Seriously. Folks. Full of shit. First off, the interview he gave The Root is no more or less prejudicial than the police report. Why? Gates is the editor in chief of that publication. As if he is going to publish something in his own organ that reflects badly on him. But let me get to why the whole thing is suspect:
My driver and I carried several bags up to the porch, and we fiddled with the door and it was jammed. I thought, well, maybe the door’s latched. So I walked back to the kitchen porch, unlocked the door and came into the house. And I unlatched the door, but it was still jammed.
My driver is a large black man. But from afar you and I would not have seen he was black. He has black hair and was dressed in a two-piece black suit, and I was dressed in a navy blue blazer with gray trousers and, you know, my shoes. And I love that the 911 report said that two big black men were trying to break in with backpacks on. Now that is the worst racial profiling I’ve ever heard of in my life. (Laughs.) I’m not exactly a big black man. I thought that was hilarious when I found that out, which was yesterday.
It looked like someone’s footprint was there. So it’s possible that the door had been jimmied, that someone had tried to get in while I was in China. But for whatever reason, the lock was damaged. My driver hit the door with his shoulder and the door popped open. But the lock was permanently disfigured.
So understand the police report from Carlos Figuroa said that the woman who called in the 911 call, Lucia, Whalen, claimed that she saw a large black man trying to push in the door of Gate's house. Now Gates clearly coraborates her story by admitting that the taxi driver was in fact large and was in fact trying to push in the door. Forget who Gates is for a moment: Since the witness does not claim to have seen anything prior to the "big black man wedging the door." Gates cannot infer any malice in her 911 call. Particularly since as he states:
. If I was on Martha’s Vineyard like I am now and someone was trying to break into my house, I would hope that someone called the police and that they would respond. But I would hope that the police wouldn’t arrest the first black man that they saw
So on the one hand Gates would like for the police to respond to 911 break-in's calls so long as the person doing the "breaking in" isn't Gates. How contradictory. Secondly, the officer did not arrest the first black man they saw, they:
1) Arrested the black man giving them grief. A very questionable move.
2) Questioned the man that was in the home that was the location of a reported break in, whom the 911 caller was standing in front of.
So Gates' implication that the Cambridge police randomly decided to go after the "first black man they saw." simply is not supported by the actual events as admitted to by all involved parties.
’ All of a sudden, there was a policeman on my porch. And I thought, ‘This is strange.’ So I went over to the front porch still holding the phone, and I said ‘Officer, can I help you?’ And he said, ‘Would you step outside onto the porch.’ And the way he said it, I knew he wasn’t canvassing for the police benevolent association. All the hairs stood up on the back of my neck, and I realized that I was in danger. And I said to him no, out of instinct. I said, ‘No, I will not.’
My lawyers later told me that that was a good move and had I walked out onto the porch he could have arrested me for breaking and entering.
Hmmm. Generally it's a bad idea to refuse a police officer's instruction. I think the lawyer's after the fact commentary that Gates would have been arrested had he left the premises is faulty. Since it had not been established that Gates had in fact broken into the property the officer could not have arrested him. Furthermore an officer does not need a break in suspect to leave the property in which he is alleged to have broken into in order to arrest him. What an officer needs to establish is probable cause. A 911 call is probable cause to ask for ID, it is NOT probable cause for an arrest on sight. Ogletree ought to know this.
But here's where it gets interesting:
He said ‘I’m here to investigate a 911 call for breaking and entering into this house.’ And I said ‘That’s ridiculous because this happens to be my house. And I’m a Harvard professor.’ He says ‘Can you prove that you’re a Harvard professor?’ I said yes, I turned and closed the front door to the kitchen where I’d left my wallet, and I got out my Harvard ID and my Massachusetts driver’s license which includes my address and I handed them to him. And he’s sitting there looking at them.
Compare this to the police report of the responding officer:
I could see an older black male standing in the foyer of Ware street. I made this observation through the glass paned front door...I asked if he could step out onto the porch and speak with me. He replied "no I will not."
Let me stop here for a minute. Gates has confirmed this part. He refused a request by a police officer to speak with him. I don't know about you but in my experience police don't just show up at my door willy nilly, looking to take me out. I don't know about you, but if an officer comes to my door (it's happened), it's usually because they were called there. Particularly since I don't sell drugs, run a prostitution ring, etc. So really there is no reason for me to be difficult. Why does Gates think he's so special? Secondly and most importantly, the officer is asking you to leave the residence in order that he/she isn't shot at by someone out of view. Continuing:
He then demanded to know who I was. I told him I was Sgt. Crowley from the Cambridge police" and that I was "Investigating a report of a break in progress" at the residence. While I was making this statement Gates opened the front door and exclaimed " why, because I'm a black man in America?" I then asked Gates if there was someone else in the residence. While yelling, he told me that it was none of my business and accused me of being a racist police officer."
Let me stop here again. This is where the story starts to diverge, though the basics seem to be in line. Gates claims that his exclamation that he as a "black man in America" happened after furnishing his ID. The officer's account states that the exclamation happened before the ID was furnished. This is significant because if Gates started his mouth prior to furnishing ID, then he gave the officer more of a reason to think that something was wrong at the scene. But lets look at Gate's explanation of this part:
So he’s looking at my ID, he asked me another question, which I refused to answer. And I said I want your name and your badge number because I want to file a complaint because of the way he had treated me at the front door. He didn’t say, ‘Excuse me, sir, is there a disturbance here, is this your house?’—he demanded that I step out on the porch, and I don’t think he would have done that if I was a white person.
See how the stories diverge here: In Gates' account he admits that he was not paying attention to what the police officer was asking him (the "He asked me another question"). But that also confirms the account of the responding officer who does say that he asked gates another question after asking him to step out on the porch. Now here's where it gets interesting, in Gates' account, the officer has already seen Gate's ID and is then asking Gates "excuse me sir, is there a disturbance here, is this your house?" So at this point we may conclude that someone is not telling the story correctly. Why would the officer ask the question if he already has the ID in hand. In fact the responding officer's report notes:
While I was lead to believe that Gates was lawfully in the residence. I was quite surprised and confused with the behavior he exhibited toward me. I asked Gates to provide me with photo identification so that I could verify that he resided at Ware Street and that I could radio my findings to the ECC. Gates initially refused, demanding that I show him identification but then did supply me with a Harvard University identification card. Upon learning that Gates was affiliated with Harvard, I radioed and requested the presence of the Harvard University Police.
With the Harvard University identification in hand, I radioed my findings to ECC on channel two and prepared to leave.
So the officer was already convinced that Gates was the lawful resident of his home. Gates, apparently was too beside himself to even realize that the situation was just about resolved. Also, anyone who has been stopped for a traffic infraction knows full well that you get your license run through the system to make sure you are who you say you are. Secondly, the officer is required to radio is findings back to the station as he had no expectation of having to do any paperwork.
You'll notice in the officer's report that the ID was furnished towards the end of the initial confrontation rather than how Gates recalls it where he says he will not, then immediately supplies ID and then starts with the accusations. But here's the other interesting thing. Anyone who's had incidents with police know full well you can hear the two way radios very clearly. What was Gates doing where he didn't realize that the Harvard police had not been contacted?
It looked like an ocean of police had gathered on my front porch. There were probably half a dozen police officers at this point. The mistake I made was I stepped onto the front porch and asked one of his colleagues for his name and badge number. And when I did, the same officer said, ‘Thank you for accommodating our request. You are under arrest.’ And he handcuffed me right there. It was outrageous.
So yeah, the ocean of police were in fact the second responding officer and the Harvard PD. Now you'll note in Gates' piece that does not discuss or refute the comment by the responding officer about how he would "speak with his mama." Nor does the supposed interviewer at The Root appear to even ask about it. Even more damning to me is that while Gates makes the claim that the officer claimed that the officer said "Thanks for accommodating my request." There is no discussion that the officer had been walking away from Gates, and had "warned' Gates that he would be arrested for the continued public outburst. In case the reader is unawares, you yell out your window or door at people or play loud music out your window, you're legally creating a public disturbance. And yes, that can get you arrested if you refuse to cease and desist.
So lets understand the facts here: Gates was not arrested because he was mistaken for a burglar, He was arrested for public disturbance and from the report and Gates' own admitted behavior he could have been charged with impeding a police investigation as well.
Secondly, It's pretty disappointing how otherwise intelligent bloggers and academics have reported this incident. Anyone who has been involved with court cases know full well that until someone is under oath and a cross examination has happened, you really don't know the facts. The police have their side, which any reasonable person will suspect and the suspect has a story that should also be viewed with a critical eye. There are a lot of people writing out there who have failed to do any due diligence. HOw does a Princeton professor write a piece on this incident, more than half of which is about Gate's work and accomplishments? It's irrelevant. Seriously. Why should his status have any effect on his treatment? Haven't we been advocating for people to be treated equally and fairly regardless of status? Or is it that it's OK to assail status when the status holder is white but when the status holder is black then...
And what is it with people who think that somehow being cooperative with police is somehow akin to bucking under an overseer's whip? WTF? Some blogger said that Gates' other option was to apologize for being black and in the house. No, no need to apologize to a police officer. Simply take control of the situation by understanding that most police are not corrupt and looking to give you a hard time. They have a job to do and that the calmer you are, the faster it will end. Let me explain how this whole thing could have been resolved:
(Gates at door): Excuse me officer what's the problem? (hand in clear view).
Officer: There was a report of a break in progress.
Gates: Oh I see, probably someone saw me having difficulty with my door. Hold on while I get my ID for you.
Officer: Ok sir. Is there anyone else here?
Gates: Yeah the cab driver who was helping me out. (goes and gets the ID)
Gates: Here you go [hand over ID]. Thanks for looking out for the neighborhood. Anything else I can help you with.
Officer: I need to call this in on the radio.
Gates: No problem. I'm on the phone with Harvard, if you need anything else give me a shout.
[after the officer leaves]
Gates on phone with Cornell West: Some cracker called the police on me! They still hate that I'm HNIC in here.
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