout from a disorderly conduct charge in Massachusetts — and the remarks of America's first black president about it — had mushroomed to such an extent that he felt compelled to make a special appearance at the White House to try to put the matter to rest. The blowup had knocked Obama offstride just as he was trying to marshal public pressure to get Congress to push through health care overhaul legislation — and as polls showed growing doubts about his performance.
"This has been ratcheting up, and I obviously helped to contribute ratcheting it up," Obama said of the racial controversy. "I want to make clear that in my choice of words, I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department and Sgt. Crowley specifically. And I could've calibrated those words differently."
The president did not back down from his contention that police had overreacted by arresting Gates for disorderly conduct after coming to his home to investigate a possible break-in. He added, though, that he thought Gates, too, had overreacted to the police who questioned him. The charge has been dropped.
Obama stirred up a hornet's nest when he said at a prime-time news conference this week that the officer, who is white, had "acted stupidly" by arresting Gates, a friend of the president's. Looking back, Obama said he didn't regret stepping into the controversy and hoped the matter would end up being a "teachable moment" for the nation.
"The fact that this has garnered so much attention, I think, is testimony to the fact that these are issues that are still very sensitive here in America," Obama said.
Obama wryly took note of the distraction from his legislative efforts.
"I don't know if you've noticed, but nobody's been paying much attention to health care," the president said.
Obama, who has come under intense criticism from police organizations, said he had called Crowley to clear the air, and said the conversation confirmed his belief that the sergeant is an "outstanding police officer and a good man."
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs refused to say whether Obama had apologized to Crowley.
Asked repeatedly about that, Gibbs said: "If the president doesn't want to characterize it in a conversation that he hates having with you all, I'm not going to get ahead of him."
Obama was lighter in tone in his public remarks about his phone conversation with Crowley.
He said the police officer "wanted to find out if there was a way of getting the press off his lawn."
"I informed him that I can't get the press off my lawn," Obama joked.
In his conversation with Gates, aides said, Obama and the professor had spoken about the president's statement to the press and his conversation with Crowley.
Before Obama's appearance Friday, fellow police officers in Massachusetts said that Obama and the state's governor, Deval Patrick, should apologize for comments on the arrest. Patrick had said Gates' arrest was "every black man's nightmare."
Dennis O'Connor, president of the Cambridge Police Superior Officers Association, said Obama's remarks were "misdirected" and the Cambridge police "deeply resent the implication" that race was a factor in the arrest.
Sgt. Leon Lashley, a black officer who was at Gates' home with Crowley at the time of the arrest, said he supported his fellow officer's action "100 percent."
The incident began when Gates returned home from an overseas trip, found his door jammed, and tried to force it open. Gates went through the back door and was inside the house when police arrived. Police say he flew into a rage when Crowley asked him to show identification to prove he should be in the home. Police say Gates accused Crowley of racial bias, refused to calm down and was arrested.
Gates, 58, maintains he turned over identification when asked to do so. He says Crowley arrested him after the professor followed him to the porch, repeatedly demanding the sergeant's name and badge number because he was unhappy over his treatment.
Obama's take on the situation: "My sense is you've got two good people in a circumstance in which neither of them were able to resolve the incident in a way that it should have been resolved."
Democratic activists around the country were hopeful the president's latest remarks would put the issue to rest.
"Let's concentrate on the business at hand — fixing the economy and health care for everybody," said Florida state Rep. Luis Garcia, a vice chair of the state Democratic Party.
In Michigan, 19-year-old Mitchell Rivard, the president of the Michigan State University College Democrats, expressed hope the controversy would indeed be a learning experience for the country.
"I think it's going to make people talk about race relations around the United States and in their home towns," Rivard said. "This will be something that people are going to talk about across the nation in terms of how we can have better race relations."
Associated Press Writers Charles Babington and Ben Feller in Washington, Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Fla., Bob Salsberg in Cambridge, Mass., and Tim Martin in Lansing, Mich., contributed to this report.
The Boston Globe, Quotes of Note, July 25, 2009
"I don’t walk around calling white people racist . . . Nobody knows me as some lunatic black nationalist who’s walking around beating up on white people. This is just not my profile.’’ -- HENRY LOUIS GATES JR. on his arrest by Sergeant James M. Crowley of the Cambridge police
"I am not a racist.’’ -- Sergeant JAMES M. CROWLEY on his arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr.
"I think it’s fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and, number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there’s a long history in this country of African-American and Latinos being stopped disproportionately. That’s just a fact.’’ -- PRESIDENT OBAMA on the arrest of Gates
"In risky field, suspicion is key tool, officers say"
By Maria Cramer, Boston Globe Staff, July 25, 2009
The most terrifying confrontations often erupt out of the most mundane scenarios. An Arlington patrolman working a construction detail is suddenly confronted by a suicidal man who lunges for the officer’s gun. A Quincy sergeant trying to help a troubled man becomes his victim when the sergeant is pinned against a wall. A Wellesley officer is tackled by two men after he walked to their stopped car to see if they needed help.
Race has been the prevailing theme in the wake of Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s arrest at his Cambridge home, an incident that has triggered a national debate about whether the officer overreacted when he placed the prominent Harvard University professor in handcuffs. But for many police officers, the encounter highlights a difficult balancing act they must perform each day as they try to bring the appropriate level of force to bear on inherently unpredictable situations.
Underestimating a seemingly routine call can be deadly. Overreacting can lead to accusations of civil rights violations, litigation, and physical harm to an innocent person.
From the busiest departments to the sleepiest towns, patrol officers, sergeants, and lieutenants all had similar stories of the times they relaxed too quickly around a suspect or after defusing a tense situation. Officers also spoke of the fear that can strike even veteran police officers when they respond to a domestic violence call or pull a vehicle over in a traffic stop. In an FBI analysis, 19 percent of the 57 officers killed by criminals in 2007 had either just pulled someone to the side of the road or were trying to.
“There is always that feeling of, ‘Is this going to be more than the soccer mom late for practice?’ ’’ said Walpole police Officer Jaclyn Hazeldine. “You don’t know who’s got what in the car, and you can’t let your guard down.’’
Terrence Cunningham was a young sergeant in Wellesley in 1995 when he spotted a stopped car on Route 9 about 2 in the morning. He saw two men inside and, thinking they had car trouble, pulled up behind them and began to walk to the vehicle. Immediately, they ran out of the car and grabbed him, punching and kicking at him. It turns out that they were the look-out guys for a third man stealing car parts from a nearby Dodge dealership. An off-duty Boston police officer rescued the sergeant, but Cunningham, now the department’s police chief, was reminded of one of the job’s most painful realities.
“You never know what’s going to happen,’’ he said. “You always have to have a plan. If this thing goes upside down, what are you going to do?’’
One evening in 1994, Deputy Superintendent William Gross of the Boston police and another officer drove to a Dorchester street to quell a parking dispute between two neighbors. The fight was quickly resolved, the two drivers shook hands, and Gross, then a patrolman, and his fellow officer struck up a conversation with gang unit officers who drove up to the scene. Seconds later, the new peace was shattered when shots rang out from an apartment building across the street. Gross rushed to the building, and, as he tried to get inside, he saw the gunman on the other side of the glass door, pointing a gun at him. Gross fired at him.
“You have seconds to react, just seconds,’’ said Gross. “That’s often what happens.’’
Gross missed the gunman, but when he dashed inside, through the smoke and haze, he saw a mortally wounded man slumped on the floor. Fifteen years later, Gross remains shaken by how that quiet night grew so violent so quickly.
“We had no idea we’d be involved in a police shooting,’’ Gross said. “We had no idea that once we gained access in the building, there would be a dead body in the hallway.’’
Police officers often have more to fear when they are pulling people over or responding to routine calls than when they are investigating a suspected bank robber or a killer, said Thomas Nolan, an associate professor of criminal justice at Boston University and a former Boston police officer.
“You just don’t know how something is going to affect someone or what the reaction is going to be from someone who is thrust into a situation,’’ Nolan said. “The frustration, the anger, the sentiment that ‘I’m being oppressed and discriminated against by this police officer.’ ’’
For their own safety, police must be suspicious of everyone, a quality that often rubs civilians the wrong way, many of the police officers said.
Hazeldine recalled going to a house after a security alarm went off. The homeowner was not there, but a concerned neighbor kept following Hazeldine around as she checked the house.
Worried that he might actually be the burglar, Hazeldine told the man to go home.
The alarm turned out to be false, and Hazeldine returned to the station, but soon afterward, the neighbor sent a letter to the department, complaining that the officer was out of line when she ordered him away.
A few days after the incident, a police officer in Shrewsbury responded to an alarm at a house and was accidentally shot by the homeowner. The officer survived the injuries, but Hazeldine was startled by the similarities to her own case.
“That’s why I did what I did,’’ she said of her reaction to the neighbor, who may have looked harmless but could have been a deadly threat for all she knew.
“There isn’t a look,’’ Hazeldine said, adding that criminals “don’t have a brand on their foreheads.’’
Maria Cramer can be reached at email@example.com.
"Gates says it's time to 'move on' from his arrest"
By Russell Contreras, Associated Press Writer, 7/25/2009
BOSTON – Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. says he is ready to move on from his arrest by a white police officer, hoping to use the encounter to improve fairness in the criminal justice system and saying "in the end, this is not about me at all."
After a phone call from President Barack Obama urging calm in the aftermath of his arrest last week, the black professor said he would accept Obama's invitation to the White House for a beer with him and Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley.
In a statement posted Friday on The Root, a Web site Gates oversees, the scholar said he told Obama he'd be happy to meet with Crowley, whom Gates had accused of racial profiling.
"I told the president that my principal regret was that all of the attention paid to his deeply supportive remarks during his press conference had distracted attention from his health care initiative," Gates said. "I am pleased that he, too, is eager to use my experience as a teaching moment, and if meeting Sgt. Crowley for a beer with the President will further that end, then I would be happy to oblige."
It was a marked change in tone for Gates, 58, who in the days following his arrest gathered up his legal team and said he was contemplating a lawsuit. He even vowed to make a documentary on his arrest to tie into a larger project about racial profiling.
In an e-mail to the Boston Globe late Friday, he said: "It is time for all of us to move on, and to assess what we can learn from this experience."
Gates did not immediately return phone calls and e-mails to The Associated Press on Saturday.
Crowley also did not return a telephone message seeking comment Saturday.
The outcry began Monday, when word broke that Gates had been arrested five days earlier at the two-story home he rents from Harvard.
Supporters called the arrest an outrageous act of racial profiling. Public interest increased when a photograph surfaced of the handcuffed Gates being escorted off his porch amid three officers.
Cambridge police moved to drop the disorderly conduct charge on Tuesday — without apology, but calling the case "regrettable."
Obama, who had said Cambridge police "acted stupidly" in arresting Gates, sought to tamp down the uproar Friday. He spoke to Crowley and Gates during separate telephone calls and declared that Crowley was a good man.
Obama invited the officer and the professor to the White House for a beer. He conceded his words had been ill-chosen, but he stopped short of a public apology.
A trio of Massachusetts police unions released a joint statement shortly after Obama's latest comments, saying Crowley had a friendly and meaningful conversation with the president.
"We appreciate his sincere interest and willingness to reconsider his remarks about the Cambridge Police Department," according to the statement. "It is clear to us from this conversation, that the President respects police officers and the often difficult and dangerous situations we face on a daily basis."
Gates added that he hoped his arrest would lead to a greater understanding about racial profiling in America.
"If my experience leads to the lessening of the occurrence of racial profiling, then I would find that enormously gratifying," Gates said on The Root. "Because, in the end, this is not about me at all; it is about the creation of a society in which 'equal justice before law' is a lived reality."
"Gov. Deval Patrick stands by his comments on controversy"
By Hillary Chabot, Tuesday, July 28, 2009, www.bostonherald.com - Local Politics
Gov. Deval Patrick yesterday refused to apologize for calling the arrest of Harvard University scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. “every black man’s nightmare,” saying he didn’t step out of line.
“I’m not sure what I’m being asked to apologize for,” Patrick said.
Union officials from the Cambridge Police Department demanded an apology from the governor Friday after his publicized remarks regarding Sgt. James Crowley’s arrest of the Harvard professor.
“I’ve said from the beginning that I wasn’t there and I’ve acknowledged that from the beginning, and I’ve also acknowledged that as an individual and a friend of Professor Gates I’m upset by what I understood to be the case,” Patrick said.
Union officials did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Steve Killion, president of the Cambridge patrolmen’s union, said he wants to move forward when asked Saturday about the apology demands.
“I think the good news is . . . the charges were promptly dropped, and I think the parties will find a way back to each other,” he said. “By all accounts, Sgt. Crowley seems to be a pretty good guy himself.”
Patrick said Obama’s offer to host the meeting should help to mend fences.
President Obama and Vice President Biden share beers with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and police Sgt. James Crowley in the Rose Garden. (By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)
"Gates, Police Officer Share Beers and Histories With President"
By Cheryl W. Thompson, Krissah Thompson and Michael A. Fletcher, Washington Post Staff Writers, Friday, July 31, 2009
Two weeks after a noted black scholar accused a white police sergeant of racial profiling for arresting him at his home near Harvard University, the men hoisted mugs of beer Thursday evening at the White House with President Obama and Vice President Biden.
Henry Louis "Skip" Gates Jr. and Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge, Mass., police sat at a round table in the Rose Garden with Biden and Obama talking, sipping beer and munching peanuts and pretzels out of silver bowls. News cameras and reporters were kept 50 feet away and allowed to view the meeting for less than a minute before being shooed away as the men began their conversation.
It was an extraordinary scene that Obama's aides hoped would convey a hopeful message about race relations and end a controversy that has ballooned into a major distraction for a president pushing an ambitious agenda.
After the meeting, Crowley and a lawyer speaking for Gates said the two men were satisfied with the tone of the discussion. Speaking to reporters at a brief news conference, Crowley said that while there was "no tension" at the meeting, no apologies were offered either. "Two gentlemen agreed to disagree on a particular issue," he said.
Gates left without speaking to reporters, but his lawyer offered an upbeat assessment of the gathering. "Everybody left with the sense that we learned some things and we can make important changes," said Charles Ogletree, Gates's attorney and a professor at Harvard Law School. "It was a chance to make sure we hear the law enforcement and the community, and out of that will come more acceptance and realizing the differences are not that far apart."
Crowley said he and Gates agreed to be in touch by telephone and to meet again in the future.
"I am thankful to Professor Gates and Sergeant Crowley for joining me at the White House this evening for a friendly, thoughtful conversation," Obama said in a statement.
Before the meeting, the president said he had invited the men to the White House in an effort to lower the temperature on an incident that has become "so hyped and so symbolic."
Obama characterized the meeting as "having a drink at the end of the day and hopefully giving people an opportunity to listen to each other," Obama said. "That's really all it is."
But, aides acknowledged, the White House also saw it as an opportunity to quell a controversy that was beginning to eclipse coverage of important initiatives, including Obama's proposal to restructure the nation's health-care system.
The incident began to dominate news coverage after Obama accused police in Cambridge of "acting stupidly" when he was asked about the arrest of his friend Gates at a prime-time news conference July 22. Obama's comment catapulted the episode into a national controversy and cast the nation's first African American president in the uncomfortable role of taking sides in a racially tinged incident about which he acknowledged he did not know all the facts.
Obama's remarks prompted police union officials in Cambridge to call for an apology from the president, while civil rights leaders applauded him for addressing a problem that has touched the lives of many African Americans.
After initially dismissing the clamor over his remarks, Obama came before reporters less than 48 hours later to "recalibrate" his statement and make clear that he thought that both Crowley and Gates had "overreacted" during their confrontation.
Apparently, however, the president had already suffered some political damage. A new poll by the Pew Research Center found that 41 percent of Americans disapprove of the president's comments, compared with 29 percent who approve.
Gates, 58, was arrested in his Cambridge home on July 16 after Crowley responded to a 911 call about a possible burglary there. Gates had just returned from a trip to China and had trouble getting in his front door, and he and the Moroccan driver who retrieved him from the airport jimmied the lock and forced open the door. A woman who saw the men called police to report a possible break-in.
When Crowley arrived, he questioned whether Gates lived in the home and demanded identification. Gates became upset and the two got into a verbal altercation that ended with Gates's arrest on disorderly conduct charges. The charges were later dropped.
Thursday evening, the two men were in suit coats enjoying a beer with Obama and Biden, who were both in shirt sleeves as they sat in the Rose Garden. The men were served beer in glass mugs by White House butlers: Sam Adams Light for Gates and Blue Moon for Crowley, Bud Light for the president and Buckler for Biden.
Before the meeting, the men spent time getting to know each other and were accompanied by their families for a joint tour of the White House. As they talked, the two men focused on their families and their histories in Cambridge, Ogletree said. "It was forward-looking, not focused on the past," Ogletree said. "They were just trying to find some common ground. It was a very warm, frank and quite open discussion."
As Gates and Crowley met with Obama, Ogletree met with Alan McDonald, the lawyer for the police unions in Massachusetts, and other law enforcement representatives from Cambridge to talk about how both camps can work together.
The incident not only forced the issue of race and law enforcement into the national spotlight, but it also prompted police departments around the country to take a closer look at their training protocols.
"I will go over our racial profiling orders just to make sure we're doing everything according to the rules and regulations," said Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington. "It doesn't mean that anything's wrong with our rules, but this is a good time to go back and make sure officers are . . . affording people their civil rights."
John Foust, director of academic training for the D.C. police, said the Cambridge incident made the agency reassess its curriculum.
"It made us take a second look to make sure we have the important topics covered," Foust said.
The D.C. police department requires recruits to take courses in diversity and racial profiling, as well as hate and bias crimes.
Maj. Huey Thornton of the Montgomery, Ala., police said the Gates-Crowley incident is being discussed among officers and in staff meetings.
"I don't think any department would like to find themselves in a situation like that," Thornton said. "It shows the scope of what you're subject to get involved in while responding to calls for service. And whatever training you've received, it's what you should always rely on. That's the teachable moment."
"Second professor accuses police of bias: Harvard official asserts racism in 2006 arrest"
By Tracy Jan, Boston Globe Staff, August 6, 2009
A second black Harvard professor accused the Cambridge police of racism yesterday in wrongfully arresting him outside his home nearly three years ago.
S. Allen Counter, a prominent Harvard Medical School professor and head of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, spoke about his arrest on assault and battery charges in an editorial published yesterday with The Bay State Banner. The disclosure follows last month’s high-profile arrest of renowned African-American scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Counter’s attorney, Ozell Hudson Jr., told the Globe yesterday that Counter is considering his legal options over the manner he says he was treated after he complied with a request to step outside his house in December 2006 when police arrived to investigate a call by his former wife. She reported to police that Counter had tried to push their teenage daughter out of a moving car during an argument.
Counter said he had not previously publicized the arrest because he feared that police would harass him and his family. But he told Harvard colleagues about the incident and said he felt he had been mistreated because he is black. Counter said he was not told why police were at his home nor why he was being arrested.
In recent years, he said, it has become a common belief among the black community at Harvard that they should stay put when police come to the door.
“The word around Harvard is never step outside your house with these guys,’’ Counter said in a phone interview. “We advise people not to step out. You call an attorney and stay in your house.’’
Cambridge police would not comment on Counter’s arrest yesterday. But a spokesman said that police have a right to enter homes without a warrant if there is probable cause.
“We don’t bait people to come outside,’’ said Officer Frank Pasquarello, the police spokesman. “All across America, people step outside their houses and meet us on the porch. We don’t go in if they come out. But once we’re in there, we don’t have to take you outside to lock you up.’’
Gates has said in previous interviews with the Globe that he was hesitant to cross the safety of his doorway when Cambridge police Sergeant James Crowley asked him to step outside while investigating a possible burglary.
Neither Gates nor his attorney - Harvard law school professor Charles Ogletree, who Counter said has assisted in his case - responded to requests for comment yesterday.
It is unclear whether Counter’s experience factored into Gates’ decision to initially remain inside his home during his run-in with Crowley.
“I was polite, and yet police lied and said I was loud, just as they did with Professor Gates,’’ Counter said yesterday.
Counter collapsed at the police station because of a heart condition and was transported to Cambridge Hospital, where he said he was handcuffed to a hospital bed all night while a police officer stood guard in his room. He was ultimately acquitted of the assault and battery charges during an October 2007 trial.
“I feel this is a case of racial and criminal harassment on the part of police,’’ Counter said.
Tracy Jan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sgt. James M. Crowley
"Records: Sgt. Crowley was cleared in two previous bias complaints"
By Jonathan Saltzman, Boston Globe Staff, August 19, 2009
Eight citizen complaints have been filed against Cambridge Police Sergeant James M. Crowley during his 11 years on the force, including two by black males alleging racial bias, according to internal affairs files made public today.
Crowley, whose arrest of Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. last month sparked a national debate on race that President Obama inadvertently stoked and then had to calm, was cleared of wrongdoing in all eight instances, according to the files provided by the police department.
Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert C. Haas said Crowley has made or helped make 422 arrests, participated in about 800 criminal investigations, and issued 1,866 citations for motor vehicle infractions and other offenses.
"It is noteworthy that despite Sergeant Crowley's numerous arrests and citations, only 8 citizen complaints have been filed against him, which represents less than 1% of his interactions with the public,'' Haas said in a three-page letter that accompanied the files.
Nonetheless, the files may rekindle questions about whether Crowley, a white officer, engaged in racial profiling when he arrested Gates, a black professor, on a disorderly conduct charge at his house on July 16. The charge was later dropped.
Most of the eight complaints involved relatively routine allegations that Crowley was rude to people he encountered, including motorists whom he gave tickets.
But in a 1999 complaint, two black men in a car whose driver got a ticket for driving the wrong way down a one-way street and for having an open container of alcohol said Crowley sarcastically referred to a passenger as a "homeboy."
And in a 2003 complaint, the driver of another car said Crowley and other officers wrongly detained him and a friend briefly because they were blacks who supposedly matched the description of the armed robbers of a video store.
"As a young African-American male, I am especially concerned by the lack of restraint the officers demonstrated in this situation," wrote the driver, whose name was redacted in the file, as were all names of complainants. "I am curious if the description of 'Black Male' immediately suspends the rights of all brown skinned individuals within a 10-block radius.''
James Alan Fox, a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University, said today it is difficult to say whether eight complaints represents a significant number in 11 years. That depends a variety of factors, he said, including where Crowley worked in Cambridge and at what time of day.
But Fox said it was hardly surprising that some complainants might allege racial bias.
"Given that law enforcement is still primarily white and they are often interacting with minority citizens, these interactions have a potential for racial conflict, whether it be bias or misunderstanding," he said.
"Former Turnpike official to oversee Gates case review panel"
By Meghan E. Irons and Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, August 20, 2009
CAMBRIDGE -- The Cambridge Police Department has hired a former top deputy at the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority to oversee the independent review panel created in the wake of the Henry Louis Gates Jr. scandal.
Jennifer Flagg, the authority's former chief administrative officer, will be the department's liaison to the panel in her position as the new director of special projects, a one-year position with a salary of $127,000.
The high-paying post is an indication of how seriously Cambridge is taking the Gates controversy, which made the city a central character in a national debate about race and police conduct. Gates, a prominent African-American professor at Harvard, charged the department with racial profiling after he was arrested at his home July 16 following reports of a possible break-in.
"Most cities want to turn the corner and move on,'' said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the DC-based Police Executive Research Forum, who will chair the review panel. "Cambridge wants to take away something from this that can be helpful for the city and the nation."
In her new role, Flagg will report directly to Commissioner Robert C. Haas and her main tasks will include managing special projects, facilitating high-level discussions on hot-topic issues, and coordinating drafts of community policing strategies.
Flagg said yesterday she will devote her full attention to high-profile issues so that the police can continue their focus on public safety.
This "was something that was not part of their day-to-day business, and clearly certainly the commissioner needs to get back to running his police department."
Flagg began her new duties Aug. 3 after working for more than a year at the Turnpike Authority. She was hired by former authority chief Alan LeBovidge, who resigned in May, and had been coordinating the integration between the Turnpike Authority and the State Highway Department
She left that post July 31.
City leaders announced the establishment of the review panel late last month after the Gates's arrest triggered a national furor. The issue went global after President Obama offered comments in support of Gates, a friend. The president then calmed tensions by inviting Gates and the officer who arrested him, Sergeant James M. Crowley, for beer at the White House.
In announcing the review panel late last month, city officials said the committee will not conduct an internal police investigation in the Gates case or make official judgements on the actions of the police. It will instead “identify lessons to be taken from the circumstances surrounding the incident,'' said Robert W. Healy, the city manager who is Cambridge's chief administrator in charge of its personnel.
1. So the Cambridge taxpayers have to foot the bill of at least $127,000 just because somebody's feelings were hurt. This is ridiculous.
- Posted by Robert Winters, August 20, 2009
2. Only in Mass would they turn a circus into a patronage job.
- Posted by 57-states August 20, 09
3. Someone should offer Crowley a better job so he can tell these jokers to get lost once and for all. Enough already.
- Posted by Rydal August 20, 2009
4. Wait a minute - didn't everyone just sit w/ the president over a few beers? Isn't this all behind us now? WTF???
- Posted by Wish_I_Could_Play_the_race_card August 20, 2009
"Sergeant, Gates both to blame, report says"
By Milton J. Valencia, Boston Globe Staff, July 1, 2010
CAMBRIDGE — Both Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the police sergeant who arrested him last year were to blame for the high-profile dispute that followed, according to an independent panel’s report yesterday on a case that sparked a national discussion on racial profiling.
The 12-member committee found that Gates and Sergeant James Crowley missed opportunities to deescalate the tension and said they share responsibility for the controversial July 16 arrest. The dispute, the panel found, was “avoidable.’’
The report focuses on the task of balancing police protocol with the officers’ need to show respect to the people with whom they are dealing.
Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas said at a press conference after the report was released yesterday that it will serve as a training tool for officers engaged in tense situations. An officer with a badge bears the ultimate responsibility for quelling any incident, he said.
“Someone’s got to defuse the situation quickly,’’ Haas said. “There’s got to be alternatives. There’s got to be other ways we can deal with the situation.’’
Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum and chairman of the panel, added, “Officers must be trained to take the high road to deescalate encounters.’’
The panel spent the past seven months interviewing witnesses, along with Gates and Crowley, but its final report made little mention of the allegations of racial profiling or the differing accounts of the incident. It sought instead to explain police policies and the arguments of both men in an effort to outline better strategies for police and community relations.
Gates and Crowley gave different accounts of what happened on the afternoon of July 16, 2009. What is clear is that a woman called 911 to report a possible break-in at Gates’s home, which he rents from Harvard University. Gates, 59, who had just returned from the airport, and his limo driver had to force open the front door because it had been jammed in a recent break-in.
Crowley appeared on the front steps while Gates was in the kitchen. According to the report, Gates said he showed his Harvard identification and felt he was being demeaned by Crowley, who he thought continued to look at him as a break-in suspect because he was black.
The 43-year-old Crowley, who is white, said he tried to explain the situation, but the professor was unruly and followed him out of the house yelling at him. Both men said they “feared’’ each other. Gates was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct within six minutes of Crowley’s arrival. The charges were later dropped.
After the report was released, Crowley issued a statement, saying, “I certainly don’t expect anyone to fully understand the dynamics of the encounter when they weren’t there, but I was pleased that the committee took the time to speak with me and give my account of the arrest. No one that knows me thought that the arrest was based on race in any way.’’
Charles Ogletree, a lawyer for Gates who has written a book about the incident, said yesterday: “The report is important and timely in its recommendations about going forward and in improving the relations between law enforcement officers and the community. That is sorely needed, and it could not have come at a more appropriate time.’’
He also said, however, that he found the report disappointing because it does not address the most critical factors of what happened before the arrest.
“For the report to say both Gates and Crowley had an equal opportunity to deescalate the situation is just breathtaking and unbelievable,’’ Ogletree said. “The person with control and power to make an arrest that day was [Sergeant] James Crowley, not professor Gates.’’
That a prominent black professor was arrested by a white sergeant because of a false call of a break-in at his home sparked a national debate over police relations with minority communities. President Obama even got involved, stepping in to ease tensions by hosting a “beer summit’’ with the men and the vice president at the White House.
Wexler said yesterday that the arrest had larger implications on police and community relations and that the panel considered race, class, respect, and police authority in its findings.
He said the report was explained to both men before it was released. While he could not characterize their reactions, he said: “There was a recognition, within six to eight seconds, they both realized the encounter was going downhill. That’s how fast it happened.’’
The panel, made up of law enforcement specialists, as well as consultants on management and human resources, focused on police powers and the precautions that need to be taken in responding to a breaking and entering call and balancing that with “procedural justice,’’ that is, whether people feel they are being treated with dignity and respect during an encounter with police.
Wexler said panel members saw this “as a conflict between procedural justice and tactical considerations.’’
“Both are essential and they can conflict with each other, and that’s what happened on July 16,’’ he said.
According to the report, which cost about $100,000, the situation should have been defused when Gates showed his identification and Crowley explained that he was taking precautions because of the 911 call.
Stacy Blake-Beard, a member of the panel and a professor from the Simmons School of Management, said yesterday that the report went beyond the allegations of race and focused on police and community relations.
“We want to see what happens as a result,’’ she said. “How will other police departments and other organizations be able to use the learning that has been put into place with this report.’’
Haas said the department will work to incorporate the report’s recommendations to better train officers to defuse such situations rather than allow them to escalate. Training for “problem solving’’ and defusing situations could become part of police academy training and recruitment, he said.
The commissioner said the department also investigated disorderly conduct arrests over recent years as part of its own internal investigation. While race did not play a factor in the arrests, the department realized that tracking such arrests could prove to be a measure of an officer’s interaction with the public. Haas said the tool should be used by departments across the country.
“What is certain is that the July 16 incident was not a success in terms of police-community relations,’’ the report said.
Tracy Jan of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Milton Valencia can be reached at email@example.com.
- Jonathan Melle
- Amherst, NH, United States
- I am a citizen defending the people against corrupt Pols who only serve their Corporate Elite masters, not the people! / My 2 political enemies are Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., nicknamed "Luciforo" and former Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. / I have also pasted many of my political essays on "The Berkshire Blog": berkshireeagle.blogspot.com / I AM THE ANTI-FRANK GUINTA! / Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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