The Last Word- Gates, Crowley and Police

copI am going to let this be the last post on the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the Henry L. Gates confrontation with Cambridge Police, by saying Crowley lied in his police report using the inflammatory assertion he was sent to the house to look for two black men carrying back packs, using all the frightful  imagery he could to justify his illegal arrest of Gates.  Police officers are not accustomed to people who assert their rights; they prefer people who are cooperative or acquiesce to the abuse which comes with the power of yielding a badge and a gun.   Someone in the comments sections of another post here at Miscellany101. com asked why didn’t the black officer present for Gates’ arrest “represent”, and the answer quite simply is because that black officer sees himself in much the same way as the white officer, who thinks civilians are always suspect no matter who they are or what they have or have not done.  I would hazard a guess that there are very few if any officers on the Cambridge police who would go out on a limb and say what Crowley did was wrong because it would literally be professional suicide.  Their lives depend on whether they have the support of one another, either during encounters with civilians or procedurally, doing paper work that makes false assertions like being called to a home break-in looking for two black men.  An officer like Crowley can have a very successful career with such sloppy police work because he has had the help or the backing of other officers who covered up his abuse.   Unfortunately, such attitude is more common than we may think.

Have you seen the latest about a Boston Police officer who referred to Gates as a “banana eating jungle monkey”?  Obviously you can have any opinion you want of someone, but doing so without expecting any reaction is the height of chutzpah.  Indeed in his missive regarding Gates,  officer Justin Barrett claims he would pepper spray Gates for a verbal barrage he, Barrett,  himself makes without fear of reprisal.  This is the problem with the police; they demand a deferential attitude from civilians who risk the wrath of the State  by way of brutality or  arrest if such deference is not forthcoming to the satisfaction of police.  So this is what Barrett says,

his (Gates) first priority of effort should be go get off the phone and comply with police, for if I was the officer he verbally assaulted like a banana-eating jungle monkey I would have sprayed him in the face with OC deserving of his belligerent non-compliance.

It’s clear from this quote Barrett doesn’t understand his role as a law officer in relation to the public; instead he places himself the arbiter of the law who exacts punishment as he sees fit.  Barrett was also a member of the National Guard and a veteran and those roles played a part in shaping his attitudes towards members of the public.   While it is not a very intelligent thing to do, writing a media outlet with such overt language, it’s equally not smart to allow yourself to be identified as a member of the police department where you live and the Boston Police department has reacted swiftly, as did Barrett’s National Guard unit, both suspending him pending administrative review.  Good; perhaps Barrett doesn’t need to be in a position where he has to interact with a public he thinks “owes” him and not the law compliance.  However, even if Barrett was not exposed to the public officially he still has issues which make him an anachronism in today’s world.  His letter is directed towards a Boston Globe writer who he calls a “fool” and an “infidel”.  Earlier in the same letter he rhetorically asks if that same writer is still in the 5th grade in Catholic school.  Does that mean Barrett thinks Catholics are infidels or is the “infidel” remark a throwback to the days when he was serving in the military fighting the war on terror and infidels the world over?   Barrett’s world, and I think he has found a home among police officers in the Boston police department, is an encapsulated world where everyone on the inside is good, an “us” and everyone on the outside is bad, evil, against us, and there are no limits to fighting these against us elements who are fools, banana-eating jungle monkeys and infidels.

Our leaders led this charge back so many years ago…….2001 to be precise and they used the same kind of language as Barrett with no consequences for it.  In fact they may still enjoy a public following and there’s no reason to believe a cadre of supporters like Barrett and fellow law enforcement officers who emulate the “attitude” and language of those leaders in the past don’t think they are similarly entitled to do and say the same things AND get away with it!  I was also struck by his xenophobia, towards women, apparent with his remark how the writer should stay home and make him breakfast on Sunday mornings.  While such comments are harmless they show a callous regard to people he doesn’t know, and it is this type of person, an unknown, a stranger who Barrett would most likely would come in contact with as a police officer.  Would he be as callous in discharging his duties towards such a person, like Gates?  Most likely.

Finally Barrett sees nothing wrong with what he wrote; indeed he says that he’s not a racist and most likely believes that.  In an apology he made in response to the aforementioned letter, Barrett again claims he’s no racist and that he treats everyone with respect.  What’s chilling about that is a similar pronouncement was made about Sgt. James Crowley, that  he’s not racist and he teaches others about racial profiling in the police department and this total disconnect from reality, on the one hand one can spew the most specifically targeted racist infective yet claim he/it is not racist is what is surreal about the entire Gates-Crowley-Barrett-police force episode.  Just because you teach racial profiling to a department of like minded people doesn’t make you immune from the affliction, and likewise,  the mere announcement one is not a racist doesn’t mean it’s so, or that you can’t be a bad public servant who shouldn’t be turned loose on the public.

Obama’s re-calibrated apology was a mistake

President Obama did not need to clear the air, or the record regarding his remarks that the Cambridge, Massachusetts police department acted stupidly, because they did.  I know it was a political move doing so, he didn’t want to upset his base that may think police are above the law, but frankly the arresting officer, James Crowley blew it and he was wrong.  I don’t think anything more needs to be said about that; should professor Henry Gates decide to take civil action against the city of Cambridge or not, I’m not weighing in on that for the moment.  It appears to me the city realized Crowley’s mistake and dropped the charges, disorderly conduct is a catch all for when the police don’t really have anything else to charge you with, as they should have.

President Obama has shown himself to be a politician and that’s unfortunate; we in America have too many of those.  What we need is a leader who takes a position regardless of public opinion, for the public good; who has enough foresight to know the outcome will be beneficial for all even when no one else thinks so.  What we don’t need, is someone who gives in to every whim and cross wind that plows across the American body politic  with an eye on the next election cycle.  Police brutality has always been pandemic in American society and the only way to treat this disease is to attack it at its roots; those people in authority who enable it, pardon it, condone it and practice it need to be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.  Obama didn’t even do that; he merely said the practitioners of the brutality with respect to Gates acted “stupidly” and for that choice of words all the angst about his election is now being rehashed in corporate media, the home of profit over substance, agenda over truth.

Quite frankly what happened in professor Gates’ home will never really be known, but the outcome of those unknown actions is he was charged with disorderly conduct.  That didn’t happen.  But Gates was arrested because he wasn’t deferential enough with Crowley who reached a point where he could no longer walk away from a citizen who demanded more than he, Crowley, was willing to give.  Cops know this charge is aimed at quieting down someone who doesn’t go along willingly with the police program, but in the case of Gates who didn’t go along while in his own house, the charge could not stick.  I was struck by how other police officers had become judge and jury for Gates in deciding that he should have been charged, one officer saying Gates had become “openly hostile for what, I think, was no good reason.”  This , however, is the sanitized definition of disorderly conduct removed from the atmosphere of the Gates case:

The term disorderly conduct is used in statutes to identify various acts against the public peace. It has been held to include the use of obscene language in public, the blocking of public ways, and the making of threats. A statute must identify acts that constitute disorderly conduct with sufficient clarity in order to avoid being held unconstitutional because of vagueness.

I hope you understood that last sentence; the statute as it is is so vague municipalities have to be so specific about it that Cambridge’s definition couldn’t cut it enough to keep Gates tied up. If you want to say that it was dismissed because of politics then I’ll venture to say the arrest was made because of race. As I mentioned in the previous post about the Gates arrest, that when Crowley knew he was face to face with the occupant of the residence should have done an about face and left. That’s what I think as a private citizen should have been Crowley’s concession to the altercation; for those who say that wasn’t necessary or mandatory, I would say equally as forcefully that Gates’ deferential attitude to Crowley was not necessary nor called for in order to avoid a stupid result.

Let me take it a step further………and what if after Gates had identified himself as the legal resident he asked Crowley to leave, exit, get out of his house and Crowley refused. What would Gates’ rights have been then? The 2nd amendment in me says, when confronted with an intruder from whom you fear for your personal safety, and who is armed, you have a right to deadly force. What then would have been the outcome had Gates exercised this right to self defense? Thankfully, we don’t have to go there and despite all the scenarios one could picture that could have happened, the best one is the one that did happen. It’s been reported Obama has offered to have the two main participants to the White House for a friendly get together. That would be nice, I’m sure, but his re-calibration wasn’t necessary.