BOSTON – The only other Cambridge police officer who was in the home of renowned black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. during the confrontation that led to his arrest said Friday that he and the arresting officer followed procedure.
Patrolman Carlos Figueroa said in a police report that he heard Sgt. James Crowley, the arresting officer, ask for Gates' identification and heard Gates say, "No, I will not!" He also said Gates was shouting at Crowley, calling him a racist and saying, "This is what happens to black men in America!"
Figueroa said Crowley did what he was supposed to do when he asked Gates for identification, because they were investigating a report of a suspected burglary.
"Part of our protocol is to make sure we know who is in there (the home) and legally in there," Figueroa told The Associated Press.
Cambridge police have been defending themselves against allegations of racial bias for arresting Gates in his own home for disorderly conduct even after officers realized he was there legally. The charge was dropped five days later.
Unions representing Cambridge officers and surrounding communities planned a news conference Friday to support the officers and respond to criticism from President Barack Obama, who said police "acted stupidly," and from Gov. Deval Patrick, who said Gates' arrest was "every black man's nightmare."
Officers responded to the home near Harvard University July 16 after a woman called 911 and said she saw two black men with backpacks trying to force open the front door. The woman, Lucia Whalen, has not responded to repeated attempts for comment.
Gates has said he returned from overseas trip and found the door jammed. He maintains he turned over identification when asked to do so by the police.
He said Crowley arrested him as the professor followed him to the porch, repeatedly demanding the sergeant's name and badge number because he was unhappy over his treatment.
Friends and fellow officers — black and white — say Crowley, who was hand-picked by a black police commissioner to teach recruits about avoiding racial profiling, is a principled police officer and family man.
Obama stood by his assertion that police did not need to arrest a Harvard scholar. Obama said in an interview with ABC that he has "extraordinary respect" for the challenges and hardships that law enforcement officers face every day in their line of work.
"From what I can tell, the sergeant who was involved is an outstanding police officer, but my suspicion is probably that it would have been better if cooler heads had prevailed."
Patrick, once the top civil rights official in the Clinton administration and now, like Obama, the first black to hold his job, also supported Gates. "You ought to be able to raise your voice in your own house without risk of arrest."
Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas said Thursday that Crowley was a decorated officer who followed procedure. The department is putting together an independent panel to review the arrest, but Haas said he did not think the whole story had been told.
The department has also so far refused to release the 911 tapes of the initial call or any tapes of radio transmissions Crowley made to headquarters to report that Gates was under arrest.
"Sgt. Crowley is a stellar member of this department. I rely on his judgment every day," Haas said. "I think he basically did the best in the situation that was presented to him."
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