Gates’ arrest reveals loss of rights

So far, in what has become a mini-drama involving a white cop, a black professor and a president of the United States, we have had a racial confrontation, an arrest, a release, a presidential gaffe, a presidential back-track, a presidential invitation to quaff a brewski, a staged meeting at the White House and a promise of more meetings to come.

The saga involving Harvard’s Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. James Crowley has been elevated to the status of a Rose Garden summit. Still, the attention devoted to the event’s racial angle has obscured the real importance of the incident.

The degree to which race played a role in the confrontation at Gates’ house will likely never be truly known to anyone other than the key participants themselves. What clearly did factor into the unfortunate encounter was the notion that, in the post-9/11 world, citizens must be prepared to explain themselves to the police and prove to the satisfaction of the authorities who they are under virtually any circumstance – even within the walls of their own house.

Airline passengers are now required to prove who they are to the satisfaction of government authorities in order to board for a journey they have paid for. Anyone trying to enter a building housing a government office has to show “proper identification” to gain entry. These and many other manifestations of government control have nothing to do with the legitimate effort to prevent weapons or explosives from being brought onto public conveyances or into government buildings. Legitimate exercises of government power are being employed more and more to control behavior and limit individual freedom.

The pattern is emerging that for the government to fulfill its self-delegated responsibility to keep us safe, its agents can demand to know who we are and what we are doing at all times.

Our British sovereigns demanded the same subservience of colonists in pre-independence America. Fortunately, our forefathers correctly viewed such plenary and arbitrary power as incompatible with fundamental liberty. They codified this principle in the Fourth Amendment; adopted as part of our Constitution when the Bill of Rights became effective in 1791. Since then, it has been axiomatic that citizens should not be subject to unreasonable searches or seizures – the government cannot take your belongings or arrest you, absent a good reason.

Of course, since that day 218 years ago, federal, state and local governments have constantly probed for ways in which to reclaim the power over the citizenry expressly taken from them in the Constitution. Understandably, a degree of tension always has accompanied efforts to define that balance between individual freedom and government control. Still, the sanctity of one’s person and home to be free from unreasonable and arbitrary demands by the police for access or explanation has largely remained a cornerstone of our society.

Efforts by the government beginning in the late 1960s to prosecute the “war” against drugs opened the door to a much-expanded sphere of control, within which the citizen’s ability to withstand government access to their private lives was greatly reduced. Court decisions in recent years had restored a degree of that lost privacy and curtailed at least some excesses of government power.

Unfortunately, the terrorist attacks eight years ago slammed the door on the re-emerging notion that there are limits to government snooping and control over the individual.

What occurred on Gates’ porch was but the latest example of government controlling a citizen (regardless of race) based on the flimsiest of evidence, and of the power to arrest anyone, anytime who does not meekly submit to such control. Until we start questioning those premises, we will not have begun to address something much more important than racial prejudice.

145 comments Add your comment

Mtn, Man

August 3rd, 2009
6:20 am

What is also reveals is the the perpetual divide between “Elitism” and “Commonism!” And I am not referring to the political designation,but the Harvard concept of a inherent superior attitude; of its faculty in this case! It is no surprise,that the president of ALL citizens would side with a tenured professor,from his college no less!……..surprised?…….I,m not! We must be ruled,as all peasants,of this world……say AMEN! serf! Mtn.Man

Morris Hagerman

August 3rd, 2009
6:50 am

It seems that not only are you right, but even the President (or those that want to be) may have to prove who they are and where they came from. Hmmm

Lizzie 300

August 3rd, 2009
6:53 am

As Mr. Barr has said, the right to be present in your home is/should be paramount.


August 3rd, 2009
6:54 am

You’re saying it’s unreasonable for a man to produce ID for an officer trying to make sure a citizen’s house is secured after what appeared to be a break in? Wow, you might need to check the definition of unreasonable. I believe it is, however, unreasonable to be slinging racist nonsense at a police officer who is trying to do his job. Gates should have been gracious and thanked the cop for responding so quickly and securing his home.


August 3rd, 2009
6:55 am

Mr Barr:

What would you have done if you were in Crawley’s shoe that night in Cambridge?

Loss of rights - Tampa Forums

August 3rd, 2009
7:02 am

[...] So far, in what has become a mini-drama involving a white cop, a black professor and a president of the United States, we have had a racial confrontation, an arrest, a release, a presidential gaffe, a presidential back-track, a presidential invitation to quaff a brewski, a staged meeting at the White House and a promise of more meetings to come. The saga involving Harvard


August 3rd, 2009
7:05 am

OK, so let’s imagine the scenario here. You’re away on vacation, and in your absence a couple of burglars break into your home. Their original plan was to just steal some valuables and get out, but then they see from your calendar that you’ll be gone for three weeks. So instead, they decide to kick back and relax, and make your home their home. One of your neighbors noticed them prying the screen off your window in the back yard and climbing in, so she called the police. The police arrive within the hour, but by the time they get there, the burglars are already safely esconced inside your domicile. Seeing nobody outside to arrest, the police decide to knock on your door. The burglars decide not to answer the door, so the police just shrug and walk away. Or, the burglars do answer the door, but when the police ask them to prove that they live there, the burglars indignantly refuse: How *dare* the police confront them inside their own home, and demand that they show some identification? Oh, the outrage. So, by the time you return from vacation, not only are all of your valuables gone — cash, jewelry, computer equipment, etc. — but your home has also been totally trashed by the burglars who invited all their friends over for dope parties, pimped hookers in your bed, spray-painted graffiti on the walls, set fire to the furniture, etc. But, hey — your constitutional right to tell the cops to bug off when you’re within the privacy of your own home is safely intact. Happy now?

Sonia Kermaz

August 3rd, 2009
7:07 am

We have indeed lost the right to privacy at every level and with it the pretense of liberty.

Steven Pulliam

August 3rd, 2009
7:08 am

Barr’s comments are extremely insightful. The last 6 words, “much more important than racial prejudice,” are very insensitive, however. Governmental control is indeed a very serious problem. Racism is also a very serious problem, and it is short-sighted to compare their importance. Victims of racism are devalued, having their rights limited and being degraded at the same time. As a white male, I only understand a little of what this must be like. Perhaps Bob Barr should try understanding.


August 3rd, 2009
7:13 am

If I were Officer Crawley, I would have left the premises after Gates provided two froms of ID to him (his drivers license and his passport). Recall that Gates had just gotten home from at least a 16 hour flight from China. Who wouldn’t be upset with some yahoo in his face asking you to prove that you have the right to be in your own home. I’m sure Gates mouthed off, so what? People mouth off to cops when given parking tickets, speeding tickets at obvious “speed traps” etc. Its par for the course for people to be rude to cops and you shouldn’t be arrested for expressing the fact that what they’re doing to you is unfair and wrong.


August 3rd, 2009
7:15 am

Once ID was provided, the cops job was done. Period!

Peter Krimski

August 3rd, 2009
7:15 am

Regarding your commentary, there is a failure to recognize the reason why the police arrived at Mr. Gates home. They were called to that location by a concerned passerby who had a reasonable belief that a crime may have been commited.

It is true that the citizenry have surrendered some rights to privacy, but what they have asked in return is a goverment that will protect them. Be it a local municipality, or the federal goverment the citizens want some sense of security.

If a police officer is investigating an incident where a person unlawfully enters private property with the intent to commit a crime, it is childish to believe that anyone who is in the home at the time should not have to identify themselves to the officer.

Professor Gates got into a “pissing contest” with the police and followed through to a logical outcome.


August 3rd, 2009
7:19 am

Bob, wake up and quit talking crap. If a police officer ask you to show your ID… do it. What’s the big deal?

Why waste time with all those words Bob, when common sense says just do what the police is asking. The Officer wasn’t telling Gates ( a clear race provocateur) to do something wrong or stupid.

Gates and Pres. Obama clearly have the democrat’s media on their side. Anyone who has brains, and is able to think clearly understands the easy things to do in situations like Gates was in. Do what your asked.

Then, Pres. Obama comes along, and has no compunction in expressing his opinion, especially when he doesn’t know the facts. Pres. Obama acts like all the racist people he complains about.

The trouble with Pres. Obama… the democrat’s press is too busy giving him and every other democrat a BJ. Maybem we just need more M. Jackson news for the nitwits in this country or maybe we can dig up something new on OJ to occupy brainless twits like yourself.

Wake up Bob. Who wrote this crap?


August 3rd, 2009
7:22 am

What an absurd set of assertions…

“…have nothing to do with the legitimate effort to prevent weapons or explosives from being brought onto public conveyances or into government buildings.” – How can you possible claim that checking ID’s against the names of those sworn to do all they can to physically and emotionally destroy this nation has “nothing to do” with protecting us from such radicals?

“self-delegated responsibility to keep us safe” – One of the few responsibilities reasonable people agree on is the government’s role in national and local defense. I have the right to arm myself to defend my home and property, but public access areas are clearly the government’s responsibility to protect. We demand that of them.

“state and local governments have constantly probed for ways in which to reclaim the power over the citizenry expressly taken from them in the Constitution” – I much prefer our current arrangement to local “militias” (read “gangs”) that could be formed by radicals claiming to be acting in line with their Constitutional rights but terrorize neighborhoods for profit.

I do not know, and neither do you, the specifics of the Gates confrontation sufficiently well to pass judgement on the police actions, but our society is being undermined more by those who are eager to claim “racial bias” at the drop of a hat than by those sword to defend it’s security.


August 3rd, 2009
7:26 am

What a bunch of crap! Look, a Policeman responded to a call regarding 2 men breaking into a house. Dr. Gates, one of the breakers in, got upset because the Policeman didn’t recognize him as he saw himself, a Celebrity. He became abusive to the Policeman. He got what he deserved, handcuffed. Those that wish to make this a racial incident unnecessarily keep beating the drum of intolerance. We can only hope that Dr. Gates has learned, as I have, that when a Cop says something to you in a situation like this, the best answer to him or her, irregardless of race, is “Yes Sir”.


August 3rd, 2009
7:32 am

Crowley was a state officer, yet you use that incident to focus on the power of the federal government. That’s a non sequitur.


August 3rd, 2009
7:32 am

I am disappointed that Americans by and large have become such sheep, kowtowing to Authority without question or knowledge of their own rights. For what it is worth I think that Crowley is a nice guy; but he was wrong to arrest Gates, not morally, but according to the letter of the law enshrined in the 1st and 4th amendments. The events leading up to the arrest was not racial profiling because the police were dispatched to Gates’ house by an even-handed call from a concerned passerby. This,however, doesn’t mean that the arrest didn’t have a racial tinge to it. I will not repeat all the sundry parts from Crowley’s own police report, but the tapes proves that there are ALARMING inconsistencies in his report: Whalen said she didn’t know the race of the people trying to break in and said she wasn’t sure if they were breaking in as they had suitcases; not because she was trying to be politically correct, but because she didn’t get a good enough look at the men; She claims not to have spoked with Crowley at the scene of the crime other than to identify herself as the one who called, again she didn’t repeat anything to Crowley other than that.

Yet, Crowley’s report claims that Whalen told her two black men had entered the house with backpacks. Now let us look back to the tapes once more: In his report Crowley claimed that Gates was yelling so loudly as to disrupt communication with the dispatcher; The tapes do not bare this out, nary a loud and tumultuous yell can be heard from the tapes. Now let us look at the visual evidence: Crowley said he arrested Gates for being loud and tumultuous in a public space, but the picture showed Gates’ in his front porch with handcuffs; Yet another ALARMING inconsistency in Crowley’s report. Any homeowner, I am sure, will not take kindly to anyone loitering on their porch because by law and by intuition we all know that it is not a public space; It is private and considered wholly part of our sovereign property. Outside of race, we have incontrovertible proof that Crowley acted unprofessionally and dare we say it, illegally. It doesn’t matter if Gates was being the biggest jerk in his own home that the world has ever known, but after proving to Crowley that this is indeed his residence then Crowley had no right to be there. And yes he did proof to Crowley that he lived in the property. Crowley’s own report is telling half of the truth when he said that Gates provided with an Harvard I.D. Gates claimed that he provided him with two: State’s and Harvard’s.

At this point I have no reason to not believe Gate’s account because Crowley’s has thoroughly been debunked. Finally to all saying that Gates has made a career out of being a professional “black man” what an utterly debased comment from people that have yet to pick up a single academic book that he as authored. Gates is no black militant, rather an American that knows what his rights are in his own home, after all his an historian. Perhaps, it is only the historians among us that knows that we have rights protecting us against authoritarian abuse. As most Americans seem to want to flush those rights down the memory hole as Ms. Quinn just did.Outside of race it seems clear that the abuse of authority by the previous administration wasn’t an aberration of the American psyche, but rather a reflection of it.


August 3rd, 2009
7:34 am

Cop gets sent to a possible break-in. Cop sees man in house and asks man to step outside to identify himself. Man cops attitude, gets disorderly. That’s all this was. While minorities are definately subject to profiling, that’s been proven statistically, this was not the case. Just some cranky old man with a chip on his shoulder looking for a fight. What was the cop supposed to do when i.d. was refused? Walk away?

Redneck Convert (R--and proud of it)

August 3rd, 2009
7:37 am

Well, I’m downright sorry to see Bob Barr, that was once a good Republican, is taking up for one of Those People over the word of a White police officer that is trying to protect us. This is the South, Barr, and most of us don’t take kindly to you saying a cop don’t have the right to get into your face when you’re at home and arrest you if you don’t go along with his orders. Far as I’m concerned, this police officer ought to of pulled this uppity Gates out to his front yard and give him a good beating. So he would show some decent respect to his betters.

I was thinking for awhile I might could vote for Barr if he ever run for office again. But not anymore. This guy done went over to the wrong side.

That’s my opinion and it’s very true. Have a good day everybody.


August 3rd, 2009
7:38 am

Yes, once the ID is shown, the police are open game. Go ahead and cuss and threaten the cop. The 911 caller was wrong and Gates should have cussed and threatened her to. I wonder why Gates did not want the audio of his legal threats and rant released ? How was Barr able to hear the audio tape already ?


August 3rd, 2009
7:42 am

I agree completely with Mr. Barr’s comments, we are perilously close to a police state in which a commonly heard phrase will be “Of course you have your papers with you…”

My understanding is the Professor gates was already in his home, and that there had been no forced entry–just a stuck door. The police entered his home without invitation and demanded to see identification.

I am a 62 year-old white anglo-saxon and I would have given them an earful too…


August 3rd, 2009
7:48 am

^ To ‘Bob’: How in the hell was the 911 caller wrong??
Because she was not omniscient??

She saw two men trying to break into the house, and she dialed 911. She did exactly the right thing under the circumstances. (And she did NOT, by the way, mention the race of the guys who appeared to be trying to break in. But even if she had mentioned it, that would be quite understandable, as a means to help the cops identify the right suspects.)

Blaming people for not being omniscient — either the cops or the 911 caller — is immensely stupid.


August 3rd, 2009
7:55 am

I also believe the “War on Terror” has eroded the rights of citizens of the US, the protocol on investigation of a crime scene by law enforcement that guided the Cambridge police in their confrontation with Professor Gates can be traced to Janet Reno of the Clinton Administration. An interesting comparison of the Gatesgate and the Jena 6 episode shows there was much less involvement by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton in the latest event. I think that is progress.


August 3rd, 2009
7:55 am

This should have been a non-issue. The cop did his job. Gates was being hateful towards a cop. Obama stuck his nose where it didn’t belong.


August 3rd, 2009
7:56 am

It reveals no such thing, Mr.Barr.

I know you want to be the champion of civil liberties. I know you’re seeking excuses to side with liberals to demonstrate your libertarian bona fides, but this wasn’t the case to pick as an example. The cop was merely doing his job. All the professor had to do was show his driver’s license with his address on it, and say thank you to the office. A trivial inconvenience; the officer was protecting the professor’s property, after all.

Law enforcement does not work unless we all do our part. Officer Crowley was not abusive or pushy; everything that I have heard indicates that he did his job with the professionalism one would expect of a veteran. Professor Gates chose to pick act like a spoiled child (had he been drinking before this happened?), and to pick a fight for no good reason.

Ken Boucher

August 3rd, 2009
8:11 am

It’s a lot easier to keep your civil liberties when one keeps their civility.

If Gates had simply treated the officer the way Gates himself would have liked to be treated, with respect and civility, this would have been a non-event. Unfortunately the officer had a different skin color and social class from Gates and it appears Gates saw no reason to treat someone of a lower class and a different skin color with anything resembling respect and civility.

Heck, maybe if Gates knew who his neighbors were enough to be recognized by them, the police wouldn’t have needed to be called.

J. P. Carlo

August 3rd, 2009
8:12 am

I agree with Bob about the loss of liberty in this country.

However, I take issue with his complaint about needing ID to fly. Frankly, I don’t see what the alternative is (other than perhaps a slightly less ham-fisted way of going about it).

In the old days we used paper tickets. In theory, a paper ticket could be treated as a bearer bond (i.e. like cash) – whoever holds the ticket in their hand gets to use it.

Of course there are a number of disadvantages with this – if the ticket is lost or stolen, not only are you out the cost of the ticket (potentially $1000 or more), but whoever gains possession of it gets to use it for themselves, or resell it at a profit. In addition, if a ticket is to be treated as cash, how do you send it to the intended recipient – mailing it is the equivalent of putting a couple of benjamins into an envelope and dropping it into the mailbox; you needn’t travel far to find a less-than-honest postal worker or customs inspector. And even if you found a secure way to send the ticket, you still have to actually send it, which could take weeks (especially going to an international address), and has a nonzero probability of getting lost. On top of that, with today’s ready availability of high-quality color laser printers, it isn’t hard to make a paper ticket completely indistinguishable from the real thing.

So, today we don’t use paper tickets, but e-tickets instead. And the only thing preventing some random boob from traveling on your e-ticket is showing identification showing that they’re the person who the ticket is intended for. It’s not too difficult to secure an electronic copy of somebody’s itinerary, either through electronic hacking, rifling through the garbage, or social engineering of the airline’s customer service department.

So, if we’re not going to require ID to fly, what will we require? Again, I’m not saying there aren’t more efficient ways of doing this than we have now, just that *some* sort of positive identification system is required.


August 3rd, 2009
8:15 am

I cannot fathom under any circumstances how Officer Crowley can justify arresting Mr Gates in his own home after he (Gates) provided proof that he resided there. Regardless of Mr Gates behavior, WHATEVER it may have been, a police officer does NOT have the duty under ANY circumstances to make an arrest because he has been personally insulted or treated beligerantly. If so, we indeed do live in a police state.


August 3rd, 2009
8:17 am

To me this is a case where Gates forgot his color. I for one would never have answered the door. Unless they produced a warrant, I would never have opened the door. They would have kicked it in and arrested me. I would have a case to sue and would have. I remember not too long ago a no-knock warrant was issues and an elderly woman was killed. Being black while at home gives you no rights or comfort in today’s society.


August 3rd, 2009
8:20 am

I agree with Shane totally. My biggest problem with all of this is that the policeman had to wait for him to go outside and be loud for him to finally have a reason to arrest him for disorderly. It seemed like in the report that the pissed off cop lead him in that direction so he would have the chance to do that. Can you not yell outside your own door at people on your property, that just sounds absurd. He got arrested for his right to free speech on his own property. It just makes me sick. This had nothing to do with race. The man showed his id. , words were exchanged, and that should of just been that. Was he threatening the cop? That is the only reason I can think of that would warrent an arrest. I would love to hear the tapes of Gates’ rant, if any are around. When I read the police report all I could think of was this was total unjustice.

John McMillan

August 3rd, 2009
8:23 am

So you have the old guy Gates who must have been worn out from his trip then frustrated with his door jamming, then you have a cop who expects respect for his authority since he’s there to protect Gates’ property. I don’t think that if Gates wasn’t so full of himself mixed with grumpy, he would have reacted so harshly to the cop inquiring who he was. He HAD to inquire, he couldn’t just assume he was the owner. As far as arresting him, that seems completely avoidable….i keep wondering how Sheriff Andy Taylor would have handled it. Seems like a lack of humility on both parts contributed.


August 3rd, 2009
8:24 am

Obviously, “Redneck Covert” is not Southerner. Any true Southern Redneck and Hillbilly knows that a man’s house is his castle. Unless you got business being here, stay off my front porch, and I do not care who you are. We respect the law, but do not like police snooping in our houses, our cribs, or our barns. Police do not want someone snooping intheir houses, now do they?? It burns me up the way some of these snot-nose yuppies act. You come down south, and try to play the race cards to get in withthe people. Well, we can smell your phoney scheme a mile away. You carpetbaggers need to take your trash somewhere else. I don’t have no problem with coloreds, as long as they mind their own business. Now, Bob Barr – now he is a good man. He sure is.


August 3rd, 2009
8:24 am

Sticking your nose into other people’s business is immensely stupid.The caller started a firestorm because she couldn’t mind her own business.She didn’t really see what she thought she saw,did she?What she thought she saw didn’t occur.

Our esteemed President could take that advice also.This was none of his business.He started a real mess when he opened his mouth and the teachings of 20 years of the Rev.Wright rolled out.

This leaves Gates and Crowley.Everyone has their own opinion about what took place between those two.

Question.Who dropped the charges against Gates,leaving the officer standing out in the cold?

No,Bob,this incident has nothing to do with the dissolulation of individual rights.Nothing at all.

Chad Massaker

August 3rd, 2009
8:25 am

I agree in general with the argument that our freedom’s are eroding daily. However, I’m not sure that has anything to do with the Gates Drama. Put differently, I am not certain that the same outcome would not have arisen in a pre-9/11 world. Furthermore, I am sure such incidents happen on a daily basis, in some cases the cop was racist, and other times the suspect did something that warranted his arrest if only for the safety of the officer. Point is, I think this whole thing was blown way out of proportion due to the players involved (Obama included). We’re all fishing on how to turn this event into something it is not. We’re trying to label it because it would be easy to do so. He’s white, he’s black, Rodnety King precedent, etc. I am unclear as to why both sides could not just say “I’m sorry for the misunderstanding, I know how you must have felt”. Lack of Empathy is the real issue here. Nothing more. Now, lets get back to something more important, why Michael Jackson died *sarcasm*


August 3rd, 2009
8:25 am

We should be allowed to “mouth off to police” in our own home…the police officer is the professional in this situation and the one with all the power. He is the one who had the power and responsibility to diffuse the situation. He is the one who had the training. the other was a tired old, man with a cane mouthing off in his own house. I see this a an affront to basic freedoms covered in the constitution. The officer did have some training, and the professor did have some credibility, otherwise it would have just been another citizen slapped on the floor, handcuffed and thrown into a bully wagon. Sorry, I as a white American, have seen too much of this stuff.


August 3rd, 2009
8:28 am

The cop didn’t do his job. He has had training to diffuse situations so that minor problems like this don’t become incidents, Once he found out that Gates was the legal resident he should have “thank you, sorry for the inconvience” and left. Incident done.

I do think the writer of the article is correct in that we have lost much of our rights. We don’t even know how much due to technology.

My question is, would it have been different if Gates was white? In my opinion yes. (I’m a white male btw)


August 3rd, 2009
8:30 am

It’s about time somebody said it. Good article.


August 3rd, 2009
8:32 am

Bob; I have respected your opinion on many issues in the past, but in this case you are definitely off base and should keep your mouth shut. Of the people directly involved in this incident (now including you since you have added your two cents) the only ones that appear to have used common sense, responsibility, and level headedness are the 911 caller and Officer Crowley. If someone ever breaks into your home while you are there and a neighbor or passerby calls 911 you should be happy and relieved to have an intelligent cop showing up on your porch to ensure that you are safe. Use your common sense Bob, and stop using this occurrence to fulfill your own political agenda.


August 3rd, 2009
8:36 am

A police officer in a situation like this one has two things to do right from the onset; take control and deescalate. This is the training a police officer receives from day one. The reason is “SAFETY”; safety for the officer and those around the officer. Once this occurs the officer can assess the situation and do what is required based on the facts at hand.

Gates blew it completely. He lost his temper and did not let the officer do his job. The officer did what he was trained to do for the right reason. Gates is supposedly an educated man but apparently has no common sense. Gates should be ashamed that he had to play the “Race Card” to cover up his bad judgment in the moment. No rights were violated. This is not a “government is taking away our rights” incident. Gates should apologize to everyone for escalating the situation into a national event based on his own bad judgment.


August 3rd, 2009
8:38 am

Judge Andrew Napolitano said on Fox News that Crowley
entered the house illegally. He also said the D.C. charge was a false arrest.
He doesn’t mention that Crowley breaks a state law by not handing over a police id card when Gates asks him.Saying I’m Sgt. Crowley is not legal enough in MA.
Crowley should have waited for backup and interviewed Whalen and the woman she was calling for. Whalen says Crowley never interviewed her..
She could have told him they had luggage and she thought they maybe lived there.
Like the dispatcher said on Adam 12 see the man or see the woman.
MA courts have upheld that yelling at a cop is not illegal. And the arrest on the porch doesn’t meet MA law. It doesn’t matter if other cops said it was proper.


August 3rd, 2009
8:40 am

“Anonymous” says “All the professor had to do was show his drivers license with his address on it, and say thank you to the officer.”

Correction: All he had to do was show his license, which he did! Apparently the professor was arrested for not being sufficiently grateful? My understanding is that the the professor asked the officer for his identification, which Mass. law says is a legal request that an officer must comply with when asked, and the dispute is in the details of this conversation. It is understandable why the officer might have entered the house, but I don’t get why the officer would allow this dispute to get to the point where he had to lure the professor back outside of his house so he could arrest him for being disorderly in a public place.

There is no legal requirement for a citizen to say “thank you”, and the officer could have simply said “Sorry to have disturbed you. Have a nice day,” and simply left. What’s missing in the discussions of what happened is that the officer had a complete picture of what was going on and the reason why he was there at the house. The professor did not, as he had just come home from the airport from a long trip and discovered his door was not working perhaps because someone else had attempted to break into his house while he was away. Around the time the police arrived, the professor had just made a phone call asking for the university maintenance people to come fix the door. Is it any wonder he was surprised and confused to see police instead of a handyman?

art riley

August 3rd, 2009
8:47 am

In this day and age, all people have to do is listen to the tapes of the arrest and they will see that Dr. Gates was well within his rights as a citizen. He did not start out being unruly. It only occurred after the officers demanded more than a reasonable explanation of what he was doing in the house. They should have saiD, “Excuse me please”, gone back to their crusier and simply checked out the vailidity of his residence. They should have done the same thing they would have done with a traffic stop. But no, they insisted more from this man in his own home. I dare say any of us would have been upset if we had been treated the same way, especially WHITE citizens of this great country. Just check the tapes of the event which are now public record and quit being suck knee jerk conservatives. Have you forgotton what our soldiers fought and died for in the second world war, the right to privacy from unreasonable invasion.

In closing, I quote Heinrich Himmler who upon learning that one of his officers had a grandmother who was Jewish told his subordinates, “I alone decide who is and isn’t a Jew”. Who will decide whether you are or are not a Jew.

J. P. Carlo

August 3rd, 2009
8:50 am

“Gates blew it completely. He lost his temper and did not let the officer do his job. The officer did what he was trained to do for the right reason. ”


What do you think the officer’s job was?

I’ll give you my take on it.

Call comes in for a possible break-in. Police are dispatched to the scene of a possible break-in.

Their job: investigate to see whether a break-in actually occurred. If so, collect evidence and attempt to apprehend the suspect. If not, get back in the car and drive away. Notify dispatch and fill out your paperwork stating that the call was “unfounded.” Job well done.

The point is that, from the moment that Sgt. Crowley ascertained that Mr. Gates was who he said he was, and that Mr. Gates was the legal occupant of the home, his job was done. No break-in occurred; the home was occupied by its legal resident (who I assume had told him that the door was stuck so they had to pry it open, explaining why the call came in in the first place).

Unfounded. Job is done. Get in the car and drive home.

As a former first responder (EMT) myself, I understand – and was trained to understand – that when you go on a call you will meet people experiencing great stress or unusual circumstances in their life. As such, you can expect them to be angry, to be upset, to behave somewhat irrationally, to not be their normal selves. You, on the other hand, are a professional, doing the job you were trained to do. The higher standard of decorum should be held upon yourself, and some amount of irascibility on the part of the public should be chalked up to what’s going on. At some point you – the consummate professional – have to dust yourself off and walk away. If you’re a cashier or a waiter, you can’t take a swing at every customer who has words with you. If you work in customer service (and some fraction of police work is essentially “customer service”), you can’t blow up at every customer who takes an attitude or makes unreasonable demands. You’re the professional doing your job; they’re not. Thus you are held to a higher standard.

Again, once Sgt. Crowley determined that the house was occupied by its legal occupant, and that is who the guy at the door is, the job is done. The investigation is complete. There is nothing more that needs to be done. Call was unfounded. Get back in the car and drive away. If the legal occupant is being difficult, chalk that up to a difficult situation; be a professional and walk away.

It was Sgt. Crowley who chose to continue the encounter, to escalate it, to push Gates’ buttons even more by continuing to question him, even after his job was done.


August 3rd, 2009
8:56 am

He got what he wanted 15 min. of fame. But he did not care who he hurt to get it. He had to bring color into it too. The real story did not have anything to do with color, people should understand that.


August 3rd, 2009
8:59 am

Lynda again, I was talking about Mr Gates getting his 15 min of fame and making it so much bigger than it was and bring color into it.


August 3rd, 2009
9:07 am

You can bet if there was a shred of a case against Professor Gates the charges would not have been dropped. Yet in the absence of a crime, commenters attack the unjustly arrested man. Like Mr. Barr, I have no idea what effect race played in the situation. However, I can attest that white friends of mine have been hauled to a police station for nothing more serious that an officer and not being appropriately submissive. Funny how the charges always get dropped. This stuff happens all the time.

Gates produced ID. Gates was not a threat. The disorderly conduct charges were dropped. In light of these facts, fair minded people should ask themselves why he was arrested.

Police throw their weight around and knee-jerk authoritarians do logical gymnastics to justify blaming the victim. Insufficient meekness becomes a crime and petty despots in blue expect more and more subservience.

Curious Observer

August 3rd, 2009
9:10 am

Lynda again, I was talking about Mr Gates getting his 15 min of fame . . .

Gates was already famous, dimbulb, one of the most distinguished black scholars in the university ranks. If you hadn’t heard of him before, it’s your ignorance that’s showing.


August 3rd, 2009
9:17 am

Bob Barr proves: Even a stopped clock is RIGHT twice a day.

When the police officer first identified the homeowner as the person who lived at the residence, the police investigation was over. He should have apologized to the homeowner and left immediately. Instead he continued to engage the homeowner, escalating the situation to the point he made a “stupid” arrest.

Former police officer.


August 3rd, 2009
9:23 am

Bob Barr is 100% correct on this. As a nation we are slowly losing our 4th AM rights. And once lost, they will never be regained.

You 2nd Am defenders, a weapon is no good to you if you can be arrested on any whim by the state. You 1st AM defenders, you do not have freedom of speech while sitting in the local slammer. The “whole” Constitution must be defended, not just selected parts.

In the Revolutionary period we had the Tories who cared more for governmental control than their liberties. In the 50’s we had the “better Red than dead” folks who were soft on their individual liberties. Now we have you folks who would like to give away your 4th Am liberties in the name of your warm feeling of security.

“Those who willingly give up their liberties in the name of security, deserve neither.”


August 3rd, 2009
9:23 am

Hey Drury,

You need to wake up and stop talking crap. What are you hiding behind with a code name like Drury? Come front and center if you are right! Mr. Barr is exactly right, once confirmation of residences was established, the officer should have let his ego go and reported to dispatch that everything was fine and left the man’s house. That is black or white! The officer was wrong, Disorderly Conduct does not come into play on one’s private property, at the very least it should have been Obstruction, meaning the professor was impeading an investigation.
The police does cross the line all of the time. They get away with it because people don’t know any better or are afraid to speak up. Learn your law Drury!