Cambridge police arrest Henry Louis Gates

In case you haven’t heard, it looks like the Cambridge Police Department has a public-relations disaster on its hands. Last Thursday, it has been revealed, police arrested Harvard University scholar Henry Louis Gates and charged him with disorderly conduct.

According to Boston Globe reporter Tracy Jan, police responded to a call that someone was attempting to break into a house. Apparently Gates had locked himself out of his own couldn’t get into his home because the door was jammed, and he was upset and frustrated. (Been there.) As he is also African-American, the possibility of racial profiling can’t be ruled out. (Haven’t been there.)

Gates reportedly told the officer who arrested him, “This is what happens to black men in America.”

To make matters worse, the Cambridge Chronicle reports that police have refused to release the arrest report*, citing the “investigatory exemption” to the public-records law. Mind you, we are talking about an incident that took place four days ago involving a man trying to get into his own house a little before one in the afternoon.

The Chronicle credits the Huffington Post with breaking the story, but I’m confused. The Chronicle links to an Associated Press story that HuffPo published. It’s time-stamped 2:22 p.m., two hours later than the Globe piece. For the moment, it’s unclear who broke this story.

We can’t assume that the police botched this, though their refusal to release their report sends all the wrong signals. The police need to come clean on this quickly.

*Update: The Globe story has been updated and now includes a link to what appears to be the full police report (PDF). Thanks to alert Media Nation reader J.S. for letting me know.

Still more: The Cambridge Chronicle blog reports that the Cambridge police say the Globe didn’t get the report from them.


75 thoughts on “Cambridge police arrest Henry Louis Gates

  1. O'Reilly

    Cambridge cops treat wrongly-suspected elderly black men standing on their own front porches like they're a threat to civil order. It's bullshit. The only thing he was a threat to was the cops ego.

  2. O-FISH-L

    O'Reilly, Cambridge cops are the cream of the crop, tiptoeing on eggshells every day with every student, race, color and creed.Cambridge wasn't invented overnight, and this particular police sergeant didn't climb the very competitive ranks because he's a slacker, or a racist. One only needs to read the police reports by both officers. They are a testament to our police academies and better than most of the reportage you'll see put forth today in our dailies.If this continues, it may become a witches brew that the race baiters didn't want. I can't see truly oppressed colored people getting aroused by this issue, but I can see 17,000 cops, families and supporters who may. Hold that Red Line train until my pro-police sign dries!

  3. O'Reilly

    So now your arguing that police, police families and supporters are the ones who have been wronged by the concern expressed about how this cop handled this situation. And your personal crystal ball sees 17,000 of them descending into race-baited violence in Cambridge. Is that a threat or a delusion? This cop (no need to elevate all Cambridge cops to try to insulate this one from his responsibility, decision-making, and error in judgment), this cop had no good reason to arrest this man unless accusing a cop of racism is a crime, in which case Mr Gates should have been charged for calling a cop a racist.You call it walking on eggshells. Let's all ignore the central issue and give a pitty party for how hard, unreasonably hard it is to be a cop in Cambridge. And this Mr Gates, I hear he is one of the worst offenders, all reading his books and judging Pulitzer prize winners. Walking on eggshells? I call it being a good cop. Is he or isn't he? A good cop recognizes when they have wrongly accused a man of breaking and entering their own home: Grade A.A good cop recognizes that the black homeowner, who knows he is not guilty of b&e his own home, might suspect his race had something to do with the sudden appearance of a policeman at his door. Grade ?A good cop, after he determined the man was not a suspect, would apologize and leave: Grade C. No indication of an apology in the police report. A good cop knows how to diffuse tense situation: Grade F. A good cop would not charge a man for a public order crime when the man is standing on his own porch. Grade F. I don't question his rank or the skills are required to attain it, I question his judgment and decision-making. Grade F

  4. meamoeba

    "colored people," fish? what color and just who did the coloring? do you still have flesh in your crayola box? that is the attitude i think most people are talking about here. not so much racist as clueless. i remember living in cambridge years ago and calls to cpd about loud motorcycles after midnight driving down brattle were met with "we can't do anything about that. it's just noise." if that's not disturbing the peace, then how can a man yelling in his own accoustically-challenged kitchen be disturbing the peace? seems there is an equal ego problem here between both gates and crowley. gates pulled the "do you know who i am" card when "homeowner" should have sufficed and crowley for noticing that seven people were witnessing him being dissed by an old uppity "colored" man, with a cane no less. but in gates defense, he was at home. crowley should have left him there.

  5. meamoeba

    and whatever happened to the old cop line "show's over, go home folks, nothing to see here" to disburse the gathering crowd? would that not have quelled the episode a lot quicker rather than creating an act II and an encore performance?

  6. Michael Pahre

    @ O-FISH-L: You addressed how Gates behavior satisfied the first of the two-part test for Disturbing the Peace ("that the average bystander would have found the defendant's conduct [disturbing] at the time of arrest"), but I don't think you addressed the second part of the test ("that the crime have a victim").Am I correct to infer that you consider the Cambridge PD officer to be the victim here in order to satisfy the second part of the test? Nobody on the street appeared to submit a complaint to the officers, so they don't appear to be victims of the allegedly disruptive behavior.The story that appeared in the Globe today has a little bit more information in dissecting the play-by-play: when Gates failed to open the front door, he then unlocked the rear door and tried top open the front door from the inside. Later, when Gates decided to show the officer his ID, they went into the kitchen where Gates had left his wallet. It sounds as though they must have walked into the kitchen through the rear door, since the front door still was not opening.At that point — when walking into the unlocked rear door — the officer didn't need to see Gates' ID anymore. Burglars don't struggle to open jammed front doors while knowing that the rear door is unlocked.

  7. Michael Pahre

    Since this blog is supposedly about the media — not about dissecting crime reports — may I steer the discussion back to the media?Why did the Boston Globe run an attractive stock picture on the front page (above-the-fold) story about an arrest over disorderly conduct? (Many other media sources did the same.)Why did the Harvard Crimson run the booking photos?If Gates were a poor and/or uneducated man arrested on disorderly conduct, then both papers would have published the booking photos (if running a photo at all).If the arrested person were a Hollywood celebrity, the media would've run the booking photos. Think Lindsay Lohan, et al. Salacious and fun entertainment on the news pages!But if the arrested person is a Harvard professor, then the Globe chose to be more deferential than other cases and instead ran a flattering, stock photo.Am I correctly (and cynically) stating the correct media standard that they should run the booking photos when the editor thinks that the accused is guilty (or that they will sell more copies), and should run the stock photos when the editor thinks that the accused was wrongly arrested? Methinks these decisions smack of editor's bias. What say you?I suspect that the Crimson editors thought harder about the ethics of the photo selection than the Globe's editors did. If anyone might be deferential to a University Professor, then it is the undergraduate students. The kids might have a lesson to teach the professionals here.

  8. O'Reilly

    "I'm still laughing over Fish's notion that a Hispanic couldn't be racist."That's right, minorities are immune of the affliction of ignorant prejudice. Didn't we just witness a week of testimony from the most learned men in the US – GOP Senators – telling us that our next supreme court justice is a racist Hispanic who's going to use her jackboot to keep whitey down? When will Hispanic women stop keeping whitey down?

  9. Greg Shenaut

    It seems to me that the police guy should have apologized profusely while leaving once he realized the mistake that had been made. He should also have given Gates his card. I think that would have defused the situation. Arresting someone for disturbing the peace in his own house? A house that the police officer had not been given permission to enter?I think the police officer was too arrogant to make a sincere apology for the original misunderstanding and that that was the root of the problem.

  10. Treg

    In my comments here yesterday, I suggested that, based on the information available to us, Gates, while in no way doing anything that should have gotten him arrested, had probably behaved like a jackass.Having read today's piece in the Globe, I'm not so sure he's even guilty of

  11. O-FISH-L

    meamoeba, colored people as in the last two letters of NAACP. Look it up. I didn't create the name for the organization.—Nobody wrote that a Hispanic couldn't be a racist. My point is that the presence of a minority officer, who corroborates the white officer, is devastating if Gates attempts a lawsuit. Unless, of course, Gates' attorney can somehow find a jury to believe that anti-black sentiments run deep within the white AND Latino Cambridge police ranks. Good luck.—Why Martin Luther King Was Republican by Frances Rice (Human Events)08/16/2006 "It should come as no surprise that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Republican. In that era, almost all black Americans were Republicans. Why? From its founding in 1854 as the anti-slavery party until today, the Republican Party has championed freedom and civil rights for blacks. And as one pundit so succinctly stated, the Democrat Party is as it always has been, the party of the four S's: slavery, secession, segregation and now socialism…."

  12. mike_b1

    O-Fish, a scholar you ain't. That "citation" of yours is so much Internet nonsense. Do you also believe Martians landed on the White House yesterday?MLK Jr. voted Democrat in every election (this is per his family) and worked tirelessly to sign up voters for the Democrats. Try reading one of the several books about him.Or even Wikipedia.

  13. Paul

    The Cambridge Chief of Police may be in need a leave of absense to grow backbone after hanging his Sgt.out to dry.Still the same story in the good old Bay State…if your important enough you can get away with anything.Just why I left 28 years ago to do my policing in another state.Paul D./High Springs,Fl.

  14. mike_b1

    Paul, your viewpoint assumes the sgt. was correct and everyone else is either lying or covering their butts.There's no third-party evidence supporting your conclusion.

  15. Hagenow

    Aloha! Did Boston, Mass vote for President Obama? It's obvious that the Republicans on this blog didn't.

  16. mike_b1

    Of course they didn't, Hagenow. He's black.**Or "colored," according to O-Fish, an observation simultaneously incorrect heuristically and in terms of hue.

  17. O'Reilly

    The police acted stupidly and the DA decided the charges were without merit. Crowley went to investigate a B&E and pretty quickly (and with Gates cooperation) determined that it was Gates home all along. At that point, I would have hoped Crowley would have been as apologetic and cooperative as he could. …sorry for the inconvenience. …my name is Sgt Jim Crowley. …my badge is XYZ. No. He arrested Mr Gates for public disturbance. Well done.

  18. O'Reilly

    O-fish is making progress. He used to identify black people as Negroes. Before that, don't ask. Now, he calls black people 'colored' having read up on the NAACP, which was founded in 1908. Regrettably, O-Fish is unaware of the preferred usage 'Black' which came into use in the 60's. It's been 40 years. A little more patience for a slow learner is warranted.

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