Posts Tagged ‘Cambridge Police Department’

Both Prof. Gates and Sgt. Crowley are RIGHT!

July 23, 2009

 Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. & Sgt. James Crowley are RIGHT in my opinion! President Obama’s comment that whole situation is “Stupid” is also right, but the laws and police training should change so this doesn’t happen again.


When the “racism fart” appears and “curls your hair” don’t dwell on it like dwelling on your grandpa’s farts, “crack the window”, “cover it up with potpourri” (“change the subject”).

Thoughts of Stephen Colbert

Apparently the officer found it acceptable to arrest someone for asking for his name and a badge number. Their stories differ as to whether there was racial issues involved. Both Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. & Sgt. James Crowley are RIGHT in my opinion! I also fully agree that the whole situation was stupid and should never happen in that fashion. The blame however, is NOT with Gates or Crowley.

The problem is overly vague, over-used and abused, and unconstitutional Disorderly Conduct laws, as well as improper or inadequate training of officers. Under the present DC laws in America, even if you yell in an upset voice in your own home or on your own porch when DEFENDING your civil rights, the police can unbelievably state you are disorderly.

Sgt. Crowley was wrongfully taught, like all officers, that if they say anything to a citizen and the citizen doesn’t instantly comply he is disorderly or resisting arrest. Resisting arrest is also abused by the police. A natural instinct is to resist handcuffing as this really is an assault. The law should be changed and narrowed so that if one twitches one will not be charged with resisting arrest, and verbal tirades against the officer should not be considered resisting arrest. Officers are supposed to be professional, despite verbal abuse.

The Sgt. is taught to lure loud persons, even if they are simply loudly protesting violation of the law and their civil rights, out into a public area so they can claim the person is disorderly. Prof. Gates should realize that officers have the most rudimentary understanding and training in the law. This is why they over-reach and abuse DC, trespass, and resisting arrest laws. They really don’t know what they mean in detail and the laws are too over-reaching and/or vague, making them ripe for abuse.

There is a concept of “void for vagueness” in law that a criminal statute is unconstitutional because it is impermissably vague. The US Supreme Court needs to hear a case like that of Prof. Gates if he should sue for unlawful arrest, malicious prosecution, and violation of civil rights. They need to clarify these laws and narrow and define them better so the public knows what they can and cannot do and police will no longer be able to abuse these DC, trespass, and resisting arrest laws by arresting anyone who disagrees with them, twitches, or claims harassment or false arrest.

Prof. Gates is right that African-Americans are still profiled and abused by the police. However, I do not think this was Sgt. Crowley’s main issue. His main issue appears to be the fact that he is an omnipotent, all-powerful, officer with unlimited power, who has been given an inch of power and taught to take a mile of power, who must be instantly obeyed no matter what he says.

I don’t say this to criticize Sgt. Crowley – this is what he was taught and as an officer, this is constantly re-enforced in his training. He is not at fault. His training and the vague and easily abused law is at fault. This is his understanding of his DUTY under the law. He should be taught that people have rights and one can de-escalate a situation by backing off and shutting up, instead of being in a persons face and challenging them when they are upset by the wrongful or mistaken actions of others.

We should also be pleased that the police responded to the call of someone breaking in the house. Sgt. Crowley appropriately asked Gates to initially step outside because he was there alone, needed to protect himself in the open, didn'[t know if Gates was the burgler or the homeowner and if homeowner, didn’t know if a burglar was still inside. However, we should insist they receive more training so that when they come on a situation and find out it is different than what they were told, they don’t act like robots and proceed to act as if the information was true or lure someone into an arrest just because they are being verbally challenged. This is the part I consider stupid. The whole thing would have been different if the law was clarified and Crowley would have backed off and not considered Gates “disorderly.”

I urge Prof. Gates, Sgt. Crowley, and President Obama to acknowledge these facts. I would like the three of them to meet and discuss these issues and come up with a plan to solve the problem. AG Eric Holder should be part of this meeting. If Obama is truly a mediator – HE SHOULD DO THIS! I would volunteer to mediate if the President doesn’t feel he has time to do so. Perhaps Mr. Gregory on Meet the Press would have them all on the show – I’d even be happy to mediate on Meet the Press!

For a range of opinions on this matter see:

Actual copy of arrest reports (Sgt. Crowley’s story) see:

Prof. Gate’s story at:

 THE FOLLOWING IS AN EXCERPT FROM THE ABOVE ARTICLE:  “I’m saying ‘You need to send someone to fix my lock.’ All of a sudden, there was a policeman on my porch. And I thought, ‘This is strange.’ So I went over to the front porch still holding the phone, and I said ‘Officer, can I help you?’ And he said, ‘Would you step outside onto the porch.’ And the way he said it, I knew he wasn’t canvassing for the police benevolent association. All the hairs stood up on the back of my neck, and I realized that I was in danger. And I said to him no, out of instinct. I said, ‘No, I will not.’

My lawyers later told me that that was a good move and had I walked out onto the porch he could have arrested me for breaking and entering. He said ‘I’m here to investigate a 911 call for breaking and entering into this house.’ And I said ‘That’s ridiculous because this happens to be my house. And I’m a Harvard professor.’ He says ‘Can you prove that you’re a Harvard professor?’ I said yes, I turned and closed the front door to the kitchen where I’d left my wallet, and I got out my Harvard ID and my Massachusetts driver’s license which includes my address and I handed them to him. And he’s sitting there looking at them….

HLG: The police report says I was engaged in loud and tumultuous behavior. That’s a joke. Because I have a severe bronchial infection which I contracted in China and for which I was treated and have a doctor’s report from the Peninsula hotel in Beijing. So I couldn’t have yelled. I can’t yell even today, I’m not fully cured.”

The problem with police reports is that they are not always the truth. The are a selective narrative by the police officer used to bolster his version of events. Unfortunately, they never ask the arrestee to immediately write down their version of events and sign and date it.  When arrested, always do this, like as if you were an officer and write your version. This is considered better evidence than your testimony at trial, as your memory was fresh.  Your lawyer will love you for it – it will help him understand what happened. Be as detailed as possible. Do not give this written document to anyone, but your attorney.

The best commentary on this incident I’ve seen yet from an outstanding officer and police educator. See:

The fact that the arrest was illegal is clearly explained by law school Prof. Aman at:

He explains that since Sgt. Crowley admitted in his report that Prof. Gate’s words that he considered “disorderly” occurred after he had concluded that no burglary had occurred (the investigation was over so there was no obstruction of justice), whatever Prof. Gates said was protected by the First Amendment right to free speech per the U.S. Supreme Court holding in Houston v. Hill two decades ago. Justice Brennan in that case stated “Speech is often provocative and challenging…[But it] is nevertheless protec`ted against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest.” Therefore, Prof. Gates comments were  protected by the First Amendment and were not “disorderly.” That clearly is a reason why the charges were dropped.

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