Professor Gates Should Thank The Cambridge P.D.


Gates Arrest

Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. returned to his home in a taxi last Thursday; he had been in China filming a documentary for PBS. When he arrived at his front door he found it to be stuck closed so he asked the taxi driver to help and according to news reports the two of them finally ‘pried’ the door open.

A neighbor, seeing these two men breaking into the front door of a home acted responsibly and called the police. After the police arrived, the news reports of exactly what happened are sketchy but one thing is clear, Professor Gates was eventually arrested by the responding officer. Here’s a blurb from the Metro International News:

It still isn’t entirely clear what transpired last Thursday when Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested outside his Cambridge home. A police report indicates Gates was screaming at the officer, called him a racist and ignored warnings to calm down.

Gates, however, denies he acted inappropriately and said the officer didn’t respond to his requests for identification.

By the way, Professor Gates is black and the arresting officer isn’t; and Professor Gates is, according to the Boston Globe, a Harvard professor and “a leading authority on African-American history.”

So who is the arresting officer: He is Sergeant James Crowley, who is, according to the
Cambridge Police Superior Officers Association, a highly respected veteran supervisor with a distinguished record in the Cambridge Police Department. This police association also reviewed the arrest reports and they have concluded that “his (Crowley’s) actions at the scene of this matter were consistent with his training, with the informed policies and practices of the Department, and with applicable legal standards.” Just a guy with a hard job to do.

As a result of the situation: Professor Gates wants an apology from Sgt. Crowley and Sgt. Crowley says he absolutely won’t apologize because he feels he has nothing to apologize for. Professor Gates is threatening a lawsuit. President Obama took a few moments out from his destruction of the economy to, in effect, call the arresting officer “stupid.” And the one photograph of the arrest (above), taken by a neighbor who saw a man he didn’t know being arrested, has made the rounds of the morning TV shows and newspapers.

The few facts presented in this post certainly represent insufficient reason to accuse anyone of anything but just from the information in the Metro International News quote above, the other facts about Professor Gates and what we know of Sergeant Crowley, one can start to get a picture of what might have transpired in the Gates house last Thursday. I certainly have a scenario in mind, but it would be inappropriate to share it based on what we know.

I will say this however — and I’ve already said it in the title of this post: “Professor Gates Should Thank The Cambridge P.D.” for doing their job, trying to protect the professor’s house. He should also track down the neighbor who witnessed his breaking and entering and thank him or her for being a good neighbor. Neither will, of course happen. The professor (as well as the president) is convinced that he was a victim of racial stereotyping and he will, no doubt, carry that belief to the Supreme Court if necessary.


Boston Globe: Officer in Gates case says he won’t apologize

New York Times: Obama Criticizes Arrest of Harvard Professor

Metro International News: Controversy over Gates arrest continues


42 thoughts on “Professor Gates Should Thank The Cambridge P.D.

  1. Rick

    As a non black I feel blacks in the USA are acting too spoilt in their newfound freedoms and rights and acting stupid.

    I supported Obama for prez but i dont support when he calls the cops stupid, he should have stayed above it.

    The prof should have acted more calmly instead of crying race and becoming all agitated.

    This could backfire on the black community with moderates like me getting turned off.

    • Appalled

      I find this comment to be appaling and inherently racist. “Blacks are acting too spoilt in their ‘newfound’ freedoms and rights….” Perhaps your solution is to retrogress into a state where people are afforded more or less rights on the basis of skin color. Lets not forget our past. And also, by applying this statement to all African Americans in the U.S., who are, by your claim, “acting stupidly”, you commit the EXACT same error you criticize Obama of in your comment. Regardless of what you believe about what happened in this controversial arrest, and whether or not you support the procedure applied, you should be upset by this statement. Think before you ‘speak.’ I am greatly offended.

  2. Karen

    Wait a minute, are we all reading the same story? Didn’t Gates eventually show his ID in his own house to the police officer? Didn’t they STILL arrest him after?

    Even when you look at the facts that are NOT in dispute, it’s pretty obvious that Crowley arrested Gates for not being polite. I’m not saying that race had anything to do with it because that’s speculation. I’m not even saying that Gates was behaving properly either! But just based on the police report and the police acknowledging that Gates eventually showed ID with his address, how can people think that Gates was properly arrested? The arrest was an abuse of power by the police and it is the policeman’s job to be the better man, give his badge number when asked, and walk away from the home owner.

    If people really believe that a policeman can arrest someone for anything, especially just mouthing off to a police officer in their own home, then someone needs to read the constitution and remember that we don’t live in a totalitarian state.

    • Debbie

      After he showed the officer that he lived there, he was asked to step outside. The officer didn’t know if the perpetrator was in the house or not. He did this for the owner’s safety. This is where it got ugly and the racism card was played. If the owner would have complied like a normal citizen and just stepped outside while the officer(s) went inside to check to make sure it was safe to go in, it wouldn’t have happened, BUT NO…this man had to make a scene and he was arrested for it. Plain and simple.

      • Ron

        Debbie is right. The professor was arrested for disorderly conduct. Not breaking and entering. Instead of playing the race card, he could have calmly thanked the officer for checking on him and allowed Sgt Crowley to do his job. Since he got beligerent, he got arrested.

    • Javier Soto

      I am a latino, former police officer, now attorney and I can tell you that the officer acted approprietly. He arrested the professor for disorderly conduct not the breaking. Your point is that he got arrest even after he showed ID. Well he did show ID and he also yelled, screamed and became combative with the officer. Thats more than enough for a disorderly conduct charge. What is going on here is that the profesor is a spoiled child acting like a superstar with a belief that he is above the law. No one is above the law no matter what the race. There are tons of eyewitnesses that say the professor became belligerent and there are pictures of him with his mouth wide open as if yelling and he said he didnt yell… he was caught on that lie… has the cop been caught in a lie? Obama states that he doesnt know the facts but calls the cops stupid. He lost me as a voter~

  3. circa 3000.

    Hi. I have to say that you are definitely not center (your comment on obama), but anyway, besides that fact that you are totally not center. You are basically right (hahaha, what a pun). Crowley doesn’t have to apologize to this guy in any way or form. As far as Im concerned Gates is a jackass. Doesn’t surprise me that this guy would end up in academics either.

  4. another one

    I am an academic, and I have repeatedly protested about having the liberality at colleges and universites change curriculums based on race alone (they make people read, instead of the great works of art throughout the centuries, contemporary fiction and non-fiction simply because the author is african american, or they are viewed as an oppressed minority or one who seeks retribution through a mentality of victimhood–usually these works are, pardon me, crap–they just perpetuate a mentality of victimhood that should be instead…encouraged to be forgotten, instead of remmembered). Some prep-schools are more open minded, but in some places….it stinks badly, I have to say. This has gradually changed in academia in certain places out of this realization, and due to the fact that the civil rights age is over. Yet in most cases its understandable, due to reputation and potential lawsuits they have to cover themselves from. We in the United States, all basically have the same laws to protect us; yet, the law is set up in such a way that the minority groups actually have more power over their employers and co-workers than the majority group.

  5. carol

    It sounds like several very large assumptions were made — that the police officer would have known who Gates was or been very familiar with him as a national figure [which I don’t think he was] and that because he was a Harvard professor, had status, that somehow it should have been self-evident that the police should have just left. But when the police pull you over or answer a call status means nothing. They are trained to look at situations and assess them quickly. And as the officer says, all he knew was that he’d been called to the residence. Potentially any police call can turn deadly in a minute. Also perhaps Gates should be more upset at the neighbor who called, than the reporting officers. It seems like the neighbor would have been familiar with who lived there. These kinds of things have also happened to whites, women, and people of all classes and ethnicities.

  6. circa 3000.

    KAREN…GATES IS A JACKASS BECAUSE HE’S SQUEALING ABOUT RACE—SOMETHING THAT IS, SUPPOSEDLY, VERY HURTFUL TO A PERSON’S REPUTATION (althought I don’t think it matters anymore really, because its interchanged so much I think like 2% of those accused actually hold racist views and the ones accusing are actually 80% of the time racist…there’s data coming out about this, and I am sure it will be ‘controversial’ and all that, and CNN will pop one in the ass and it will be called racist, etc, etc, etc…but anyway) especially when unwarranted and purely speculative….what if the guy was simply pissed off that he was mouthed off by this guy? are we to judge this guy and call him a racist right off the bat?? Gates is jumping as quickly to assumptions as Gates supposedly did in arresting him because he was black…So it doesn’t make much sense. Gates should have probably demanded he apologize BECAUSE OF THE ARREST….I would have been totally fine with that…but the guy injected race…my reaction when I saw this? here we go again… know what im saying?

    • Lou

      I agree, I would’ve gotten pissed off if some freaking idiot talked to me that way. I would not care if he was green, what gives him the right to treat me that way when I am trying to do my job.

  7. brio

    you’re coming home from a trip from China, find your door stuck, finally get in, only to have a copy follow you and ask for id and proof that you live there. then you show him the id and he starts asking other stupid questions and finally arrests you. i think we give cops way too much credit, i’m fed up with the “hero” and “protector” business. they should be held accountable like anybody else for their acts. fined, tried and fired when they mess up

    • Hootie Hoot

      The cop doesn’t owe Gates anything. He was doing his job. Gates needs to get over himself. Being a professor, he lives in an insulated environment where people defer to him. He deserves no special treatment. That’s really what this is about. He thinks he deserves to be treated like a celebrity. Nonsense, Henry. When a cop tells you to do something, do it. That’s all there is to it. When the cop is satisfied that he knows who everyone is and whether they belong there, it’s over. But until then, you do what you are told.

    • Amanda

      To “know better” requires someone to be stupid enough to put themselves in a dangerous position and be nieve enough to think nothing will happen. If you “know better” then you don’t become a cop or you won’t make it out of police training and will put yourself 6 feet under, leaving a greiving family. That is “stupid”.


    8-9…you guys are right, there is a race problem in this country…black racism.

    As a police officer at 24 years old, I can tell you that its all good and dandy to treat us like dirt when we get in your way, but when your in trouble, we are the first people you cry out for. I feel damn unnappreciated with this incident…so a jackass can simply get a police officer fired just because the jackass happens to be black? Fuck, next time a black man enters a house and starts banging your wife, Im not going to be the one going in there so you can then say it was her ‘boyfriend’ you let have sex with and simply forgot, and then sue the police department for racism and distribute the money amongst each other while I get fired. Fuck that, your wife gets raped for all I care.

  9. What bothered me was the comment by Obama that African-Americans are disproportionally stopped by police. It is a fact that most crime is comitted by African-Americans. Ask a African-American police officer, they’ll tell you.

  10. circa 3000.

    yea….police officers….I think its pretty self-evident, especially after this story, that black racism (blacks being racist toward whites) is the leading cause of racism in the United States currently.

  11. circa 3000.

    that’s only for economic beleifs—(economic liberal vs. conservative liberal regarding economics)…on social beleifs, I am pretty sure the christian right ranks pretty low on IQ, as does the extreme left, you usually find the higher intelligence in the middle….But that data is on another site. I will be sure to find it for you soon.

  12. Jay

    I love how everyone who is taking the police officer’s side in this ridiculous argument are ignoring the fucking facts. It has been reported that Mr. Gates eventually provided identification to Officer Crowley, showing who he was and that it was his house. I’m sure Mr. Gates, after an extremely long flight from China was already rather agitated when he got home and couldn’t get the freakin’ door open, then add on top of that he’s being treated like a criminal by a police officer who show’s up out of no where. So it’s likely that Mr. Gates was in a bad mood and may have been rude, even verbally abusive. However once Office Crowley was provided ID and ascertained that Mr. Gates was not breaking into the home, he should have provided his Name and Badge Number as Mr. Gates requested, and then left. However it appears he refused to provide his Badge Number when requested, which he is required to do, and instead of leaving Mr. Crowley be, he took offense to Mr. Crowley’s attitude and made up the bulls shit charge for an excuse to arrest him. Police Officers generally deserve our appreciation and respect, however they are not above the law, and just because someone is being rude or verbally abusive to them is not grounds for them to abuse their power and arrest them on bullshit charges.

    • Laura

      I’m taking the police officer’s side and guess what? I know the “fucking facts” and obviously more so than you, as I’ve taken the time to research the police officer’s report (and another officer’s report as well). The prof definitely needs to apologize, as does Mr. Obama, whom I’m terribly embarrassed for. He cannot have read the officer’s report and then proclaimed the police acted stupidly. The prof acted stupidly. The minute he saw an officer at the door, knowing he’d just shouldered the door open, he should have reopened the door and had ID on the ready. The officer tried on 3 occasions (with witnesses) to give the prof his information (badge and name) but the prof was too busy screaming at the officer. The reason the prof ended up arrested is because he was being disorderly and was warned multiple times to cease. He continued ranting and screaming at the officer.
      As far as I am concerned, it would be using common sense AND common courtesy to walk out with your ID at the ready and explain what was going on, especially when someone is there doing you a favor (protecting your home from a reported break in). Whether you are black, white or pink with purple polka-dots, common sense and common courtesy are at an all time low. Had he done that simple act, this would have been fully prevented. How shameful that someone who is educating minds is so frivolous with his assumptions and ignorance.
      This was not racism. This was a beat cop doing his job and now being crucified for it…
      And guess what? I’m black!

      • Rick

        Did you happen the notice (from the police report) that the door was not functioning properly due to a previous break in? Even Alanis would call that ironic….don’t ya think?

    • Debbie

      As I said earlier……

      After he showed the officer that he lived there, he was asked to step outside. The officer didn’t know if the perpetrator was in the house or not. He did this for the owner’s safety. This is where it got ugly and the racism card was played. If the owner would have complied like a normal citizen and just stepped outside while the officer(s) went inside to check to make sure it was safe to go in, it wouldn’t have happened, BUT NO…this man had to make a scene and he was arrested for it. Plain and simple.

  13. I do not believe this is about race at all. If the one trying to force the door was a white male, the police officer would certainly used the same procedure that he used with this prefesor. Unfortunately what is happening that people of color, now are offended by every little thing from a white person. I believe that President Obama make a big time error, in addressing this issue and worst of all calling the Police man an “idiot”. He should be worried about all the mistakes that he is making on a daily basis, that will put this country in the bottom of the hole. The police acted properly, and the ungrateful Mr Gates should be the one apologizing. The police only act to protect someones property. !!!!Shame on you, Mr Gates!!!!!

  14. Rick

    Have any of you read the police report? Two officers take vs one ‘prominent’ professor – I have to side with the cops. A white man would not have been treated this way? This white man would have complied with the cops request, laughed about the misunderstanding, and thanked the officer for doing his job. There may be a history of black men being treated unfairly by police, but there seems to be a new history of failure to cooperate with the police and crying racism anytime somebody of a different color questions you.

  15. Carl B

    I have followed this in the news and I think Professor Gates should apologize to Sergeant James Crowley and stop the crying about racism.
    The officer was responding to a break and enter call and confronted an abusive adult which he arrested.
    Grow up.

  16. Mike R

    The effect of police interaction with a citizen is for them to perform a legal activity. Since police enforce the law then any interaction with a police officer has the effect of a law enforcement function which is covered by legal turpitude. If this officer did not identify himself immediately both by his function and his “intention” of why he was addressing Mr Gates, then the officer is therefore culpable for Mr. Gates reaction of fear of that turpitude. It is fear of any possible legal aspect that causes fear of any interaction with a police officer. If Officer Crowley doesn’t understand this his handling of this situation is why the outcome was so confrontational. To have an officer that does not understand human psychology is a disservice to any community and Officer Crowley is also a victim of poor management of the police department. The Chief of Police should be held responsible for having officers on patrol that don’t know how to deal with the public. When dealing with an officer it is a legal activity and must be considered extremely dangerous. Mr Gates didn’t realize that he was dealing with police power which has proving to be deadly for Black men in this country. No officer should assume to enforce his will on an individual without proper instruction and explanation to that individual of the “legal” citation for his action before executing a legal arrest. Mr. Gates was not required to answer any questions of Officer Crawley without an attorney being present. Should Officer Crawley adhered to that model his night would have ended without notoriety.

    • Laura

      The police officer was in full police uniform. I don’t know where you are from, or how you were raised, but a policeman in uniform is just that… A POLICEMAN! Given the fact that the professor had just shouldered his way into his own home, he should have given pause when he saw the officer, wondering why he would be there…”OH, he’s here to see why I just broke into my own home! Silly…I can explain this…” It all would have been prevented.

  17. whizza

    Situations like this make me feel bad for the real victims of racism of whom there are (way beyond) many.

    This officer is owed an apology. The ignorance of Obama’s comment’s which he prefaced by stating he didn’t know all the facts, is incredibly irresponsible and only serves to perpetuate the negative connotation of Boston being a racist city. The officer was in full uniform, there was no mistaking who he was. He responded to a neighbor’s call that TWO people were possibly breaking into her neighbor’s home. He was alone and asked the Gates how many people were inside. How that was out of line, I’m not sure but it’s reported as the flashpoint for Gates’ tirade. There’s absolutely no dispute of the police report which took witness statements from neighbors and other officer’s (some of whom were also black)and not one thing indicates anything other than this Sargent doing his job.

    This is an officer who tryed to save Reggie Lewis’ life by admineristering mouth to mouth and more importantly to the point, taught a racial profiling awareness class of which he was hand picked for the position by a black Police Official.

    Hearing statements like “the officer didn’t identify himself” or “the police acted idiotically” are so pathetic, it’s truly very sad.

  18. Thank you all for your comments!

    My take on the situation — because there are still few facts who knows who’s right — is that the officer has a procedure to follow when responding to a breaking and entering call. Part of his procedure is to ask for identification and, from what I’ve read, this was not offered without an argument. The argument escalated into Gates shouting at the officer and calling him a racist — this was in the house with an open door and a crowd gathering — he also shouted “Yo Mama”. He was still shouting “racist” when they got him outside. If you show that little respect for the police, who are there for a perfectly valid reason, you should be arrested.

  19. Susan Ani

    Just read your post today,wherein your conclude with “He should also track down the neighbor who witnessed his breaking and entering and thank him or her for being a good neighbor. Neither will, of course happen.”

    Might I share here, in contradiction to your statement about Dr. Gates not being likely to thank the neighbor who phoned the police to investigate an apparent break-in: I watched Dr. Gates on CNN, July 23, interviewed live by Soledad O’Brien, stating emphatically that he is NOT angry with said neighbor, indeed he felt the neighbor acted properly by phoning authorities when he/she thought there was a crime in progress and thereby protecting a neighbor’s home. I simply feel it is inflammatory to assert your own assumption about Dr. Gates’ attitude towards the neighbor as fact. You also wrote “the neighbor who witnessed his breaking and entering.” This reads to me as if the man had in fact committed the crime of breaking and entering, that it is indisputable fact that he committed that crime. No one is able to accuse a resident who is trying to “force” his way into his own abode of breaking and entering. Again, inflammatory writing that serves no purpose other to further extend the hate and ugliness of prejudice. Words must be used so very carefully, don’t you agree?

  20. history matters

    The institution of policing has it’s roots in the slave patrols of pre-civil war southern united states. The police have always been a racist institution. It is pretty clear that Gates was arrested for being black and not licking the boots of his oppressor. And, of course, now apologies are being demanded from the president of the united states (!) and a distinguished professor (!) because they are not subservient enough to a white man, even though he is a cop, and thus supposed to be a servant of the people.


  21. ONE THING I KNOW IS THAT EXPERIENCE HELPS. I just went through this very incident a couple of months back,
    Sir. And I was told (after the fact) that I handled myself well. Did you? I mean, really. Did you keep a certain composure? Did you tame your tongue? Did you feel the least bit annoyed? Professor, if anyone is upset about circumstances like these it’s me, a man of color who’s been there and done that. But GUESS WHAT PROFESSOR: we have SO MANY of these references in our past (especially you) that we should be well versed and experienced in how to handle our situation. Yes I hear the Pres talkin about he didn’t have all the facts. And I also hear both sides of this equation. But I’m ballsy enough to “go in”at this point and say that just as this cop was out of line, SO WERE YOU. Now, here’s my point: YOU’RE A PROFESSOR! You’re SMARTER! You know PSYCHOLOGY! You are more BRILLIANT than (likely) half of the Cambridge Police Force. Maybe moreso than all of them. And I don’t believe your run-in would’ve gotten ANY publicity if you hadn’t been arrested. So, in MY opinion, you pushed the envelope. You had the option; the ball was in your court to make something of this, or NOT. And you decided to go for it. And so we now have to debate this issue over and over and over again, just when we began to gain some ground with mending this broken tapestry of colors and cultures and worldviews. We’re definitely getting platforms to broadcast our plight (as people of color) to address the ills in our society. But Gates, Pookie around the corner just got shot in the back by a white officer; a much more pressing issue to be addressed. A possible break-in in upscale, insulated Cambridge is NOT the world issue that we should all be discussing. If you’ll forgive my being candid, (and I’m no saint by ANY means) this is no less than you provoking more possibilities from an otherwise uneventful occasion. Interactions between people will ALWAYS call for such possibilities, no matter WHAT color you are. And you, Sir, turned this into YOUR show, and manufactured the opportunity for you to cry wolf, Sir. Do YOU (of all people) need training on dealing with stupid cops?

    I just got stopped and questioned two days ago (just because) and all I could think about was how you handled your situation, and how I would do just the opposite; in other words, I would not throw fuel on the flames. Ef who’s right and who’s wrong. Ef the reason why the cops stopped you or me. The bottom line here is to survive the instance and to go to bed in peace. If not, I’m sure you could find a million things to cry about, everyday, all day. But do we want the challenges? OF COURSE. But give me REAL challenges, Professor! By all accounts, you were upset that you were being bothered at your own gated doorstep. Okay fine. What that means is that the cop OBVIOUSLY did not know you. (Black or white). And THAT’S ALL IT MEANS. What it ALSO means is that a whole “next level” mission now shadows the interaction. That would be YOUR mission. Your mission, Professor, is to play chess. You must outsmart your opponent. Oh, and he IS your opponent, Professor. Do NOT get that twisted. He’s got the gun. You’ve got what? Your mouth. So, because it takes TWO to tango, you, SIr, are challenged to use your mouth wisely. You didn’t. You threw fuel on the fire. You were at fault just as much as he was, and this became an EGO ISSUE, not a RACE ISSUE. Mister “YOU DON”T KNOW WHO YOU’RE MESSING WITH.” That attitude is just a little too “greater than Thou” for my meek, humble position. I think you took Barack’s win a little too seriously in the end. He won, yes. But that doesn’t mean we all won. That doesn’t mean all the deaths and sacrifices and struggles are atoned for. I LOVE my people, but I know what fights to pick and when to hold and when to fold.

    As your life coach, I’m suggesting that you “man up” to your fault in this rendezvous; one that could have turned into something way more serious and deadly. Forget what police officers are SUPPOSED to represent, and forget about public safety, compassion and respect for and from our fellow man; FORGET ALL OF THAT. Your circumstances that night were just as unpredictable as the clouds hovering over the French Quarter. Because, as we all know these days, nothing & nobody is guaranteed to be what and who you think. Anything can happen, and it usually does, as you now know.

    So, congratulations for adding another couple lines to your legacy, but I’m hereby suggesting that you take account and install what my friend Oz calls the 3 A’s: ATTITUDE. APPROACH. APPEARANCE. And you’ll need to do this no matter how emotional you urge to be. If you’ll excuse me for my opinion, you failed on the first A. Anyone who knows psychology would tell you to address aggression with regression, especially if you CAN’T WIN. Sir, you can’t beat City hall. And you DEFINITELY cannot beat a man with a gun and (maybe) a chip on his shoulder.
    I recall Dr. King’s arrests and how calm he was in his acceptance. But this occasion hardly falls into the category of civil rights, or the “Dr King way” of dealing with things. This was EGO at it’s worse, and race was tossed in (by you) because a white officer interrupted your wine & cheese lifestyle.
    Wake up, Professor. And to your friends and mine, the same. We’re crabs in the barrel (most of us). And living in the suburbs does NOT give you a “pass” from brushes with reality. Use this incident as a warning. This can or WILL happen to you. How will you deal with it?

    These are times that call for vigilance. And “vigilance” many times can be exercised (thank God) by the words we speak. Word.

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