Henry Louis Gates, Jr. vs. the Cambridge PD

Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., was recently arrested trying to get into his own house, the front door of which was jammed. One of his neighbors called the police to say that two black men (who were actually Gates and his Moroccan driver) were trying to break into the house, and the police didn't leave even after Gates showed his ID and explained that it was his house. Instead, these thugs kept grilling him, and in response he "exhibited loud and tumultuous behaviour", which in Copland is automatic grounds for arrest.

Gates is rare among victims of aggressive police officers in that he is well-connected; three of his Harvard colleagues showed up to the station to bail him out. He has this to say:

"I am appalled that any American could be treated as capriciously by an individual police officer. He should look into his soul and he should apologize to me," Gates said. "If so, I will be prepared to forgive him. I think that poor people in general and black people in general are vulnerable to the whims of rogue cops, and we all have to fight to protect the weakest among us. No matter how bad it was going to get, I knew that sooner or later I would get to a phone and one of my friends would be there to help."

Re-read that last sentence and imagine if Gates were not a Harvard professor: he'd be alone, and he'd be charged and convicted like any other police victim, instead of having the charges dropped by the embarrassed Cambridge police department. He'd be bullied some more along the way. He'd be just another sucker as far as the police were concerned.

I only wish he'd put two and two together: systematic racism in the police force, abuse by individual officers...maybe, just maybe, the abuse is systematic too.

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Insufficient information to make any judgement

How was Gates dressed?

What was his attitude?

How did the conversation proceed?

I suspect that facts are not welcome but here goes...

Well...

The statement from Gates' lawer is here: http://www.theroot.com/views/lawyers-statement-arrest-henry-louis-gates-jr

The police report was here: http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/CANON8AA683_LNOTESMAIL_07202009-153909.PDF

but has been removed for various reasons. Not a problem because many people archived it, for example here: http://www.amnation.com/vfr/Police%20report%20on%20Gates%20arrest.PDF

The two documents have a completely different tone but the facts presented therein are largely the same. (when they are present in Gates' statement).

Now to review what happened:

A passerby, Lucia Whalen, saw (or thought she saw) two people breaking in and reported the incident.

The LEO was close by and so he went over to investigate.

LEO sees Gates and asks him to step out to speak with him.

Gates refuses and asks who the LEO is. LEO identifies himself and then tells Gates that he (LEO) is investigating a report of a possible break-in.

Gates opens door and starts yelling at the LEO and accusing him of being a racist.

LEO tries to tell Gates that he (LEO) was responding to a call and that the caller was outside.

Gates starts talking on the phone while LEO radios in and starts to leave.

Gates threatens LEO (Police report: "Gates then turned on me and told me that I had no idea who I was 'messing' with and that I had not heard the last of it.")

LEO requests ID. Gates initially refuses but then provides Harvard ID.

LEO calls for Harvard Police.

Here the two reports disagree. According to the police report, Gates asked for more identification and the LEO tried to comply several times but was shouted down. According to Gates' statement, the LEO did not respond.

LEO goes outside where a crowd has gathered. Gates continues yelling at him. LEO warns him twice.

LEO arrests Gates.

This incident was not an example of racism as this post by Toranto explains: http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB10001424052970203946904574302304074459422.html

Furthermore, try for once to imagine that not all police officers are spawns of Satan and look at things from his perspective. He got a call that two people had forced entry into a house. How is he supposed to know that one of them was the resident or a professor at Harvard? He responded and tried to peacefully handle the situation at which point, the resident just starts yelling at him and continues to act in an uncooperative manner. In this instance, uncooperative behavior seems fine but anybody who thinks about this for more that 30 seconds would realize that break-ins are not the only thing that LEOs investigate. They also investigate among other things, murders, homicides, rape, and assault. Thus, cooperation with them is necessary for an ordered society.

Nor would this problem be fixed by private police. They still need to investigate and they still need cooperation.

What would Gates have done if there had really been a break in?

It would be nice if some of the other witnesses could provide statements but everybody (except for Gates) seems intent on squelching this incident.

"Abuse" by police officers? Get a clue.

Yelling at a police officer is not a crime.

newt0311: He responded and tried to peacefully handle the situation at which point, the resident just starts yelling at him and continues to act in an uncooperative manner.

Yelling at a police officer is not a crime.

Police officers have many legal privileges (legal privileges which, actually, they generally should not have anyway), but being entitled to arrest obviously harmless people for their tone of voice is definitely not among them.

newt0311: "Abuse" by police officers?

Using the threat of physical force to arrest and jail a man who has not committed any crime, and who you know has not committed any crime, is a paradigmatic case of abusing police powers. If willful false arrests are not abuse by police officers, what is?

"They also investigate among

"They also investigate among other things, murders, homicides, rape, and assault. Thus, cooperation with them is necessary for an ordered society."

So disorderly conduct alone is enough to delay leaving once the person inside has presented proof of residency because this might mean some other crime has been committed? What? Seems only sensible that upon presenting proof of residency the officer would think, in retrospect, "of course he is upset."

So simply being irate is probable cause to investigate - i.e. to prolong the exchange - the possibility of murder? This may be a normal thing in police matters but it seems problematic.

I saw nothing in the lawyer's report at all about disorderly conduct. Though the amassing of curious neighbors makes me think it occured. But again, disorderly conduct seems warranted, though I am too genteel to act out myself.

If you try to read the

If you try to read the police report, you will find that that is exactly what the LEO tried to do. Gates followed him out and continued to yell.

The right thing to do here

The right thing to do here would have been for the police officer to keep on walking, regardless of what Gates was doing. If it's really a crime to yell at someone who has no business on your property, as they'd just established, we're hurting.

Agreed. Gates may have been

Agreed. Gates may have been behaving rudely (I really don't know; I haven't looked into it), but that's not a crime.

For a private person, yes.

For a private person, yes. However, private persons do not investigate murders, rapes, assaults, etc... and do not need to worry about these possibilities. As I mentioned, LEOs do. They can't act as mellow beings and still enforce the law. If you think that rule of law is not worth this then you are an idiot and need to study history again. Countries without a respected police force are generally the lowest in the rung and generally unfit for humans.

The Rule of Law-Enforcers

For a private person, yes. However, private persons do not investigate murders, rapes, assaults, etc... and do not need to worry about these possibilities. As I mentioned, LEOs do. They can't act as mellow beings and still enforce the law.

Whatever you want, dude, but yelling at a cop is still not a crime. A cop who treats it as one is willfully carrying out a false arrest.

If you think that rule of law is not worth this then you are an idiot and need to study history again.

I'm sorry, what part of "the rule of law" calls for making up non-existent laws against yelling at police officers in order to ensure that people show proper deference to the position of Law Enforcement Officers? I mean, sure, I can see how that's conducive to the Rule of Law-Enforcers, but I'm not sure that's what advocates of "the rule of law" generally mean by the term.

In any case, if that is what "the rule of law" really calls for, then it sounds to me like "the rule of law" is as tyrannical as any other form of rule.

Countries without a respected police force are generally the lowest in the rung and generally unfit for humans.

I'm not sure what you mean by "respect" here; usually we use the term to refer to courtesy and consideration that are freely given to those who deserve them. But since you're talking about the use of physical coercion and imprisonment, obviously this cannot be what you are talking about; you can get fear that way, and you can get submission, but you can't get any kind of respect that is worthy of the name.

If what you mean is that citizens generally submit to the legal demands of police officers, and unhesitatingly collaborate with them in their work, well, I can think of a few places where that was pretty common. But I hear that Nazi-occupied Europe, the Soviet bloc, and Maoist China were all pretty bad places to be, too.

Furthermore

This from the WSJ piece:

"Having ascertained that the burglary report was false, the cop had no reason to remain on the scene."

Exactly.

Apparently, goading someone

Apparently, goading someone into "disturbing the peace" in order to briefly put them in custody is common practice.

Maybe, maybe not but here,

Maybe, maybe not but here, it doesn't seem like Gates needed (or got) any goading.

Gates

Let’s see if I’ve got this right. You are seen breaking into your front door in the middle of the afternoon, and when the police arrive you decide to be an a-hole. Well guess what? You get what you deserve no matter what color your skin is.
Check out my take and stick around for more good content.
http://libertarianhumor.com/2009/07/21/gates/

I hope you're not

I hope you're not representing this as a 'libertarian' take on the situation...