Update: Professor Gates and Sgt Crowley have accepted an invitation to the White House to sit down and have a beer. Politico reports here.
Rumpole notes: This is what makes this President different. He will do things like this.
Lets take a look at the Gates arrest.
What do we know?
1) A neighbor calls the police after she sees Gates on his porch with a backpack trying to open his door. An afro-american driver is assisting him. (With neighbors like these, who needs....)
2) The police arrive to a call of a burglary in progress. A white police officer sees a black man in the house. Gates is agitated and supposedly speaks sharply to the police officer, immediately raising the issue of race as the officer makes appropriate inquiries.
3) The officer does not arrest Gates for burglary or trespass. However Gates continues his verbal assault on the officer. The officer steps out of the house to get better communication with his department. Other officers arrive as Gates continues his disrespectful verbal comments towards the officer.
4) The officer then makes the standard arrest for disorderly conduct, with the ridiculous allegations that individuals, including other officers were stopping to gather and observe Gates as he continued yelling at the officer.
5) Gates committed no crime. But did he cause this, and what role if any did race play in this?
Lets switch the roles here and ask if a white professor, irate and upset at not being able to get into his house would have been arrested if he spoke in a similar manner to a black police officer? The answer is probably, but that does not mean race did not play a role here.
The answer to this contretemps is a complicated one.
Black men are unfairly targeted by police officers. That is a fact and Professor Gates' race did play a role in this incident, either from the neighbor calling or the officer being more on alert when he arrived when he saw Gates.
The real issue is the role of a citizen versus a police officer.
Aren't the police supposed to be trained to do their job and not let their emotions get the best of them? The title of the article links to a NY Times article on this issue.
In theory yes, but you try walking up to a cop and telling him to "go fuck himself" and see what happens. We don't recommend it, especially in most areas of Miami Beach, Hialeah, and the City of Miami.
It appears Professor Gates was having a bad day. He probably regrets over reacting to the police showing up. But isn't his home his castle? If wants to tell an officer to got to hell, can't he do it when he is lawfully in his home? The answer is yes.
Gates was arrested not just because he was black. Race played a role. But so did the lack of training in police officers who are supposed to understand that as regrettable as it is, not only is the possibility of losing their life every day a part of the job, but absorbing the ad hominem attacks of an upset citizen who has committed no crime and is having bad day is also part of the job.
We don't say Gates was right. We just say the officer was wrong.
Many years ago, having done an excellent job on cross examination during a motion to suppress, the lead officer approached us in the hallway of the courthouse. He was not happy the way we had treated him in court. (It's not pleasant we suppose, to have a judge repeatedly laugh at your answers.)
We told him in no uncertain terms that he was liar, not a very good one, and perhaps he should return to writing tickets, although we were not sure he would be very good at that.
The detective reached for his handcuffs. Several lawyers were watching. I reminded the detective, in a rather loud voice that by calling him a liar I was committing no crime, and there were many lawyers watching so he had better be careful what he did next. The detective's supervisor came over and grabbed him and led him away.
What we did was not smart. But the detective was a liar and deserved to be called one.
In the final analysis police officers do an extraordinarily tough job. They wake up every day and go to work to a job that may kill them. We understand that. We advise everyone to help make their jobs a little easier if possible. But all of that does not imbue them with some special status that places them above the constitution.
It's not against the law for a client to curse at his attorney (and we should know).
It is not against the law for a citizen to tell a police officer in no uncertain terms to get the hell out of his house, leave him alone, while hurling a few well chosen adjectives about the officer's ancestors. It's not nice and not advisable, but it's not a crime.
See you in court.