Are the Falsely Accused Required to be Polite to the Police?

Rich Rodgers

I hope we make the most of the national discussion and debate generated by the July 16th arrest of Harvard professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts by Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge police.

If you've been under a rock for the past 10 days, here's the quick version: Gates returned to his house at noon after an overnight flight from China, with his driver, to find he couldn't get into his house.  His white neighbor called the police and reported that two men were trying to break into the home. Crowley responds, and the police report is here.  Gates tells his side of the story here.

While so much of the debate pretends that the key question is what Gates said to Crowley, it's actually not illegal to yell at a police officer in Massachusetts:

In several cases, the courts in Massachusetts have considered whether a person is guilty of disorderly conduct for verbally abusing a police officer. In Commonwealth v. Lopiano, a 2004 decision, an appeals court held it was not disorderly conduct for a person who angrily yelled at an officer that his civil rights were being violated. In Commonwealth v. Mallahan, a decision rendered last year, an appeals court held that a person who launched into an angry, profanity-laced tirade against a police officer in front of spectators could not be convicted of disorderly conduct.
So Massachusetts law clearly provides that Gates did not commit disorderly conduct.

So Gates appears to have been guilty of nothing illegal, but is there any doubt that he is being judged in the court of public opinion for his alleged statements to the officer?  You can bet that a large percentage of white Americans find it easy to believe in the falsehood that Gates's verbal challenges or resistance justified his arrest.  This belief--that this black man or anyone else is obligated to be submissive to police officers in speech--should be called out and rejected.

It's human nature for an employee to consider taking a customer's behavior into account when deciding what kind of service to give to them.  Professionals do a good job of ignoring insults or slights, but no one is immune from the temptation.  For police, though, the bar has to be higher.  Too much rides on the outcome. To begin to change the dynamics at the heart of racial profiling and the distrust that many minorities feel toward the police, the training that officers receive has to meaningfully recognize the negative experiences that most minorities in our country share.

In his recent column in the New York Times, Charles Blow cites a NYT/CBS poll from July 2008 that asked this question: 

“Have you ever felt you were stopped by the police just because of your race or ethnic background?”

66 percent of black men said yes, compared to 9 percent of white men.  That's a shocking statistic, but to really try to absorb what this means, you have to think about what really happens on some of these stops. 

Blow tells the story of being stopped in Louisiana when he was 18, the president of his college freshmen class, in a car with his friend Andre:

Andre insisted on knowing why we had been stopped. The officer gave a reason. It wasn’t true. Then he said something I will never forget: that if he wanted to, he could make us lie down in the middle of the road and shoot us in the back of the head and no one would say anything about it. Then he walked to his car and drove away.

I was raised to treat police officers with respect, and have always figured it was in my interest to do so.  I can think of three times when I was stopped for speeding and let go with a warning, and guessed that the 'yes sirs' and 'no sirs' didn't hurt my cause.  But being deferential has never implied for me that I needed to swallow a sense of profound injustice.  I've never thought for a second that I was or might be threatened, arrested or even shot just because I'm a white guy.  Our experiences are so different, we might as well be living in different countries.

It's clear that the experience of prejudice at the hands of the police is all too common for black men and other minorities in the United States. It's asking too much to insist that someone show respect to an institution that has treated them unfairly.  It's asking someone to accept a diminished or tarnished standing in the eyes of an entity that has the power to take away their freedom or even their life.  For that respect to come, it's going to have to continue to be earned.

It seems certain that submission or deference is sometimes used by police officers as a litmus test for whether they will make an arrest or issue a citation, even when the expectation of submission goes beyond the legal obligations of a citizen in interacting with a police officer.  This emphasis on submission and compliance no doubt has some of its roots in attempting to ensure the safety of our police officers, who must be prepared for any possibility.  But when race and ego are injected into the mix, an expectation of "submission or consequences"is unacceptable as standard operating procedure for police officers-- even, or perhaps especially, when people are upset and saying so.

Comments

  • jsilver2th (unverified)
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    Actually the Truly Accused are not required to be polite to the police either.

    In Oregon disorderly conduct requires an "intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm"- oral statements in your own house that could be overhead by the public would hardly come close. People have a right to redress their grievences to the government and any court has to weigh that right. Accusing the police of wrongful conduct may not be the best idea under the circumstances but what kind of speech could be more vital in a free society?

  • jsilver2th (unverified)
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    ummm... "that could be overhead" should read "that could not be overhead..." OOOPS

  • (Show?)

    I'm with Paul Krugmsn, who noted on ABC's This Week, that conservatives are all flipped out these days claiming that Obama is engineering some kind of totalitarian police state -- but they don't seem to have any problem with a police officer arresting and handcuffing an old man in his own home for nothing more than being rude to a cop.

    The racism of the rightwing reaction is stunning. I have no doubt that if Gates were an old white man in Sandpoint, Idaho, and the cops were federal agents of some sort, righties would be screaming.

  • (Show?)

    While it may not be a crime to verbally abuse a police officer, and it is true that the arrest was not appropriate, it is also not fair or decent to take out on one police officer doing his job the sins of all the other cops who did abuse people of color. Gates lost his cool and treated another human being in a way none of us would like to be treated. There is the law of the land and the law of decency. We should all try to do better than what the law requires.

  • Janus (unverified)
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    "Old man?"

    58 makes Gates an "old man."

    That's harsh Kari.

  • JHL (unverified)
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    The police report indicates that Gates said that his house had been broken into previously.

    That's not hard to believe, considering he expects the police to simply take someone's word regarding such an incident. Perhaps the police should only be so vigilant as to use the honor system?

    Police: Hello sir, I couldn't help but notice you forcing yourself into this residence. Are you, um, trying to burgle it? Some Guy: I'm trying, but this door ain't makin' it easy! Ha ha... no seriously, I am trying to engage in larceny, officer. Looks like you got me though. Police: Well, I appreciate your honesty!

    It seems that Gates' account and the Officer's account differ -- but I'm betting the truth is in between the two accounts.

    But the bottom line for me is that police officers deal with scenarios that could end up in a peaceful resolution or unexpected violence. Asking an officer to be off his/her guard on the basis of political sensitivity could be placing them in danger.

    Of course, there are always blatant examples of an abuse of power (like what happened in Louisiana above), but I'm not sure this rises to quite that level.

    And FYI, I think the officer was wrong to arrest Gates -- he should have just walked away. But I don't think that he was wrong to have not taken Gates' word that he lived there.

  • phil (unverified)
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    I think all people should always be treated with respect, period!

  • Roy McAvoy (unverified)
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    The Police are called everyday to "possible" thefts or burglarys in progress occurring at a home, often only to find the homeowner or a relative of the homeowner at the scene. Efforts still have to be made by the officer on scene to identify and question the person found at the home.

    Even when presented with good ID the cops may still wonder why neighbors or others bothered to call. Don't the calling persons know their neighbor? Even with ID, could this be an ex-husband with a restraining order trying to get into a home of his former wife? Could it be the drug addicted relative who used to live here trying to steal again from his family? Could this be a former evicted tenant trying to get back into the home when he has no right to be there? The more agitated the protests, the more suspicious the police may become.

    It does not seem unusual or unique that a person would become agitated and embarrassed during the investigation. After all, they are being questioned like a possible criminal on their own property, in front of all the neighbors.

    This seems like a very difficult position to be in for the investigating cop. Imagine simply driving away without doing a proper investigation, and a serious crime is discovered later. The situation could only deteriorate more if the person being questioned believes this investigation is race related, or biased for some reason.

    If things get out of hand during the cop's investigation an arrest might be made to get the situation under control, as in the Gates case. No one should be arrested for simply yelling at a cop. However, there is a line. Who crossed the line in the Gates case is in question for me.

    Issues of racial bias and profiling by police are real in the US, even if things are improving. Sometimes those issues are real, and sometimes only perceived by persons of color. Even if only perceived, it still illustrates a problem. A more diverse police work force seems to have helped some. Discussions like this can only help a little more.

  • (Show?)

    By all accounts, Gates was asked to produce ID and he did. Crowley's police report says Gates was arrested:

    'after being observed exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior, in a public place, directed at a uniform police officer who was present investigating a report of a crime in progress. These actions on the behalf of Gates served no legitimate purpose and caused citizens passing by this location to stop and take notice while appearing surprised and alarmed.'

  • fbear (unverified)
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    I have wonder about the neighbor. Does she not know Gates? If she does know him, was there some reason that she didn't recognize him? Did she recognize him, yet call the police anyway? If that's the case, didn't she file a false police report, which is a crime?

  • Unrepentant Liberal (unverified)
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    Mr. Gates was returning from a trip to China. That means to me that he was at the end of a very long, long day. Although, I try to practice good manners in every situation, I think even I would of lost my cool too at a policeman harassing me for entering my own house.

    The policeman, once it had been established that the house was his should of said, "Have a nice evening Mr. Gates" and been on his way.

    The Right wing outrage? Predictable as rain in winter.

  • DSS (unverified)
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    "... the neighbor. Does she not know Gates? If she does know him, was there some reason that she didn't recognize him?"

    This is misreported. Lucia Whalen, the individual who called the police, was not a neighbor. She worked in the neighborhood.

  • Scott Jorgensen (unverified)
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    I think it's completely ridiculous that this arrest has become a huge issue and a national news story. Surely, there are much more important things going on in the world, right?

  • RyanLeo (unverified)
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    Quite a neighborhood for Henry Gates to live in.

    According to the Boston Herald: "She has worked in Cambridge for more than 15 years, about 100 yards from where Mr. Gates resides, and was aware of several recent break-ins in the area."

    source: http://bostonherald.com/news/regional/view/20090727gates_case_shocker_woman_who_called_cambridge_police_says_she_never_referred_to_intruders_as_black/

    This awareness of several recent break-ins backs up Gate's side of the story where his house had an attempted break-in recently.

    Several questions come to mind that are worth raising:

    1. Why did Lucia Whalen not know Henry Louis Gates after working for 15 years in a house not more than 100 yards from Mr. Gate's residence?

    2. Was Mr. Gates belligerence due to the consumption of alcohol on the plane ride back from China?

    3. Why did he not turn on more lights in his house after he came in through the back door?

    4. Why did he not immediately report an attempted break-in to the Cambridge Police before trying to "wedge the front door open" that lead to Ms. Whalen calling the police?

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    Ryan:

    None of that stuff you're asking is relevant.

    It's Gates' house. He proved it was his residence. It's not against the law to be a jackass in your own house.

    He shouldn't have been arrested. Frankly it was stupid to do so.

  • RyanLeo (unverified)
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    Carla,

    It may or may not be relevant (a civil court will decide that). However, I find it real odd that Mr. Gates lives in a neighborhood where an individual who has been working in a home not more than 100 yards from his for 15 years does not know him well enough to check who it is prior to calling the police about a break-in in progress.

    If Mr. Gates spent the time to get to know his neighbors, then Sergeant Crowley would have never been called over in the first place.

    Then again, maybe her calling the police around midnight when someone is trying to jam open their front door open at midnight is what the author of this post calls racism.

    I don't believe it is racism unequivocally. Anyone waking up the neighbors in the middle of the night by jamming open a door at will raise the alarm of any good citizen who is aware of recent break-ins in their neighborhood.

  • RyanLeo (unverified)
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    Wait, I correct myself. The timing was the middle of the day, not the middle of the night.

  • Jim (unverified)
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    "Several questions come to mind that are worth raising:

    1. Why did Lucia Whalen not know Henry Louis Gates after working for 15 years in a house not more than 100 yards from Mr. Gate's residence?

    2. Was Mr. Gates belligerence due to the consumption of alcohol on the plane ride back from China?

    3. Why did he not turn on more lights in his house after he came in through the back door?

    4. Why did he not immediately report an attempted break-in to the Cambridge Police before trying to "wedge the front door open" that lead to Ms. Whalen calling the police?"

    In response to your premise: perhaps, but these four are not those questions. I think Eugene Robinson put it best when he asked what would have happened if instead of Henry Louis Gates, it was Larry Summers.

  • (Show?)

    It's Gates' house. He proved it was his residence. It's not against the law to be a jackass in your own house.

    According to the police report, Gates followed the officer outside and kept yelling and creating a disturbance.

    I think the police officer was wrong to arrest him, but I think Gates overreacted, too (as Obama himself admitted).

    Overall, the history of racial profiling and negative interactions between white police officers and black males probably explains Gates' overreaction more than it does the officer's actions.

    The really strange thing is that Henry Louis Gates and Sgt. Crowley are two of the last people one would expect to find in this kind of situation. It is a reminder that no matter how much any of us thing we've have moved beyond these feelings and experiences, they remain just below the surface.

    That's why the notion that we have entered a "post-racial" or "colorblind" era is sadly premature. But it is also why the simplistic kneejerk reactions of the past are not helpful, either.

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    " 'Have you ever felt you were stopped by the police just because of your race or ethnic background?'

    ...66 percent of black men said yes, compared to 9 percent of white men. That's a shocking statistic..."

    It is shocking. But these percentages only reflect what people believe to have been true. I doubt the 66% or 9% were told, "Just thought I'd stop you because of your race."

    I don't question that more, many more, black men than white men are stopped because of race, but it is equally interesting to see that 66% of black men believe themselves to have been victims of racial profiling. That's also an important social issue to consider because it underscores the sense of alienation one subset in the population feels toward their sworn public protectors. But it's a discouraging statistic regardless of what it reflects.

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)
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    A lot of valid points of course, but there are two things out of line in your choice of words,

    Are the Falsely Accused Required to be Polite to the Police?

    Like what? Breaking and entering? Mr. Gates was being accused of anything. Police get a call about a possible break-in and when they show up and find someone there they are expected to ask questions. That's not an accusation.

    His white neighbor called the police and reported that two men were trying to break into the home.

    Now this was stupid of you, Mr. Rodgers. If that neighbor called every time Mr. Gates came home you might have a point. An I really doubt the caller said, "Hello, I'm a white person and I see someone breaking into my neighbor's house".

    You don't know what the caller was able to see and identify. I'd like to think that you'd appreciate any neighbor calling 911 if he or she spots a couple of people trying to enter your house in a way other than routinely sticking the key in the door knob and smoothly entering.

    Shame on you for adding this crap to your article.

    Bob Tiernan Portland

  • DSS (unverified)
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    Ahh... as much as I usually hate agreeing with Bob Tiernan, he makes a good point.

    Here's a pretty crucial sentence from the post:

    "His white neighbor called the police and reported that two men were trying to break into the home."

    1. It wasn't his neighbor who called.

    2. The caller never reported a break-in. She said pretty clearly "I don't know what's happening here..." and that because she saw suitcases, she said that there was a chance that the two might live there. She twice says that she doesn't know whether they live there. She never referred to them as black.

    You can hear the tapes online.

    I don't think that this was the result of intentionally "adding crap" (as Mr. Tiernan suggests) to the article, but my point is that posts like this seem very eager to begin casting blame without getting the full story.

    Nearly every person who I've talked to on this issue has their own idea of what happened - based on only a rough outline of the story, with the gaps filled in by their own political ideology.

    It's an interesting phenomenon, to be sure.

  • fbear (unverified)
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    Imagine you've just arrived after a long plane trip from the other side of the world. Imagine that you're also sick. Then, on top of all that, once you get home your door won't open and you have to break in to your own house. To top it off, someone has called the police, who show up and ask for ID, then don't drop it as soon as you do so.

    Most of us would be irritable at that point. Henry Gates' actions may not win him any congeniality prizes, but under the circumstances they seem perfectly understandable.

  • DSS (unverified)
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    "To top it off, someone has called the police, who show up and ask for ID, then don't drop it as soon as you do so."

    See, this is what I mean about people adding their own assumptions to the facts of the incident.

    According to everyone's account, the police officer began to leave the premises once Gates showed him his ID.

    The discrepancy is whether he actually gave Gates his name as requested. (Gates claims no; the officer claims that Gates was talking over him and didn't hear.)

  • (Show?)

    "In response to your premise: perhaps, but these four are not those questions. I think Eugene Robinson put it best when he asked what would have happened if instead of Henry Louis Gates, it was Larry Summers."

    If what I have heard about Larry Summers is true, the exchange would have gone down about the same, except louder.

  • Ron Hager (unverified)
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    I am not nor never have I been a member of the police department, however as a civilian and after over seven decades of living in America and observing humans I am convinced that regardless of their training and expertise the police in America are bigots. Not just bigoted towards people of color, ethnicity, or class but mostly they are bigoted against civilians. If you happen to be of color, speak with an accent, or seem to be of a lower economic group that usually does deepen their hostility. Their attitude towards civilians has most likely has been shaped by unofficial conversations with their fellow officers, television, the courts, and the old west far more than all of their formal training combined. Civilians are their enemy and their fellow officers are their allies. It probably did not much matter what Henry Louis Gates Jr. did or said, the outcome of the confrontation was predetermined by the fact that this policeman had the gun, the badge, and the authority to do exactly as he did.

    Actually we should be grateful that Henry Louis Gates Jr. did not get his skull bashed in or worse by this police officer. Because police officers have the gun, the badge, and the authority to do exactly that if they choose. They do not need provocation to use force if they choose to because their fellow officers and their superiors sanction the use of force daily. Oh, not officially of course, but I have no doubt that privately they manage to do exactly that. Further, across our nation even in those situations when police are video taped beating, clubbing, kicking and even shooting unarmed defenseless people, our nations courts will more often than not absolve them. So why would this police officer or any other police officer do any less?

    When asked if he would apologize to Henry Louis Gates Jr. this police officer vehemently denied that he would even consider doing that. In effect he was saying “I have the gun, I have the badge, and I have the authority to do exactly what I did, and if you challenge me while I am on the job I will do it again”.

  • 50Cal (unverified)
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    "I think it's completely ridiculous that this arrest has become a huge issue and a national news story"

    That's the way Obama and democrats want it. That's part of the divide and conquer strategy. The strategy isn't about viewing citizens as Americans and trying to bring people together. It's about dividing Americans along race, sex, and economic lines.

    Pit blacks against whites. Pit rich against poor, and gays against straights.

    ...and then we all celebrate how 'diverse' we all are! I can't wait to see how National Healthcare plays out. In this scenario racist thug Sgt. James Crowley could kiss his healthcare goodbye.

  • DSS (unverified)
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    I find it amusing when someone writes a comment that basically starts off saying

    "Here's why this entire group of people is bigoted..."

    Reminds me of that scene in Austin Powers: Goldmember where Nigel Powers says:

    "There's only two things I hate in this world. People who are intolerant of other people's cultures... and the Dutch."

    Fact of the matter is Ron, you've never met this officer. (Right?) Frankly, you sound like someone who's had one or more personal interactions with police officers and is painting them all with that brush.

    I'll bet that's the case, because I know a few Rons and frankly you all bear a prejudice against police officers for no reason. (j/k :)

  • ws (unverified)
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    "By all accounts, Gates was asked to produce ID and he did." Rich Rodgers

    What I read..I think it was in a NYtimes story, is that the ID he presented was a Harvard Alumni card or some such thing. At any rate, the card provided lacked the professors homw address that would have helped the cop verify that Gates actually lived there.

    How about this question: 'Are the police required to be polite to every person they approach, even when they've been alerted that one of them may be engaged in criminal activity?'.

    Whatever they do, however they approach members of the public, the first priority of police seems to be to seize authority over the person they're approaching. If the uniform, the badge and car out at the curb doesn't do the trick in terms of exacting compliant behavior from those they approach, then cold, harsh, impolite, authoritarian manner might ensue. It would be worth a lot to see how Crowly presented himself to Gates in the first 20 seconds of their encounter.

  • Admiral Naismith (unverified)
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    Wait, I correct myself. The timing was the middle of the day, not the middle of the night.

    Could be that's why Gates didn't turn on the lights. I think you just answered one of your own questions.

  • mlw (unverified)
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    Legal or not, in 11 years of prosecuting people, I've never know it to benefit anyone to berate a police officer, justifiably or not.

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)
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    DSS:

    I don't think that this was the result of intentionally "adding crap" (as Mr. Tiernan suggests) to the article

    Bob T:

    I should clarify that in the second point the addition that was "crap" was Mr. Rogers adding the color of the caller. By slipping that in Mr. Rogers makes the callers' whiteness a factor. That's crap.

    Bob Tiernan Portland

  • Ron Hager (unverified)
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    DSS, you are absolutely correct, I have never met officer Crowley. And I care not to meet him. Oh, at home without his badge and without his gun, in the back yard over a barbecue and a beer watching his kids romp in the pool, I would probably find him to be an almost regular guy. But on the other hand, with his badge and with his gun and with his authority to do pretty much whatever he wanted while on the job, I absolutely fear him.

    I also absolutely believe that police departments across our nation have worked tirelessly for me and many other civilians to develop this fear of them. Perhaps Mr. Gates had never acquired this fear and that may be why he felt he could challenge officer Crowley.

    Officer Crowley has stated that he has no intention of changing his attitude and approach toward civilians. But I suspect that Mr. Gates has learned his lesson and has acquired sufficient fear that next time he will kowtow appropriately to the police and give them the homage they demand.

  • Ms Mel Harmon (unverified)
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    Both men involved in this situation made mistakes. Hopefully, both will learn from them. Even more hopefully, we can all move on. This situation really hasn't been worth the time, ink and electrons it's generated (and yes, I realize the irony of that statement given that I am, myself, commenting on the story).

  • mp97303 (unverified)
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    Are the Falsely Accused Required to be Polite to the Police?

    And everyone in prison are innocent.

  • OregonScot (unverified)
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    It has always sort of puzzled me that Americans of all people accept having to show ID on request from authority figures. AS a Scot this has always struck me as not in the American "spirit". There have been huge political battles over the years in the UK over picture IDs..with the side of privacy over a police state winning. The showing of IDs to police just strikes me as wrong.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    If someone is involved in a dispute with another it is not to the credit of either to exacerbate the situation. Such an attitude is common among arrogant people with big egos and among men, in particular, trying to prove they are macho. More mature and responsible people will try to use reason to come to a resolution that is acceptable to both.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Is this what passes for political discourse? Speculations?

  • LT (unverified)
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    1) Regardless of whether this is fair, apparently it is the advice given generations of black males---be silent or be polite, don't antagonize anyone.

    2) Kathleen Parker told an interesting story about having a small child in the car, it having been a long day, and a traffic stop by a black policewoman. She was sure she hadn't been speeding, so what was the deal? She said she was cranky (or confrontational or whatever) and the policewoman informed her that she had a choice--attitude adjustment or serious consequences.

    One has no idea what kind of a day it has been for the cop (what looked like a sweet innocent person a couple hours earlier had threatened someone's life?) and besides, not a bad idea to be polite to someone with a gun.

    I was driving in my neighborhood one day, going below the speed limit, when I was pulled over. Naturally, I wondered what was going on. Turned out there had been a report of a car of my color, make, model being carjacked or whatever, with the criminal hiding so that it looked like a woman alone driving a car. So they were stopping all women drivers in cars like mine to make sure they were OK.

    When I heard that, I was glad to have been stopped--a personal safety issue.

  • JHL (unverified)
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    Is this what passes for political discourse? Speculations?

    When we (or others) extrapolate concepts and principles from those speculations and discuss their merits relative to our society as a whole?

    Sure!

    Of course, speculation on its own has much less value, but there are some pretty interesting conversations taking place here.

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    Tim Wise's recent post on this is well worth reading.

    Bottom line: this incident demonstrates in painful relief the obliviousness to the black experience, which we as whites are allowed to indulge, and in which we are allowed to wallow. We cannot understand what it feels like to be thought of as a criminal solely because of our race.
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    Dan, thanks for the link. That's an excellent article.

  • papenoir (unverified)
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    The answer is YES.

    It is not against the law to be impolite with the police, wether or not you're falsely accussed, but at any moment, everybody are required / asked to be cooperative with police officer. A police officer is doomed to make false accussation. It's part of their job. Supposed there's a hommicide / robbery and the suspect got a way with a car with certain distict marks; say green color; And supposed at the same moment and at the same road I happenned to drive a similar car. The police have the right to stop me over, maybe pointing guns at me, and falsely accussed me of the robbery. At that moment I am 'required' to stay calm and be cooperative with the police. The sooner they found out that I'm not the suspect the sooner they'll be off finding the bad guy. But suppose at that time I clinged on my 'constitutional right' and refuse to lower the window, or give my Id, and instead start yelling at the police for being racist, then the situation would've been different.

    • Falsely accussing suspect is part of police job.
    • Be polite to police is 'required' of anyone, regardless of it's race.
  • Miles (unverified)
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    I think the 911 calls shed some light on this issue. According to the transcript in the Times, the officer acknowledged that Gates was in fact the resident of the home, but that he was being "uncooperative" and the dispatcher should "keep the [police] cars coming." The officer also wrote in his report that the person who originally reported the possible break-in said she saw two black men breaking into the house. But the tapes show that not to be true, that when asked she said she didn't know the race but that one of the men "may be" hispanic.

    I'm not willing to condemn Crowley outright, because I think his behavior and actions are pretty consistent with police officer behavior nationwide. But that in itself demonstrates the problem. The police demand to be treated with respect in all circumstances and have the power to criminalize disrepectful actions. Once Crowley confirmed that Gates was the resident, he should have apologized for the inconvenience and bid him good-day. Gates behavior, no matter what he said, was irrelevant.

  • EDWIN (unverified)
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    "In Commonwealth v. Mallahan, a decision rendered last year, an appeals court held that a person who launched into an angry, profanity-laced tirade against a police officer in front of spectators could not be convicted of disorderly conduct."

    Well does that mean under any circumstances, that an arrest could not be justitified, or just within the parameters of this case....I guess we will have to pony up more taxes, so we can hire consitutional scholars to drive around with badges and guns, and maybe professors to act as monitors......

  • Robert Collins (unverified)
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    There are only two things you should say to a police officer. "Yes sir" and "No sir".

    If you have a complaint, take it up with them later.

  • Miles (unverified)
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    Robert, that is a frightening view of a free society. The police work for the people, not the other way around.

  • Robert Collins (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I'll tell you what Miles, my advice comes from personal experience. I chose a different course of action in my youth and ended up with bruised kidneys, lacerated wrists (from handcuffs) and a sprained ankle.

    My point is simple. Don't get confrontational with the police. You will get your ass kicked, rightly or wrongly. During an incident is no time to argue with the police. You take your arguments up with their superiors later.

  • (Show?)
    <h2>Of course, Dave Chappelle had lots of great segments of the different ways whites & blacks deal with the police - here, for example, or here.</h2>

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