Blogs > Cliopatria > The Arrest and Transfiguration of Henry Louis Gates

Jul 22, 2009 9:50 pm


The Arrest and Transfiguration of Henry Louis Gates



The police who arrested Henry Louis Gates the day before yesterday must have been a miracle worker, or at the very least a lay clergyman of some kind. After all, what else are we to make of the moment when a property owner whose house had recently been broken into was himself transformed into the perpetrator? Such things do not merely happen; divinity must have been involved.

For one thing, Gates clearly could not have been arrested for breaking into his own house, and not only because it is logically impossible to do so. And at no point does the arresting officer assert that suspicion of that sort played any role in Gates’ arrest: from the moment that Gates shows his identification (and the officer accepts it), it is clear that the charge of burglary is off the table and that the situation has become something somewhat different. So let’s look closer. In the officer’s police report, Sgt. Crowley writes:

“Due to the tumultuous manner Gates had exhibited in his residence as well as his continued tumultuous behavior outside the residence, in view of the public, I warned Gates that he was becoming disorderly. Gates ignored my warning and continued to yell, which drew the attention of both the police officers and citizens, who appeared surprised and alarmed by Gates‘ outburst. For the second time I warned Gates to calm down while I withdrew my department issued handcuffs from their carrying case. Gates again ignored my warning and continued to yell at me. It was at this time that I informed Gates that he was under arrest.”

What happens in that magical moment? What strange and wondrous transformation was occurring as the well-meaning Sgt. Crowley reports to Gates that, before his very eyes, “he was becoming disorderly”? Surely we require the hand of providence as explanation.

More prosaically, Touré puts it this way: “why did the officers find it necessary to arrest a man who was in his own home and who had not posed or made a threat to them? The worst crime in the police report is Gates yelling at an officer who was telling him to calm down. Is that a crime?”

I think this is an important question. I’ve been unscientifically reading a lot of the blog commentary on the event (here, here, here, here, here, and especially the 2k comments here), and while trying to extract anything meaningful from the verbal overflow of an overly fecund comment thread is a hopelessly misguided ambition at best, I’m struck by a general failure to recognize that the event stinks in more than one distinct way.

This is what I mean. The episode pretty clearly begins with a racist indignity, and most people clearly recognize that fact: though the 58 year old Gates walks with the assistance of a cane -- no one’s idea of a burglar -- the fact that he is a black man apparently makes him sufficiently like the profile of a burglarto overcome the counterintuitivity of a man who has undergone hip-replacement surgery scrambling through windows and jimmying doors. And such profiling, to the extent of forcing a homeowner (who actually answers the door) to provide identification papers inside his own home, is an indignity, and a racist one.

But what then? The situation could have ended there, and we should think carefully about why it didn’t. After all, neither Sgt. Crowley nor Gates wanted this particular outcome. So why did it happen that Gates, plausible suspect of no recognizable crime, was taken into police custody? Part of it, of course, is Gates’ own actions. I’m not trying to blame Gates for the fact that his choice to be “tumultuous” (whatever that means) certainly was part of the equation; even if all he did was demand the officer’s badge number (as his lawyer’s account has it, and as it was his right to do) and even if there was no “yo mama-ing” involved at all (as the officer claims), it seems hard to imagine that he couldn’t have kept his cool in a way that would have kept him out of bracelets. Which is simply to say that Gates had a choice, albeit a choice between two indignities: either he could be the big man (“yo mama!”) or he could be the bigger man (either"over come 'em with yeses, undermine 'em with grins, agree 'em to death and destruction” as the Invisible Man’s grandfather advised or the kind of struggle through restrained passivity that the civil rights movement was all about are choices).

But then, to say that he had a choice is not to blame Gates for choosing wrong or something; in fact, being limited to this kind of choice is precisely another kind of indignity, since it puts the burden on Gates to fix the officer’s mistakes. And I’m struck by how many unsympathetic commentators essentially fault Gates for acting like most people would act in that sort of situation; after all, when angered and frustrated, most people tend to act angry and frustrated. Yet people given the choice of indignities that Gates had to choose from precisely don’t have the luxury of acting like normal people; they get the choice, instead, to either swallow other people’s crap or to suffer for their refusal to do so.

In this sense, when Gate’s detractors on the uglier comment threads suggest a class narrative (just another uppity professor from Hahvard lording it over the hard-working, much put upon beat cop), I think it’s precisely to avoid having to follow down this line of thinking. But while it’s true that Gates would have more social power than our blue-collar Sgt. Crowley in a few circumstances, this was certainly not one of them. You could as plausibly say that Gates was the victim of a home invasion by an unwelcome police officer, whose misguided accusations he has to endure, whose unreasonable demands he has to respect, and to whose authority he is eventually made subject. After all, while he is eventually made the perpetrator of a public crime, Gates only goes outside of his house in the first place because Sgt. Crowley tells him to, a desire which, as SEK notes, is the black box in the officer’s account (“if he had not, he couldn’t have arrested him).” SEK:

[Gates] was charged with a crime against chastity, morality, decency and good order:

“Common night walkers, common street walkers, both male and female, common railers and brawlers, persons who with offensive and disorderly acts or language accost or annoy persons of the opposite sex, lewd, wanton and lascivious persons in speech or behavior, idle and disorderly persons, disturbers of the peace, keepers of noisy and disorderly houses, and persons guilty of indecent exposure.”

The only one of those that applies to this situation would be disturbing the peace, which is difficult to do from inside your own house. Except that’s not what the officer accuses him of:

“Due to the tumultuous manner Gates had exhibited in his residence as well as his continued tumultuous behavior outside the residence, in view of the public, I warned Gates that he was becoming disorderly.”
At what point does mere tumultuousness become criminal disorderliness? Moreover, given that “tumult” refers to the “commotion of a multitude,” Gates must have literally been beside himself.

More than that, though, while the choice itself is a kind of imposition (and the choice to either suffer silently or suffer more for refusing to suffer silently is sickeningly familiar for anyone who knows African-American history even a little), most commentary has framed the event so as to emphasize Gates’ choice and agency, talking about what he should have done once the initial confrontation passed and allowing the officer’s own agencyto simply disappear from view (Henry’s Crooked Timber post is an exception). But why couldn’t the officer be the one to suffer indignities in silence? If Gates had the choice to suck it up and swallow his pride, certainly so did Sgt. Crowley, and Crowley -- unlike Gates -- gets paid to swallow his pride.

Which is to say, I think it’s interesting (and symptomatic) that the internet commentariat has accorded such a healthy degree of scorn to the notion a professor is due a measure of respect and would go a little unhinged when subjected to this kind of indignity -- what a snob! -- but the idea that a policeman’s mis-steps should, as a matter of course, be glossed over -- that Gates clean up his mess, essentially -- has so many times and in so many places asserted as if it were a simple given. After all, while I can appreciate the practical wisdom of treating a cop with a gun like the dangerous animal he might turn out to be, this kind of healthy caution can be pragmatically necessary without being at all consistent with any sense of what a policeman should be. What concerns me, in other words, is the unspoken movement from a practical recognition that personal self-interest might necessitate excessive self-control (if one wants to stay out of jail anyway) and a more pernicious sense that it was Gate’s responsibility to do so, that whatever power does is justified.

The best way of reading the situation for Crowley, after all, would be to assert that it was simply Lucia Whalen’s phone call that put him in this situation and that he otherwise behaved like a saint. That might even be almost true. Certainly what started the whole thing in motion was her bizarrely misguided tip to the police that a break-in was in process, and even if Crowley exacerbated the situation by demanding multiple forms of identification from an obvious non-burglar, he did have a responsibility to investigate the situation, which put him, at best, in the uncomfortable position of interrogating the supposed crime’s victim. But even if that were the case, the fact that Gates takes the rap for her idiocy is a complete non-starter: when a bad tip leads a police officer to abuse an innocent, even inadvertently, surely the solution to that original misstep isn’t to abuse the injured innocent even more, is it? If Crowley knew that Lucia Whalen was the original caller (as his report indicates he did), she should have been called into the conversation immediately, either to confirm that the less-than-spry Gates was not the burglar she had reported or to take on the burden of accusation. The point where Crowley took it on himself to presume Gates to be the perpetrator (and especially when he followed Gates into his house) is where his police work became incredibly shoddy.

So this, then, is the question: when a police officer is in the wrong -- and the absolutely most charitable interpretation of the situation is that Crowley was in the wrong, but that it wasn’t his fault -- whose responsibility is it to clean up his mess? Is it the responsibility of Gates to suffer indignities in silence? Or is the officer’s responsibility to earn his pay and suck it up? Obviously, my feelings are clear, but it’s worth pointing out that this is less a question about race than about the relationship between citizens and the state, since, in a democracy, I have the idealism to imagine, it shouldn’t be the aggrieved party. Yet it was, which is why the joke I began with is not completely a joke: when Gates was arrested, he became the sacrificial scapegoat atoning for the officer’s blunder, for by magically transforming Gates’ indignation into a threat against the public, Crowley was able to make his own choices disappear, and to displace responsibility for the entire situation onto Gates himself. And this is worrying. When the instruments of state authority exonerate their own screw-ups by making their victims pay the price -- and especially when citizens express their approval -- we should be, if not surprised, at the very least worried.




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David Silbey - 7/24/2009

"any military veterans apart from Mr. Bray"

I especially enjoyed this part. "Any military veterans aside from the military veteran!?! AHA!"


Ralph E. Luker - 7/24/2009

Er, Les, I'm a Republican and have been all of my life. Some people would say that KC is as conservative a Democrat as you're likely to find in academic life. I could go on, but it is meaningless to do so. Why must fundamentalist Christians -- with all their anti-intellectual baggage -- be represented to satisfy you. Wasn't it Nebraska's Senator Hruska who said that morons deserve representation on the Supreme Court? Take your argument elsewhere.


Les Baitzer - 7/24/2009

Perhaps that is so, Ralph.

The contributors at Powerline certainly make no pretense about their conservative views. How that impacts that Blog's "groupthink," independent thinking, and credibility is debatable, but I have concerns with it for just those reasons.

But tell me, with respect to "independent thinking," which contributors at Cliopatria would you and others here consider and describe as conservatives?

Can you honestly describe your blogging group (which btw, I think is very talented) as ideologically diverse? Are there any registered Republicans among your group ... any military veterans apart from Mr. Bray ... any fundamental Christians?


David Silbey - 7/24/2009

"What exactly is it about the Powerline blog that disqualifies it an appropriate forum for "reasoned discourse about race?"

That it's slightly farther to the right than was Attila the Hun?


Ralph E. Luker - 7/24/2009

IMHO, Cliopatria is a whole lot more credible source -- and one far more free of "groupthink" -- than Powerline, which makes little effort at either credibility or independent thinking.


Les Baitzer - 7/24/2009

Actually, yes I have, Ralph, and thanks for asking.

And I would take the same position as I did above (in reverse) if someone on Powerline ignored the merits of and discounted a comment I made there that cited a posting on Cliopatria, simply because it was a posting on Cliopatria.

Wouldn't you agree that is a rather absurd reason to discount the merits of a posting?


Ralph E. Luker - 7/24/2009

Les -- Have you complained about "groupthink" at Powerline? If not, why not?


Les Baitzer - 7/24/2009

"Hiibel argued that he had no legal obligation to produce ID on request, believing that he had a right to be left alone by the government. Quaint!"

I respectfully disagree that this case considers the right of a police officer to ask for ID, which was the point I made above.

The first lines in the summary you linked states, "Supreme Court Upholds Constitutionality of Arrest for Refusal to Identify. In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court has narrowly upheld a Nevada law allowing law enforcement to arrest an individual when he refuses to identify himself, and reasonable suspicion--though not probable cause--exists that he has committed a crime."

Again, the argument is not centered on the right of police to ask for identification, but rather whether a citizen can be arrested for failing to comply with an officer's legal right, based upon the very low standard of "reasonable suspicion," to ask for identification.

Hiibel does not argue that police had no right to ask him for ID, and the court did not even consider that issue. It did rule on whether Hiibel could be arrested for his refusal to comply and it upheld the existing law that he could be arrested for that refusal.

In the Gates situation, had he refused to produce ID (which he initially did but later complied), the police could have arrested him for that refusal, per Hiibel.

I recognize that you consider the right of police to ask citizens for their ID, which happens probably a million times or more each year, represents, to you, a violation of a citizen's right to be "left alone by the government."

Given your view, I'm curious what you think about the government forcing citizens to purchase health insurance?


Les Baitzer - 7/24/2009

Ive ridden with police officers also, and I would agree with your assessment and your example. There are bad apples in every profession, including Ward Churchill.

And I've made my assumption on what is on the record, to wit:

When Gates was asked to produce ID, he replied "I will not" He accused the officer of being a racist. He stated on more than one occasion, "Is this how black men are treated in America?" and also stated, "You don't know who you're messing with!"

Nothing on the record thus far indicates that the police officer, who was selected by a black police commissioner to teach racial profiling in his department, engaged in any behavior such as you describe in your hypothetical.

Given that, and in fealty to the traditional norms of the academy which, among other things, provide for a dispassionate examination of facts, I concluded that Mr. Gates behavior was deplorable and I have yet to see any cogent argument or facts presented to the contrary ... hypotheticals, yes, facts, no.


Les Baitzer - 7/24/2009

"Oy" indeed, Mr. Silbey.

What exactly is it about the Powerline blog that disqualifies it an appropriate forum for "reasoned discourse about race?" Is this an instance where I am not conversant with the groupthink on this blog?

What about the author's first hand account of being asked to produce ID in his own home upon the demand of a police officer have to do with race? Was the race of the author or the police officer revealed in the account?

Are there laws in the US that exempt members of certain races from the obligation of a citizen to produce an ID upon the demand of a police officer who is actively engaged in the investigation a possible crime?

What does race have to do with any of this?


Chris Bray - 7/24/2009

I've worked at a couple of small newspapers, and have spent a lot of time riding around with local police. I've met a bunch of level-headed cops who had a gift for calming people down. I've also seen guys storm into a tense situation and start screaming at everyone to CALM THE FUCK DOWN RIGHT FUCKING NOW, which for some reason never calms people down.

Your assumption is that there was one party in this interaction who was in a position to make choices, and he chose conflict. But one of my many favorite moments in the police report was the one where Sergeant Crowley says he took his handcuffs out, then told Gates to calm down.

Poke, poke, poke -- STOP BEING IRRITATED THAT I'M POKING YOU WITH THIS STICK, MOTHERFUCKER. WHY ARE YOU AGITATED? (Poke, poke, poke.)

I've seen this kind of exchange in practice many, many, many times.


Les Baitzer - 7/24/2009

My apologies for misspelling your name, Mr. Silbey.

And forgive me, but I didn't mean to suggest that Gates was a "bad person" for taking the police officer up on his suggestion; just that he was ignorant of the law that you seem to understand. Somehow, I doubt that if a police officer suggested to Mr. Gates that he parade around nude outside that he would then do so.


David Silbey - 7/24/2009

"This is a post by a prominent Minneapolis attorney and Harvard Law graduate who is also an admirer of Gates"

Really? Citing something from the Powerline blog for reasoned discourse about race? Oy.


Chris Bray - 7/24/2009

"Gates was arrested for 'Disorderly Conduct' not 'loudly criticizing a government employee,' (another nettlesome detail, I understand!) but please note in my initial comment that I supported the dropping of the charges."

The disorderly conduct was that he loudly criticized a government employee.

Hiibel argued that he had no legal obligation to produce ID on request, believing that he had a right to be left alone by the government. Quaint!


David Silbey - 7/24/2009

"Exactly. You clearly understand, Mr. Sibley.
"

It's SiLBey, thanks.

"One might think that a "highly esteemed, brilliant African America Scholar" at a prestigious university wouldn't be so ignorant of the laws and thus allow himself to be "trapped" by a lowly police officer"

It's a strange maneuver to turn around misbehavior by the cop and blame it on Gates. "You fell into his trap and so you're a bad person" is quite a ridiculous statement.


Les Baitzer - 7/24/2009

This is a post by a prominent Minneapolis attorney and Harvard Law graduate who is also an admirer of Gates. I would ask you to consider the differences in the behavior exhibited in this situation with that of Gates. This gentleman, rather than returning from a trip and trying to force a locked door open, was committing the unforgivable sin of shaving in his own bathroom.

“I, like Mr. Gates, once had the experience of having to prove to a police officer that I was the owner of my own home and not an intruder. One morning quite a few years ago, I was the only person at home on a weekday. I accidentally tripped our burglar alarm, probably by forgetting to turn it off before going outdoors to get the newspaper

A few minutes later I was in my bathroom, shaving, when the doorbell rang. It was a policeman, investigating the alarm. I explained what had happened. It seemed unlikely to me that anyone would break into a house in order to borrow the homeowner's razor, so I didn't expect my explanation to be challenged. For some reason, though, the officer seemed skeptical. I had to produce identification that had both my photograph and my house's address on it. I also pointed out that there were several pictures lying around that, once I wiped the shaving cream off my face, were obviously of me. The policeman was satisfied and left.

One thing that did not occur to me was to scream at the police officer. Having received a burglar alarm he, like Officer Crowley, had a job to do. He was, after all, trying to keep me and my family safe. And I was the one who stupidly tripped the alarm. So it seemed to me that the least I could do was be good-humored about it. Besides, long before I got to Harvard--I think we can trace the idea to my formative years in South Dakota--I had absorbed the lesson that it is a poor idea to get into an altercation with a police officer.”

http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2009/07/024112.php


Les Baitzer - 7/24/2009

Correction:

I appreciate your account of "late-colonial North Carolina" ... sorry for the omission.


Les Baitzer - 7/24/2009

Good idea to "run with it Chris, since that particular right granted to law enforcement has existed for centuries, having its foundation in English common law.

Gates was arrested for "Disorderly Conduct" not "loudly criticizing a government employee," (another nettlesome detail, I understand!) but please note in my initial comment that I supported the dropping of the charges.

BTW, I'm afraid you don't understand it correctly if you honestly believe that the link you included has any bearing on the Gates situation.

First, in the case you cite, Hiibel, a law that existed long, long before was upheld in 2004, not passed in 2004. It likely has been on the books in that state since laws against murder and burglary have existed.

Second, the case turned on the very narrow issue of whether or not a police officer has the right to "arrest an individual when he refuses to identify himself, and reasonable suspicion--though not probable cause--exists that he has committed a crime."

That case has no bearing on the right of police to ask for an ID from a citizen.

Gates was not arrested for refusing to produce an ID. Once he produced an ID showing his address, the officer left Gates' home.

And, I appreciate your account of ... I enjoy learning those sorts of tidbits via this blog.

I suppose "late-colonial North Carolina" neighbors who "weren't submissive people, and didn't believe themselves to be obligated to worship at the altar of state power" wouldn't have bothered to call the Sheriff. The neighbor would have just shot Gates and his driver, and they could have sorted out the "Identity" issues later ...

I believe we progressed since then. I think we need to similarly progress past the point where police officers are vilified as "racists" for simply doing the job the citizens of a community ask them to do.

And that's the "point" of Gates' deplorable behavior.


Chris Bray - 7/24/2009

"A police officer has the right and the duty to ask a citizen for ID, gentlemen..."

This is a little too "You vill produce your PAPERS, citizen!" for my taste, but let's run with it:

HLsG was arrested (on his own front porch) after he had shown ID to Sergeant Crowley, and he was arrested for loudly criticizing a government employee. It's not a crime to tell a government employee that you think he's an asshole.

In late-colonial North Carolina, the Regulators would express their displeasure with the local sheriff by hogtying him, mounting him on an ass, and parading him through town. They weren't submissive people, and didn't believe themselves to be obligated to worship at the altar of state power. See also "Tarring and Feathering."

BTW, if I understand it correctly, the standard that the cringing subjects of the Mighty Oz must produce their papers upon the godly demand of a government employee dates all the way back to 2004.


Les Baitzer - 7/24/2009

Exactly. You clearly understand, Mr. Sibley.

One might think that a "highly esteemed, brilliant African America Scholar" at a prestigious university wouldn't be so ignorant of the laws and thus allow himself to be "trapped" by a lowly police officer.

The "teaching moment" here is that understanding one's obligations under the law, ie. producing an ID on the order of a police officer investigating a possible crime, is as important as understanding one's rights under our laws.

We all love our rights, but sometimes those obligations can be rather nettlesome when we chose to ignore them, capice? You know ... like paying taxes before being considered for a cabinet appointment ... those sorts of picayune obligations of citizenship.


Les Baitzer - 7/24/2009

You guys are amazing. The officer followed a man he believed might be a burglary suspect into a home. Isn't that exactly what you would expect a police officer to do if it was your home? Once Gates, after first saying "I will not!" produced an ID with his address, the officer left the home.

Gates then continued his "racism" tirade, and it is that behavior that caused and escalated the situation.

A police officer has the right and the duty to ask a citizen for ID, gentlemen; it happens millions of times every year.

Somehow, Gates apparently believes that he is above a law that applies to all of us, and it is for that reason that I believe his conduct to be deplorable.

This particular officer was chosen by a black supervisor to teach a course in racial profiling to other officers, and early in his career he attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation of a black athlete who had collapsed from a heart attack.

Racist?

He followed procedures to the letter of the law and did not deserve this treatment from some old-timer stuck in the 60's who is looking for "racism" under every rock. Gates' behavior inflamed what would ordinarily be a routine incident for any law abiding citizen not "spring loaded" to accuse others of "racism."

For a supposedly "educated" professor, Gates' behavior is astonishing. He should apologize to his university and to the police department and officer.

That's "change I could believe in."


David Silbey - 7/24/2009

"I told Gates that I was leaving his residence and that if he had any other questions regarding the matter, I would speak with him outside the residence."

The cop can't arrest him for disorderly conduct unless he's in a public place. It's a trap, to pull him to a place where he could put the cuffs on.


Ed Schmitt - 7/23/2009

I inadvertently lopped off the front end of that quote - "There are cops out there,"


Ed Schmitt - 7/23/2009

Josh Marshall just posted what I think is a spot-on insight at the end of his most recent reflection at TPM - "I fear sometimes that it's crept into the culture of policing in some jurisdictions, who think that a citizen treating them in a disrespectful way amounts to a crime."


Chris Bray - 7/23/2009

It's even better than that, though, because Gates was doing what the officer told him to do. From the second paragraph on page two of the report:

"I told Gates that I was leaving his residence and that if he had any other questions regarding the matter, I would speak with him outside the residence."

From the third paragraph on page two:

"I again told Gates that I would speak to him outside."

Same page, fourth paragraph:

"Due to the tumultuous manner Gates had exhibited in his residence as well as his continued tumultuous behavior outside the residence, in view of the public, I warned Gates that he was becoming disorderly."

I told him to follow me outside. Then, criminally, the crazy bastard followed me outside!


Ed Schmitt - 7/23/2009

I find the assessment in the police report that Gates's actions "served no legitimate purpose" to be particularly rich. And problematic.


Chris Bray - 7/23/2009

“The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail, its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storm may enter, the rain may enter -- but the King of England cannot enter; all his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement!”

The police report says the officer followed Gates into his home. I can lay a good eight hundred years of political tradition against the appropriateness of that choice. You have a right to be pissed off at the government in your own house.


Les Baitzer - 7/23/2009

Ahhh, yes ... Bull Connor arrested Gates ... how could I have missed that? Part of the problem with this entire paradigm are folks like Gates who are stuck in the 60s and strangled by it ... ya'all come on and join us in the 21st century, my friend, ya heah?


Scott McLemee - 7/23/2009

Make that grownups' rather.


Scott McLemee - 7/23/2009

Anyone who trusts the police account as unquestionably accurate is disqualified from sitting at the grownup's table.


Les Baitzer - 7/23/2009

My … you have used 2,002 words to attempt to put lipstick on Professor Gates’ conduct which was, by even the most charitable interpretation, quite simply, deplorable.

A police officer responded to a report of two black men attempting to gain entrance to a private home. He arrived at the home and saw a black man (who turned out to be Gates) in the home. He asked Gates for identification, which is not only a right granted to a law enforcement officer, it is his duty.

Witnesses and reports then state the following: Gates refused to present identification, shouting at the police officer, “NO I WILL NOT!” then he produced a university ID which may or may not have his home address on it. That key point is undetermined. He then accused the police officer of being a “racist,” and shouted, “THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS TO BLACK MEN IN AMERICA!” Gates then produced identification (reportedly a driver’s license) that showed his address and the police officer went outside.

Gates then came outside, continued his tirade against the police officer as a small group of onlookers gathered, whereupon the police officer put him under arrest for disorderly conduct, NOT for breaking into his own home. The charge has been dropped, which is probably for the better.

Mr. Gates had on obligation to comply with the officer’s legal request. If he believed that he was mistreated, he has numerous remedies available to him to sue for any behavior of the police officer that is actionable.

Gates’ conduct, by any reasonable measure, was deplorable. I hate to bother anyone with this troubling fact, but black men, even 58-year-old black men, commit crimes in America, as do college professors. That a man is black and/or a college professor are not material facts that prove to a police officer that a crime has not occurred.

But, permit me to pose a hypothetical situation. While you’re away on vacation, a neighbor reports seeing two white men breaking into your home and calls police to report this. A black police officer arrives at your home and confronts a white man who accuses the officer of being racist, initially refuses to show an ID, and then produces an ID with his photo that shows he is a professor at Berkeley. Upon seeing that ID, the officer apologizes, and the man remains in the house and the police leave and file a report.

When you return from vacation, you find numerous valuable items missing from your home. You call the police to report it. You learn of the above incident and read the police report.

You are outraged and post a 4,000-word essay at Cliopatria professing how utterly incompetent the police in your community are.



Alan Allport - 7/22/2009

One horse's ass meets another horse's ass, and the result is litigation.

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