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Author Topic: A new crime: Getting your key stuck while black
Wayward Son
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quote:
Coming to any sort of conclusion here is impossible.
I dunno, Josh. I think that's a pretty reasonable conclusion. [Smile]
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KidB
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Josh C,

But he was in his home, and by that time the police had already conceded that it was his home. One's home is a whole different legal territory from any place else.

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Omega M.
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I think that, to a degree, anyone who says "Are you picking on me because I'm [whatever]?" is just asking for trouble with the police. But it also seems likely that this cop let himself get wound up by what Gates said; a commenter on another board, who said he was a police officer, said that he was taught that arresting someone simply for disorderly conduct is a sign that you've failed in calming down a situation. (And of course the cop could always be unconsciously racist.)
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hobsen
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Massachusetts law provides a person commits a petty misdemeanor if he, "2) insults, taunts, or challenges another in a manner likely to provoke violent or disorderly response." Experienced police officers usually ignore that sort of thing rather than bother with the paperwork of an arrest. But if Gates seemed out of control, Crowley may have wanted to get him away from the neighbor who phoned the police. As he handled the matter, no one got hurt; and we shall never know what might have happened otherwise.
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JoshCrow
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quote:
Originally posted by KidB:
Josh C,

But he was in his home, and by that time the police had already conceded that it was his home. One's home is a whole different legal territory from any place else.

Without knowing how Gates behaved, I would add that one can still be arrested in one's home for behaviors such as having the music on too loud (i.e. disturbing the peace).
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KidB
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quote:
Without knowing how Gates behaved, I would add that one can still be arrested in one's home for behaviors such as having the music on too loud (i.e. disturbing the peace).
Was he arrested for disturbing the peace?
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JoshCrow
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This case gets funnier and funnier... I just learned that the arresting officer was actually teaching at the police academy: a course in racial profiling! Moreover, he was suggested for that position by a black superior. He also administered CPR to a (black) Boston Celtics player in 1993. This guy's credentials as far as harboring some secret racism is concerned are basically flawless.

I am more and more inclined to believe that the responsibility for overreacting here lies with Gates, who it seems was deliberately antagonistic, and that Obama essentially owes the police officer an apology.

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JoshCrow
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quote:
Originally posted by KidB:
quote:
Without knowing how Gates behaved, I would add that one can still be arrested in one's home for behaviors such as having the music on too loud (i.e. disturbing the peace).
Was he arrested for disturbing the peace?
Gates was arrested for "loud and tumultuous behavior in a public space", which I'd imagine falls under a reasonable interpretation of "disturbing the peace".

That is a worthwhile law, since if I stand on my property and shout curse words to the heavens all day long at full voice, there ought to be a mechanism to arrest me for it, and that would be this. Again, I'm not saying I know how belligerent the guy was being; only that the fact that it was his property is not a defense.

[ July 23, 2009, 04:04 PM: Message edited by: JoshCrow ]

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KidB
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quote:
only that the fact that it was his property is not a defense
It certainly is a defense if he is charged with

quote:
loud and tumultuous behavior in a public space

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cherrypoptart
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> It certainly is a defense if he is charged with...

> loud and tumultuous behavior in a public space


Maybe if he could somehow stop the sound waves of his yelling from going off his property, he'd be okay. It'd be nice if people could do that with their loud music too. Alas, 'tis not to be.

But it's interesting how far people will go to defend anyone who gets in trouble with the law and how quick they're willing to blame the police for any problems (cou"Obama"ghs).

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JoshCrow
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KidB: As cherry pointed out, when it comes to making noise, I cannot simply stand on my porch and yell and scream all I want, because the nuisance is to a public space.

Cherry: G2 doesn't believe my sincerity when I criticize Obama over something - but can the record show that I'm doing it now? Obama is wrong wrong wrong to say that the officers acted "stupidly".

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KidB
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quote:
Maybe if he could somehow stop the sound waves of his yelling from going off his property, he'd be okay. It'd be nice if people could do that with their loud music too. Alas, 'tis not to be.

Charges have to be specific. You can't arrest someone for doing something in a public space if they are not in a public space. If he is on his property and the cops feel he is distrubing the peace, then they would have to charge him with disturbing the peace. But they did not.

Let's review again. Having already settled that Gates was the proper resident of the house, whatever went down before is over and done. The cops were leaving. Gates was yelling at them as they left and they changed their minds and arrested him on his property. If they were worried about noise, they only had to keep on going, and the whole thing is over.

quote:
I cannot simply stand on my porch and yell and scream all I want, because the nuisance is to a public space.

He was not charged with yelling and screaming "all he wants." If that is what he did and they think he is guilty of it, why have they dropped the charges?

He was *in* his home when he did the yelling. He was arrested the moment he reached the porch as the cop was leaving. He did not commit a crime.

[ July 23, 2009, 04:37 PM: Message edited by: KidB ]

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JoshCrow
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KidB - from Wikipedia on "disorderly conduct":

quote:
What is "tumultuous conduct," what constitutes "unreasonable noise", or what "disrupts a lawful assembly" are matters that are far harder [than "fighting"] to decide, and as such disorderly conduct statutes give police officers and other authorities fairly broad discretion to arrest people whose activities they find undesirable for a wide variety of reasons.
[...]
Almost every state in the United States has a disorderly conduct law that makes it a crime to be drunk in public, to "disturb the peace", or to loiter in certain areas.

So, as you see, he was charged on the basis of his conduct, as can anybody be who behaves in a provocative way towards an officer. Clearly, the formal charge laid against him was for disorderly conduct, of which disturbing the peace is a category, and "loud and tumultuous behavior" is a subset.

You can argue that the officers could have handled the situation differently, and I would agree - but how they chose to handle it was not automatically racist, nor was it illegal. The officers did what the law allowed them to do, and the element of race was apparently introduced by Mr. Gates upon opening the door.

[ July 23, 2009, 04:55 PM: Message edited by: JoshCrow ]

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KidB
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But as a legal matter, the "broad discretion" is quite a bit less broad when you are talking about what someone is doing on their own property. You guys keep skating over this as if it some minor issue. Legally, it makes a very big difference.
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JoshCrow
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quote:
Originally posted by KidB:
But as a legal matter, the "broad discretion" is quite a bit less broad when you are talking about what someone is doing on their own property. You guys keep skating over this as if it some minor issue. Legally, it makes a very big difference.

Ok, can you point to the relevant distinction as regards "disorderly conduct"?

I mean, I understand that one cannot be arrested for "loitering" on one's private property, but how does it apply to the idea of "disturbing the peace" (which is still an example of disorderly conduct)?

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G2
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quote:
Originally posted by KidB:
But as a legal matter, the "broad discretion" is quite a bit less broad when you are talking about what someone is doing on their own property. You guys keep skating over this as if it some minor issue. Legally, it makes a very big difference.

Not sure of all the laws everywhere but there is this:
quote:
ROWOV (resisting officer without violence can be charged anytime a person does not follow an officer’s directive. If you are told to “stand over there” and do not, you are subject to arrest.

It is a misdemeanor in Florida and a $250 bond. These types are charges are dropped later in most cases.

It does, however, allow the defendant the opportunity to reflect on the error of his ways as he is cuffed, transported to jail, processed in, and bailed out.

Here in sunny Florida, the person will have six to eight hours to reflect.

You should also know that many ROWV (resisting officer violence) charges are not prosecuted.

Only in cases where the officer is injured, or the defendant has other charges will the charge not be dropped at some point.

I doubt Florida is unique in this.
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KidB
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G2,

You can keep throwing statuory darts as long as you like. It's still not going to stick.

He was not charged with resisting the officer. He was not charged with b & e. To save you time, he was also not charged with speeding, indecent exposure, consorting with terrorists, or any of the other thousands of statutory violations you might think of.

At the time of the arrest, the police were already aware that Gates was in his own home. At that point, the police had no business doing anything, or charging him with anything. They only had one duty at that point - leaving.

You do not arrest people in their own home because they are mad at you.

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KidB
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quote:
Ok, can you point to the relevant distinction as regards "disorderly conduct"?

The distinction is extremely simple. It is a public offense. You cannot be guilty of it in your own home.
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JoshCrow
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quote:
Originally posted by KidB:
quote:
Ok, can you point to the relevant distinction as regards "disorderly conduct"?

The distinction is extremely simple. It is a public offense. You cannot be guilty of it in your own home.
Wiki helpfully gave me this, which is California (not Massachusetts):

quote:
in California disorderly conduct (California Penal Code § 647) lists what acts constitute disorderly conduct.
Section 647: Every person who commits any of the following acts is guilty of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor
(a) Who solicits anyone to engage in or who engages in lewd or dissolute conduct in any public place or in any place open to the public or exposed to public view.

So, in other words, you can be guilty of disorderly conduct in public view (like, for example, standing on your porch). California says so - I haven't found the list for MA yet.

Now it's true, "loud and tumultuous behavior" is not necessarily "lewd conduct", but I hope you can appreciate that your statement was incorrect.

edited to add:
... and here's Cambridge's code itself:
quote:

9.08.010 Disorderly conduct--Profanity and insulting language.
No person shall behave himself in a rude or disorderly manner, or use any indecent, profane or insulting language in any street or public place. No person shall make or cause to be made, any unnecessary noise or noises in any public street, private way or park, so as to cause any inconvenience or discomfort for the inhabitants of the City.

Now since Gates apparently was attracting a crowd during his tirade, whether his feet were in his yard or on the sidewalk or on his porch, it's hard to see how this definition wasn't respected by the arrest. Of course, it's not to say that if I curse in public I should be arrested for it (which technically I can), but only that I contest your point about private property being an issue here.

[ July 23, 2009, 09:46 PM: Message edited by: JoshCrow ]

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TommySama
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If there was a crowd, I hope someone steps forward and tells who actually said what so we can stop hearing about this
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DonaldD
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"public street, private way or park" is not the same as either "in his house" or even "on his porch" - just saying. And simply yelling in one's own house rarely causes any inconvenience to anybody outside the house: a human voice is simply not capable of continuously generating even a significant fraction of the power of other neighbourhood noises - at 3 feet, the human yelling voice produces about 80 decibels: compare that to 110 decibels for a power mower, 100 db for a motorcycle or 90 for truck traffic. Consider also that his yelling was for the most part inside his own house: the only possible people being discomfitted by his yelling would have been those inside the house.

Personally, I think the two of them should have simply unzipped, whipped them out and compared. Gates was being an ass, but the police officer was abusing his authority (and I don't think this has to do with Gates being black: rather; rather I think the officer just was power tripping)

But why all the sturm und drang? They both got exactly what they wanted out of the situation.

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KidB
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He was not in a private way or park. He was not in a public place. He was in his house when he was yelling at the cop, and he was arrested when he stepped out onto the porch. The porch is not a private way or a park.

Guys...they dropped the charges. Which means they had no evidence that he did anything criminal.

Statuory criminal law varies greatly from one state to the next. Florida and California law is completely irrelevant to something that happens in MA.

You can keep trying hammer together a case out of odds and ends from Florida and Cali, but you're not going to change the simple fact that there was no crime involved. Period. Please, finally, just admit it.

[ July 23, 2009, 11:58 PM: Message edited by: KidB ]

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OpsanusTau
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Here is an interesting and thoughtful analysis.

Some quoted relevant bits:

quote:
Sgt. Crowley's report almost certainly contains intentional falsehoods, but even accepting his account at face value, the report tells us all we need to conclude that Crowley was in the wrong here, and by a large factor.

The crime of disorderly conduct, beloved by cops who get into arguments with citizens, requires that the public be involved.

...
quote:

The lesson most cops understand (apart from the importance of using the word "tumultuous," which features prominently in Crowley's report) is that a person cannot violate 272/53 by yelling in his own home.

Read Crowley's report and stop on page two when he admits seeing Gates's Harvard photo ID. I don't care what Gates had said to him up until then, Crowley was obligated to leave. He had identified Gates. Any further investigation of Gates' right to be present in the house could have been done elsewhere.

quote:
[...] let's watch while Crowley makes it worse. Read on. He's staying put in Gates' home, having been asked to leave, and Gates is demanding his identification. What does Crowley do? He suggests that if Gates wants his name and badge number, he'll have to come outside to get it. What? Crowley may be forgiven for the initial approach and questioning, but surely he should understand that a citizen will be miffed at being questioned about his right to be in his own home.
...
quote:
By telling Gates to come outside, Crowley establishes that he has lost all semblance of professionalism. It has now become personal and he wants to create a violation of 272/53. He gets Gates out onto the porch because a crowd has gathered providing onlookers who could experience alarm. Note his careful recitation (tumultuous behavior outside the residence in view of the public). And please do not overlook Crowley's final act of provocation. He tells an angry citizen to calm down while producing handcuffs.
...
quote:
If Crowley believed the charge was valid, he could have issued a summons. An arrest under these circumstances shows his true intent: to humiliate Gates.
It seems fairly obvious why charges were dropped; there may have been breakage of the law going on, but certainly not until after the officer of the law directly provoked the breaking.
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hobsen
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That is a persuasive reconstruction, OpsanusTau.

But what Lowry Heussler says is very one-sided. For example, "The lesson most cops understand... is that a person cannot violate 272/53 by yelling in his own home." That is true, but Massachusetts has other statutes under which a person in his own home can be arrested for yelling at a police officer. Crowley most likely steered toward a charge which would be easier to prove in court than something which happened when the two were alone, but that does not mean Gates had not already broken some law.

"He set Gates up for a criminal charge to punish Gates for his own embarrassment." That is mind reading on Heussler's part. Crowley could have thought Gates was high on drugs, was contemplating suicide, or was likely to attack Lucia Whalen. She cannot know why Crowley wanted Gates arrested.

"I'm afraid that part of the decision to nolle prosse the case stems from the CPD's reluctance to have Mr. Ogletree produce evidence contradicting Crowley's statements." Heussler is mind reading again, as evidence that the CPD asked a prosecutor to nolle prosequi this case is completely lacking. Her speculation would be plausible only if most cases involving such charges in Cambridge are brought to trial. She is also implicitly claiming that prosecuting Gates would serve the public interest, which seems very doubtful to me.

Speculating as to Heussler's motives, she may think such a trial would reveal police misconduct. Prosecutors rarely want to do that, preferring to leave such decisions to the CPD's internal reviews. Moreover they would see such a trial as unjust to Gates, and a waste of time for them. Holding Gates for a few hours, on the other hand, may have served some public interest. For one thing it may have made those who saw Gates being arrested more cautious about provoking the police, which prosecutors could very well see as a good thing, whether or not Heussler agrees.

[ July 24, 2009, 02:40 AM: Message edited by: hobsen ]

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PSRT
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My girlfriend is telling me this is the same cop who gave Reggie Lewis mouth to mouth when he collapsed. I don't know if this is racially motivated, or simply an arrogant ******* cop.
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Omega M.
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Ms. Huessler gives a plausible analysis of what James Crowley did wrong, but why does she pepper it with statements like "We all know that race and sex explain the difference in the way Sgt. James Crowley treated Professor Gates" and "Sgt. Crowley's report almost certainly contains intentional falsehoods"? How can she be so certain? Wouldn't it be enough to say something like, "It would not surprise me to learn that Sgt. Crowley's actions were racially motivated, but even if they were not he was still in the wrong"? Is she just trying to show the Left that she's sufficiently sensitive?
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TommySama
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Yesterday I was biking through downtown yesterday. A traffic cop put out his hand, the car next to him stopped, but the other car kept going (from what I could see, it was completely reasonable that the cop was just blocked by the other car). The cop shouted, "STOP THE CAR, STOP THE GOD DAMN CAR." Guy stops and looks surprised. The cop walked over and punched his window *after it had stopped* and shouted "STOP YOUR ****ING CAR. GET OUT OF YOUR CAR!" The guy looked stunned and confused.

Cops are douche hounds. They treat everybody like ****, so maybe Gates just mistook a thick skulled cop's bad manners for racism?

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JoshCrow
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I saw a cop behave badly once too. Man, all cops are jerks.
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hobsen
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Thanks for pointing out additional instances in which Lowry Heussler goes beyond the facts. But she is a somewhat handicapped Boston attorney who can write much better than she does above. Maybe she had a bad day, or maybe she has filed suit in too many police misconduct cases. The fact police often abuse citizens does not mean this particular officer did this time, and she neglects to note that.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/9/15/599187/-Why-wont-the-VA-provide-service-dogs-for-wounded-warriors

[ July 24, 2009, 10:19 AM: Message edited by: hobsen ]

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TommySama
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"I saw a cop behave badly once too. Man, all cops are jerks. "

Well I don't know about the Bobbies, or dogs dressed up like detectives, or whatever you have in Canada.

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Gaoics79
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quote:
Guys...they dropped the charges. Which means they had no evidence that he did anything criminal.
Ridiculous.

Even if they had evidence that he committed some minor offence worthy of arrest, it would cause a race riot if they went ahead with the charges. There is no conceivble way they will press charges, no matter how obnoxiously he behaved.

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DonaldD
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Hey, there's a new misdemeanor: "being obnoxious while black". Seriously though, dropping the charges in this case means just about nothing.
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OpsanusTau
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Does anyone else think it's completely ridiculous that the nation is still talking about this?

I mean, it looks like everybody made mistakes and lost his temper, and that behavior was at best not very good and at worst illegal all around. But nobody got hurt, and maybe it's time to let it go.

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0rnery
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Drop it? Hah! If Gates had "dropped it" when the officer was leaving his home, we wouldn't be discussing it. What a surprise another of Obama's friend's is a radical leftist. A race baiter in this case. Drop it? Don't think so!
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TommySama
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Ops, if you had been reading my highly intellectual and enlightening posts more closely, you would see that I made a similar comment yesterday!

"If there was a crowd, I hope someone steps forward and tells who actually said what so we can stop hearing about this "

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hobsen
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Maybe it is slacking off. Google News shows only 6447 news articles on this affair published in the last 24 hours. Whether this is too many can be left for readers to decide. Intellectual and enlightening, TommySama?

[ July 24, 2009, 11:46 AM: Message edited by: hobsen ]

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by jasonr:
quote:
Guys...they dropped the charges. Which means they had no evidence that he did anything criminal.
Ridiculous.

Even if they had evidence that he committed some minor offence worthy of arrest, it would cause a race riot if they went ahead with the charges. There is no conceivble way they will press charges, no matter how obnoxiously he behaved.

That much is true. They made the mistake of baiting someone realtively prominent this time so people noticed. When it happens to lower class folks it doesn't make so much of a splash because they're not worth taking notice of.

The general occurance of police profiling troublemakers, then pushing them till they respond enough to warrant arrest or use of force is pretty wide spread across most poor neghborhoods and a major contribution to the antagonistic relationship that such people have with the law and law enforcment.

If it didn't happen frequently, it would be easier to believe the officer, but the situation is a strong match to established escalation patterns.

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scifibum
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I'm just not sure the police officer COULD have de-escalated the situation with anything but total deference and apology. While that would have worked, I think, and might have been a wise choice, I'm not sure it's reasonable to expect that of him. (I think up to the point that he established Mr. Gates's identity he was just doing his job, and had nothing in particular to apologize for.)

One thing Crowley certainly COULD have done was hold out his identification so Mr. Gates could get the badge number and name he was requesting, even if Gates was indeed making it impossible for Crowley to provide the information verbally. Then leave without bothering to calm the situation down. This wouldn't require kowtowing.

It does seem pretty likely that Crowley was angry and wanted to get Gates outside so he could arrest him for the public disturbance, but I'm also (still) convinced that Gates was throwing an unnecessary tantrum. I haven't seen evidence that the police officer pushed him into this response, it seems to have started as soon as the police officer showed up.

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Gaoics79
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quote:
That much is true. They made the mistake of baiting someone realtively prominent this time so people noticed. When it happens to lower class folks it doesn't make so much of a splash because they're not worth taking notice of.

The general occurance of police profiling troublemakers, then pushing them till they respond enough to warrant arrest or use of force is pretty wide spread across most poor neghborhoods and a major contribution to the antagonistic relationship that such people have with the law and law enforcment.

If it didn't happen frequently, it would be easier to believe the officer, but the situation is a strong match to established escalation patterns.

1. Just because it happens frequently, doesn't mean it happened here.

2. Gates is just the kind of person (an academic, and intellectual focused on African American cultures and perspectives) who I'd expect to be extremely sensitive to even the hint of profiling, and is just the kind of person who I would expect to fly off the handle in a situation like this.

3. The cop, by contrast, is exactly the opposite of the kind of person I'd expect to profile a black man and then provoke an incident. He taught a class on a racial profiling for crying out loud!

4. Gates was on national TV faster than I've ever seen in an incident like this. They must have driven the guy directly from the jailhouse to the TV studio. That kind of attention whoring suggests to me someone who really really likes the attention i.e. a very obvious secondary motive for making this into a race-fight.

For all those reasons, I am far from convinced that Gates is the truth-teller here. I am more inclined to believe the cop.

Incidentally though, I was reading Gates's Wikipedia entry, and came across a choice quote that touches on a subject we were dealing with on that other thread:

quote:
Moreover, Gates has argued that a separatist, Afrocentric education perpetuates racist stereotypes and maintains that it is "ridiculous" to think that only blacks should be scholars of African and African-American literature. He argues, "It can't be real as a subject if you have to look like the subject to be an expert in the subject,"[1] adding, "It's as ridiculous as if someone said I couldn't appreciate Shakespeare because I'm not Anglo-Saxon. I think it's vulgar and racist whether it comes out of a black mouth or a white mouth."
Well well well. A prominent black scholar and intellectual declaring a certain academic perspective to be "racist" no matter the colour of the mouth it's coming from. And an academic perspective created by black scholars to combat racism and foster black accomplishment, no less (sort of like affirmative action, hmmm...)

Could it be that "racism" is not tied exclusively to "power structures", or to the good intentions of the policy being considered, at least as far as Professor Gates is concerned? Unless black academics espousing afrocentrism are the powerful elite of society [Smile]

[ July 24, 2009, 12:31 PM: Message edited by: jasonr ]

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Gaoics79
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As a follow-up to my "secondary motive" hypothesis, some additional fuel for the fire:

Scholar to explore race in criminal justice

Here's a choice bit:

quote:
The charge against him was dropped Tuesday, but Gates said he plans to use the attention and turn his intellectual heft and stature to the issue of racial profiling. He now wants to create a documentary on the criminal justice system, informed by the experience of being arrested not as a famous academic but as an unrecognized black man.

Gates has come to see the incident as a modern lesson in racism and the criminal justice system. The police department views it as an "regrettable and unfortunate" incident that "should not be viewed as one that demeans the character and reputation of Prof. Gates or the character of the Cambridge Police Department."

He sure isn't milking this for all it's worth.

In case you're wondering what my point is, it's that claiming the police officer was a racist who dragged an innocent and blameless black man to jail clearly helps Mr. Gates's career more than saying that he acted like an ass and provoked a completely unnecessary and avoidable incident leading to his arrest.

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