Harvard Professor Jailed; Officer Is Accused of Bias

Postby Marinepits » July 21st, 2009, 8:34 am


Harvard Professor Jailed; Officer Is Accused of Bias

Published: July 20, 2009

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Colleagues of Henry Louis Gates Jr., Harvard’s most prominent scholar of African-American history, are accusing the police here of racism after he was arrested at his home last week by an officer investigating a report of a robbery in progress.

Professor Gates, who has taught at Harvard for nearly two decades, arrived home on Thursday from a trip to China to find his front door jammed, said Charles J. Ogletree, a law professor at Harvard who is representing him.

He forced the door open with the help of his cab driver, Professor Ogletree said, and had been inside for a few minutes when Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge Police Department appeared at his door and asked him to step outside.

Professor Gates, 58, refused to do so, Professor Ogletree said. From that point, the account of the professor and the police began to differ.

According to his lawyer, Professor Gates told the sergeant that he lived there and showed his Massachusetts driver’s license and his Harvard identification card, but Sergeant Crowley still did not seem to believe that Professor Gates lived in the home, a few blocks from Harvard Square. At that point, his lawyer said, Professor Gates grew frustrated and asked for the officer’s name and badge number.

According to the police report, Professor Gates initially refused to show identification.

In the report, Sergeant Crowley said a white female caller had notified the police around 12:45 p.m. of seeing two black men on the porch of the home, at 17 Ware Street. The caller, who met the police at the house, was suspicious after seeing one of the men “wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry,” according to the report.

A spokesman for the Police Department did not return a call seeking comment. But in the report, Sergeant Crowley said that as he told Professor Gates he was investigating a possible break-in, Professor Gates exclaimed, “Why, because I’m a black man in America?” and accused the sergeant of racism.

“While I was led to believe that Gates was lawfully in the residence,” Sergeant Crowley wrote in the report, “I was quite surprised and confused with the behavior he exhibited toward me.”

Professor Gates followed him outside, the report said, and yelled at him despite the sergeant’s warning “that he was becoming disorderly.” Sergeant Crowley then arrested and handcuffed him. Professor Gates was held at police headquarters for hours before being released on his recognizance.

“He is cooperating now with the city to resolve this matter as soon as possible,” Professor Ogletree said, adding that Professor Gates wanted the charges against him dismissed.

Professor Ogletree said that Professor Gates had “never touched” Sergeant Crowley, but did “express his frustration at being subjected to the threat of arrest in his own home.”

He would not say whether Professor Gates believed he had been the victim of racial profiling. But Dr. S. Allen Counter, a black professor at Harvard Medical School, said he and a number of his university colleagues were “deeply disturbed about the actions of the Cambridge police.”

“My colleagues and I have asked the question of whether this kind of egregious act would have happened had Professor Gates been a white professor,” said Dr. Counter, who said he had talked to Professor Gates since the arrest. “We think that it has to be investigated, and we are deeply saddened by what happened.”
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Postby Marinepits » July 21st, 2009, 8:37 am

So, what do you think? Is this a case of racial profiling, discrimination, and bias, or was the officer simply doing his job?

Personally, I would be happy that someone cared enough to report a possible break-in at my home, and I certainly wouldn't refuse to offer up my ID proving that I belonged in the house, no matter how angry I was at the situation.
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Postby DemoDick » July 21st, 2009, 6:19 pm

Common sense is in short supply in academia, now more than ever.

When breaking into a home (or car) for a lawful purpose...call the police FIRST to let them know what you are doing, where you are, who you are, and what you're wearing. A bonus would be to have an officer respond and watch you do it in case another agency gets a call in the meantime. That a supposedly educated and intelligent man would react to being questioned for what, on the surface, CLEARLY looks like criminal activity, smacks of his own prejudice.

“My colleagues and I have asked the question of whether this kind of egregious act would have happened had Professor Gates been a white professor,” said Dr. Counter, who said he had talked to Professor Gates since the arrest. “We think that it has to be investigated, and we are deeply saddened by what happened.”

Interesting, because MY colleagues wonder whether Professor Gates would have responded in the manner he had if the responding Law Enforcement Officers were black. From the article we are left to assume that the Officer in question was white without clarification. Or are we not supposed to consider the possibility that maybe, just maybe, Professor Gates harbors his own prejudices against white Police Officers? Or Police Officers in general because of the stereotype that we are prejudiced against minorities?

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Postby Marinepits » July 21st, 2009, 6:38 pm

I heard on the news at six that the charges against the professor have been dropped, but that he's still considering legal action.
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Postby pitbullmamaliz » July 21st, 2009, 6:40 pm

I was curious why the article felt the need to mention that it was a "white female caller" who called the police. What does race or sex have to do with anything? Just more fuel on the fire.
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Postby hugapitbull » July 21st, 2009, 7:43 pm

pitbullmamaliz wrote:I was curious why the article felt the need to mention that it was a "white female caller" who called the police. What does race or sex have to do with anything? Just more fuel on the fire.

Exactly, how do they know she wasn't green, blue or orange? :neener:

I really wish 'color' would truly become a non-issue. Let each person stand on their own merit. :doh:
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Postby kera09 » July 21st, 2009, 8:59 pm

the police officer was doing his job.....checking on a possible break in. maybe both parties could have done a few things different. :confused:
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Postby call2arms » July 21st, 2009, 9:35 pm

Question is, did he or did he not show his ID? The police report says he didn't, and his lawyer says he did. If he indeed showed his ID in the first place, then this is not cool. If he refused to give his ID, then it would have looked sketchy. BUT after handcuffing him, wouldn't the officer check his ID and realize, it's him and he's at his adress, oops?
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Postby Marinepits » July 22nd, 2009, 7:51 am

From what I've read and heard on the news, he intially refused to show his ID. He eventually did, but followed the officers outside and continued to cause a ruckus, so he was arrested for disorderly conduct.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,534 ... latestnews

Charge Dropped Against Harvard Professor Arrested After Robbery Mix-Up

Authorities dropped a disorderly conduct charge against a prominent Harvard University professor at the center of a robbery mix-up that happened when he re-entered his own home through a jammed front door.

The altercation at the house of 58-year-old Henry Louis Gates Jr., one of the country's pre-eminent black scholars, stirred outrage among supporters who called his arrest blatant racial profiling.

Prosecutors announced the decision to drop the charge on Tuesday, following a recommendation by police.

The city of Cambridge, Mass., where Harvard is located, issued a statement saying the arrest "was regrettable and unfortunate" and police and Gates agreed that dropping the charge was a just resolution.

"This incident should not be viewed as one that demeans the character and reputation of Professor Gates or the character of the Cambridge Police Department," the statement said.

Officers responded to the home Gates rents from Harvard after a woman reported seeing two black men who appeared to be breaking in.

Gates had just returned from a trip overseas and had to force his way into his house in Cambridge because the front door was stuck and wouldn't open.

Gates and his attorney, fellow Harvard scholar Charles Ogletree, declined immediate comment Tuesday.

The woman who called reported seeing "two black males with backpacks on the porch" of the well-maintained two-story home near the Harvard campus and said one of the men was "wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry," according to Cambridge police.

The other man was a driver helping Gates, said Ogletree.

Officers responding to the robbery call on Thursday arrived after Gates was already back inside.

They say he became irate, yelled and refused to come outside to speak with an officer, who told him he was investigating a call about a home invasion.

"Why, because I'm a black man in America?" Gates said, according to a police report written by Sgt. James Crowley.

Gates — the director of Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research and one of Time magazine's 1997 most influential Americans — initially refused to show the officer his identification, police said. He ultimately turned over a Harvard University ID card.

"Gates continued to yell at me, accusing me of racial bias and continued to tell me that I had not heard the last of him," the officer wrote.

Gates said in a statement that he turned over his driver's license and Harvard ID — both with his photos — and repeatedly asked for the name and badge number of the officer, who refused.

He then followed the officer as he left his house onto his front porch, where he was handcuffed in front of other officers, he said. His account of the incident was released Monday by Ogletree on TheRoot.com, a Web site Gates runs.

He was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge after police said he "exhibited loud and tumultuous behavior," and was released later that day on his own recognizance.

An arraignment had been scheduled for Aug. 26. The maximum penalty Gates had been facing before the charge was dropped was a $150 fine.

Ogletree disputed the claim that Gates, who was wearing slacks and a polo shirt and carrying a cane, was yelling at the officer.

"He has an infection that has impacted his breathing since he came back from China, so he's been in a very delicate physical state," Ogletree said.

Police wrote in their report that when the sergeant on the scene tried to calm Gates, he shouted "You don't know who your [sic] messing with!", and when it was suggested they talk about the matter outside, he retorted, "Ya, I'll speak with your mama outside."

Cambridge officers said that the altercation drew several "surprised and alarmed" onlookers to the house to see what was going on.

Ogletree declined to say whether he believed the incident was racially motivated, saying, "I think the incident speaks for itself."

"He was shocked to find himself being questioned and shocked that the conversation continued after he showed his identification," the lawyer said.

Some of Gates' African-American colleagues say the arrest is part of a pattern of racial profiling in Cambridge.

Allen Counter, who has taught neuroscience at Harvard for 25 years, said he was stopped on campus by two Harvard police officers in 2004 after being mistaken for a robbery suspect. They threatened to arrest him when he could not produce identification.

"We do not believe that this arrest would have happened if professor Gates was white," Counter said. "It really has been very unsettling for African-Americans throughout Harvard and throughout Cambridge that this happened."

The Rev. Al Sharpton immediately threw his support behind Gates and blasted officers for their handling of the matter.

"This arrest is indicative of at best police abuse of power or at worst the highest example of racial profiling I have seen," Sharpton said. "I have heard of driving while black and even shopping while black but now even going to your own home while black is a new low in police community affairs."

Ogletree said Gates had returned from a trip to China on Thursday with a driver, when he found his front door jammed.

He went through the back door into the home, shut off an alarm and worked with the driver to get the door open.

The driver left, and Gates was on the phone with the property's management company when police first arrived.

Lawrence D. Bobo, the W.E.B Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard, said he met with Gates at the police station and described his colleague as feeling humiliated and "emotionally devastated."

"It's just deeply disappointing but also a pointed reminder that there are serious problems that we have to wrestle with," he said.

Bobo called on the department to use the incident to review training and screening procedures it has in place.

The Middlesex district attorney's office said it could not do so until after Gates' arraignment. The woman who reported the apparent break-in did not return a message Monday.

Gates joined the Harvard faculty in 1991 and holds one of 20 prestigious "university professors" positions at the school. He also was host of "African American Lives," a PBS show about the family histories of prominent U.S. blacks, and was named by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential Americans in 1997.

"I was obviously very concerned when I learned on Thursday about the incident," Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust said in a statement. "He and I spoke directly and I have asked him to keep me apprised."
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Postby pitbullmamaliz » July 26th, 2009, 8:09 am

I hope Crowley refuses to go. Obama has yet to apologize for for his dumbass remark about him "acting stupidly." He needs to learn to think before he opens his mouth without TOTUS (Teleprompter of the United States) there to guide him.

http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/07/24/office ... index.html

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Obama said Friday he spoke with the police officer who arrested a Harvard professor and told the officer he did not mean to malign the Cambridge Police Department when he said police acted stupidly.

Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested after a reported break-in.
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The president acknowledged that his words "helped to contribute to ratcheting" up the situation when he criticized the manner in which Sgt. James Crowley arrested professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.

"I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sgt. Crowley specifically," Obama told reporters. "I could have calibrated those words differently, and I told this to Sgt. Crowley." Watch Obama describe talk »

Obama spoke about two hours after police unions in Massachusetts called on him to apologize. He did not apologize for his remark but repeated that he believed his choice of words was unfortunate.

He reiterated his assertion that he believes police overreacted, but said Gates "probably overreacted as well."

"My sense is you have got two good people in a circumstance in which neither of them were able to resolve the incident in the way that it should have been resolved," he said.

Obama also spoke briefly with the arrested professor, Henry Louis Gates Jr., who is a friend of the president, the White House reported. He and Gates had a "positive discussion" about his call to Crowley on Friday afternoon, the White House said. Obama also invited Gates "to join him with Sgt. Crowley at the White House in the near future."

In an e-mail Friday to CNN's Don Lemon, Gates wrote, "I was very pleased that the president called me today, and I was pleased that he proposed that I meet with Sgt. Crowley at the White House, since I had offered to meet with him since last Monday.

"I am eager for this to be used as a teaching moment to improve racial relations in America," said the e-mail. "This is certainly not about me."

His attorney, Charles Ogletree, told Lemon that he applauds Obama's intervention and "I look forward to working this out with all parties amicably."

Asked if he plans to file suit, Ogletree said, "It depends on the response from everyone involved as to how we'll proceed."

Earlier Friday, police unions said Obama should apologize to members of the Cambridge Police Department for saying they acted stupidly, the president of a city police union said.

Dennis O'Connor, president of the Cambridge Police Superior Officers Association, also took aim at Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who reportedly has characterized the arrest as "every black man's nightmare and a reality for many black men."

Echoing the words of Crowley, O'Connor said he was dismayed that the president and governor would opine on the issue without all the details.

"It's noteworthy that both qualified their statements by saying they did not have all the facts," O'Connor said as members of his and another police union stood behind him. "Usually, when one hears those words, one would expect the next words to be 'so I cannot comment.' Instead, both officials, both admitted friends of professor Gates, proceeded to insult the handling of this case."

He further said Cambridge police resent the implication they allowed race to dictate their actions in the situation.

"We hope that [Obama and Patrick] will reflect upon their past comments and apologize to the men and women of the Cambridge Police Department," O'Connor said.

Steve Killian, president of the Cambridge Police Patrol Officers Association, also called on Obama to apologize to "all law enforcement personnel throughout the entire country that took offense to this."

Crowley previously said Obama had offended police in Cambridge and elsewhere.

"I was a little surprised and disappointed that the president, who didn't have all of the facts by his own admission, then weighed in on the events of that night and made a comment that really offended not just officers in the Cambridge Police Department but officers around the country," Crowley told CNN affiliate WHDH-TV in Boston.

Obama said earlier he was "surprised by the controversy surrounding" his comments.

"I think it was a pretty straightforward commentary that you probably don't need to handcuff a guy, a middle-aged man who uses a cane, who's in his own home," Obama told ABC's "Nightline." Watch Crowley's boss defend the arrest »

When Obama waded into the story by answering a question about it during his news conference Wednesday night, he admitted that he "may be a little biased" because Gates is a friend.

"I don't know all the facts," he also conceded.

He said he did not know what role race played, but "the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home." iReport.com: Arrest sparks debate

But during his Friday remarks, Obama said he hoped the controversy surrounding Gates' arrest provides Americans with "a teachable moment" on how they can improve "relations between police officers and minority communities."

Crowley, in the police report about the incident, said Gates refused to cooperate with him and repeatedly accusing him of racism when he went to Gates' home following a report of a possible break-in July 16.

Crowley said he tried to determine whether there was someone else at the home and wanted to ensure Gates' safety.

Gates, however, told him "that I had no idea who I was 'messing' with" and was being so loud, the sergeant said, that he could not give pertinent information to the department when he was calling in.

Authorities have said they may release tapes of the officer calling in, in which Gates is heard in the background

Crowley's report said that when he asked to speak with Gates outside, the professor at one point responded, "I'll speak with your mama outside." Watch Crowley's response »

Gates' attorney, Charles Ogletree, said the professor never made such a remark.

The full story will show that Gates did nothing wrong -- and that Crowley did not identify himself at first, Ogletree said.

Gates said Wednesday he would listen to Crowley "if he would tell the truth about what he did, about the distortions that he fabricated in the police report. I would be prepared as a human being to forgive him."

Crowley has said he will not apologize. The police incident report states that Crowley twice provided his name to Gates, who subsequently asked for it two more times.

Gates ultimately was arrested for disorderly conduct, but the department later dropped the charges.

Cambridge police Commissioner Robert Haas said he "deeply regrets" the arrest but stands by the procedures his department followed.

"I trust [Crowley's] judgment implicitly. He is a stellar officer," Haas said.

Haas added the department is "very proud about its diversity within this community and how hard we've worked over the years to build a strong, solid relationship [between] the department and the community."

Haas said he agreed with Crowley about Obama's remarks.

"I have to tell you the officers take that very personally and basically feel hurt by that comment. We truly are trying to do the best service we can to the community and sometimes we make mistakes. We're human. But we learn from those mistakes and we move on," he said. Black in America 2: Does racial profiling still take place?

Numerous police officers, including African-Americans, have spoken up on Crowley's behalf and portrayed him as a good and fair officer. Crowley, who is white, had once been chosen by a black police officer to teach a police academy course on ways to avoid racial profiling.

Obama said he had heard of Crowley's record, saying, "I don't know all the extenuating circumstances, and as I said, I respect what police officers do. From what I can tell, the sergeant who was involved is an outstanding police officer, but my suspicion is probably it would have been better if cooler heads prevailed."

Gates' legal team argues that authorities are misrepresenting the professor and the officer, and Gates has said he is determined to keep the issue alive despite the charges being dropped.

"This is not about me; this is about the vulnerability of black men in America," he said this week.

Ogletree said Gates may bring forward people who say they've had similar experiences with Crowley.

When asked for examples, Ogletree said only that they may come out in time depending on how the police department handles the situation moving forward.

"I think you will be hearing much more complex and different perspective on him [Crowley] in the coming days and weeks," Ogletree said, alleging that Crowley "is well-known among people, particularly young people, for some of his police practices."

Gates has no immediate plans to file a lawsuit against the department, the attorney said. Ogletree had said earlier Gates might sue the police.
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