The recent controversy over the arrest of a prominent black Harvard scholar, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., by Cambridge (Mass.) Police Sgt. James Crowley who happens to be white, should be looked at with a little more common sense and for what it is, based on the police report prepared by Officer Carlos Figueroa, a Latino male.
At 12:44 p.m. on July 16, the Cambridge Police were dispatched to a house as a result of a 911 call that someone was breaking into the residence. The police arrived and found a black male in the house, who according to Figueroa was confrontational and refused to show the police his identification. Figueroa reported that he overheard who was later identified as Gates, yelling, “this is what happens to a black man in America,” and “you don’t know who you’re messing with.”
Based on Gates confrontational behavior, he was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct by Crowley, who appeared to be the supervisor on the scene.
The race card was played by Gates at the scene and then thrown into the national spotlight by the press and media when they asked President Barack Obama his opinion of the arrest.
Giving the president the same benefit of the doubt that I would give the cops, I think he was blindsided by the press. The president indicated that he didn’t know all the facts in the case, but then went on to say that anyone would have been angry if treated the way Gates claims the police treated him.
I’m sure the president didn’t have the police report in front of him, or had he, he may not have been so quick to say that the police acted “stupidly when there was already proof’’ that Gates was in his own home. But was there? Not according to Figueroa’s report, which indicates Gates was refusing to provide the responding officers with identification.
Any politician or police executive will tell you that there are two sides to every story and unless there is some substantial reason to believe otherwise, your public servants should get the benefit of the doubt.
I believe Crowley confronted Gates because he was dispatched to that residence when a neighbor reported it was being burglarized. He didn’t confront Gates because he was black — he did so because Gates was in the residence that the sergeant was told was being burglarized. If Gates was confrontational, refused to identify himself, and acted disorderly — the sergeant had the right to arrest him.
Racial profiling is wrong and the president was right in his remarks that it has happened in the past and may be happening today — but for anyone to relate this event to racial profiling, they could be equally wrong. If they were not there, I would suggest that you refer them to the neighbor who reported the burglary and to Figueroa, one of several witnesses to Gates’ behavior.
The one thing that concerns me more than anything above, is the echoing of Gates’ alleged statement, “you don’t know who you’re messing with,” and boy was he right! Crowley responded to that burglary, not knowing the dangers that could await him. One burglar or two, armed or not — he responded just like any other radio run he had been on in his 11-year career. But I am absolutely positive, that he never thought he and his performance and actions in the line of duty on that afternoon would be judged or criticized by the president of the United States.
Some will blame the president . . . some will blame some in the press and media.
Either way, a dedicated police sergeant who went to work that day doing the job he was sworn to do, will remain criticized forever.
Bernard Kerik served as the 40th police commissioner of the New York City and Iraq’s interim minister of interior following the fall of Saddam Hussein. Today he is the chairman of The Kerik Group LLC. Visit his Web site at: www.thekerikgroup.com.
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