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» The Ornery American Forum » General Comments » A new crime: Getting your key stuck while black (Page 1)

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Author Topic: A new crime: Getting your key stuck while black
Omega M.
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This is awful if it's as Henry Louis Gates says:
quote:
Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. chastised a Cambridge police officer today and demanded an apology after authorities agreed to drop a disorderly conduct charge against the renowned African-American scholar.

...

Gates, 58, was handcuffed and booked last Thursday following a police investigation into a suspected burglary at his Ware Street home near Harvard Square. A passerby spotted Gates and his driver, who had dropped him off from the airport, trying to push the front door open and called the police. The door had been jammed. Police responded and arrested Gates after they said he became belligerent.

...

This afternoon in an interview, Gates said he never yelled at the officer other than to demand his name and badge number, which he said the officer refused to give. The officer, Sergeant James Crowley, said in the police report that he did state his name. He also said Gates unleashed a verbal tirade, calling him racist, telling him that he did not know who he was messing with, and threatening to speak to his "mama" outside.

"The police report is full of this man's broad imagination," Gates said in response to a question on whether he had said any of the quotes in the report. "I said, 'Are you not giving me your name and badge number because I'm a black man in America?' ... He treated my request with scorn. ... I was suffering from a bronchial infection. I couldn’t have yelled. ... I don't walk around calling white people racist."

I suppose we'll never know who really said what, will we?
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KidB
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quote:
A passerby spotted Gates and his driver, who had dropped him off from the airport, trying to push the front door open and called the police.
This is the part that gets me. A passerby in Cambridge sees a black man trying to open the front door of a house, and calls the police.

One of my black co-workers, who grew up in Boston, has repeatedly told me she thinks Boston and surrounding area is the most racist city in the country.

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scifibum
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It seems like both people probably had to contribute to escalating this needlessly, but I'd put more onus on the police officer to make sure there's really a problem before behaving as if there is one.

I personally don't think there's much wrong with calling the police if you observe people trying to force a door, though. *shrug*

[ July 22, 2009, 01:41 PM: Message edited by: scifibum ]

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JoshCrow
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I'm white and had the police called on me while I was standing helplessly outside my own home with the alarm wailing (my dog had chewed off the alarm panel... long story).

I think we're dealing with an "entitled Harvard prof" attitude more than a black/white attitude. Quite frankly, if this mix-up is the "racism du jour" moment, I think we have come a long way. It sounds like this is an ego-contest between a cop and a fancy-pants professor, and the role of race has been exaggerated.

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KidB
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Your alarm was going off. The police have to show up.

Did a "passerby" call the cops on you?

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msquared
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Where was the guy's driver? The story says that the two of them were trying to open the door, so what happened to the witness?

Was the guy not known to his neighbors? Couldn't he have gone to them and asked for help or called the police to let them know that he was going to try and break into his own home?

I don't see this as racist yet. It might have gotten there quickly though.

msquared

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Pyrtolin
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The driver had long finished and returned home by the time the cops arrived and there was any need for an explicit witness.

Also, "break in" is what was reported, not what actually happened. His fron door was stuck. After trying to open it and failing, he went in through the back door, turned off the alarm, and unlocked it from the inside, then went back out and, finally managed to eventually get it open. (I'm not clear if it was just the key that was sticking, but in either case, there was a second round with the door to try to fix whatever problem there was)

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TommySama
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"I'm white and had the police called on me while I was standing helplessly outside my own home with the alarm wailing (my dog had chewed off the alarm panel... long story)."

Were you pestered after providing identification, and then arrested?

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Gaoics79
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I had a security guard show up at my door. Apparently someone in the building mistook the yelling and banging coming from my apartment as domestic violence.

As I calmly explained to the guard, my meatballs had disintegrated in the tomatoe sauce even though I had properly browned them in the saucepan and I was understandably very upset.

He let the matter drop when he noted that there was no one else in the apartment with me.

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JoshCrow
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quote:
Originally posted by KidB:
Your alarm was going off. The police have to show up.

Did a "passerby" call the cops on you?

Actually I had spoken to the alarm company and provided the correct "emergency code". They sent someone right away to fix the alarm. Ironically, they got to my place and disabled the siren BEFORE the police even showed up. The police came because a neighbor saw me standing outside waiting for the alarm guys and because I looked suspicious (apparently they'd never seen me before, but since the house belonged to a step-mom I'd recently been moved in with, no kidding).
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scifibum
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jason, you need to relax, man. Just call it Bolognese.
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JoshCrow
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quote:
Originally posted by TommySama:
"I'm white and had the police called on me while I was standing helplessly outside my own home with the alarm wailing (my dog had chewed off the alarm panel... long story)."

Were you pestered after providing identification, and then arrested?

No, because I was not insubordinate and explained the situation calmly in my rather limited French (I'm in Quebec).
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JoshCrow
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quote:
Originally posted by jasonr:

As I calmly explained to the guard, my meatballs had disintegrated in the tomatoe sauce even though I had properly browned them in the saucepan and I was understandably very upset.

Not as upset as I am at your spelling of "tomato".
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Gaoics79
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quote:
Not as upset as I am at your spelling of "tomato".
People in glass houses shouldn't enroach on those of their neighbours.
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TommySama
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Tomato, tomato. Can't we all just be friends?
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KidB
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Maybe it's just 'cause I've lived in NYC the last 10 years, but the idea of calling the cops because something *slightly* suspicious is happening - like some dude struggling with a front door - is totally foreign for me.

I would've called the cops at least twenty times since I woke up this morning by that standard.

[ July 22, 2009, 03:19 PM: Message edited by: KidB ]

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hobsen
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That does show your perspective, KidB. When I worked as a security guard in Walnut Creek 25 years ago, every one of the hundred or so blacks I saw in an eight month period was trying to steal something. The city had almost no blacks in it at all, except for a lot of opportunistic criminals from out of town, so of course residents called the police every time they saw a black face. The black person did not have to do anything, as the mere fact he was there meant he was almost certainly a criminal. So a police car would show up so an officer could talk to him, and if he proved to be someone's guest they would put out a radio message to ignore reports about him in the future - but they did check every time. Police use racial profiling in such areas because it works in reducing crime, and similar all white areas still do the same thing today. But that does not mean police should intimidate or harass someone just because he is black, which is wrong. And it no longer makes sense in Walnut Creek because of an influx of black homeowners and their children, so now someone black is probably a neighbor.

[ July 22, 2009, 04:05 PM: Message edited by: hobsen ]

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Mariner
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(I'm not clear if it was just the key that was sticking, but in either case, there was a second round with the door to try to fix whatever problem there was)
Apparantly, he (or his driver) was attempting to force open the door with his shoulder.

Anywho, the cops' report is here: http://www.amnation.com/vfr/Police%20report%20on%20Gates%20arrest.PDF Needless to say, it has a slightly different tone. Some choice quotes:

quote:
I told him that I was “Sgt. Crowley from the Cambridge Police” and that I was “investigating a report of a break in progress” at the residence. While I was making this statement, Gates opened the front door and exclaimed “why, because I’m a black man in America?”. I then asked Gates if there was anyone else in the residence. While yelling, he told me that it was none of my business and accused me of being a racist police officer.

...

Gates then turned to me and told me that I had no idea who I was "messing" with and that I had not heard the last of it. While I was led to believe that Gates was lawfully in the residence, I was quite surprised and confused with the behavior he exhibited toward me.

...

His reply was "ya, I'll speak with your mama outside".

Also a statement from another officer
quote:
The gentleman was shouting out to the Sgt. that the Sgt.. was a racist and yelled that "THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS TO BLACK ME IN AMERICA!" As the Sgt. was trying to calm the gentleman, the gentleman shouted "You don't know who your messing with!"
Just a random observation here. With all the constant allegations of police abuse and such, doesn't it make sense to have all police interactions with potential suspects recorded? Microphones are cheap, are they not? Consider what would have happened if Sgt. Crowley had a microphone and recording device on him. Rather than have two completely divergent viewpoints that have nothing to do with each other and no way to confirm which is which*, the audio of this event could be played back and we'd be able to judge for ourselves.

This benefits both the officer and the suspect. Instead of "Anything you say can be used against you", now it's "anything said can be used against either of us". It keeps cops honest and professional in their work. Privacy should not be an issue. For cops, they're on official governnment business and the government has no right to privacy. For the suspects, the recordings should be confidential unless used in court where both sides have access to the information. Or maybe in cases like this where one side is defaming the other even though it's not in court.

So why don't we do this?

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RickyB
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If cops recorded all their interactions with the public, they'd be hiring constantly because they'd be going to jail all the time.

FTP.

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scifibum
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I think it'd be a good idea, Mariner, and not necessarily overly expensive.

But we can almost as easily just protect ourselves the same way. One of the things I'm taking into account with my next phone purchase is ease of starting and capacity for storing audio recordings.

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hobsen
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That depends on what police department you are talking about, RickyB. For the LAPD, sure, that department does have a hard time finding good men for some really tough jobs. But a police officer once characterized my Walnut Creek police department as "squeaky clean." I have considerable confidence that a police officer found to be doing anything clearly illegal would be out of there as soon as a superior heard of it. Or the superior would be gone too. With probably a thousand applicants for every vacancy - about that I do not know, actually, but the city once got 3000 applications for three teaching positions, indicating teachers find it a desirable place to work - the WCPD has little incentive to tolerate bad apples because it finds them hard to replace. Other police departments usually fall somewhere in between those two extremes. But Walnut Creek might still be reluctant to have all police interactions recorded because that could put the city at a big disadvantage in defending against damage suits, even if it does everything possible to prevent those arising. Recordings give a false impression sometimes, and those which did might promptly be seized upon by litigants eager for money.
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KidB
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I was about to google what "FTP" stood for...but I think I figured it out. [Wink]
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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by Mariner:
So why don't we do this?

They tried in England. Apparently the batteries on in the video cameras that they put into officers' hats started overheating and catching on fire.
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RickyB
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hobsen - I'd say pretty much any large metropolitan force. Dunno about Walnut Creek or Lake Woebegone... Thos places have very different dynamics.

KidB - it interchanges with "Fight The Power" [Big Grin]

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RickyB
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"While I was led to believe that Gates was lawfully in the residence, I was quite surprised and confused with the behavior he exhibited toward me."

So lemme get this straight - the cop concluded that the guy was there lawfully but arrested him anyhow, just to show him who's boss. Niiiiice.

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aupton15
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Yeah, that's the part where I got lost. Even if everything up to that point is exactly as the officer reported, there is no reason to arrest a known resident unless his outrage bleeds over into assault or something. Otherwise the appropriate response is, "I'm sorry for the misunderstanding. Have a nice day." You can even skip the last part if you're in an especially bad mood, though I like mixing a little contempt in with it for good measure.
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G2
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Well, first let's read the arrest report. That's the "official" record of the incident. The news reports of the incident describe it thusly:
quote:
Officers were responding to the home Gates rents from Harvard after a woman reported seeing "two black males with backpacks" trying to force open the front door, according to a police report. Gates, who had returned from a trip overseas with a driver, said he had to shove the door open because it was jammed. He was inside, calling the company that manages the property, when police arrived.
Gates had apparently been out of town. When he got home, the front door was jammed for some reason so he had to force the door. We've got 2 unknown men witnessed forcing open the door of a home and someone calls the police. That seems pretty damn reasonable.

The police show up and ask to see Gates' ID. He refuses according to the police but says he did. Gates' primary focus is obviously to accuse the police of racism rather than simply cooperate so I'd have to go with the police version of the ID.

Gates continues to be confrontational and is obviously refusing to cooperate. The police arrest him, sort things out and drop the charges. This sounds like everything worked just like it should from the police end. Gates' desire to be an ass is what caused the problem, not his race.

About race, these are the previous actions of the arresting officer:
quote:
The Cambridge cop prominent Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. claims is a racist gave a dying Reggie Lewis mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in a desperate bid to save the Celtics superstar’s life 16 years ago Monday.

“I wasn’t working on Reggie Lewis the basketball star. I wasn’t working on a black man. I was working on another human being,” Sgt. James Crowley, in an exclusive interview with the Herald, said of the forward’s fatal heart attack July 27, 1993, at age 27 during an off-season practice at Brandeis University, where Crowley was a campus police officer.

It’s a date Crowley still can recite by rote - and he still recalls the pain he suffered when people back then questioned whether he had done enough to save the black athlete.

“Some people were saying ‘There’s the guy who killed Reggie Lewis’ afterward. I was broken-hearted. I cried for many nights,” he said.

Crowley, 42, said he’s not a racist, despite how some have cast his actions in the Gates case. “Those who know me know I’m not,” he said.

Yesterday, Lewis’ widow, Donna Lewis, was floored to learn the embattled father of three on the thin blue line of a national debate on racism in America was the same man so determined to rescue her husband.

“That’s incredible,” Lewis, 44, exclaimed.

Like so many things involving race, just a little research into the actual facts shows a story of professionalism and service smeared by false claims of racism. Even the president weighed in:
quote:
President Barack Obama said Wednesday he didn't know what role race played in the incident but added that police in suburban Boston "acted stupidly" in arresting Gates even after he offered proof that he was in his own home.
Unfortuanbtely, Obama did not know the facts, he admits he doesn't. Since it's been established he does not read newspapers, how could he know the facts? Did that stop him from smearing the police with the label of racist? Not even a bit. Want to see the biggest problem with race relations in America, look at the president.

[ July 23, 2009, 08:22 AM: Message edited by: G2 ]

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hobsen
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Lake Woebegon - where all the children are above average.
quote:
In 1987, John Cannell completed a study later popularized as the Lake Woebegon effect. He reported the statistically impossible finding that all states claimed average student test scores above the national norm.
But Walnut Creek, CA has 65,000 people and Cambridge, MA 100,000 - the cities do not differ much in size. And Walnut Creek has about $100,000 income per family to Cambridge's $80,000 - incomes do not differ much either. Cambridge is a rich suburb with much of the land given over to the universities, and it has never had what I should call a "large metropolitan police force," so this incident surprises me.

[ July 23, 2009, 08:27 AM: Message edited by: hobsen ]

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JoshCrow
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quote:
Originally posted by G2:
Unfortuanbtely, Obama did not know the facts, he admits he doesn't. Since it's been established he does not read newspapers, how could he know the facts?

G2, I'm going to ask that you stop outright lying to try to make an attack. He stated that he does not read "columns", which do not report "facts". He did not call the police "racist", he called their actions "stupid".

Since the rest of your post is fine and intelligible, and there are any number of non-lying ways you could attack your favorite pinata, why do you even feel the need to make a fool of yourself by continuing to play pretend about something? You could have said "Obama was foolish to judge the police without knowing the circumstances" and I would have even agreed with you. It would have made a fine argument. Instead, you play the fool.

[ July 23, 2009, 08:40 AM: Message edited by: JoshCrow ]

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hobsen
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Obama said, "I don’t spend a lot of time reading columns, Katie." So he never indicated at that time whether he read newspapers, which would be superfluous given his regular briefings on the news. And if a column makes news, like the one entitled "Mission to Niger" written by Robert Novak which identified Valerie Plame Wilson as a Central Intelligence Agency officer, he would be briefed on that too - so he could read it if he wanted. Bush and Palin drew criticism because they seemed uninformed, not so much because of what they read or didn't read.

But saying G2 is lying is probably untrue. He remembered wrong, probably because he does not like Obama. But no liar in his senses tells a lie about something which can be proven false by scrolling up the page. That would indeed be foolish, so most likely all he did was jump to a conclusion unsupported by the evidence at hand.

Edited to add: And I was wrong about scrolling up the page, as what Obama said was on another thread. Everyone gets details wrong now and then.

[ July 23, 2009, 09:09 AM: Message edited by: hobsen ]

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Gaoics79
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quote:
Gates had apparently been out of town. When he got home, the front door was jammed for some reason so he had to force the door. We've got 2 unknown men witnessed forcing open the door of a home and someone calls the police. That seems pretty damn reasonable.
I watched Gates interviewed on TV last night. He went out of his way to say that the neighbour who reported the incident to the cops was not to blame, and that she did what she should have done. Apparently, he blames the Cops 100% for this.

Personally, I'm troubled by the media circus surrounding this event, and particularly by how Gates seems to relish the attention. The Cop's story seems all the more plausible when I see Gates attention-whoring this out on national TV. Almost like he wanted this to happen.

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G2
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quote:
Originally posted by JoshCrow:
quote:
Originally posted by G2:
Unfortuanbtely, Obama did not know the facts, he admits he doesn't. Since it's been established he does not read newspapers, how could he know the facts?

G2, I'm going to ask that you stop outright lying to try to make an attack. He stated that he does not read "columns", which do not report "facts". He did not call the police "racist", he called their actions "stupid".
Ooh, so senthitive. Look, you can spin and parse it however makes you feel good. If the infallibility of The One is what you so desperately need, by all means believe it. I don't care but the only lying is the lies you're telling yourself. Be very careful with those, they're the worst kind.

quote:
Originally posted by JoshCrow:
Since the rest of your post is fine and intelligible, and there are any number of non-lying ways you could attack your favorite pinata, why do you even feel the need to make a fool of yourself by continuing to play pretend about something? You could have said "Obama was foolish to judge the police without knowing the circumstances" and I would have even agreed with you. It would have made a fine argument. Instead, you play the fool.

Yeah right, sure you would have (you're lying to yourself, again), that's why instead of doing that you went for the personal attack right? You've shown your hand more than you wanted to there.
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JoshCrow
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G2: Indeed I do think it was foolish for Obama to make a judgement in the same breath as admitting he didn't know what happened on the scene. If you don't believe I'm sincere, that's your prerogative, but I can elaborate at length as to my reasoning on his mistake if you care to hear it. Obama has made any number of mistakes. If it would please you, I could enumerate them, but somehow I get the feeling you are happier characterizing your opponents as mindless rather than engaging them.

[ July 23, 2009, 10:15 AM: Message edited by: JoshCrow ]

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Gaoics79
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quote:
Ooh, so senthitive. Look, you can spin and parse it however makes you feel good. If the infallibility of The One is what you so desperately need, by all means believe it. I don't care but the only lying is the lies you're telling yourself. Be very careful with those, they're the worst kind. Yeah right, sure you would have (you're lying to yourself, again), that's why instead of doing that you went for the personal attack right? You've shown your hand more than you wanted to there.
Could you please stop the motive speculation. It's not only against forum rules, but it's highly irritating and doesn't even slightly assist you in making your argument.
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OrneryMod
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This thread will be locked for a couple of hours, in the hope that Ornery members can figure out how to express their opinions without making unacceptable remarks about one another.
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G2
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So are personal attacks, doesn't seem like they're going to stop.
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OrneryMod
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This thread has been unlocked, but calling any Ornery member a liar is still unacceptable. So is divining another member has unworthy motives rather than that he is just wrong.
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KidB
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If we're going to have a discussion about this, let's at least be clear on one thing. Gates was not arrest for breaking and entering, nor was he arrested for not having a proper ID .

He was arrested for disorderly conduct, because he yelled at the cops as they were leaving his house.

It is not a crime to yell at cops in your own home.

[ July 23, 2009, 01:17 PM: Message edited by: KidB ]

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edgmatt
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quote:
Could you please stop the motive speculation.
Although this was directed at G2, this seems to be the problem with a lot of the reactions to this story. It is impossible to determine the cops or the neighbor who called the cops motives.
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JoshCrow
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quote:

Disorderly conduct offenses vary widely by state. Here are some of the most common acts that are considered disorderly conduct offenses:
[...]
disturbance of the peace
use of extremely obscene or abusive language
loud or unreasonable noise
[...

Given the wide range of behaviors that could constitute disorderly conduct, a person may be arrested for this crime without proper cause. Virtually any socially offensive or disruptive conduct may be prosecuted as disorderly conduct.

Frankly, there's no way to know just how obnoxious this Gates guy was towards this cop, but I can easily see him making enough of a scene to warrant an arrest - or perhaps it was a parting curse that agitated the cop and he responded in an over-the-top way. It's just an officer's word against a professor's. Coming to any sort of conclusion here is impossible.

[ July 23, 2009, 02:12 PM: Message edited by: JoshCrow ]

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