Sunday, July 26, 2009


Some commentators are insisting that Pres. Barack Obama actually come out and say "I apologize" for saying that the Cambridge Police Department's arrest of Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. showed "stupidity." As if the police are always on the side of the angels.

I have a different take on the Gates/Crowley affair than those who think that the police are always in the right.

Black men have always been persecuted by white police officers, right from the time that the English bought and brought black slaves from Africa. Even after the emancipation and the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, blacks were still kept in servitude especially in the South by virtue of the Black Codes.

As to Sgt. James Crowley's actions, I think it was a bad policing mistake to arrest someone in his own house, after the officer ascertained that there was no burglary in progress. Furthermore, police officers should always be willing to give their name and badge number upon request.

Knissah Thompson and Cheryl W. Thompson write in today's The Washington Post:

"Merritt Harrison, a 75-year-old white man who lives around the corner from Gates, said that he understands why the police feel defensive, but that he probably would have had the same reaction as Gates if a police officer had showed up at his home and suspected him of being a burglar.

""I'm white, so I probably wouldn't have been arrested," said the part-time Episcopalian pastor, real-estate agent and counselor who has called the community home for 25 years. "I don't know. Was it racial profiling? I don't think anyone will ever know. But plenty of people think it was. The thing to do is to use it as an occasion to look at the issue. People need to talk.""

I am sorry that Obama used the word "stupidity" to describe the Cambridge police department because it exposes him to charges from his political opponents of being against police officers and police work, but I do agree that Crowley acted unprofessionally and without cause in arresting Gates in his own home. Perhaps Obama could have better responded by using the word "unfortunate" instead.

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