Saturday, July 25, 2009

More Gates 

It turns out that the controversy surrounding the arrest of Henry Louis "Skip" Gates, Jr., by Cambridge police sergeant James Crowley is nothing more than a donnybrook between distant Irish cousins, which really explains a great deal. President Obama's solution to have both of them come to the White House for a beer sounds like the perfect idea. Then, bring in Oprah for a live 10 minute segment -- and toward the end of that, Rahm Emanuel comes on set, and he can use the line made famous by the fictional character Ari Gold (of the HBO series "Entourage", played by Jeremy Piven, and based upon Rahm Emanuel's brother Ari Emanuel, the prominent Hollywood agent): "Let's hug it out, bitch."

Since we first blogged about it (with updates following the original post as more information came forth), the profile of the story was raised considerably when President Obama was asked a question about it during his press conference this week, remarking that the Cambridge police "acted stupidly," and then clarified his statement on Friday. I think Cardinalpark's comment captures nicely the concept that this had less to do about race and more to do about privilege. (It has to do with race only insofar as the initial report to the police described "two black males" trying to gain access to the house, and Dr. Gates matched that description, and was therefore reasonably a suspect until such time as he established his identity as the resident; also, it has to do with race to the extent that Dr. Gates, as wise a man as he might be, could not at that moment set aside his own baggage vis-a-vis the police). Sgt. Crowley's background and history do not reveal any racist sentiment -- quite the contrary -- trying to save Reggie Lewis's life with CPR, teaching about racial profiling at a police academy, so it was not correct for Dr. Gates to sling racist accusations.

Setting aside race, there is still the question of why Dr. Gates was arrested for disturbing the peace in his own home after his identity was known -- which is at the core of the matter here -- and the answer to that question is directly related to the question of exactly how much crap and verbal abuse a policeman has to take from an unhappy resident in that situation. That may vary from town to town and police department to police department (depending upon training and procedure), but a strict libertarian view might be that a policeman without a warrant has to leave a residence as soon as he is asked, or as soon as his business of investigating a possible break-in is completed, no matter how poorly the resident may treat him. I am not so sure that the law or police procedure ought to make it such that a policeman must take an unlimited amount of verbal abuse, and that there should be reasonable limits, but clearly there is no story here if Dr. Gates left yelling on his front porch uncuffed, as Sgt. Crowley and his colleagues drive away.


By Blogger Elijah, at Sat Jul 25, 09:16:00 PM:

“There were enough of us on campus to constitute a tribe, and when it came to hanging out many of us chose to function like a tribe, staying close together, traveling in packs,” he wrote. “It remained necessary to prove which side you were on, to show your loyalty to the black masses, to strike out and name names.”

- President Obama in “Dreams from My Father,”  

By Blogger Mystery Meat, at Sat Jul 25, 09:31:00 PM:

Given Obama's Irish ancestry, I don't know if it's a good idea to have three Micks hanging out in the White House drinking beer.  

By Anonymous Boludo Tejano, at Sat Jul 25, 09:48:00 PM:

Could that be where the term "Black Irish" came from? Just joking: it refers to Irishmen with black hair, like one of my uncles.

Cops have pretty thick skin but there is no point in trying to test how thick a particular cop's skin is, especially when a cop came in response to a potential break-in at your house.  

By Blogger The Conservative Wahoo, at Sat Jul 25, 10:52:00 PM:

I wrote about this on my blog today (http://conservativewahoo.blogspot.com/2009/07/henry-louis-gates-affair.html).

I think Gates was ridiculous, and I definitely think there is an entitlement issue here.

That said, the libertarian in me wonders how much crap someone has to take in their own house...  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 26, 12:07:00 AM:

Talking about Irish cousins, are we sure Gates wasn't drunk when he was driven from Logan airport? I don't know if he has a meth lab in his house that he was trying to protect, but I gotta believe he was blitzed when his plane arrived in Boston.
Of course, as a black guy, we are not able to even think such things, but we know Barney Fag was running a male whore house from his place, why shouldn't we believe Gates wasn't trying to protect his criminal operation?  

By Anonymous The Conservative Painter, at Sun Jul 26, 12:07:00 AM:

I think this would never have been a big deal if the prof would have just shown his ID to the officers instead of going straight to the race card.

I don't know about anyone else but I want officers to come to my house if some one report a break-in. Even if its me breaking into my own house.

I think Obama really owes police officers accross the nation a proper apology but, unfortunately, I doubt that's ever going to come...  

By Blogger Georgfelis, at Sun Jul 26, 12:36:00 AM:

Officer Crowley would be making a mistake to accept the invitation of President Obama to come to the White House for a beer with Mr. Gates. Consider this:

If Mr. Gates were to admit that he over-reacted, and is now going to break bread with the officer, the worst that could happen is catching some flack from his peers in the Black Studies department. And since publicity is golden, he would sell more books.

If Officer Crowley were to admit that he over-reacted in arresting Mr. Gates, he would open himself and the entire department up to civil lawsuits and possibly criminal charges fully capable of destroying any personal wealth he has, 24 hour a day press hounding himself and his family (even more than he has endured so far), and lose any ability to retain a career in his chosen field.

You can expect over the next few weeks, a growing pressure on the department through funding and political leverage to get Officer Crowley to grovel on camera or be fired. I sincerely hope he can hold out without being Alinsky'd too badly.  

By Blogger Carolyn, at Sun Jul 26, 12:49:00 AM:

I think that Tom Maguire makes a good point: "Gates claims he produced a driver's license with the address of the house in question, thereby establishing his right to be there. Should that have been the end of the story? Husbands and wives sometimes have nasty separations in which the husband gets kicked out the wife changes the locks . . .

So - do feminists and domestic violence experts agree that if the man of the house shouts at the cops that everything is cool so get out, the cops should simply leave?"  

By OpenID DenisEugeneSullivan, at Sun Jul 26, 02:03:00 AM:


I grew up in the Bronx of the ’50s and ’60s, back when the beat cop would come down the block flipping his nightstick. If he didn’t like what he saw of you and your friends, you would get a standard “Move along” or perhaps a “Keep it down”. “Sassing”, as Mr. Coates terms it, was considered bruise-worthy.

Mr. Coates seems to suggest a “right to sass” and it seems to me that his concept has taken hold with certain parts of our society. When I see how some members of minority groups treat the police officers with whom they come in contact, I know that if I were a police officer, I would not be able to put up with it.

My question to Mr. Coates and his fellow travelers would be, in this day and age, in what other job would it be permissible for employees to be so treated? Would not an employer have an obligation to protect his employees from mistreatment and/or harassment? Do other individuals have a right to sass Mr. Coates?

I see this as an attempt to establish some kind of affirmative action program for minority group acting out; another attempt to define deviancy downward. If “contempt of cop” isn’t against the law, maybe it should be.  

By Anonymous Dave, at Sun Jul 26, 07:44:00 AM:

Gates was not arrested "in his house" as many, including Mr. Tigerhawk, have stated. According to the police report and eyewitnesses, Gates was arrested outside only after his continuous shouting and his refusal to quiet down. The Cambridge police department is committing a public disservice by not releasing the audio of what transpired. That would surely put a lot of the speculation to rest.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 26, 10:50:00 AM:


A mountain made out of a molehill. Wasn't Obama getting elected supposed to move us into some new more enlightened era on race relations?

Dr Gates was cranky after returning from a long trip, with added complications. I've lost my temper too in similar circumstances. Dr Gates lost his completely -- it's that simple. But it's revealing that Dr Gates sees any white guy through the prism of race -- and any cop through the prism of class.

Obama is the most to blame here. A day after making a national issue of this during his stupefyingly bad prime-time presser, Obama realized he had stepped on his dick. Obama is losing his hold on the hearts and minds of independents and Reagan democrats. Pissing on Sgt Crowley didn't help with this key demographic, especially as a better picture of what actually happened came out.

I'm Irish -- and mildly offended that Obama offered to host hoisting a beer as the answer here. Not the idea, but the double standard. How about Obama offering Gates and Crowley each a 40 and a blunt.

Link, over  

By Anonymous Tress, at Sun Jul 26, 11:57:00 AM:

Obama is the most to blame here.

Oh please. Was Obama responsible for a man being arrested on his own front porch for giving a cop lip?

I can't help but wonder how many conservatives would rush to the defense of a black cop who threw handcuffs on a white homeowner because he talked back to the black cop?


By Anonymous vicki pasadena ca, at Sun Jul 26, 12:10:00 PM:

Right on, Tress... The answer, no one would.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 26, 12:35:00 PM:

Of the three players here, Obama is the only one to have had the time to be cool and deliberate about what he did. But Obama's move backfired -- he'll lose some support with white working class people over this.

How much abuse is a cop supposed to take? If roles were reversed, and a white homeowner berated a black cop with the same ugly vehemence, yes I'd expect him to be arrested in the same way.

Obama, Gates and others want to see this as a racial incident ... but it is one only because they made it so.

Link, over  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Sun Jul 26, 12:35:00 PM:

I call bullshit, Tress and vicki. If conservatives are known for anything it is for being pro law-and-order and I'll bet good money they would side with a hard-working black cop against a liberal white professor inflated with his own importance mouthing off to him about his "mama".

BO did not cause the incident but he most definitely *is* the cause of the fact we are still talking about it. This was not a "profiling" case - if Gates were a cranky old white guy he would be just as likely to get cuffed and booked. Everyone knows that regardless of race it is foolish to mouth off to a cop. BO played the race card at the wrong time and now he's trying to weasel out with his "teachable moment" baloney.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 26, 12:40:00 PM:

"the question of why Dr. Gates was arrested for disturbing the peace in his own home after his identity was known"

Dr Gates was not arrested in his own home, he was arrested in a home he rents from Harvard U. There is some dispute over whether he was willing or even able to produce identification that indicated he lived there.

"You can expect over the next few weeks, a growing pressure on the department through funding and political leverage to get Officer Crowley to grovel on camera or be fired"

I doubt it. Gates was said to be spooling up for a lawsuit earlier this week. He has access to top legal talent, whom I suspect told him he'd get shredded in court if he pursued this (most likely after listening to the dispatch recordings we all want to hear) and that Crowley has a solid defamation case against him. There's no question this was a racial profiling incident, but Gates was the one doing the profiling. Also, it's doing serious political damage to the O.

"I can't help but wonder how many conservatives would rush to the defense of a black cop who threw handcuffs on a white homeowner because he talked back to the black cop?"

See Carolyn's comment.

"there should be reasonable limits"

Would threatening an officer cross the line?  

By Blogger Escort81, at Sun Jul 26, 01:22:00 PM:

Anon 12:40 - For purposes of the Fourth Amendment ("The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized"), I do not believe it matters a great deal whether you rent or own the home in which you reside. Any Constitutional lawyers out there are welcome to clarify this point and its relevance in this case.

A fair reading of both Sgt. Crowley's report and comments, as well as Dr. Gates's comments, indicates that Dr. Gates did produce ID after initially refusing to do so.

I would agree with you that physically threatening an officer certainly would cross the line and would make a disturbing the peace arrest unquestionably justified (and probably other charges as well). That said, the threat would have to be credible, and query whether Dr. Gates could pose a credible threat to Sgt. Crowley (although at some point, Dr.Gates did have a cane, and those suckers can hurt). A verbal threat that involves saying what he will do to the policeman physically probably also crosses the line. The question I am trying to throw out there is how much verbal abuse a policeman must take until he is permitted to cuff a resident (pursuant to the procedures of that particular department). A "mama" comment might do it for me if I was in that profession, but I have no training.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 26, 01:50:00 PM:

Link again,

I've had a few misadventures with the police over the years. Here's just one:

When I was in law school I rented a car one summer weekend to get away. On the Jersey Turnpike I was pulled over for being 5 mph over ... by a young aggressive trooper. He was a total dick. The rental contract was my registration. Under "occupation" the clerk had written "STUD." The trooper pointed to it and said what did it mean. I told him I was a porn star.

So there I was spread eagled on the ground, while the trooper rifled my luggage from the trunk hoping to find a stray joint to fry my ass.

I was probably profiled for being young and in a rental. The lesson I'd tell my kids is don't mouth off to police.  

By Blogger Escort81, at Sun Jul 26, 02:42:00 PM:

Hey Link, it's probably a good thing you did not have your well-engineered home made bong with you at that moment. There might have been enough residue to cause you some difficulty.

What is your porn name? "Buck Naked," like George on Seinfeld?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 26, 02:52:00 PM:

Link yet again,

I'm into the Gates affair because it's a window into how Obama thinks ... that Prof Gates, Michelle, and his kids are still somehow aggrieved. He's not alone in this kind of thinking. This is Chris Chambers' mindset too. So the Sgt Crowley of today is conflated with the Bull Connors of the 1960s -- a ridiculous anti-historical comparison, but one that's implicitly being made.

This has broader implications. Obama taps into the psyche of people who want to believe that they're owed something -- not just blacks. "Money for nothing, chicks for free." As we're seeing with Prof Gates, this kind of need never ends.

In New Haven Firefighters, four justices adopted the NAACP's amicus argument that Ricci and the other white guys didn't have standing because they hadn't been disadvantaged ... that they were Invisible Men.

Obama just lost a couple of percent of the middle of the electorate over this. Keep on trucking ....

p.s. to Escort81, I was actually a monk at the time ... and given the extent of the cavity search I got, a good thing.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 26, 03:02:00 PM:

"A fair reading of both Sgt. Crowley's report ... indicates that Dr. Gates did produce ID"

The report states that Gates produced a Harvard ID, which by all accounts lacks an address. My point in bringing up the fact that the home was rented is not constitutional, but that if the ID lacks an address, and the name on it is different from the owner of record, a police officer is required to investigate further.

"and query whether Dr. Gates could pose a credible threat"

Police officers are trained to regard pretty much everybody as a threat, and whether he actually was or not, I would infer from Sgt Crowley's report that Crowley thought Gates was behaving irrationally. Also, no matter how much bigger and tougher you are than that old guy with the cane, if the old guy has a gun too, he's a very credible threat to your life and health.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 26, 06:47:00 PM:

The question I am trying to throw out there is how much verbal abuse a policeman must take until he is permitted to cuff a resident (pursuant to the procedures of that particular department).

Obviously, whatever verbal abuse Gates hurled at Crowley wasn't enough to keep the charges in place since they were dropped shortly after he was arrested.

From the July 21 joint press release from City of Cambridge, Cambridge PD, Middlesex County D.A., and Prof. Gates:

The City of Cambridge and the Cambridge Police Department have recommended to the Middlesex County District Attorney that the criminal charge against Professor Gates not proceed. Therefore, in the interests of justice, the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office has agreed to enter a nolle prosequi in this matter.

The City of Cambridge, the Cambridge Police Department, and Professor Gates acknowledge that the incident of July 16, 2009 was regrettable and unfortunate.

Oops. It would appear--and rightly so-- that making fun of a cop's mama ain't enough for charges against you to proceed.  

By Anonymous billy Bob Corncob, at Sun Jul 26, 07:50:00 PM:

Ok, let's ad a little factual reality here.

Some background missing from the public debate.

Bad reporting, as always.

It turns out that "disorderly conduct" is used in Massachusetts by the local and state police to control unruly folk who are detained for whatever reason. (It is a step below resisting arrest.) As a former prosecutor, I know that each jurisdiction's legal rules and practices have a great deal of overlap but some differences. I prosecuted in the District of Columbia. Disorderly conduct did not exist. We wouldn't have charged it anyway as I read the elements of the offense under Massachusetts law. Small potatoes.

But I've done enough checking to know that it IS charged with frequency in Massachusetts. This must in part explain why the White House backed off so quickly. Hard to say the officer "acted stupidly" when lots of other Massachusetts officers to the same thing all the time.

There is, however, a rub. The crime has two elements in Massachusetts that don't appear to apply. I'll take the easy one first.

1. The disorderliness must not just be being a loudmouth, or even using epithets. It has to rise to the level of something like an actual threat. This is settled law in the state. I have examples of convictions for disorderly reversed for insufficient grounds (insufficiency of the evidence), on this element of the offense.

I have not heard that Gates did anything rising to the level of a threat, and exceeding (mere) epithets. So I'm guessing that is what the charges were dismissed - but if anyone has a copy of the police report, which is a matter of public record, I'd like to see what the officer put down as the probable cause.

2. The crime must also occur in public. This must be why the officer waited til Prof. Gates stepped on to his front porch. But to my mind, the front porch is not "public" and if I can't tell you to fuck off ON MY FRONT PORCH, then we have a problem in this country. Which relates to item 3:

3. What has perplexed me prior to learning about 1 and 2 is that the arrest was for a misdemeanor, but the charged individual (Gates) was in his home. Oh, you say, he was on his front porch. Well, "home" under the Fourth Amendment occurs a home's curtilage (roughly the front and back yard) and the porch is definitely within the curtilage. So my question is why didn't the guy need a warrant??? (I've done 60+ criminal appeals on behalf of the United States in the courts of appeal, so I have more than a little idea about this.

If anyone can shed light on any of these issues, I'd be curious.

My view is that the officer acted stupidly. If Gates had just backed off and not gone public but had his lawyer go to the city attorney quietly, I'm pretty sure the officer would have been reamed. I would certainly ream him as his lieutenant or captain.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 26, 08:28:00 PM:

Link again,

Billy Bob is overanalyzing this. By all accounts, Crowley isn't a rogue cop. Gates went over the line -- he asked to be spanked and he was. This should have been a nothing event and ended with dropped charges -- but Obama made it a cause célèbre. It then backfired on Obama.

A comment above nailed it. If Gates wasn't heard foaming at the mouth on tape, Gates' legal team would be bringing suit and Obama would still be righteously indignant. Instead Obama quickly backed off and proclaimed it a teachable event.

This affair isn't worth the ink, except that Obama made it so. Many voters thought voting for Obama would get us past petty bullshit on race ... hardly. Wait until they understand that much of Obama's spending plans are actually reparations.  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Mon Jul 27, 02:14:00 AM:

Link, the 'turfers *have* to overanalyze in order to spin this to not make BO look bad. No way (as you point out) is this petty incident worth a Presidential comment.  

By Anonymous billy Bob Corncob, at Thu Jul 30, 09:39:00 PM:


Under Massachusetts law, you CAN NOT disturb the peace in your own home. You must be in public.

Even then you must at least utter threats.

This was an illegal arrest. Probably unconstitutional. Easy call.  

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