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