It seems it will never end…the topic of race relations in America. In the recent case of the Cambridge, MA arrest of Harvard Scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. the subject reignited the fact that tensions are as heated as ever. Why? Your guess is good as mine. Let me put myself in the shoes of Cambridge, MA Police Sgt. James Crowley (shoes I’ve worn many times over to the point the soles are worn!) I’m am both angry, and exhilarated, about this particular case.
Let’s pretend I’m dispatched to a report of a burglary in progress. The dispatcher tells me the 911 caller says there are 2 black males using forcible entry into a home. Whether or not the caller actually said that to the dispatcher, I have yet to hear the radio transmission of the call being dispatched. Okay. I do my job; I respond to the call and, lo and behold, I find two black males inside a home where forced entry is observed. The 911 caller, Lucia Whalen, 40, makes contact with me outside of the home and says, “Hey! I’m the one who made the 911 call!” According to Whalen, the conversation ended there. However, in all my years of law enforcement I’ve never spoken to an official “complainant” of a call and never asked her any questions. Crowley documented in his report that upon arrival Whalen told him that she was pretty sure it was two black males forcing entry into the house (ummm, well there actually were so why is this a problem?) Whalen (pictured right) maintains that all she said to Crowley is that she made the call. I don’t believe it for a minute. In policing, you try to get as much information from the original complainant as possible. A veteran like James Crowley is clearly not going to say, “Ok! Thanks for calling, lady!” without asking any questions. Whalen’s attorney, Wendy Murphy, refused to answer questions about the "on scene" conversation during a recent press release.
Silence speaks volumes.
Web sites like TMZ are trying to insinuate that Sgt. James Crowley lied on his police report.
It would be one thing if they were told “2 black males” and ended up arresting 2 Hispanic or Asian males, but the bottom line is this: 2 black males were seen forcibly entering a residence and 2 black males were found inside that particular residence. No matter how you put a spin on it, the fact remains is that whoever called clearly articulated what they saw. What the nation is failing to realize is that has absolutely nothing to do with the arrest. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and his clear disrespect for law enforcement or the laws of the state of Massachusetts is what caused the arrest. If one takes a good look at the details, it is crystal clear that Mr. Gates violated the rules of disorderly conduct. I saw a moronic defense attorney on a prominent network state that to be guilty of disorderly conduct, one has to pose a clear physical threat to another person. I don’t know where this man went to law school but I’m not sure the bar association would agree with his theory. Here’s what the misdemeanor law of Disorderly Conduct reads in Ohio (which is similar to most states):
(A)No person shall recklessly cause inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm to another by doing any of the following:
(1)Engaging in fighting, in threatening harm to persons or property, or in violent and turbulent behavior.
(2) Making unreasonable noise or an offensively coarse utterance, gesture, or display or communicating unwarranted and grossly abusive language to any person;
(3)Insulting, taunting, or challenging another, under circumstances in which that conduct is likely to provoke a violent response;
(4) Hindering or preventing the movement of persons on a public street, road, highway, or right-of-way, or to, from, within, or, upon public or private property, so as to interfere with the rights of others, and by any act that serves no lawful and reasonable purpose of the offender;
(5) Creating a condition that is physically offensive to persons or that presents a risk of physical harm to persons or property, by an act that serves no lawful and reasonable purpose to the offender.
To make a long story short, if a young suburban house wife is playing with her toddler at a public playground and a man enters screaming the F-bomb over and over, he is guilty of disorderly conduct. The young housewife is offended, it happened in front of a child, and that’s all it takes, folks. If a man is standing in his own front yard screaming obscenities (as in the case of Dr. Gates) and any neighbor in close proximity can hear it, and is annoyed by it—he’s as guilty as all get out. So says case law.
So, back to my “if I were in his shoes scenario,” here’s what happens:
I arrive at the home, speak to the complainant, make contact with the suspect and advise him of the complaint (Okay, so here I have to give uber credit to the Cambridge Police—Me? I’d have put the guy down at gun point. Period. How the heck do I know the guy’s not a burglar? (I’ve seen burglars that range from scummy white rednecks, Hispanics, Blacks, and Asians—to attractive young college girls! If I’m a racist for calling out “it is what it is” then you are the one with serious issues!)
After advising them of the complaint, one of the men say, “I live here, this is my house!” I ask that man for identification (standard procedure no matter what call an officer is on) so I can verify it is his house, and get the hell out of there to meet my buddies for our scheduled coffee break.
“Why do you want my ID? Because I’m a black man in America?” he screams in my face.
“Um, no, so I can verify that you actually live here, sir” (I’m improvising of course.)
After the man launches into a tirade of verbally abusive obscenities towards me, he eventually provides identification. I verify he is, in fact, the homeowner and I begin to leave. However, as myself and other officers are exiting the home, the man follows us and continues his obscenity-laced tirade. When I notice the large crowd outside, I turn to the man and say, “Okay, enough is enough! It’s time for you to go back inside and calm down.”
Well, that’s not good enough for Dr. Gates. The instruction to calm down merely incites him more. He starts yelling a louder tirade that could be heard several blocks away. So, I warn him again, “Go inside! Your last warning!”
You guessed it. He proceeds to follow the cops onto the front lawn acting like an imbecile. They arrested him. They do their job.
Quite frankly, I think they gave Dr. Gates a break in only charging him with disorderly conduct. Here, in Ohio, Obstructing Official Business would have been more applicable—a second degree misdemeanor:
(A) No person, without privilege to do so and with purpose to prevent, obstruct, or delay the performance by a public official of any authorized act within the public official’s official capacity, shall do any act that hampers or impedes a public official in the performance of the public official’s duties.
Translation: You screw around and waste a cops’ time who is just trying to do their job by failing to provide ID, acting like a complete ass, and causing a disturbance, you are GUILTY!
I’ve encountered many, many, situations similar to the Gates’ call. Upon my arrival, the homeowners start laughing, pat me on the back, and are more than happy to provide proof that they live there. They find it quite amusing and are eager to tell their friends and family the story.
In Gates’ situation, the problem isn’t about race, it’s about social classes.
These calls I’m referring to where the citizen’s are good-hearted and cooperate with the cops are low to middle-class; all races included. The problems I’ve encountered, similar to the Gates’ case, was all “well-to-do” upper class neighborhoods. Doctors, Lawyers, Business Owners, and Stock Brokers of all various races are the only ones that have given me a hard time when I’ve been dispatched to their homes when a neighbor got “paranoid,” (according to them). I have been called names by these people that would put sheep into shock and have arrested several. But, like Sgt. Crowley, was later called into the administration office where I was told, “Ya know, the prosecutor’s office called, Dr. Smith is really sorry for the way he treated you and swears he won’t ever act like that again. He knows you were only doing his job. Do you mind if we void the charges?”
What am I supposed to say? It’s politics. My boss wants the charges to go away and if I want any kind of career I’ll agree. The only problem in the Cambridge case I see is that the charges were dropped. Dr. Henry Louis Gates acted like a first-class ass, disrespected his local law enforcement officers and neighborhood, and should pay the consequences. Race is nothing but a smoke-screen.
My “exhilaration” in this case is a result of the overwhelming support Sgt. James Crowley (pictured left) received from his own department, the Massachusetts police union, and from cops across the country. It is so refreshing to finally see a law enforcement agency that is standing behind one of its own, instead of throwing them under the bus—like we see day after day. In a typical scenario, especially one where an officer was called ‘stupid’ by the President of the United States, this officer’s career would be over before it began. Regardless, the men and women in blue all over the country and—most importantly, the officers of his own agency, rallied around him because they knew what he did was right. Sgt. James Crowley is an instructor in cultural sensitivity training. He was the one that taught other officers to be color blind. Calling him a racist is comical and it is finally time he was defended!—Kudos to those who support him. Hey! Colin Powell agrees...
I don’t agree with the “beer summit.” I firmly believe that Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. should be thoroughly embarrassed by his actions; he should apologize, and then go bury his head in the sand.