Reenlisting Gates and Crowley

By Abraham Cooperassociate dean, Simon Wiesenthal Center We at the Simon Wiesenthal Center have a unique take on the Sgt. … Continued

By Abraham Cooper
associate dean, Simon Wiesenthal Center

We at the Simon Wiesenthal Center have a unique take on the Sgt. Crowley-Professor Gates episode. We may be the only folks in America who knew them both before that fateful 911 call that cast them both in a national debate about racism and racial profiling that eventually led to the White House.

Back in 1992, our efforts to debunk Louis Farrakhan’s “academic” screed accusing Jews of a central role in the African Slave Trade received a major boost from Harvard’s Director of African American Studies, Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.

That also was the year we began our TOOLS FOR TOLERANCE® training program, which over the years has involved more than 100,000 law enforcement officers, including Officer James Crowley of the Cambridge (Mass.) Police Department.

The officers who came to our training sessions kept telling us of their concern about and confusion over racial profiling, which led us in 2001 to create an interactive course called Perspectives on Profiling™.

Enter Sgt. Crowley, who in 2007 was sent by his department to the Museum of Tolerance to become a trainer on the issue of racial profiling. Crowley was an outstanding student, and he was invited back last year for an advanced course. “He stands out to me. He was one of those people who really engaged in sessions, who really showed a high level of understanding of the issue,” said Sunny Lee, director of Tools for Tolerance® for Law Enforcement.

In his coursework, Crowley and hundreds of other officers were confronted with the complexities surrounding the debate on racial profiling, including:

1. The confusion surrounding three terms:

• Criminal Profiling
• Raciali Profiling
• Racism

2. The myth that statistics prove that an individual member of a specific racial group is more likely to commit a given crime.

3. The danger of police officers abandoning their intuitive skills out of fear of being accused of bias and racial profiling.

4. The dangerous trend of police disengagement from potentially sensitive suspects to avoid accusations of racial profiling or selective engagement to satisfy quotas.

After the Slave Trade debate in 1992, Professor Gates gave the Wiesenthal Center’s annual State of Anti-Semitism Lecture: “We must acknowledge our diversity even while we identify with each other…In short, place a priority in our shared humanity andAFt identify not as a nigger…nor kike but as man, permitted to be man,” he said.

Visitors to our New York Tolerance Center will find this quote from Professor Gates embedded between quotes from Gandhi and Einstein: “There is no Tolerance without Respect; there’s no Respect without Knowledge”.

Events in Cambridge involving Gates and Crowley have shown us how far we still have to go on these issues. We believe these matters are too important to leave to politicians and too explosives to place in the hands of demagogues.

So we are inviting Prof. Gates and Sgt Crowley back to the Museum of Tolerance to help us create the next real “teaching moment” for our nation. Stay tuned.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance.

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  • Paganplace

    Basically, this all is the kind of mess you might expect. Obama didn’t invent it. Nothing new at a;;/

  • joe561

    Mikelicht is absolutely right. Gates might have been sensitive to the race issue, but this was clearly a case of “contempt of cop”. It is ludicrous that we are not focusing on the fact that Crowley made up his own law and arrested Gates. Our country gives us the hard earned freedom to be a jerk in our own home. Crowley established that there was no crime in progress. His job was done. Yet he abused his uniform and arrested a clearly innocent, but angry man – angry in his own house.Pretty soon Crowley will be arresting people who yell at their spouses or children or have a loud argument within the confines of their own home.This is the scary part – our country tilting towards a police state. This country was built on questioning authority. If not we would all have British passports.

  • FredCDobbs

    By far the best article on the matter.Everyone except the 911 caller was a little bit right and a little bit wrong. Except for the POTUS who stepped in it big time.Let’s not forget the liberal bloggers who placed idiology above the truth, fact and values. They dispersed a fair amount of venom that served no useful purpose.

  • ChuckCardiff

    Excellent. “There’s no Respect without Knowledge” is something that Obama would do well to recall before he shoots off his mouth without knowing the facts.

  • davidfdiamond

    Crowley spoke with media after the beer session. I haven’t seen any comment from Gates. Why is that?

  • ponderlicious

    Excellent perspective. The more I read about this, the more it seems that Crowley was the one who stayed true to his beliefs and training. Gates was quoted as telling Crowley, “I’ll speak with your mama outside.” And now we learn Gates’wisdom is on your walls, “There is no tolerance without respect.” What is the word for someone who says one thing but does another? Maybe it is time for the scholar Gates to become a gentleman and own up to his tantrum. It would be nice to refer to Gates as both a gentleman and a scholar, but that’s not the word I’m thinking of right now.

  • worker3

    It would be a REAL learning and teaching moment if the Museum could bring Yates and Crowley together to actually address the subject of racial profiling No beer, No peanuts!

  • gtagta18

    Professor Louis Gates of Harvard University was arrested by Sgt. Crowley of Cambridge Police Department. It was an illegal arrest. Gates was detained and imprisoned. Crowley is the police officer who detained and imprisoned Gates without any legal justification. If I was Gates, I would be exacting maximum financial compensation from Sgt. Crowley and Cambridge Police Department.

  • stryker1

    Yes, Obama was right, it should be a teachable moment……a teachable moment for him.Hopefully he learned to keep his mouth shut before he gets the fact.And yes, I think it was a teachable moment for the American people. We finally learned what our President believes. The question that we all had as to why he remained in Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church for twenty years has been answered. He, like Wright, is a racist.

  • stryker1

    Yes, Obama was right, it should be a teachable moment……a teachable moment for him.Hopefully he learned to keep his mouth shut before he gets his facts straight.And yes, I think it was a teachable moment for the American people. We finally learned what our President believes. The question that we all had as to why he remained in Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church for twenty years has been answered. He, like Wright, is a racist.

  • abby0802

    A number of years ago when we first moved to Central Texas we were in a parking lot at a store. A person claimed that we hit his car when in fact we had not. Because the person was becoming belligerent we called 911. We explained to the dispatcher the situation. We were shocked and dismayed when the dispatcher asked if the person who acting belligerent was “black or Hispanic.” We reiterated the events but did not reply to that question.The issue resolved because the individual left the scene before the police arrived, but this incident made us uncomfortable.However, since then our interactions with law enforcement have been quite positive.I believe that it really comes down to each individual and his/her response to a situation. The only color that should matter is the “golden rule” – do unto others as you would have them do unto you….

  • rdb2

    All of us… we have not seen the end to any of this.Black cop arresting a white person is always okay. We have to be very careful not to offend or inflame that chip on their shoulder.

  • gotc2000

    One thing no one seems to be saying is that you can be arrested for disorderly conduct and being a jerk in your own home. That is a legal arrest in just about any state I can think of. If it were not the case, Mr. Gates would already have instructed his attorney to go farward with a litigation against the city of Cambridge. Looking at the few photos of the incident that were posted on the net, Mr. Gates appears to to be only one who was angry, everyone else seemed cool and collected. This case does not meet the criteria for racial profiling, and Mr. Gates knows that as well. If Mr. Gates was not one of only 20 full professors at the university and a personal friend of the president, I am sure the charges would not have been dropped and it certainly would not have made the news……

  • tommariner

    Both Professor Gates and Sergeant Crowley have always seemed to be intelligent, reasonable folks caught up in a local situation. And the history of both with the Wiesenthal Center confirms that.But the reason for the celebrity of both has nothing to do with them. An inadvertent slip at a press conference revealed what I did not want to believe — that a fellow I elected to be President of all of our citizens turns out to really represent only part of our population. Disappointing.

  • ELOW


  • destinysmom

    Is there any proof, other than Crowley’s statement, that Gates made the “your mama” comment? Gates denies it and, given that the caller’s statements and the tape of her call seem to indicate that other parts of Crowley’s report were not factual, I would want more proof than merely his word.That being said, I think that both men were suffering from severe cases of testosterone poisoning.Off the cuff observance: This week I flew roundtrip on business and on both airport experiences, the TSA folk were more than usually polite. I think it’s a reaction to this incident and that law enforcement personnel are under the spotlight.

  • khmaio

    I am not sure the press learned from the affair. It ran when it ought to have crept, falling over itself in the process.

  • diplomat012001

    Seems to me that a large insight to our racial offenses and differences in “today”, is biased by Our President who identifies as African American, rather than American. Many of the initiatives he has created seem to be along his identification with African American heritage, rather than a member of our American nationality. Then when he took issue with the Gates – Crowley confrontation and called the Police action as “acting stupidly”, President Obama further claimed his attitude as being simply more African American, as opposed to an American.

  • rumpleteasermom

    Re: Obama’s initial remarks. Anyone who thinks his initial remarks show him to be a racist must be projecting their own racial biases onto him because they very specifically were not racially motivated.Read them again:And number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcing disproportionately. That’s just a fact.”Notice a few very important details. First, the use of the phrase “any of us” which was said in a room full of diverse reporters. I suspect by any of ‘us’ he meant any citizen of this country. Secondly, it WAS stupid to arrest someone after they had shown their ID and proven they belonged where they were. The prosecutor obviously agreed.So before you go calling Obama a racist, examine your own motives and think long and hard about what he actually said versus what you heard.

  • bookloftbookloft

    As a person of (color)…white…i find that we are the only racist on the planet..well guess what…deal with it..

  • dv1236

    it is a fact that Obama and Gates would like this in the past, as in the NYTs a black writer wrote a story that was pro black, birds of feather flock together. For sure it PO many white voters, as the comment were read. This black writer did more to harm Obama then 10 Russ Limbaugh could do in 10 days,

  • w_ponds

    I am continually disappointed in the media, college professors and all other members of our society who choose to ignore facts, distort the truth and avoid the real issues at hand. They choose instead to resort to name-calling while at the same time getting their panties all in a knot over what they perceive to be attacks on race. Profiling is alive and well and it works, not just of race, but of many other personal characteristics. Wikipedia, one of the most respected sources of information on the internet, features an entry called “Crime in the United States”

  • kiddies

    Certainly, there is abundant anecdote for what folks here are calling “contempt of cop” arrest. But I do wonder – in a situation where there is disorderly conduct, how is a policeman to know precisely which instances may result in further violence, ie a safety issue ? Where a crowd of civilians has gathered, there is a further caution recommended. Should the person’s disorderly behavior continue or escalate, one should remember that the policeman might be fairly expected to err on the side of caution.

  • w_ponds

    I completely agree with “Kiddies” on this. Absent of racial profiling, from all accounts Gates became belligerent and a cop has to wonder why. If a person has a right to be in their own home and an officer demands that they prove it then the person should be glad to do so. If it happened to me, as a home occupant, I would certainly be nervous but I would not berate the cop at all!

  • shaktinah

    Every time that I read comments in response to this incident, I am amazed by the number of people who say “Gates was beligerent so he deserved to be arrested.” Sorry, but where does your certainty come from? “Beligerent” or “disorderly” or “disturbing the peace” are all highly subjective assesments. And frankly none of us were there to even assess it for ourselves. So what you are essense saying is that you assume Gates is guilty because he was arrested. The only facts we know are that Gates DID show proof that he was the legal resident of the house. Gates did NOT at any time assault officer Crowley. And from what we can hear of the audio recordings that were released, if Gates raised his voice, it was not so loud as to be heard in the recordings. Those are the facts.

  • TheQG

    “With so many issues facing our country today, it is a shame that President Obama has to take time out of his day to meet for “happy hour” with Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates and police Sergeant James Crowley. It is a shame that racial tension still exists in this country to the extent that it has fueled such major controversy in recent weeks. Racism is an issue we should all be concerned with. What beer Barack Obama drinks, however, is not.”Read the Full Article at:

  • kiddies


  • bernardl0808

    Rabbi Cooper,thank you very much for your article. I look forward to the follow-up. As a former management developement/trainer in corporate America I find organizations such as yours have a tremendous potential benefit to the national discourse on interpersonal communications (race relations). We seem to be more and more devoid of good open and honest communication among our various ethnic and social groups, whether it be in the work place or just normal day-to-day interactions. Unfortunately, the Internet has just added to the dehumanization of our interpersonal communications skills. Very few of us get any valid training in high school, college or even graduate school in effective ways to interact with our fellow man or woman, and reading some of the comments to your article just reinforces the urgent need for it. Please continue getting your points across in the press, radio, tv and the Internet so that we adults out here get the message and finally grow up!

  • annum

    In the land of “I’m the most important person in the world,” the imparted training message seems to have entered and backfired: in the Irish-immigrant mind, a race-based response from the African-American heart offended. Translated, the resident’s response suggests someone does not appreciate that police have been trained to ignore race, as well as that same does not belong in this setting. The trigger response, a result of some other training, is to put the offender in the slammer until the point can be made, and proper respect for the race-blind force is established. Provoking this attitude, preferment appointees sometimes lack the inherent confidence of those who would otherwise hold the appointment, making it very difficult not to take personal offense at others’ inquiries.With the line of superiority not clearly drawn between quota appointee and opponent, both sides act to draw it–pointing out the flaws of democracy-extended-to-all and embarrassing the trainers, the college, the city, and national policy in the eyes of the whole world. Per the theme of your blog, I will add that real faith as defined in the Bible to Jews and Christians makes it possible to avoid all such confrontation, as well as to eschew the ambition and self-centered stance—without which neither man would be in the situation—underlying both responses.


    Our president and his unpolled mouth and his friend Gates who brought this hoop-la about is responsible for bringing up the race card. America does not have time to run a school for presidents. Obama and his cabinet are going on “retreat” to discuss his first 6 months in office. What a flop…Americans have discovered he spent more money by shoveling trillions out the back door and bringing in pennies thru the front door. Health care and cap & trade will bankrupt us. We will not keep our heads in the sand and keep silent.

  • annpenn1

    IMO this incident is NOT about race.Crowley was called in on a report of a possible break in at the Gates residence. He established that Gates was the resident. Now suppose there had been a real break in and there was an out of sight threat to Gates. It would be good policing for Crowley to determine if Gates were under the influence of a threat. Best option – take him outside where he is more free to speak.Gates assumed it was racial profiling. But WHAT IF there had been a real threat to Gates and the CPD had just left. Suppose then Gates had suffered harm, perhaps been killed. Then would there be outcries that the CPD had not investigated the possible threat sufficiently? Probably.Crowley had a job to do. That included establishing that the potential break in had or had not occurred. Gates’ immediate jump to the race issue made that impossible.IMO, Gates owed the apology to Crowley.I am aware that profiling does exist; but jumping to assumptions is just as bad…

  • Geezle

    Others have mentioned this, but it needs repeating: This incident was not about race. It was about abuse of authority. While it is true that if Dr. Gates had been meek and subservient, he would not have been arrested, his being angry and (likely wrongly) accusing Crowley’s behavior of being racially motivated is not illegal. Dr. Gates’ lack of subservience is not illegal. Dr. Gates’ presumed “bad attitude” about cops is not illegal. Dr. Gates did not commit a crime, and Sgt. Crowley, if he is worth his salary, knew that. What Sgt. Crowley did was to punitively arrest Dr. Gates to salve his own ego. What very well might have been going through his head was “You can’t disrespect me. I have the authority to force subservience from you and make the rest of your day a nightmare, and there is nothing you can do about it”.That this Judge Dredd-like “I am the Law!” attitude is pervasive in American police forces is evidenced by the astonishing number of posters stating (inaccurately) that Sgt. Crowley’s arrest of Dr. Gates was justified by Dr. Gates’ disrespectful comments. It is so common that many Americans believe that it is normal and proper police behavior to put anyone who has offended or disrespected a police office through the trauma and insult of arrest. It is shocking that so many Americans think that it is permissible for a police officer to deprive a citizen of their freedom for no other reason than the police officer wanting to do so.That the prosecutor threw out the charges does not make the arrest OK. Dr. Gates was cuffed, dragged to the police station, processed as a criminal suspect, and thrown in a cell for hours, even though he had committed no crime. The only reason for this was because Sgt. Crowley was miffed and wanted to show to Dr. Gates who gets the last word in any disagreement with a man with a badge and a gun. Sgt. Crowley used his authority to punish someone that he disagreed with. This is one of the worst forms of abuse of authority. This is Sgt. Crowley saying to Dr. Gates “I am the law!”This type of police behavior is problematic for a democratic nation such as ours. It is an assault on the fundamental principles of freedom, justice, and the American way. In many ways it is even worse than racial profiling. The message that such unchecked behavior among police gives citizens is that it is necessary and expected that free Americans bow and scape before authority. That’s un-American.Police need to be taught that behavior like Sgt. Crowley’s is not appropriate. The abuse of authority to punish someone for personal reasons needs to be treated as a serious lapse of professionalism and police officers who abuse their authority to “win” a disagreement need to be sanctioned soas to discourage this behavior. For the health of our society, police need to be taught that abusing their power to arrest in order to punish someone that they don’t like or that they disagree with is a serious injustice.

  • masonjahr

    My friend Juan said of this episode that Professor Gates should “obtener dobladas” (I had him spell it for me). I’m pretty sure what it means and I must say that Juan is not a supporter of the Professor. I’m surprised that no Hispanic reaction to this event is being reported.

  • Bubbette1

    What this shows is that Obama cannot take real unscripted questions. Once he goes off the teleprompter he is in deep guano. He is and remains an incompetent flake. It is only as the liberal press cannot continue to cover for him that we are staring to understand who is residing in the Oval office.

  • Bubbette1

    Someone needs to be sure the alleged news reporter shills in the audience cannot go off the script. Obama cannot think for himself off the teleprompter.

  • shallowmists

    I am sorry to say, but the Tenured Professor acted the same way a 16 Year Old Drug Dealer acts when he is questioned on the corner. All he had to do was show his ID, like any other citizen, and the event would have been over. Instead, he behaved EXACTLY like the stereotype he claims he wants gone from American Culture. I ask you Professor, if you wish for Young African Americans to receive the respect they deserve for being citizens like anyone else, their elders must act in a way that teaches them how to respond. You sir, acted like a criminal, a wealthy man living in the burbs trying to earn his street cred by calling down the man. You should be ashamed of your actions.

  • FredCDobbs

    The facts:After that it would appear that liberals have found Sgt. Crowley “guilty” on the basis of being a police officer and nothing more.Perhaps the police in Cambridge should stop responding to break ins, burglaries, auto theft and just stick to writing parking tickets. You know when a liberal becomes a conservative? About five seconds after a thief sticks a gun in their back at an atm machine.This is not about racial profiling, it’s about contempt for cop!

  • mock1ngb1rd

    If the stereotype of white working-class cops going around rousting innocent blacks to preserve a white power structure was ever true, it was before we had black presidents, black mayors, black police chiefs, community organizing, sensitivity training and large university endowments for scholars such as Henry Louis Gates.The election of Barack Obama was supposed to get us beyond grievance politics, race-baiting, reparations and all the things that create pointless conflict. Sadly, the president didn’t rise to the task in this case.

  • gracie11

    Taking someone who had proven he was in his own home, no matter how mouthy and disrespectful he was, regardless of age, race and handicap, and booking him – full mugshot, fingerprinting and spending time in a cell, is just plain wrong. I want to be protected by the police as much as anyone. I just cannot understand how anyone can defend Sgt. Crowley’s obviously emotional reaction.

  • semidouble

    There is only ONE race: the HUMAN race.

  • jimmyruffin

    My Son was stopped by a policeman for truancy. He presented his ID to prove he was 18 since the law applies to minors under 18. The Policeman took him to the station were his superior ask him why did you bring him in? My son was released. Police don’t admit mistakes they go to jail or commit suicide no middle ground that I know of – my son’s grandfather/my X father-in-law is a retired detective and US Marshall.

  • katana2

    A lot of misinformation still floating around about this, often interwoven with accurate information with the authors hoping to send their own message. 1. Gates was appropriately arrested for Disorderly Conduct per statutory definition. 2. Being on one’s own porch in full view of the public does not allow someone to commit misdemeanor offenses with impunity. He was in full view of the public and subject to the same laws had he pulled out his private parts and exposed himself to his neighbors.3. The real underlying complaint seems to be that although Gates commited an offense, it was minor and the officer should have let it slide.4. Officer Crowley making the arrest made some think he was a harda$$. This is more than a little shortsighted as the officer had absolutely zero incentive to give a break to the man who was committing a misdemeanor and poking him with a stick at the same time.

  • ohioan

    This was not a racial issue. It was lack of respect for authority on Gates’s part. and then he blamed it on “racism”.

  • MiltinSB

    Ten days after the incident in Cambridge, two sheriff’s deputies in Oklahoma were shot and killed as they attempted to serve a domestic abuse warrant at a home. A spokesperson said, “They both were hit within moments of the door opening. I don’t know if they even had the opportunity to return fire.” THIS is why law enforcement personnel don’t take crap when responding to 911 calls like the one that started the Cambridge incident. How would Crowley know that there’s not someone with a gun in that house?Gates may have been jet-lagged and irritated about his front door, but the police officers also had to be wired tight in responding to the 911 call. People who think the police should have ignored Gates’s behavior should consider what it’s like to face the possibility of being killed on the job every day.

  • 5671

    Look.. Obama is a racist~ no doubt about it!Obama went to Jermiah Wright’s church for over 10+ years that spewed negative white sentiment.Question~ Do you think he was there for the fun of it? Get real America…you believe this guy is the messiah; I believe he is the devil.Jeremiah is also the Godfather of Obama’s kids…get the hint…Be warned

  • OregonStorm

    You will have to excuse me but none of this is about racial profiling and I really resent people trying to turn this incident into something it is not.What we have is a case of a peace officer being dispatched to a 911 call. A good Samaritan neighbor called in what she thought might be a burglary in progress. The homeowner, Gates, proceeded to act in the most boorish manner possible. Instead of being grateful for a good neighbor, Gates was an angry, arrogant man who told the officer that “you don’t know who you’re messing with”, and throwing his friendship with the President into the mix. Sorry but this was all about Gates arrogance and his puffed up self importance. Frankly, I don’t think Gates would have acted much differently if the officer dispatched had been black. The only difference would have been calling the officer an Uncle Tom or an Oreo!!I was absolutely astounded at the President for making any comment at all on this incident. His first reaction, that he really didn’t know the facts, should have been his only comment, except perhaps that he did know Professor Gates. What the American public got from the President was a lecture, which we didn’t deserve, which most decent people didn’t need and which we sure as heck didn’t want. That was most definitely NOT a Presidential moment!

  • nana4

    By the time Officer Crowley was in the kitchen of the home and had verified two IDs, he knew he was not dealing with a 16 yr old drug pusher and he knew there were no guns in the home and he knew he was in the home of a tenured Professor from Harvard who had to jimmy his locks to get into his home. I do not know what judgement made him persist in remaining after having concluded the mission for which he was sent: invetigate a possible burglary when he had determined that there had not been one. With all due respect to his authority and to the threat he faces day in and day out, how could he possibly have interpreted this encounter as a grave enough threat to call for “keep the cars coming” and to remain at the scene. All of that show of power on that day and at the ensuing press conference by the police dept et al of Cambridge was a waste of tax payor money and a waste of force, when they should have been out dealing with real crime. All of the special focus groups such as the one in this article will not benefit people like the first commenter, who choose incendiary remarks and cling to personal biases so strong that, in spite of facts, they need to believe what they need to believe so that they do not challenge their own potential for growth.

  • nana4

    “It is shocking that so many Americans think that it is permissible for a police officer to deprive a citizen of their freedom for no other reason than the police officer wanting to do so.”….until it happens to them personally, particularly if the police officer is a black one and they are white, and, given the same set of circumstances, they would have felt bullied, harrassed, and been outraged. The President was correct legally if not politically. I agree with him. And no one associated with this incident in the police dept or the arresting officer himself has given any hint that the entire episode might have been handled differently, because, I assume, they cannot appear vulnerable. But someone in that force should have found the right words to communicate that without causing vulnerability and then, I might have more credibility in their authority.

  • ronaldoroso

    The comment by RUMPLETEASERMOM was the only one to intelligently and factually explain and comment on what Obama actually said, and this commentary proved that what he said was perfectly appropriate.

  • engr_gal22154

    Does anyone proofread these columns? I counted three errors.

  • start_loving

    Wow, being schooled in ethics and humanity by a group complicit in the mass profiling, oppression and torture of our brothers and sisters in PALESTINE. Kinda gives one a deathly CHILL; or it should. God save us from more such assistance from the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

  • pophamsmith

    For all the opinions expressed here, one lesson that we all were supposed to have learned as children, is respect for law

  • votealready

    Latinos are coming forward and complaining they, too, are disproportionately targeted by police. Exclusively white cops, I presume?

  • sml1212

    To me the teachable moment is this: Here were four players who were exceptional people, exceptional in their tolerance–A bystander who reported a possible crime taking exquisite care to mention that it might not be a crime at all; an African Americans Studies professor married to a white woman, who celebrated his own white background on TV; an Irish policeman who taught other officers about racial profiling; a biracial president who had won the election in part because of his ability to foster understanding between races. The problem is that everyone who sees this story is inclined to take sides. One side must be 100% right and the other 100% wrong. But I think in this case, each person–the policemen, the professor, and the president–was maybe 10% wrong in his reaction. But just that 10%, among such exceptional people, can lead to serious consequences. We all know how a less tolerant and professional cop, or a less “innocent” suspect, or a less nuanced politician could have and often has created a situation with much more tragic or profound consequences. (The only person who seems faultless is Ms. Whalen.)But here’s the lesson: President Obama moved 5%, by calling the officer to apologize and issuing an imperfect apology. Officer Crowley moved 5% by graciously accepting that apology and suggesting they all have a beer. Gates moved 5% by accepting the invitation. And just that 5% did an enormous amount to defusing the situation, and to calm some of the anger that this incident sparked. It isn’t perfect, but it is better. That is how we have made much of the progress we have made in the last century–not by radical transformation, but by individuals wiling to move just a tiny bit from their stubborn self-centered beliefs.

  • buddlepeletoo

    “For all the opinions expressed here, one lesson that we all were supposed to have learned as children, is respect for lawMy only comment is this: Thank God our forefathers didn’t have a similar respect for the the redcoats. One lesson I learned as a child was to respect the rights of others and to stand up against oppression, even it it is couched as appropriate behavior by the police (Gestapo). Blind respect of the law and police is not the answer. The answer is respect.

  • abbarick

    The slamming of cuffs in the hands of a non-violent university professor who was not resisting arrest is humiliating and is a serious attack on his dignity by the police. The police department should be ashamed of that and apologize accordingly, except it is assumed that the man, being a black man of a slave decent, has no dignity and deserves none. I DO NOT THINK THAT THE COP WOULD HAVE ARRESTED HIM THAT WAY IN CUFFS HAD HE BEEN OF WHITE SKIN. If the police have such a humiliating standards in their procedures then something must be very wrong with the police that must be corrected without delay. That is why Gates must sue the police department for unlawful arrest, defamation of character, abuse of power, and racial profiling.

  • PaulRevere4

    Looks like the Washington Post is cutting back on freedom of speech just like Obama!This Gates Obama thing is just a distraction from real life in a faltering America! The best thing we can do for our country right now to try to get it back is Audit the Fed! “Step 4: The People”Link:

  • abbarick

    The decision to cuff the man after learning that he was rightly in his home was to provoke a resistance from the man, and that would have given the cop something real to accuse him of resisting arrest which the police would well be able to argue in court. The cop could still have arrested the man without having him cuffed. CUFFS ARE FOR DANGEROUS VIOLENT CRIMINALS LIKE ARMED ROBBERS, RAPISTS, HARD DRUG PEDDLERS, ETC. NOT FOR GENTLEMEN OF THE CALIBRE OF UNIVERSITY PROFESSORS. Had the professor offered any resistance to being cuffed there would have being a violent situation the sort of which many blacks and Latinos had ended up being brutally beaten by the police and many killed. Having required the man to offer his hands to be cuffed and the man complying contrary to the expectation of the cop, the cop was now in a dilemma. He did not know how to back down, he did not know how to accept that he was not perfect being a man . Having learnt the identity of the man he was arresting, and seeing that he did not refuse to be cuffed should have been enough for the cop to call it a draw and say it was a mistake and report back to his superiors. So having cuffed an innocent man that has been wrongly, howbeit mistakenly, disturbed at his own home, the “PERFECT COP”, that could not admit mistake decided to drag his innocent victim of his abuse of power to the station on the flimsy charge of disorderly conduct.

  • abbarick

    If a case like this is not properly addressed and adjudged every police man may think anyone who talks to him in a way he does not like while doing his duty has committed a crime worthy of being cuffed and jailed, and if he should refuse to cooperate, may be forced, wounded, or killed in the process. THE QUESTION FOR THE POLICE DEPARTMENT TO ANSWER WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF THE PROFESSOR HAD RESISTED BEING CUFFED BECAUSE HE WAS INNOCENT? WHAT IF THE COP HAD USED FORCE AND GOT HIS VICTIM KILLED? Thanks be to God that the professor knows his limits according to the law, and he acted within the limit permitted by law. The cop thought he was legally right to arrest a man that he felt insulted him verbally at his home where he felt the cop was unnecessarily disturbing his peace. Therein lies the stupid thing, UNLAWFUL ARREST OF AN INNOCENT MAN BY A COP. There is a very serious legal issue here that must be addressed and resolved by the court, and not by the White House, lest it becomes a customary law that to argue with a police officer while performing his duty is a crime. This may set a very dangerous precedent that would make a bad situation of police brutality worse. We must not allow the US to be turned into a police state where law-abiding citizens should dread the cops that are paid for by their taxes. That is why after all the niceties and wining at the White House the two men should cordially resolve this matter LEGALLY IN THE COURT OF LAW. Thus every one would be able to learn some lessons from this episode.