Discretion and Arrest Power

by Henry on July 21, 2009

One source that may possibly help illuminate the controversy over Skip Gates’ arrest is Peter Moskos’ book, Cop in the Hood (Powells, Amazon). Moskos, a sociologist, spent a year as a beat officer in Baltimore. While police practice in the US varies substantially from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, some aspects are (I suspect) reasonably general, including the use by police officers of their zone of discretion to try to expand their authority beyond that which they are theoretically supposed to exercise. Moskos (p. 117-118):

A nonviolent domestic dispute serves as another example of using the law to gain extralegal authority. A woman calls police because she is sick of her baby’s father coming home and being rowdy after a night of drinking. An officer wants the drunken man to spend the night elsewhere. The girlfriend is not afraid of the man. Though the officer believes this argument will continue and perhaps turn violent, there is no cause for arrest. Police may not order a person from his or her home. But an officer can request to talk to the man outside his house. At this point the officer might say, “If you don’t take a walk, I’m going to lock you up.’ The man, though within his rights to quietly reenter his house and say goodnight to the police, is more likely to obey the officer’s request or engage the police in a loud and drunken late-night debate. The man may protest loudly that the officer has no reason to lock him up. If a crowd gathers or lights in neighboring buildings turn on, he may be arrested for disorderly conduct.

Moskos is in general in favor of police having a fair amount of discretion (he seems to believe that much basic policing work would be impossible without it) – I’m not going to get into that broad set of arguments, since I don’t know enough to say anything useful. But it is easy to see how this discretion can be abused in ways that work out nicely for the cops (most of the time), but not so nicely for their targets. Moskos’ discussion of this particular technique of generating arrests has some similarities with the actions described in the police report of Gates’ arrest.

When Gates asked me a third time for my name, I explained to him that I had provided it at his request two separate times. Gates continued to yell at me. I told Gates that I was leaving his residence and that if he had any other questions regarding the matter, I would speak with him outside his residence. As I began walking through the foyer toward the front door, I could hear Gates again demanding my name. I again told Gates that I would speak with him outside. My reason for wanting to leave the residence was that Gates was yelling very loud and the acoustics of the kitchen and foyer were making it difficult for me to transmit pertinent information to ECC or other responding units.
When I left the residence, I noted that there were several Cambridge and Harvard University police officers assembled on the sidewalk in front of the residence. Additionally, the caller, Ms. Walen and at least seven unidentified passers-by were looking in the direction of Gates, who had followed me outside the residence. As I descended the stairs to the sidewalk, Gates continued to yell at me, accusing me of racial bias and continued to tell me that I had not heard the last of him. Due to the tumultuous manner Gates had exhibited in his residence as well as his continued tumultuous behavior outside the residence, in view of the public, I warned Gates that he was becoming disorderly. Gates ignored my warning and continued to yell, which drew the attention both of the police officers and citizens, who appeared surprised and alarmed by Gates’ outburst. For a second time I warned Gates to calm down while I withdrew my department issued handcuffs from their carrying case. Gates again ignored my warning and continued to yell at me. It was at this time that I informed Gates that he was under arrest. I then stepped up the stairs, onto the porch and attempted to place handcuffs on Gates. Gates initially resisted my attempt to handcuff him, yelling that he was “disabled” and would fall without his cane.

Now, I should emphasize that I have no personal reason whatsoever to doubt that Crowley’s account of the arrest is accurate – it may very well be that the acoustics were such that communication was difficult indoors. I am not acquainted with the physical specifics of the building where Gates lives. It is, however, notable that Moskos’ Baltimore police officer both (a) uses a verbal invitation to induce the targeted individual to leave the building, and (b) then uses the attention of bystanders to generate a charge of disorderly conduct. Whether these resemblances are purely accidental or not (in the absence of more facts, you could generate arguments either way), I leave to the imagination of the reader.

Update: All charges against Gates have now been dropped.

{ 178 comments }

1

mpowell 07.21.09 at 5:28 pm

I think there are two separate issues that will tend to be conflated here. First, whether officers should have the ability to induce violations of the law leading to arrests in this fashion and, secondly, whether the officer’s behavior was racist. Maybe they are really related, but not directly. I am not thrilled with officers’ ability to play this game, but as long as citizens have the means to avoid these traps I’m not sure it’s a huge problem to be arrested for disorderly conduct if it’s also easy to get those kinds of charges dismissed (which I think it should be). Here it seems that Gates could have avoided the arrest if that was the outcome that he desired. As to the issue of racism, granting police officers discretion in these cases make charges of racism extremely difficult to assess. As we can see in many other areas, it is difficult to detect racism behavior or practices by directly observing conduct- you must also look at outcomes. How you would do this in the case of policing is not clear. And this is even before you get to the issue that officers have additional discretion in that their accounts of events will always receive an overwhelming amount of benefit of the doubt.

2

Paul Gowder 07.21.09 at 5:37 pm

Here’s my question: in a free society, why should it even be conceivable that yelling at some police officer, in front of your own home, when the cop ought not to be interacting with you in the first place and can (and should) just get into the car and go away, could be the grounds for any kind of arrest?

3

Mark 07.21.09 at 6:02 pm

Two things:

First, I can’t believe this hasn’t been referenced yet, but it seems appropriate:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkQKOBiHyNU&feature=related

Second, I’d like to second Paul Gowder @2, and add that the “prudential dodge” (appearing quite frequently in the previous comment thread) needs to be recognized for what it is. Basically, it seems to boil down to the claim that, if your rights are being violated by a police officer, the only wise thing to do is acquiesce and defer to their authority.

4

trotsky 07.21.09 at 6:24 pm

” . . . when the cop ought not to be interacting with you in the first place . . . “

Yes, it’s a horrifying breach of the Constitution for the police to investigate reports of burglaries.

5

Daniel 07.21.09 at 6:26 pm

I have never heard Gates referred to as ‘Skip’ before. But his Wikipedia entry does refer to ‘Skip’ as a nickname.

Do any of you have some familiarity with Gates on a personal or collegial level that justifies referring to him as ‘Skip’? Assuming no, isn’t this condescending, maybe even “racist”, to assume such familiarity with such a distinguished professor?

6

lemuel pitkin 07.21.09 at 6:33 pm

No.

7

lamont cranston 07.21.09 at 6:36 pm

@4 – I’ve heard people say “Skip” throughout the academy. My sense is that it is a legitimate nickname he uses with friends, but that other academics use it as a sort of way of showing their connection to him. Sort of like the scene in “Quiz Show” where the Jewish lawyer comes back enamored of spending time with Charles Van Doren and his crowd. His wife says something like, who are you, going around talking about “Bunny Wilson.” The husband says, “they call him Bunny,” to which the wife replies, “That doesn’t mean you have to.”

(I don’t mean this to say that there was anything wrong with the title of the original post, just giving my sense in response to Daniel’s question.)

8

Henry 07.21.09 at 6:44 pm

What Lemuel said. I have never met Gates, but have never heard another academic or critic use his given name. The same is true of a well known political scientist, Skip Lupia, whom no-one refers to by his given name (Arthur, I think – but I would have to look it up). More generally, professors (in my experience) when they refer to each other, do not typically use titles, except in very formal circumstances, or as a form of mildly sarcastic denigration-by-over-politeness.

9

Jared 07.21.09 at 6:45 pm

The best one can say about cop in this case is that he seems to have very poor conflict management skills. It’s easy to see how this could be the result of the kind of practices Henry mentions, even aside from any intention to create an arrest. That is, the cop might simply have wanted to extricate himself from the situation after being accused of racism, and misjudged Gates’s willingness to pursue the accusation outside the front door.

10

lamont cranston 07.21.09 at 7:02 pm

Henry, I agree too – what I meant to say too was, if there is anything weird about it, it’s a general tick among academics.

11

lisa 07.21.09 at 7:14 pm

In some work with local youth–some white and working or middle class–I discovered that a surprising number of them who had been arrested on very shaky grounds. Another incredible thing was that the police almost always taunted them and occasionally assaulted them (e.g., by forcing them to the ground violently, kneeing them in the back, throwing them against a wall or the floor, etc.) if they responded in any way to the taunts. I did know one Haitian kid who ended up with some visible (non-permanent) injuries on his face, that he showed me. Basically, he questioned his treatment and was put down, pretty violently. He had this idea that he could do something about this. But, of course, he could not do anything. He could file a complaint that just went into an enormous pile of complaints against the PD.

The story is outrageous but one thing you might wonder what is motivating the officer or what kind of framework makes this–which is really very bizarre, actually–he is black so yes racism but he is older, it is his house, he has a cane, it was all on his property, etc.–look like a good idea. I think that racism frames and initiates many of these event–but I wonder if there is also not something in police culture that allows them (prompts them?) to react (overreact) to what they perceive of as instances of disrespect.

Judging from what people who’ve had run ins like this with the police is that police officers are not in the least bit deterred by the concern that there will be repercussions for them. Which suggests that there almost never are.

12

evil is evil 07.21.09 at 7:25 pm

For, at least, the last twenty years, I have believed that for the protection of the citizens, at least 6O per cent of all police should be fired. Then hire older women over 55 years of age to cover the nitpicking junk stuff that police seem to find the easiest to escalate the situation, ie family quarrels, drunk and disorderly, riding skateboards on public property, burlary, etc.

There used to be a show on television that I think was called Cops. A friend that knows that I hate television and violence asked me to watch an episode because this was a “good” show. I asked him to tape it. We went through it, pausing and rewinding every time I spotted an illegal, unethical or immoral point. Not one of the episodes was legit. Not one fucking segment would have happened gone bad if an old lady had handled it.

The worst one was when a police officer in Las Vegas showed the host his huge paid for house, took him out to his palatial houseboat paid for, let the host drive his Corvette for a sting on the prostitutes on the strip. I lived in Las Vegas, I made more than the police officer and I certainly could not have afforded to buy a Corvette and insure it. Yeah, sure he’s clean.

Another episode was some police breaking down someone’s door and only yelling “police” after everyone outside had come in. It was a drug dealer. They grabbed the drugs and started looking for the money. They found it. The sergeant in charge grabbed a garbage bag and started stuffing the money in it, saying “We will count it at the station.” Yeah, sure he’s clean.

Giving a thug a gun and a badge does not make a police officer. Any police force that is not investigated by independent civilians is not a police force. It’s a freaking joke with the thugs having the laugh.

13

Dan Miller 07.21.09 at 7:48 pm

Can’t believe nobody’s brought up season 4 of the Wire here.

14

Sean 07.21.09 at 8:17 pm

**********
Dan Miller 07.21.09 at 7:48 pm

Can’t believe nobody’s brought up season 4 of the Wire here.
**********

I can’t believe nobody’s brought up their experiences as urban police officers here.

15

mart 07.21.09 at 8:22 pm

they’re about to start showing Season 4 here in the UK this evening, so if possible no spoilers please please please!

16

Alan 07.21.09 at 8:29 pm

Shorter version of CT reporting: How dare they arrest one of us!

17

Salient 07.21.09 at 8:29 pm

Thought I’d direct interested folks’ attention to Lawrence Bobo’s article about the Skip Gates incident, printed in The Root (link):

“If Skip Gates can be arrested on his front porch and end up in handcuffs in a police cruiser then, sadly, there, but for the grace of God, goes every other black man in America.”

18

Salient 07.21.09 at 8:34 pm

Shorter version of CT reporting: How dare they arrest one of us!

Pwned within 60 seconds, apparently. If only you’d held off for two more minutes!

But let’s hear that refrain one more time:

“If Skip Gates can be arrested on his front porch and end up in handcuffs in a police cruiser then, sadly, there, but for the grace of God, goes every other black man in America.”

I guess you could try to substitute “academic professional” for “black man” in the sentence above if you insist on carrying on about how we’re circling the wagons around the ivory tower.

19

Walt 07.21.09 at 8:35 pm

Alan makes a good point. God forbid that any of us stand up for our rights in the face in the face of the divinely authorized power of the State and its agents.

20

Warren Terra 07.21.09 at 9:52 pm

I don’t know what the reasoning behind the decision to use Prof. Gates’s nickname is – I probably wouldn’t recommend even using an actual friend’s nickname in a formal setting like this, unless it was the name the were best known by (as is the case for some athletes and entertainers, for example); it’s too easy to cause offense or to appear patronizing – but for what it’s worth the NPR reports about the arrest and its aftermath have repeatedly referred to him as “Skip Gates”, at least here in the Boston area.

21

Sebastian 07.21.09 at 10:08 pm

The Jocks v. Tavernier case recently decided by Sotomayor is of a piece with this story.

I think that race definitely is a component of this story, but the larger component is the ridiculous level of entitlement many police officers feel they have when it comes to pushing around innocent citizens.

22

musical mountaineer 07.21.09 at 10:09 pm

“If Skip Gates can be arrested on his front porch and end up in handcuffs in a police cruiser then, sadly, there, but for the grace of God, goes every other black man in America.”

A terrifying thought. I hope President Obama never misplaces his key to the White House.

23

soullite 07.21.09 at 10:34 pm

In America, rights only exist in theory. Judges, the police, and local officials will generally ignore them. If you sue, they will pay you off. They will not, however, change their behavior.

24

John Quiggin 07.21.09 at 10:41 pm

As regards nicknames, it’s possibly relevant that Gates is (AFAICR) never referred to as “Henry Gates”, so the choice is between the informal “Skip” and the ultra-formal “Henry Louis Gates, Jr”.

Google reveals the NY Post using “Henry Gates” in the headline a story about the charges being dropped, but the text has two bob each way with “Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr. “

25

musical mountaineer 07.21.09 at 11:14 pm

No, but seriously, there has been an admirable (and to me, somewhat unexpected) show of anti-authoritarianism from various CT commenters on this and other recent police-related threads. Paul Gowder’s question is a good example (and trotsky’s attempted rebuttal fails on the fact that police investigation had already revealed there was no burglary going on, by the time Gates was arrested).

It’s intuitive that police work will appeal to authoritarian types, thus the police profession will tend to select those types. And they will tend to abuse or overreach their authority. As a political conservative, I regard this and certain other problems in the justice system (for instance, violence and rape in prisons) as being fundamentally intractable. This is not to say that abuses should be tolerated, or reforms not made where possible (and I’m far from happy with the status quo); only that with the best of intentions and the best possible formal systems to prevent abuse, abuses will still happen. I hope I do not have to argue why we need to have a justice system anyway.

For the more progressive readers here, I suggest that your skepticism of police authority should be applied more broadly, and maybe inform your politics. Because everything I said above about the police applies in spades to their bosses’ bosses’ bosses, the politicians. Politics as a career appeals to authoritarians; it provides opportunities for (and inducements to) corruption on an unimaginable scale; and politicians abuse their offices and overreach their authority so consistently that it’s never much of a surprise. It’s true you hardly ever see them hitting anyone with a stick, but the real misery and damage they inflict is by far the greater.

Progressive politics, so far as I can see, is only ever about increasing the scope and scale of state power. Occasionally, in campaign, a progressive will argue for increasing individuals’ freedom, but once in office they never actually do it. Instead they continually seek new crises, new rationales to increase government control (and their own personal power along with it) and reduce individual freedom. Note that this setup doesn’t give them any incentive to actually fix anything. I don’t care to debate the merits of e.g. cap-and-trade or Obamacare, I merely point out that all progressive solutions go in the same direction, and invite you to draw your own conclusions.

26

Substance McGravitas 07.21.09 at 11:19 pm

Progressive politics, so far as I can see, is only ever about increasing the scope and scale of state power.

I guess if I see you taking your kitty to the vet I can assume that what you want to do is pay veterinarians.

27

Steve LaBonne 07.21.09 at 11:22 pm

Progressive politics, so far as I can see, is only ever about increasing the scope and scale of state power.

And conservative politics are only ever about pretending there’s no other kind of power. One can be just as oppressed by robber barons as by bureaucrats, by private rent-a-cops as by real cops. Anybody who’s lived through the last couple of years should have noticed that, for crying out loud.

Some of us like the idea of private and public power keeping an eye on each other.

Politics as a career appeals to authoritarians

CONSERVATIVE politics as a career appeals to authoritarians.

28

engels 07.21.09 at 11:28 pm

Conservative politics, as far as I can see, is only about stealing candy from little children and murdering innocent puppie dogs.

29

dsquared 07.21.09 at 11:34 pm

I still need to write a post in which to embed the utterly true joke that the military/industrial and police systems actually do work in the way in which public choice theorists think the whole government works.

30

The Fool 07.21.09 at 11:44 pm

I’ve dealt with the pigs more than most. The problem with giving them discretion to use when you think they’ll use it is that they will use it for many other purposes as well. Pigs already effectively have maximum discretion — and they abuse it ALL the time. Pigs can do whatever they want because unless you have them on videtape its your word vs. theirs, and in the American legal system that means they win.

Leave the romanticized images and the exceptions out of it. By anmd large, the average pig is a huge asshole with a tremendously bad attitude. If you actually know about cops, you know I’m right.

31

musical mountaineer 07.21.09 at 11:58 pm

I guess if I see you taking your kitty to the vet I can assume that what you want to do is pay veterinarians.

Well, if I pay the veterinarians, but don’t bother taking the kitty, you’d be justified in your assumption.

…conservative politics are only ever about pretending there’s no other kind of power.

Oh, I don’t know. In some cases, I’m more sympathetic to talk of Evil Corporations than you might suppose. Still, when it comes to government power vs. money power, you’re comparing apples to atoms.

CONSERVATIVE politics as a career appeals to authoritarians.

Whereas progressives just want to make the world a better place, I suppose?

32

onymous 07.21.09 at 11:59 pm

I don’t care to debate the merits of e.g. cap-and-trade or Obamacare, I merely point out that all progressive solutions go in the same direction, and invite you to draw your own conclusions.

It’s funny: I see what the literal words are, but what I hear is you inviting me to draw your conclusions.

33

musical mountaineer 07.22.09 at 12:01 am

Conservative politics, as far as I can see, is only about stealing candy from little children and murdering innocent puppie dogs.

You know, now that I really, really think about it, you’re right.

34

musical mountaineer 07.22.09 at 12:08 am

what I hear is you inviting me to draw your conclusions.

Well, of course. By my own facts and reasoning, they’re inescapable. But I mainly said I didn’t want to argue, so no one would accuse me of trolling or trying to derail the thread.

Speaking of which, I gotta go. I’ll check this thread tomorrow.

35

engels 07.22.09 at 12:17 am

when it comes to government power vs. money power, you’re comparing apples to atoms

Yep.

Exxon Mobil revenues: $443 billion
GDP Denmark: $342 billion

UK number of government employees: 600 000
Wal-mart number of employees: 2.1 million

36

engels 07.22.09 at 12:38 am

Okay, one of those numbers is wrong but the point stands. Anyway, this is arguing about cavalry tactics with someone who just introduced himself as M. Bonaparte.

37

lisa 07.22.09 at 12:40 am

Engels no one every says things like this on CT but: I heart you.

38

nickhayw 07.22.09 at 1:15 am

Conservatism is atavism. “The status quo works OK, let’s not screw it up”; or “change is only ever self-interested change”. Why such a dim view of human nature?

39

Music of the Spherical Quotients 07.22.09 at 1:45 am

I was once in a somewhat similar situation … in my mid 20s, I locked myself out of my girlfriend’s family’s house in a tony part of Brookline, and climbed in an unlocked front window. A few minutes later I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a police car racing down the long driveway, and answered the doorbell to find another policeman (from a second police car) with a hand on his holster. He was extremely tense. I was extremely startled. I was very, very polite to him, and a bit worried since I couldn’t prove I was there legitimately — I called my girlfriend on the phone, and she convinced him everything was OK.

Without wanting to make any judgements about the Gates case, I imagine that things would’ve been different if I had started screaming at him early on in the interaction. Fortunately for both of us, I wasn’t inclined to assert myself, being young and having just climbed into somebody else’s front window. But it’s worth noting that 1) police responding to B&E calls can be pretty worked up; and 2) these sorts of interactions depend in delicate ways on split-second judgments, and very small factors can make the difference between good and bad outcomes.

Of course, from where I sit, I have no idea whether the policeman acted inappropriately to Gates, or whether Gates was needlessly rude in some way. I just keep thinking back to my own experience and reflecting that it was fortunate that I had absolutely no pre-existing hostility to the Brookline police — as far as I was concerned, their job was to protect me, and this probably showed in my demeanor.

40

Tom T. 07.22.09 at 2:44 am

Regarding the point in Henry’s post about a nonviolent domestic dispute and the abuse of police discretion, it’s perhaps worth noting that traditionally the fear with regard to domestic disputes was that the police would be more likely not to make an arrest when one was warranted, out of a prejudice that domestic violence was not “real” crime. Many states now have laws making it mandatory that the police arrest the person they believe to be the primary aggressor whenever they are called to a scene where there is evidence of domestic violence.

This is obviously not applicable to Gates’ case, but I thought it was an interesting sidelight on Henry’s example.

41

Mrs Tilton 07.22.09 at 2:52 am

MotSQ @39,

thank you for that interesting and relevant anecdote about your youth, for extraordinarily large values of “interesting” and “relevant”. Come back to us when you are, in stark distinction to the facts with which you have wasted our time, (i) a distinguished middle-aged professor at a prestigious university who (ii) was entering your own house when accosted by the po and (iii) identified yourself to the lawmen as the rightful occupant of the house and (iv) were arrested nonetheless.

42

nnyhav 07.22.09 at 2:57 am

To be added to the Washington Post crashed-and-burned detritus is the caption gracing the top-of-story photo of Gates openmouthed and handcuffed on his front porch (my italics & bold):

Henry Louis Gates Jr., center, the director of Harvard University’s W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research, is accusing the Cambridge police of racism after he was arrested while trying to force open the front door of his home last week. The police said he “exhibited loud and tumultuous behaviour”. Gates shouted to a police officer “this is what happens to a black men in America” according to a police report.

source

43

ckc (not kc) 07.22.09 at 2:58 am

…their job was to protect me, and this probably showed in my demeanor.

and we know who’s demeanor really matters, don’t we?

44

Jim Johnson 07.22.09 at 4:19 am

Gates may be a pompous windbag. (I’ve never met him.) And he may have been unhappy with the officer and made that clear. But the bottom line is that being an asshole is not a crime. And Gates, it seems to me, had good reason to be unhappy with the police and with the neighbor who called them.

In my own experience, having had a very bad interaction with local police, I assure you it is very difficult to ‘defuse’ a situation in the face of an officer intent on asserting is discretion. Things can escalate very, very quickly and very, very far. And I am a white college professor. Mixing the disposition to authoritarianism with even a garnish of racial bias is a recipe for disaster.

45

cripes 07.22.09 at 6:21 am

I am glad Mr. Gates had the opportunity to see firsthand the results of police authority, racist or otherwise, which he says he has written about but not experienced before. In the way I am glad Martha Stewart went to prison, whined about conditions, and promptly forgot her “friends” there after release.

I also note that had this happenned to a person of any race, in South Boston, Chicago’s South Side, or Bedford-Stuyvesant, it’s way more likely he would have five police boots on his neck and get tasered.

Here’s a typical statute regarding “Obedience” that mainly refers to regulating traffic. Since “disobeying, “resisting” and disorderly conduct are the most common excuses for police abuse, let’s look:
—-625 ILCS 5/11-203—-
Sec. 11-203. Obedience to police officers. No person shall wilfully
fail or refuse to comply with any lawful order or direction of any police officer, fireman, or school crossing guard invested by law with authority to direct, control, or regulate traffic. Any person convicted of violating this Section is guilty of a petty offense and shall be subject to a mandatory fine of $150.

I think “comply with any lawful order” is the critical phrase. But what does it actually mean?

If they “order” you to strip naked or give them your valuables? Does that count? How about answering their interrogations? Where are you going? Where did you come from, what did you have for dinner, is your sister hot? Interrogation designed to get you to implicate yourself and provide further material to violate your rights. You get the idea.

Police discretion to enforce compliance with their every demand at threat of arrest and assault is a bedrock of the police state. And here we are.

46

ed 07.22.09 at 6:47 am

being an asshole is not a crime.

Moskos has another interesting post up at “Cop-in-the-hood” about whether, in fact, being an asshole to a police officer should be able to get you locked up.

http://www.copinthehood.com/2009/07/question-for-readers.html

(My guess is that both Gates and the police officer acted stupidly, and if either one of them had acted more patiently and calmly the situation never would have escalated to the point of arrest.)

47

trotsky 07.22.09 at 7:23 am

Truly it’s a wonderful country.

A black man can greet a police officer responding to a burglary in progress with a tirade of righteous abuse and upon his arrest his penalty is $40 bail, charges dropped the next week, and his good friend the Harvard Law professor defending him pro-bono.

Life ain’t perfect, but if these are our racial incidents, we’ve come a long way.

By the way, just in the interest of employing the scientific method instead of speculating, let’s have everyone reading this thread react as Gates reportedly did in your next random encounter with a police officer. The data on arrest rates will be interesting no matter how they turn out.

48

bad Jim 07.22.09 at 7:53 am

A few years ago I returned from two weeks in the socialist hellhole we call Europe to find that I couldn’t turn off my car alarm. The guy I paid at the exit to the lot helpfully pointed out that my alarm was sounding. WHAT? REALLY? I drove from LAX to Laguna without anyone taking notice, including a CHP cruiser that passed me in the car pool lane. A middle-aged white guy can get by with nearly anything. I don’t know whether it’s the beard or the glasses.

49

astrongmaybe 07.22.09 at 8:41 am

Blimey Mrs. Tilton @41, that was a spectacularly sour and bad-tempered response to poor old MSQ @39, for extraordinary large values of “sour” and “bad-tempered.”

Are you suggesting only identical situations are “interesting” and “relevant,” not comparable ones?

50

Dr Zen 07.22.09 at 8:48 am

@30, I think you’re spot on, The Fool. You pretty much have to be an arsehole even to want to be a policeman in the first place.

51

Ginger Yellow 07.22.09 at 11:17 am

At the risk of coming over all Freakonomics, one of the central problems seems to be that the police officer is incentivised to escalate clearly non-violent situations, in contrast to violent (esp. armed) or potentially violent ones. And the citizen is basically in a Catch 22 – accede to the intrusion/infringement despite your innocence, or confront the officer and risk breaking a sweepingly broad law (or simply a trumped up charge). Maybe there should be a blanket law, similar to entrapment jurisprudence, saying that a non-violent infraction that would not have occured absent the police intervention is not illegal. But it’s possible that this would capture some things that should still be crimes.

I don’t know if the discretion problem is tractable, but regardless, an extremely robust internal and external complaints and discipline mechanism is needed. Pretty much everywhere, though, it’s lacking.

52

Salient 07.22.09 at 11:36 am

Progressive politics, so far as I can see, is only ever about increasing the scope and scale of state power.

m.m., I’ve been trying to think about how, for example, a universal health care program is best described as “increasing the scope and scale of state power.” Note, “best” is doing a lot of work in that sentence. But so is “power.”

I think my initial response is:

* Not all forms of power are equivalent. It would be misleading to conflate the power to intimidate with arrest, with the power to require food sellers to label the amount of trans fats contained in each serving of food they sell.

* Ideally, each investiture of power should be considered carefully, with potential for abuse or misuse thoroughly analyzed.

* In any such analysis, we notice that transparency is the keystone: transparency is empowerment. Folks outside the government or regulatory body need to be given the greatest and easiest possible access to all information, all decisions made, the exact wording of policies, etc, to enable open and comprehensive criticism.

* Transparency is, as mathematicians would say, “necessary but not sufficient.” I don’t mean to claim that transparency alone is a satisfactory check on the scope and scale of state power.

* These days, progressives demand transparency, and conservatives don’t. Which is weird, given that conservatives are predisposed to accuse the government of incompetence: surely greater transparency would help reveal the extent of such incompetence, in a light favorable to their accusations.

* I think the Freedom of Information Act is one of the canonical progressive success stories in the U.S., and it’s hard to understand that legislation as “increasing the scope and scale of state power.”

* I think progressives generally want to see powers taken out of politicians’ hands and invested in independent bodies of experts, perhaps with some consensus support from the relevant community of experts. For example, I think most U.S. progressives feel the EPA has “good power” insofar as it’s possible for them to do their work without presidential interference, and that the president’s power to squelch or derail the EPA’s research and policy-making should be curtailed.

I might have more to say after hearing you respond, depending also on whether folks seem to mind if the thread goes off-topic in this direction. (I think this more general discussion of power investiture is a natural outgrowth of the discussion of police authority, but I’ll defer to wherever the thread seems headed.)

53

David 07.22.09 at 12:31 pm

The progressive vs. conservative tit-for-tat in this thread reminds me of the fundamental difference between communism and capitalism. Under communism it is dog eat dog, whereas under capitalism it is the reverse.

54

Maurice Meilleur 07.22.09 at 12:40 pm

@ Trotsky 47: Oh, yes, you’re quite right: The NAACP should disband, now that every black man who encounters a police officer is a Harvard professor with a good friend in the law school standing inside his own home in Cambridge, Mass. Who knew the death of racism in the US would be so decisive?

55

Mrs Tilton 07.22.09 at 1:18 pm

asm @49,

Are you suggesting only identical situations are “interesting” and “relevant,” not comparable ones?

no, I’m suggesting that MotSQ’s experience is not particularly comparable at all and hence that his anecdote is irrelevant in the strict legal sense of the term. That he claimed otherwise marks him as naive, cognitively dim or intellectually dishonest. Because I like, for all my sourness and bad temper, to give people the benefit of the doubt*, I’m presuming (absent evidence otherwise) that the first of these three explains MotSQ. If you are really arguing that “young kid caught breaking into somebody else’s house” is meaningfully comparable to “middle aged man entering his own house and pointing that fact out to a policeman who then proceeds to arrest him”, which of the three explains you?

* Except, of course, to people like “Trotsky” who make it plain that they have fully exhausted any such benefit.

56

Henri Vieuxtemps 07.22.09 at 1:43 pm

“middle aged man entering his own house and pointing that fact out to a policeman who then proceeds to arrest him”

You make it sound like he was arrested for entering his house, but that is not the case. Don’t get me wrong, I hate the cops just as much as the next guy, but why the bombastry? The incident appears to be relatively minor indeed.

57

parse 07.22.09 at 1:59 pm

By the way, just in the interest of employing the scientific method instead of speculating, let’s have everyone reading this thread react as Gates reportedly did in your next random encounter with a police officer. The data on arrest rates will be interesting no matter how they turn out.

Do you suppose African-Americans and white people have “random” encounters with police officers at roughly the same rate? I’m quite willing to believe many police officers will arrest individuals of any race who they believe haven’t shown the appropriate respect for authority during such encounters, but if some groups of people are subjected to things like “stop and frisk” at rates much higher than other groups, there’s plenty of room for racism to do its work.

58

Jared 07.22.09 at 2:21 pm

A morning perusal of the Boston Globe yields:

1. Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmons (who is black) seems to be protecting the police: “Let’s not focus on the Police Department. It’s all of our problem.”

2. Head of Mass. ACLU calls for enforcement of law requiring police to record all traffic stops, an attempt to get some data on the question of racial profiling. This would answer Parse’s question @57.

59

Billikin 07.22.09 at 3:25 pm

Ginger Yellow: “Maybe there should be a blanket law, similar to entrapment jurisprudence, saying that a non-violent infraction that would not have occured absent the police intervention is not illegal.”

Did you know about the incident a few years ago in Florida where a high-ranking black police officer was stopped by a highway patrolman for speeding. The black officer thought that he was being discriminated against and protested, demanding that the patrolman’s superior be called to the scene. Things quickly got out of hand, as the patrolman’s video showed. (IIRC, this case was shown on Court TV.) At one point the patrolman asked the the black officer to sign the ticket he had written out, and advanced on the black officer. The black officer refused and backed up, raising his hands in a ward-off gesture. The patrolman’s clipboard touched the black officer’s upraised hands. Result: one of the charges against the black officer was assaulting a police officer. (!) I kid you not.

60

Salient 07.22.09 at 3:30 pm

Result: one of the charges against the black officer was assaulting a police officer. (!) I kid you not.

Incredible – it’s like charging a pedestrian who gets hit by a speeding car for “breaking and entering” because their body crashes through the windshield.

61

Ginger Yellow 07.22.09 at 4:13 pm

“The patrolman’s clipboard touched the black officer’s upraised hands. Result: one of the charges against the black officer was assaulting a police officer. (!) I kid you not.”

There was a similar case of “police assault” with a deadly weapon (an orange) a couple of years back which I tried and failed to Google for my post – it was only turning up Orange Order marches and Orange County incidents.

62

musical mountaineer 07.22.09 at 4:21 pm

Conservatism is atavism. “The status quo works OK, let’s not screw it up”; or “change is only ever self-interested change”. Why such a dim view of human nature?

In my case, conservatism is radical. The status quo is a disaster, and I’d be willing to countenance a lot of screwing up in order to achieve massive change.

Perhaps I confuse the issue by calling myself a conservative. That word can mean a lot of things. (Progressive, by comparison, has a much more specific meaning.) Perhaps, in this company, I could say I’m a Classical Liberal and people would know what I’m talking about? But I call myself a conservative as a kind of shorthand for saying “I disagree”.

Whatever I call myself, I do put forth specific ideas and arguments which anyone is welcome to engage. And I’m neither so stupid nor so proud that I can’t learn anything from the conversation. But the responses I’m getting aren’t to the point. I praise anti-authoritarianism and say it ought to be more broadly applied, and Steve LaBonne comes back and basically says that only conservatives are authoritarians. This “atavism” remark is a wide miss, I don’t even have to duck. Engels, by offering the caricature about stealing candy and killing puppies, implies that my own views are caricature, but doesn’t say exactly where I’ve gone wrong. Substance McGravitas (I like that!) almost says something with that bit about the kitten, but his metaphor begs the question, exactly what kitten are progressives taking to the vet?

Which is fair enough, because I said before I didn’t want to argue about it. But this thread is getting longer and I think we can give ourselves license to stray off-topic. I really do want to argue about it, I just don’t want to menace our gracious hosts’ patience when they’re trying to have a conversation about other things.

Now, I said that progressive politics is always about increasing state power. That’s a falsifiable statement. All you have to do to make me look like a chump is point out a case where progressives are trying to liberalize or de-governmentalize, well, anything. On the other hand, if you want to go the kitten route, you can say that the only way to deal with our problems today is to ratchet up the government fifty clicks. But that’s dangerously close to conceding my point.

63

Danielle Day 07.22.09 at 4:29 pm

@ No. 12 and others. As anyone who has ever had any “professional” encounters with the police will attest, they are, for the most part, thugs. And they are, you know… armed thugs. Cops in smaller cities tend to be the worst— they don’t have very much to do (except write tickets), and respond to every call with sirens blaring and adrenaline up. Everything is a macho confrontation with cops in general and the small-towners in particular.

On the other hand, in Chicago i came to our office one morning to find a brick on the floor and our glass door vaporized. The Chicago Police Department’s reaction when i called it in was (literally) “Well, what do you expect us to do about it?”

64

musical mountaineer 07.22.09 at 4:35 pm

Exxon Mobil revenues: $443 billion
GDP Denmark: $342 billion

This would be even more convincing if you’d cited GDP Haiti.

UK number of government employees: 600 000
Wal-mart number of employees: 2.1 million

Yes, but how many Wal-Mart employees in UK?

Let’s acknowledge the elephant, shall we? The progressive US government is spending by the trillions, in a kind of whimsical way. This is orders of magnitude beyond anything any corporation could do. Tell us what percentage of ExxonMobil’s revenue went into the Federal coffers last year? Well, how generous of them. They must be progressives.

65

Substance McGravitas 07.22.09 at 4:37 pm

Substance McGravitas (I like that!) almost says something with that bit about the kitten, but his metaphor begs the question, exactly what kitten are progressives taking to the vet?

Literal kittens. We like them.

66

Hogan 07.22.09 at 4:45 pm

All you have to do to make me look like a chump is point out a case where progressives are trying to liberalize or de-governmentalize, well, anything.

Abortion, contraception, sexual behavior more generally. Drug decriminalization. Restrictions on police power. Opposing warrantless surveillance.

67

Sebastian 07.22.09 at 4:55 pm

Also, not submitting to police authority when they are undercover and illegally sitting on your property can get you killed: the agitator, NYtimes.

68

Z 07.22.09 at 4:55 pm

Now, I said that progressive politics is always about increasing state power. That’s a falsifiable statement. All you have to do to make me look like a chump is point out a case where progressives are trying to liberalize or de-governmentalize, well, anything

Many people calling themselves progressives, and generally regarded as such, are in favor of liberalization of restrictions on circulation. Some, including myself, think that states or governments have no moral rights to prevent the free circulation of human by borders, visa requirements and the like.

Most people calling themselves progressives call for a drastic diminution of military budget. Though they usually not call for a liberalization of the military, in the sense that it would be put under private controle, it is an example of progressives arguing for a diminution of state power.

Finally, perhaps you enjoy the subtle irony but you do realize, I am sure, that you are arguing that progressives are always about increasing state power in the comment section of a progressive blog in a thread deploring the excessive powers of the state, and thus implicitly arguing for a diminution of them.

Should that be not enough falsifications, I shall be glad to provide a few more.

69

b9n10nt 07.22.09 at 4:59 pm

musaical mountaineer:

“All you have to do to make me look like a chump is point out a case where progressives are trying to liberalize or de-governmentalize, well, anything.”

Drug laws. Abortion. Intellectual property rights. Restrictions of labor migration. Ag subsidies. A host of private liabilities related to negative externalities of profit-seeking behavior. Levels of military spending. A host of states’ leverage in criminal enforcement, especially as it relates to nonviolent crime prevention and prosecution. The market in tax avoidance. Regulatory arbitrage. Corporate “personhood”.

Still, the larger point remains: state power is as much evident in the ability of Merck, Coca-Cola, or AIG to give and take-away a citizens’ livelihood as it is in the ability of the State to do the same. Economic relations, except anarchic bartering economies, are inescapably a product of the State.

And this foundation gives us perhaps the clearest way to distinguish Progressive from Classical Liberal: the former can freely acknowledge this truth whereas a Classical Liberal must employ a rigid ideology to obscure it.

70

Z 07.22.09 at 5:03 pm

Substance McGravitas (I like that!) almost says something with that bit about the kitten, but his metaphor begs the question, exactly what kitten are progressives taking to the vet?

Literal kittens. We like them.

Substance McGravitas, for this beautiful description of what is progressive politics, you have earned my sincere gratitude.

71

cod3fr3ak 07.22.09 at 5:31 pm

I’d like to get back to the cops issue. I’ve seen and have heard from many friends (I am black and grew up in Newark, NJ) many instances of police overstepping their legal bounds – although none have ever been committed against my person. This is nothing new for an inner city kid. My concern is why are the police constantly fearing for their lives when they respond to a call? It seems to me that there is some connection with the aggressive behavior of some police officers, with the fact that many of them are scared as heck when they go into a situation.
Let me put it in perspective, I happened to be working at a government facility, guarded by a Marine detachment of some sort. Inside the building I was working in someone had forgotten to lock a door or secure safe or something and the MPs came to investigate why the alarm was going off. although they had there weapons drawn, they did not point them at me. They spoke clearly and calmly for everyone to pull out their ids and show them. They acted with a great deal of restraint in a possibly dangerous situation. They were trained.

Somehow I get the impression that many of the officers that find themselves afraid when they enter a situation are simply poorly trained or are not proper material to be in law enforcement.

72

cod3fr3ak 07.22.09 at 5:34 pm

To add to my post, I am not giving the military a pass. since we see what happens when we send assault forces (Marines) to do police work in Iraq. They treat everyone as a suspect and wind up escalating situations that may or may not require it. had they been trained for counter insurgency the results would be totally different. they would speak the language and would understand the culture of the people they are dealing with, etc. This would have made the occupation of Iraq a totally different animal.

73

musical mountaineer 07.22.09 at 5:49 pm

Abortion, contraception, sexual behavior more generally.

Okay, I’ll give you a teensy point there, but it’s mostly for things that happened in the past. Right now you don’t hear any prominent progressives arguing e.g. that the morning-after pill should be legalized. Maybe they think it should be, but it’s not all that important.

As for “sexual behavior more generally”, what about the freedom to reproduce? Obama’s science czar, John Holdren, is down with compulsory population controls, sterilants in the water, and other stuff that sounds so crazy and wicked that I feel like a member of the tinfoil-hat brigade just bringing it up.

Drug decriminalization.

Okay, another teensy point; we’ll let progressives have the credit for medical marijuana. But the War on Some Drugs is going full-steam-ahead under this progressive government. How much for drug enforcement in the latest budget?

Restrictions on police power.

What restrictions?

Opposing warrantless surveillance.

Except when Obama does it.

Against all that, I can stack the Stimulus or Stabilization or whatever it will have always been called tomorrow; the nationalization of banks, auto manufacturers, and healthcare; and draconian regulation of energy. That’s the real progressive agenda, the one they’re actually working on.

I think a lot of progressives-in-the-street really would like to see liberalization in the areas you mentioned. I’m sure a lot of them wanted other changes Obama promised. Some of those people have been sorely disappointed. If you want to tell me that Obama isn’t a real progressive, I can support that argument several ways. Trouble is, if you were an American progressive, you voted for him. Maybe you didn’t want…this…but you got it.

In fact, this is really the nut of what I’m trying to say. On your own terms, by your own desires, you shouldn’t support this guy. He’s not good for Social Justice (reaches for gun) or The Environment, or Human Rights, or Democracy. He’s good for Barack Obama and Barack Obama’s buddies.

Someone (I think it was V. I. Lenin) had a term for idealistic folks who naively supported the cynical power-freaks at the top of the Communist food chain. It’s so impolite that I’m not going to mention it, and anyway I don’t think it was necessarily stupid to support Obama. But it was wrong. Why should he be exempt from the same skepticism and scorn you showed George Bush? What has he done to earn it?

74

Steve LaBonne 07.22.09 at 6:02 pm

On what fucking planet do you live on where progressives are not showing a LOT of skepticism about Obama?

The alternative him, thanks to our rigged electoral system, was a senile loon and his mentally defective running mate.

See thread. See shark. See thread jump shark.

75

Stuart 07.22.09 at 6:04 pm

My concern is why are the police constantly fearing for their lives when they respond to a call?

In the UK, as far as I am aware (my sister has dated two police officers), they don’t. Maybe it is that in the US if you are serious about commiting crimes then taking a gun with you is pretty much expected, where in the UK it is very rare – you would only take a gun along if you planned on using it as part of the crime (armed robbery or whatever).

Stats: UK firearms offenses ~21k, about half of which using air guns, or about 0.2% of all crime involves firearms. Of the remaining ~11k, only 43% involved the weapon being fired, and over half the time when they were fired it was blanks/pellets.

37 police officers in the UK have been killed while of duty from 1985-2007. Searching ODMP for agency “police” over the same time period I get 2274 results (981 for cause of death “gunfire” alone, as there are some deaths in that database that wouldn’t have been counted in the BBC article). Even adjusting for population that it quite a lot more.

76

lamont cranston 07.22.09 at 6:16 pm

@ 73: a relatively minor point, but the morning after pill *is* legal. Progressives fought to get it made available over the counter – HRC, while far from good on many liberties issues, was a leader on this one. Most progressives know how to support her for this and criticize her for other things.

Also, remember Lawrence v. Texas?

77

musical mountaineer 07.22.09 at 6:22 pm

Economic relations, except anarchic bartering economies, are inescapably a product of the State.

If by that you mean a state is necessary to enforce contracts, copyrights and patents, and provide currency, then I wholeheartedly agree. I’m not a freakin’ anarchist. But the state isn’t “producing” anything except, as it were, the soil in which an economy can grow. Now I’ll go over your list of stuff. If I leave something out, it’s because I don’t know what you’re talking about; clarify if you like.

Restrictions of labor migration.

You mean, not securing the Mexican border? That’s nonfeasance, not liberalization. It would be liberalization, I guess, if they were to eliminate the legal requirement of securing the border.

Ag subsidies.

I’m not so sure. Obama used to be a big corn-ethanol booster. I do find this somewhat out of date Reason article in which Obama takes away some subsidies and points out the whopping savings, while redirecting the money to new groups. Of course, you can prove anything using Google. If you have a link with actual data you might want to put it up now.

A host of private liabilities related to negative externalities of profit-seeking behavior.

What does this mean? Poor people who got snookered into high-interest loans will be allowed to not pay? That’s liberalization?

Levels of military spending.

Chumped!

78

cod3fr3ak 07.22.09 at 6:24 pm

WOW. Thanks for the info Stuart. I;ve been to the UK several times and I pretty much figured that it was the fact that there are so many weapons in the country a policeman really is afraid he could walk into a room and get blown away.

79

cod3fr3ak 07.22.09 at 6:31 pm

Correction – so many weapons in my country – the US.

80

musical mountaineer 07.22.09 at 6:32 pm

On what fucking planet do you live on where progressives are not showing a LOT of skepticism about Obama?

Well, I don’t get out much. I think it’s only fair, though; back in the day I savaged Bush on a regular basis, but was always accused of being a Bushbot if I said something like “Saddam Hussein was evil”.

And be honest, there’s a LOT of hand-waving and excuse-making going on as well. And you didn’t exactly help matters when you wrote that CONSERVATIVE politics is about power-seeking. Maybe you’re no Obamabot, but you don’t seem particularly worried about his authoritarian streak.

81

parse 07.22.09 at 6:32 pm

The alternative [Obama], thanks to our rigged electoral system, was a senile loon and his mentally defective running mate.

That suggests that in electoral politics, at least at the national level, there is no alternative to supporting increased state power. That wasn’t quite musical mountaineer’s point, but it’s closer to it than I’m comfortable with.

82

musical mountaineer 07.22.09 at 6:34 pm

…remember Lawrence v. Texas?

Nope. But thanks for the assist.

83

musical mountaineer 07.22.09 at 6:51 pm

at the national level, there is no alternative to supporting increased state power

Bingo! I voted for the candidate most likely to defeat Obama, but I can’t bring myself to admit his name because I HATE him. Indeed, of all the national political figures, he was the only one whose statist shenanigans had fucked me over personally.

See, that’s how to get foul language out of me. Just mention McWhatsisname.

84

Andrew 07.22.09 at 7:06 pm

At the risk of offending Mrs Tilton, I’ll add another brief anecdote: as a 48 year old white professional male, I was stopped by a police officer for doing 75mph in a 65mph zone (just after nightfall on a freeway just outside a town).

The full encounter took a half hour: I had some (unopened) beer bottles in a cooler, and the officer took a breath sample and conducted some field sobriety tests. He asked my permission to search the trunk of my car, to which I consented. He told me to stand with my hands on the bonnet of his car where he could see them, then told me if I moved “he was coming back there with his gun out.”

I’d had a single beer at lunch, some seven hours before: I was sober, nervous, but quiet spoken. I thought I was bang to rights on the speeding infraction, and I didn’t want to say or do anything to make the encounter any more fraught than it needed to be. The officer didn’t call for back up. He was firm but polite throughout the encounter – he told me he thought I had something in my system, but in the end, having no concrete evidence, he wrote out a warning (not a ticket) and I was allowed to proceed.

Now it’s a statistical sample of one, so all appropriate caveats apply. At the time, I didn’t have any issue at all with the way the officer (who was about 30 years old and male) dealt with the situation. I also think that if I’d been verbally truculent or uncooperative, he’d have had me in a jail cell so fast my head would have swum. And I do recognize that I had broken the speed limit, and my circumstances were very different to those of Mr Gates (a man in his own house who had violated no law). All I draw from my own limited experience is that for police officers, being seen to be in control of a potentially contentious situation matters a lot.

85

Picador 07.22.09 at 7:31 pm

Jared @58: 1. Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmons (who is black) seems to be protecting the police: “Let’s not focus on the Police Department. It’s all of our problem.”

There’s a solution I can get behind: don’t fire the cop, fire all the white people!

86

chrismealy 07.22.09 at 7:39 pm

Incredible – it’s like charging a pedestrian who gets hit by a speeding car for “breaking and entering” because their body crashes through the windshield.

Salient, that actually happens to bicyclists all the time. Here’s one example.

87

American and deathly afraid of police 07.22.09 at 8:08 pm

An officer responds to a suspected burglary.
Finds Gates inside his own home. After speaking to Gates he is then satisfied that there is no burglary. The officer not liking how Mr. Gates treated him then uses a common tactic to induce behavior that may allow an arrest.
How is this in any way excusable?

Trotsky — I would expect any American to be able to yell at anyone who is in their home for a spurious reason.

88

Henri Vieuxtemps 07.22.09 at 8:09 pm

Well, from what I read today, it appears that there will be no lawsuit and probably not even an apology. Cops have an advantage, because the incident is too evocative of a stereotypical Boston’s “do you know who I am?” case where cops are always the heroes.

89

Henry 07.22.09 at 8:12 pm

People – this is not a post about the relative goods and bads of conservatism vs. liberalism. No more on that topic please.

90

chrismealy 07.22.09 at 8:17 pm

The first time I was in Europe I was startled by how normal-looking the cops were. Over there you just don’t see that ‘roided out, barrel-chested, corpulent-bar-bouncer-stuffed-into-a-uniform look. At least not in France. I mean, just look at this guy. Where’s the paunch? It ought to be hanging over his belt and the buttons on his shirt should be about to pop off.

How about applying dsquared’s old Vital Importance of Audit to cops? I know you can’t use entrapment to convict people, but is it alright for weeding out the assholes?

91

Steve LaBonne 07.22.09 at 8:25 pm

Nobody disputes that cops have a very legitimate interest in maintaining control of situations; their lives really could be at stake in any given incident (at least in the US with its huge number of armed maniacs). What puts the Gatesgate cop in the wrong is that, once he ascertained that he was dealing with the legitimate resident and therefore there was no crime nor risk to public safety that required further investigation, he had both the opportunity and the obligation to de-escalate and withdraw- and he instead decided to go on a power trip. I’m quite confident that none of the good cops I know would dispute that this was a poor decision. He needs, at the least, some retraining.

92

sg 07.22.09 at 9:43 pm

chrismealy, not true at all. Have you been to gare du nord? There are nasty scary men with military weapons wandering all over the joint. And outside of the centre of the station it’s very easy to find gangs of paramilitary-looking cops in blue overalls searching passing Muslims and looking very, very nasty while they do it.

I loved Paris but when I was there there was a definite air of menace about the cops.

Also British police aren’t so great either – witness the recent murder of a passerby at a demo. Or the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes. Or their rape conviction rate which could be just good ‘ole British incompetence but might be something a little more sinister. Sure, they’re nice if you ask them for directions, but they don’t seem to be so pretty when their authority is questioned.

Australian police are also very macho – once I felt like I was going to be arrested just for going into a station and asking for a criminal record check form (for my Japan Govt Scholarship application). Plus an ex-girlfriend of mine was assaulted in the cells while visiting and then charged with assaulting an officer.

The common element here is: young men with power, who grow into old corrupt men with power. The only solution is stern and continuous oversight.

93

roy belmont 07.22.09 at 10:12 pm

If Gates had been Palestinian or any other non-Israeli ME male this post would not exist.
Also it is, from the air around the story, and from Gates’ public demeanor generally, highly probable that Gates was scornful and insulting in non-provable subtle ways. This is obviously not a point that can be argued beyond the assertion, but I do assert its likelihood, unfair as that may be.
In at least some pertinent ways this is a black and white issue wherein the cop is the lower on the hierarchy. Racist history of America as it stands, still it isn’t always that easy to spot the good guy. These days.

94

Chris 07.22.09 at 10:19 pm

If we are sharing anecdotes…I’ve had a decent number of interactions with police in various countries, mostly New Zealand and the U.S. In almost every case the police were helpful, professional and decent. The one exception happens to be when I was with my wife, who is Indian, but is regularly mistaken for African American in the U.S.

We were in Pittsburgh, waiting for someone to exit their park so we could take it.
I started to get out of the car and walk to a nearby ATM, and another driver (female, white) then approached in her car and asked if the park was free. My wife signaled no, she was indeed taking the park, and waved her on.

A police car then screeched up, lights on, and an angry looking cop got out and loudly accused my wife of “stealing” the park. My wife didn’t know what to say at first, as this was such an odd accusation. She denied it and tried to explain what actually happened. The officer didn’t deal well with being contradicted, and got louder. That’s when I noticed what was going on (the ATM was about 100 yards away). I came over and confirmed my wife’s story. My wife was now somewhat annoyed, and accustomed to interacting with the police in our native New Zealand, asked for his badge number. This made the policeman very angry, and I got quite scared. He started yelling, insisted she stole the park, demanded our licenses, and said we were going to be arrested and taken to the station. By then a small crowd had gathered. We presented our international drivers licenses. The policeman paused, harumphed, and said that our weird licenses would be so much trouble he wasn’t going to bother, but to watch ourselves.

We still aren’t quite sure what to make of the incident. Maybe the cop was having the worst day of his life. Maybe it was a terrible series of mistakes. Maybe the cop thought my wife was black, didn’t belong in the neighborhood (which was 98% white) and needed to be “taught a lesson.” Maybe it was a mistake that was made worse by “conflicting interactional styles” (as I say, we were used to dealing with cops in a small country, where guns aren’t carried and the practice of asking for a badge number is accepted.) Or maybe he was racist. I still find it troubling that my one bad experience with the police occurred in this context.

But one connection between this experience and the Gates story did make me wonder:
are some police reluctant to give their badge number because this hurts them in some way (makes it easier to make a formal complaint, etc) or is it just the potential loss of face?

Chris

95

kmack 07.22.09 at 10:35 pm

Where is the awesome Mrs Tilton? Some commenters didn’t get the point or can’t help themselves.

We could simply adopt the convention: @ X, see, mutatis mutandis, 41 and 55.

96

lemuel pitkin 07.22.09 at 11:14 pm

If Gates had been Palestinian or any other non-Israeli ME male this post would not exist.

So, Roy, you are saying that CTers don’t care about anti-Arab racism? really?

it isn’t always that easy to spot the good guy. These days.

Sure it is. The good guy is the one who *doesn’t* threaten someone with deadly force for being “scornful and insulting in non-provable subtle ways.” And the guy who does do that? He’s the bad guy, Roy.

97

Zora 07.22.09 at 11:48 pm

In the news recently: policeman hunts down an ambulance driver to punish him for “disrespecting” him and ends by putting an EMT in a chokehold — as well as delaying an ambulance on its way to the hospital.

http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Oklahoma_trooper_on_leave_after_altercation_with_ambulance_personnel

98

Substance McGravitas 07.23.09 at 12:07 am

There used to be a column in some weekly or monthly I used to read that had a “Police Beat” column consisting entirely of news items about crimes committed by police.

99

Omega Centauri 07.23.09 at 3:51 am

In my few encounters, I’ve always taken the attitude that the cop was a public servant doing a job I sure as heck wouldn’t want. Usually respect and politenesses are repaid. So my hunch is that Gates was probably primed to interpret things as a racist incident, and probably was disrespectful and uncoorperative. Of course there is little doubt that being black Gates had reason to fell that way, it’s just that I think that if you treat a cop as a hardworking underpaid professional doing an unpleasant job (and you are thankful he is doing it), the odds are pretty good you can avoid difficulties.

Now, as for anecdotes, mine doesn’t involve a police officer at all, just a few second encounter at a four way stop in St Paul. Basically I and a black man driving a beat up (-it would be generous to call it a junkyard special) vehicle reached the intersection at the same time. As I had a near new vehicle I naturally deferred to the other driver, clearly the assymetry of potential losses being so uneven. Well the look on his face, he was completely flabbergasted. I am convinced it was the first time in his life he had ever had a white man defer to him. So I gotta believe that many blacks drive like they are walking on eggshells, cause they just know cops are out waiting for the slightest excuse to get them.

100

kmack 07.23.09 at 4:02 am

@ 99, see, mutatis mutandis, 41 and 55

101

Map Maker 07.23.09 at 4:24 am

“Do you suppose African-Americans and white people have “random” encounters with police officers at roughly the same rate? I’m quite willing to believe many police officers will arrest individuals of any race who they believe haven’t shown the appropriate respect for authority during such encounters, but if some groups of people are subjected to things like “stop and frisk” at rates much higher than other groups, there’s plenty of room for racism to do its work.”

I don’t disagree with much of what you’re saying, but taking race out of the equation, and subsituting age, do you agree that police stop and frisk people under the age of 21 at rates that are much higher than people over 75? Why do they do that? Is ageism at work? Would capturing this data enlighten either the ageist beliefs of police or provide anything else of use?

102

Mrs Tilton 07.23.09 at 6:46 am

Andrew @84,

And I do recognize that I had broken the speed limit, and my circumstances were very different to those of Mr Gates (a man in his own house who had violated no law).

So, you recognise that your anecdote has SFA to do with Gates’s experience? Why, then, do you waste our time with it? (I was too harsh with MotSQ earlier. His anecdote wasn’t uninteresting. It was very mildly interesting in its way; perhaps more so for me than for others, as I was once lived through almost exactly the same thing. Almost; there was a great huge cannabis plant in plain sight when I opened the door to the law, yet he either failed, or chose not, to see it.) Your anecdote is very mildly interesting, too. But it is literally irrelevant to the matter at hand.

All I draw from my own limited experience is that for police officers, being seen to be in control of a potentially contentious situation matters a lot.

You probably won’t win a Nobel for that observation, I’m afraid, but that doesn’t make it any the less true. And, as Steve LaB. (hardly a bully-boy of the far right) points out upthread, cops very often have perfectly legitimate reasons to think and act that way.

But in Gates’s case, Patrolman Crowley didn’t. He was in the wrong; egregiously so. Possibly he was in the wrong even earlier, but certainly he was in the wrong no later than the moment Gates identified himself as the rightful resident of the house and Crowley then failed to piss off as bidden. Arresting Gates raised Crowley’s wrongness to the fifth power. One hopes he has enjoyed his time as a policeman but is ready to move on to a career as private night-watchman or fast-food restaurant manager or some such, because I suspect that (unless Gates decides to be unusually and unnecessarily magnanimous — in his position, I would not do so) Crowley’s days as an arm of the state’s monopoly on the legitimate use of violence are drawing to a close.

103

ajay 07.23.09 at 8:38 am

sg: Also British police aren’t so great either – witness the recent murder of a passerby at a demo. Or the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes.

Neither of these were murder, and sg knows this, he’s just stirring shit.

Or their rape conviction rate which could be just good ‘ole British incompetence but might be something a little more sinister.

She’s doing the same here.

104

Zamfir 07.23.09 at 8:46 am

In my country, kids are taught that “the police is your best friend”. When people get older and start travelling, they are told to remember that in other countries, the police is not your friend. The US and France are usually given as main examples.

105

Katherine 07.23.09 at 9:09 am

sg: Also British police aren’t so great either – witness the recent murder of a passerby at a demo. Or the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes.

Neither of these were murder, and sg knows this, he’s just stirring shit.

Nuh huh, both could arguably be called murder, if you know anything about the legal definition of murder. At the absolute very least, they were manslaughter (which I believe is called 2nd degree murder over in the States).

106

Katherine 07.23.09 at 9:10 am

Argh, html fail. The second paragraph should also be in itallics, and was qu0ting ajay at #103.

107

Ginger Yellow 07.23.09 at 9:13 am

There are nasty scary men with military weapons wandering all over the joint. And outside of the centre of the station it’s very easy to find gangs of paramilitary-looking cops in blue overalls searching passing Muslims and looking very, very nasty while they do it.

That’s because they are paramilitary cops. The gendarmerie is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defence.

108

Henri Vieuxtemps 07.23.09 at 9:44 am

See, this story is a bit of a conundrum, where to most of us here it sounds like a tale of a thuggish and possibly racist cop bulling a nice professor, while most people in Eastern Mass probably see a well-connected asshole millionaire bulling a working-class guy doing his job. Same facts, different angle.

109

Ginger Yellow 07.23.09 at 10:15 am

I don’t think many people here are saying Gates is or was in this instance “nice”. And how exactly does a citizen “bully” someone with a gun and the power of arrest?

110

Henri Vieuxtemps 07.23.09 at 12:27 pm

A citizen bullies by saying things like this: ‘how do you dare questioning me – do you know who I am? I’ll get you fired in 5 seconds. What is your name? Tell me your name. I want to know your name.’

I am not saying this is how it went, but I suspect this is what folks in Billerica believe.

111

Steve LaBonne 07.23.09 at 12:28 pm

If Henri were jet-lagged and mildly ill after just returning from halfway around the world, only to discover that somebody had jimmied and damaged his front door while he was away, and on top of that aggravation a cop started messing with him instead of doing his job i.e. looking for the burglar, I bet Henri would also find that he was “having a bad day”. I KNOW I would.

Would it have been prudent for Gates to keep a more civil tongue in his head? Obviously. Does that excuse the cop for being a butthead? Obviously not (and you can safely bet your life that he got a major tongue-lashing from his supervisor about it). I really don’t understand why some people have trouble holding these two simple ideas in mind simultaneously.

112

Steve LaBonne 07.23.09 at 12:29 pm

I am not saying this is how it went, but I suspect this is what WHITE folks in Billerica believe.

Fixed that for you.

113

dsquared 07.23.09 at 1:05 pm

Would it have been prudent for Gates to keep a more civil tongue in his head?

note that the “screaming” thing is only there in the cop’s report – according to Gates he didn’t raise his voice (and indeed currently has bronchitis).

Or their rape conviction rate which could be just good ‘ole British incompetence but might be something a little more sinister

Actually it’s due to twenty years of concerted effort to raise the rape reporting rate, but I suspect that the person who wrote this wasn’t really interested.

114

Steve LaBonne 07.23.09 at 1:10 pm

note that the “screaming” thing is only there in the cop’s report – according to Gates he didn’t raise his voice (and indeed currently has bronchitis).

Agree- I was just giving the cop the maximum benefit of the doubt to show certain people that even so the cop was clearly in the wrong. Now me, I WOULD have been yelling, for sure. ;)

115

lamont cranston 07.23.09 at 1:11 pm

Maybe Gates’ goal wasn’t to be “prudent.” Maybe he wanted to use his position to stick up for people with less power to do so – the exact opposite of what an ‘asshole millionaire’ would do. Using your status to help others is admirable, I guess – except when a Black person isn’t suitable deferential while doing so.

116

Steve LaBonne 07.23.09 at 1:21 pm

To be perfectly honest, lamont, I doubt that’s what was in his mind at the time- I suspect he was just royally pissed off, as I would have been even without the added stress from the racial angle. But in the aftermath he has made clear that he IS going to use this as a teaching opportunity, which is a great thing.

117

Ginger Yellow 07.23.09 at 1:23 pm

“A citizen bullies by saying things like this: ‘how do you dare questioning me – do you know who I am? I’ll get you fired in 5 seconds. What is your name? Tell me your name. I want to know your name.’”

Even if this was how it went down, I wouldn’t call it bullying. I’d call it sticking up for your rights against an asshole cop who’s abusing his authority. Most non-police have effectively zero recourse when something like this, or even much worse, happens. So I don’t think you can call it bullying when someone who potentially does have recourse threatens to use it.

118

Daniel 07.23.09 at 1:50 pm

Notable that the apologists for Moe Green won’t even acknowledge the presence of Sgt. Carlos Figueroa at the incident, and whose witness and signed report confirms Crowley’s report and by implication calls Gates a liar, which I believe Gates to be.

Oh, I know, Sgt. Figueroa is just a Tom, or in this case a Tomasito.

119

Henri Vieuxtemps 07.23.09 at 1:50 pm

Ginger (and again: these are all pure groundless speculations) – when you say “sticking up for your rights against an asshole cop who’s abusing his authority” you’re assuming that Boston’s infamous “do you know who I am?” (DYKWIA) makes its first appearance in response to some sort of abuse of authority. But that, in fact, is not obvious at all; DYKWIA is known to pop up here and there without any provocation whatsoever, or, perhaps, with a very slight, almost imaginary provocation. If that’s the case, I’m afraid “sticking up for your rights” doesn’t apply here; often a DYKWIA is simply a manifestation of arrogance.

These things do happen, you know. Even Harvard professors are not immune. Or, maybe, Harvard professors – especially.

120

Salient 07.23.09 at 2:03 pm

“A citizen bullies by saying things like this: ‘how do you dare questioning me – do you know who I am? I’ll get you fired in 5 seconds. What is your name? Tell me your name. I want to know your name.’”

It is completely understandable, and well within the person’s official rights, to say every sentence you typed here, even in a raised voice.

As an officer, I would respond, “My name is [First Name Last Name], sir. I go by the nickname Salient.” If they told me they were going to call the police, and waited for a response, I would say, “I understand.”

If the person called the police or police chief, I would wait patiently for them to complete the call (they certainly aren’t threatening anyone’s safety by doing so). If feasible, I would radio HQ to advise them that I am currently with the owner of the residence, who is currently upset.

I claim it’s the beat cop’s job to maintain order without using any more violence than every human being would need to use. In other words, if there exist people who would be capable of reliably defusing a given situation nonviolently / without intimidation, then the cop should be required to defuse that situation nonviolently / without intimidation. If the cop can’t or won’t, the cop is failing to do their job.

This is why I like the programs like in a community I lived in last year, where the beat cops are called Safety Officers. It’s not just a name, in that community: the cops are required to take training in “defusing hostility” and “negotiation” and “outreach” (apparently with a focus on drug outreach and gang outreach). The cool thing is, when I asked a couple cops about their training, they were very pleasant about talking through duties, training, responsibilities, and protocols. Informing citizens about their role in the community is an official part of their job description (which you don’t see, most places).

The guy who answered most of my questions was proud to be well-trained in non-violent, non-intimidating diplomatic conflict management. And the pride showed: he was the kind of human being who takes pride in diplomatic skill. This was the kind of person I am satisfied to invest the appropriate police authority in: he has the right personality and vision of order, and he is psychically as well as formally prepared to avoid the kinds of deeply saddening mistakes Chris Bertram identified in the police-vs-photographer thread.

121

smilja 07.23.09 at 2:03 pm

Dr. Gates was probably upset and angry when he asked for Sgt. Crowley’s ID info. He was accused of breaking into his own home and based on his life experience, that was unfair, although based on the actual circumstances, it was not.

Sgt. Crowley didn’t like an angry citizen yelling at him for doing his job, so instead of trying to understand why this incident had triggered such anger in Dr. Gates, he escalates the situation, and arrests him. A very stupid power play that will forever tarnish what appears to have been an impressive career.

Do police officers really think that a lack of sufficient respect is a crime? The more they abuse their power in this way, the less respect we have for their profession. People who carry badges, tasers and guns need to show more self-discipline.

122

Rabbi 07.23.09 at 2:07 pm

To me this whole thread has an air of unreality to it.
Crowley had no valid complaint about Gates. However, Crowley wished to arrest Gates to show who was boss. The key phrase from the post above, which this thread has ignored, is:
“as well as his continued tumultuous behavior outside the residence, in view of the public, I ..”
Gates was outside his residence because Crowley had told Gates to follow him there to get his name and badge number. Why go outside? Because “outside the residence, in view of the public” disorderly conduct can be alleged; inside of one’s house, not.
That’s all there is. However, Mark Kleinman has a more extensive analysis; the site isn’t responding at the moment so I can’t provide a link, but there’s one on the CT main page.

123

Salient 07.23.09 at 2:15 pm

I imagine some folks will want a link to Safety Officer description as I talked about above. Currently working on that: google doesn’t return good results :-/

124

Ginger Yellow 07.23.09 at 2:20 pm

“DYKWIA is known to pop up here and there without any provocation whatsoever, or, perhaps, with a very slight, almost imaginary provocation. If that’s the case, I’m afraid “sticking up for your rights” doesn’t apply here; often a DYKWIA is simply a manifestation of arrogance.”

Oh, absolutely. Like I say, I’m not claiming Gates was nice. The point is that arrogance is not bullying.

Also, what Rabbi said. There’s a distinct Catch 22 element here. Go outside and you risk a charge. Stay inside, and you’re uncooperative.

125

Salient 07.23.09 at 2:23 pm

From what I can see, apparently Safety Officer is exclusively a University position. Wow.

Anyhow, here is one example that looks pretty good. I advocate that this kind of job description should be a basic standard model for a beat cop’s job.

…Compare with “safety officers” elsewhere, though. Unfortunately, it seems they don’t explicitly require applicants to have taken any coursework in diplomatic negotiation, defusing hostility, etc. And they don’t list such things in the job description. Neither do they list informing the community about one’s official role and duties. Sheeeeeeesh.

Either they genuinely emphasize it on the job and provide that training upon hire (good!), or they give it on-the-job lip service (bad!), or they don’t require such training at all (very bad!).

I’ve searched google for “safety officer” programs and, uh, most seem to suffer from the problem above: they don’t seem to actually identify hostility-defusing and diplomatic negotiation as concrete job duties. At the very least, these are not usually emphasized as primary duties. This is a problem!

126

Steve LaBonne 07.23.09 at 2:47 pm

I’ve searched google for “safety officer” programs and, uh, most seem to suffer from the problem above: they don’t seem to actually identify hostility-defusing and diplomatic negotiation as concrete job duties. At the very least, these are not usually emphasized as primary duties. This is a problem!

It’s a problem that goes right to the heart of the entire model in the US of what policing is about. A few chiefs here and there have tried to make inroads on this dysfunctional culture, with limited results.

Most cops in this country are under-educated and under-trained. Also deliberately MIS-trained, in the larger cities, to think of themselves as a para-military occupation force. It’s a huge problem.

127

snarkfree 07.23.09 at 3:05 pm

The officer’s report presents a detailed and plausible narrative of events. The statement from Gates does not. It lacks detail, has narrative gaps, and this absence of detail makes his arrest seem not merely a “bad call” but totally unfounded. It also makes a demonstratively false assertion that Gates did not and could not have yelled at the cop or caused a general disturbance – which is flatly contradicted by the photograph of Gates on his porch screaming at the police. The passerby who took the cellphone photo states he was screaming. This lends credence to the police union’s assertion that all was done properly. Whether or not Gates was “lured” outside hardly excuses his demeanor or legally invalidates the arrest. As someone who has been on the receiving end of unwarrantedly abusive and in one case deranged behavior by police officers, I am not predisposed to believe their accounts, but in this case the preponderance of public accounts seems to favor the officer. However, it’s easy to imagine that the details could be different, and many have, with varying degrees of plausibility.

128

Henri Vieuxtemps 07.23.09 at 3:10 pm

I claim it’s the beat cop’s job to maintain order without using any more violence than every human being would need to use.

But where’s violence? The guy got agitated, so he was arrested, held for 4 hours and let go. Big deal, so now he has a great story to tell at a dinner party.

I’m sure this could’ve been handled better, hell – a lot better – by some ideal, perfectly trained cop, but hey, due to an oversight this was an obsolete model – a human real-life Boston cop, yeah they do get grumpy sometimes.

129

Salient 07.23.09 at 3:17 pm

The officer’s report presents a detailed and plausible narrative of events.

Having been in the room and an active participant when many such narratives were crafted, developed, revised, and polished, I would like to suggest that “detailed and plausible [and cleanly favorable to the writers]” is usually a goal held in contradistinction to “accurate to what we remember actually happened.”

It’s amazing, for example, what seems like threatening behavior when you’re reflecting back on a situation and trying to identify… threatening behavior. It’s impossible to fail to find the language that makes your case for you without saying anything objectively inaccurate.

And if you don’t find the language, someone else will help! I was surprised, on several occasions, to read an official Incident Report and learn that I was doing something very sensible like “monitoring” when I distinctly remembered standing there paralyzed with fear and confusion.

Memory is quite adaptive — shall we say malleable? — and it’s easy to sit down together and achieve consensus about what each of us actually did. For some definition of actually that incidentally happens to be mutually advantageous. And hey, that… adaptiveness… along with help from others, who helped me fill those “gaps” in my memory… has probably saved more jobs in one year than you or I could ever guess.

Also: Spell-check wants to correct “adaptiveness” to “deceptiveness”. :-)

130

Steve LaBonne 07.23.09 at 3:22 pm

Whether or not Gates was “lured” outside hardly excuses his demeanor or legally invalidates the arrest.

The arrest was not legally valid in the first place. The cop’s job was to LEAVE the moment he ascertained that he was talking to the legitimate resident of the house. Now assuming for the sake of argument (and only for the sake of argument) that Gates really was being assholic, would I have blamed the cop for saying, on his way out, “Fine, sir, we’ll remember this next time you call us to complain that your house was broken into?” Not a bit. But that’s as far as it should ever have gone.

By the way it was ALSO the cop’s job to give his name and badge number the moment he was asked for it, and by his own account he failed to do so at first. Many cops, as is well known to anyone who doesn’t live in a cave, go ballistic when faced with this request which every citizen has a perfect right to make, and excusing them for that dereliction marks one as an authority-worshiping asshole. A country where cops can get away with retaliating when asked to identify themselves themselves on request has a name: it’s called a police state.

131

snarkfree 07.23.09 at 3:24 pm

Writing reports is part of the job. The officer included in his report an account of his confusion and incomprehension, which is the very opposite of the retroactive restructuring to achieve certainty that Salient describes.

An arrestee, especially one against whom the charges have been dropped, is not obligated to provide a narrative, perhaps the problem here. Gates needs to offer more detail.

132

Steve LaBonne 07.23.09 at 3:29 pm

The officer included in his report an account of his confusion and incomprehension, which is the very opposite of the retroactive restructuring to achieve certainty that Salient describes.

Christ , you’re naive. That was his excuse for pretending what is obviously implausible, that he was under some kind of threat from a middle-aged guy who needs as cane to walk.

Really, don’t bother digging your hole deeper. You have no idea what you’re babbling about. Cops themselves would laugh at you for your simplicity.

133

Salient 07.23.09 at 3:35 pm

The officer included in his report an account of his confusion and incomprehension, which is the very opposite of the retroactive restructuring to achieve certainty that Salient describes.

Certainty? Naw.

In our report-crafting, deference to our confusion and incomprehension was our most frequent tactic. It’s very useful, because (usually) saying “I was confused by so-and-so” means “so-and-so was acting irrationally, which justifies my response.”

For example. Why did my coteacher and I order so-and-so to leave the classroom? Well, we felt we needed to, because we were confused by so-and-so’s behavior, and it seemed plausible to me that so-and-so might be threatening my coteacher! (Why did we actually kick so-and-so out? Depends on your definition of actually. What we learned in collaboration with the other folks helping us craft the report is, a circumstantial definition of “actually” that doesn’t make us vulnerable to any pesky lawsuits!)

I’m exaggerating. A little.

134

Salient 07.23.09 at 3:39 pm

But where’s violence?

Well, I guess. According to what I meant by that, arrest and detention is a form of violence. What this tells me is, I need a better word than “violence” for that sentence. Something that includes intimidation, threat, duress, and detention as well as violence. But I’m blanking–any ideas for a word that better encompasses all this?

135

snarkfree 07.23.09 at 3:46 pm

I understand the temptation to construct a scenario in which the officer is suspect for both understanding/remembering events too well and not well enough. However, he is obligated to provide a narrative, and that’s what he has done. It has not been shown to be false in its details, and much of it can’t be, as a good deal of the events it describes occurred within the house out of view of others. However, Gates’ version contains a demonstrable falsehood, the assertion that he was not yelling or causing a disturbance, which is contradicted by the accounts of multiple officers and civilian witnesses. Whether he was goaded into such actions by behavior the officer omitted from his report does not excuse the actions, or the less than candid denial of them, I would think.

136

Steve LaBonne 07.23.09 at 3:48 pm

I can only repeat that actual cops know very well how this is done, and would laugh at your simplicity. “Confused” is a code word which works in exactly the way Salient just pointed out.

137

Salient 07.23.09 at 3:56 pm

Whether he was goaded into such actions by behavior the officer omitted from his report does not excuse the actions

snarkfree, Gates’ actions need no excuse. Even if we take the police report as the gospel truth testified. Every thing the police report accuses Gates of doing is both legal and understandable.

138

snarkfree 07.23.09 at 4:25 pm

Salient, the police report specifies that Gates was engaging in disorderly conduct, which is not legal. It is legal to yell at other people, within certain limits, and to insult them, or their mothers, but what is legal is not always also conscionable.

139

Steve LaBonne 07.23.09 at 4:26 pm

Salient, the police report specifies that Gates was engaging in disorderly conduct, which is not legal.

Did you even read Henry’s original post? If not I suggest you go back and do so now.

140

Salient 07.23.09 at 4:30 pm

Salient, the police report specifies that Gates was engaging in disorderly conduct, which is not legal.

Round and round we go. I repeat: every thing the police report accuses Gates of doing is both legal and understandable.

You can arrest me for “disorderly conduct” because you don’t like the way I call you by your first name, instead of “Officer” or “sir”, but that doesn’t mean I was actually disorderly. (This happened to an obnoxious relative of mine; the charges were later dropped. The charges were dropped precisely because the charges were unjustifiable in context.)

It is legal to yell at other people, within certain limits, and to insult them, or their mothers, but what is legal is not always also conscionable.

Round and round we go. I repeat: every thing the police report accuses Gates of doing is both legal and understandable, by which I mean conscionable.

But this discussion has already happened, upthread, and on the first Gates conversation thread. So I’ll withdraw. Please feel free to have the last word, with respect to me. We both probably have better things to do with our time.

141

Barbar 07.23.09 at 4:30 pm

snarkfree, speaking of narrative gaps, how did the police officer get into Gates’s house?

142

watson aname 07.23.09 at 4:31 pm

snarkfree, the police report specifies a textbook case of how the officer constructed a bullshit charge of disorderly conduct, which understandably fell apart under the sort of pressure that was trivial for a couple of Harvard profs to exert, and almost impossible for the average joe to pull off.

Gates may or may not have been an asshole about this. It doesn’t matter. There is no doubt, however, that the officer behaved in at best an incompetent way. There is an asymmetry, here though. Only one of the two people involved was doing their job, and they failed to perform their duties to a reasonable standard.

143

Henri Vieuxtemps 07.23.09 at 4:42 pm

Gates may or may not have been an asshole about this. It doesn’t matter.

But of course it does matter, how could it not? It is, indeed, a very important part of the story.

144

Steve LaBonne 07.23.09 at 4:46 pm

But of course it does matter, how could it not? It is, indeed, a very important part of the story.

Not from a legal standpoint and not in judging whether the officer did his job properly. If being an asshole were a crime, the jails would be full of cops.

145

ruralcounsel 07.23.09 at 4:46 pm

Perhaps Mrs Tilton @41 and @55 would quit slanting the facts in order to support her own conclusions. I for one, would find that much more relevant and interesting.

“(i) a distinguished middle-aged professor at a prestigious university who (ii) was entering your own house when accosted by the po and (iii) identified yourself to the lawmen as the rightful occupant of the house and (iv) were arrested nonetheless.”

No argument with (i). As for (ii) he had already entered the house when the LEO began investigating who was home. So the LEO had no idea whether he was there legally or not. (iii) He needs to do more than just verbally claim ownership. Like showing some ID when requested. Any B&E guy worth his salt can claim “It’s my house.” The LEO would be negligent just just take him at his word. (iv), the arrest came afterwords, and for an entirely different set of behaviors, which have been well documented.

But you knew that. But it doesn’t create quite the inflamatory story that way, now does it? I think you’ve exhausted your benefit of the doubt as well.

What this really comes down to is is it justifiable for the LEO to arrest someone who is screaming at them in a public place. I’ve been amazed at the number of commenters who have thought such behavior was legal. It was most assuredly not. It doesn’t take much to be guilty of creating a public disturbance.

Add to this that given the large number of truly unpleasant people the police are forced to deal with every day, judges are predisposed to giving them a healthy benefit of the doubt. Just look at how SCOTUS has whittled away at the exclusionary rule in 4th Amendment jurisprudence. Police have the authority to act differently than John Q. Public, and JQP had best remember that.

You don’t have to like the police, but you do have to behave like a mature adult around them. Even Harvard faculty members are smart enough to know that.

146

Ginger Yellow 07.23.09 at 4:54 pm

“What this really comes down to is is it justifiable for the LEO to arrest someone who is screaming at them in a public place.”

Said public place being your own front porch, where you were told to go by a police officer.

It doesn’t take much to be guilty of creating a public disturbance.

Indeed it doesn’t, and this is outrageous, particularly given how often said law is used by the police to arrest people who aren’t doing anything to harm anyone.

147

Henri Vieuxtemps 07.23.09 at 4:56 pm

Not from a legal standpoint

Yes, and from a legal standpoint too. If there is a lawsuit – do you really believe Gates’ behavior is not going to be examined, analyzed and taken into consideration?

Suppose you call my mother whore and I punch you in the face. Do you think the legal story goes simply: “Henri punched Steve in the face”?

148

ejh 07.23.09 at 5:02 pm

Depends who writes it. If Steve was a policeman, it might very well do that.

149

Barbar 07.23.09 at 5:10 pm

“Steve found it really surprising that Henri punched him in the face.”

150

watson aname 07.23.09 at 5:11 pm

Henri, Steve is correct in 144, this is precisely the sense that I meant it. Given perfect knowledge of the situation we might consider that Gates behaved inappropriately from a social point of view, that he was in fact “being an asshole”.

From a legal point of view, it’s completely irrelevant. At best the officer failed to do his job competently (the correct action would have been to diffuse the situation as best he could, and leave immediately) and bungled the escalation in a knee jerk response for control. At worst, and more plausibly I’m afraid, he deliberately choreographed[*] the construction of this charge. Whether the motivation for this would have been because he is actually racist (as Gates claimed at the time, I believe) or merely acting out of a misplaced sense of entitlement and having lost self control in the face of Gates taking him to task — well, how would you determine that?

Occasionally putting up with people “being assholes” towards you is just one of the less attractive parts of the job of being a police officer, but make no mistake — it is part of the job.

[*]This is a well known (by police officers, not the public at large) and broadly applied technique, but it is always wrong.

151

Steve LaBonne 07.23.09 at 5:13 pm

Unfortunately I was forced to tase Henri 15 times. The coroner’s report lists cause of death as “heart disease”. Case closed.

152

watson aname 07.23.09 at 5:21 pm

If there is a lawsuit – do you really believe Gates’ behavior is not going to be examined, analyzed and taken into consideration?

We have to be a little careful here. In a civil case, I expect all of this would be argued backwards and forwards ad naseum (much like a blog thread, I suppose). However, it is irrelevant to the legal question of whether or not such behavior forms grounds for a charge of disorderly conduct. Which it is not. And this is why, in order to lay such a charge, the officer had to change the situation.

It really is pretty simple, all you have to ask yourself is: was this situation (and charge) avoidable by the officer changing his behavior in a way compatible with his responsibilities in the course of doing his job. Further more, did the officers behavior escalate the situation in an avoidable way (or worse, could different actions have diffused it). As the answer is clearly yes, on both counts, the officer messed up. The degree to which he messed up is obviously arguable, and I suspect I’d place that below what prof. Gates does, but such is life.

153

Steve LaBonne 07.23.09 at 5:23 pm

Want to get run in, and (depending on who you are) possibly have the crap kicked out of you in the process? Ever so politely and deferentially, ask the cop who stopped you for his name and badge number. THAT was Gates’s “crime”.

154

Chris 07.23.09 at 6:09 pm

@145: Add to this [i.e. broadly worded public disturbance laws] that given the large number of truly unpleasant people the police are forced to deal with every day, judges are predisposed to giving them a healthy benefit of the doubt.

They went past “healthy” a long time ago and are well into “alarming”.

Just look at how SCOTUS has whittled away at the exclusionary rule in 4th Amendment jurisprudence.

Oh, believe me, I’m looking. I don’t like what I’m seeing, either. I admit that the exclusionary rule wouldn’t be necessary in a perfect justice system, but as long as police chiefs don’t fire cops who break the law, some other means of accountability is better than nothing. Brandeis had a point about the appearance of retroactive endorsement of the illegal act, too. The rule of law rots from the head down.

Police have the authority to act differently than John Q. Public, and JQP had best remember that.

John Q. Public also happens to be the sovereign of this here democracy. He might consider looking into the behavior of his public servants. It seems to be a little lacking in the tact and discretion departments.

This sentence seems to be written from the mindset of someone for whom every social interaction is defined by who is on top. That attitude is poisonous to both democracy and freedom.

155

Henri Vieuxtemps 07.23.09 at 6:20 pm

It really is pretty simple, all you have to ask yourself is: was this situation (and charge) avoidable by the officer changing his behavior in a way compatible with his responsibilities in the course of doing his job. Further more, did the officers behavior escalate the situation in an avoidable way (or worse, could different actions have diffused it). As the answer is clearly yes, on both counts, the officer messed up.

But how can you be so sure “the answer is clearly yes”?

Officer Carlos Figueroa wrote in his report:

As I stepped in, I heard Sgt. Crowley ask for the gentleman’s information which he stated “NO I WILL NOT!”. The gentleman was shouting out to the Sgt. that the Sgt was a racist and yelled that “THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS TO BLACK MEN IN AMERICA!” As the Sgt. was trying to calm the gentleman, the gentleman shouted “You don’t know who you’re messing with!”

I stepped out to gather the information from the reporting person. __. Ms. _ stated to me that she saw a man wedging his shoulder into the front door as to pry the door open. As I returned to the residence, a group of onlookers were now on scene. The Sgt., along with the gentleman, were now on the porch of __ Ware ST. and again he was shouting, now to the onlookers (about seven), “THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS TO BLACK MEN IN AMERICA”! The gentleman refused to listen as to why the Cambridge Police were there. While on the porch, the gentleman refused to be cooperative and continued shouting that the Sgt is racist police officer.

156

Henri Vieuxtemps 07.23.09 at 6:22 pm

Sorry, the formating is all screwed up. Both paragraphs are from the report and ignore the italics.

157

watson aname 07.23.09 at 6:42 pm

But how can you be so sure “the answer is clearly yes”?

Very simply: Because regardless of how intractable Prof. Gates was or was not (i.e. avoiding any argument about the accuracy of the various police statements and claims made by Gates and others), according to the police report at some point Prof. Gates did demonstrate his identification to the satisfaction of the officer, establishing that there was in fact no crime being committed. (NB charges were laid for actions after this time)

At this point, Sgt. Crowleys only proper course of action was to apologize (profusely if needed, to calm the situation) and immediately leave (as quickly as practical). At that juncture, there was no situation to control (needed or otherwise) that was not of his own construction, and that he did not have the power and responsibility to remove.

Police may not like being told to “get the [insert whatever explicative you want] off my property” any more than you or I would (perhaps even less), but it is their responsibility to suck it up and do so in a case like this.

158

magistra 07.23.09 at 6:48 pm

So Gates was arrested for shouting ‘This is what happens to black men in America’? Who said Americans have no sense of irony?

159

Cyrus 07.23.09 at 6:52 pm

@ snarkfree:
Writing reports is part of the job. The officer included in his report an account of his confusion and incomprehension, which is the very opposite of the retroactive restructuring to achieve certainty that Salient describes.

This is oblivious at best. Let’s go back to the report in the original post:

My reason for wanting to leave the residence was that Gates was yelling very loud and the acoustics of the kitchen and foyer were making it difficult for me to transmit pertinent information to ECC or other responding units.

What transparent bullshit. Are the walls of Gates’ kitchen and foyer lead-lined? Was Officer Crowley using walkie-talkies from a dollar store? Was a SWAT team about to be dispatched and arrest everyone in the neighborhood unless Crowley called them off? If not, then there was no reason Crowley had to go outside right then and bring Gates with him. If you use even a tiny bit of critical thinking it’s obvious that Crowley wanted to get Gates into public view before he had calmed down and made up an excuse for it.

160

Tax Analyst 07.23.09 at 6:55 pm

“But where’s violence? The guy got agitated, so he was arrested, held for 4 hours and let go. Big deal, so now he has a great story to tell at a dinner party.”

But you see, Henri, when you are actually in the state of “custody” you do not KNOW that you will be released in 4 hours and that no harm or further inconvenience to your person will come to you. That makes the situation much less of a “great story” in the present moment and much more of a “Holy _ _ _ _! They’re taking my ass to jail now over this!”. Perhaps you’d agree that this is a considerably less amusing perspective, but maybe not.

161

Henri Vieuxtemps 07.23.09 at 7:09 pm

@157: I concede your point. A perfect, ideal, a “strictly by the book” cop, a robocop – he would’ve apologized profusely and left. I doubt such a cop exists in real life, though.

All things considered, in this imperfect world the actual outcome appears more or less just and reasonable; to me at least.

162

Substance McGravitas 07.23.09 at 7:15 pm

All things considered, in this imperfect world the actual outcome appears more or less just and reasonable; to me at least.

Said with conviction.

163

snarkfree 07.23.09 at 8:02 pm

A.P.: “Cambridge Sgt. James Crowley has taught a class on racial profiling for five years at the Lowell Police Academy. Academy Director Thomas Fleming says Crowley is “good role model” who was hand-picked for the job by former police Commissioner Ronny Watson, who is black. In the class, Crowley teaches officers not to single people out based on their ethnic backgrounds.”

This is really getting interesting. I suppose the next thing will be an mp3 recording off the police radios of the incident. Police say it shows Gates screaming prior to his arrest, if you can believe them.

164

kmack 07.23.09 at 8:14 pm

Prof. Gates should have been arrested for being disorderly. Or, at least, it is understandable why Sgt. Crowley arrested and charged him.

In any case, Prof. Gates should have been prudent enough to know not to be disrespectful to an authority figure who is licensed to kill. Still, it isn’t a big deal to be arrested and released four hours later.

Another officer, who has a Hispanic last name, witnessed the professor’s tumultuous behavior and confirmed the arresting officer’s report. So, on balance, we reasonably can conclude that Prof. Gates is a liar.

If Prof. Gates had been fully and respectfully cooperative with a hardworking law enforcement officer who was simply investigating a reported burglary in progress, the ensuing situation would never have happened. After all, Prof. Gates is a wealthy, well-connected Harvard professor, and race was probably irrelevant–until the professor tried to martyr himself and cried racism.

Maybe Prof. Gates harbors intense resentment toward the police in particular and whites in general, which would explain why he was so quick to anger. Such feelings were often warranted in the past, of course, but are largely unwarranted today.

Sgt. Crowley was only doing proper police work upon discovering an almost 60-year-old, slight, moderately disabled man inside the house. In fact, the officer might well have been concerned for the man’s safety: two black men suspected of breaking into the house had not yet been located.

To be clear, race has nothing to do with any of this, since Prof. Gates is a person of high socioeconomic status–even if Sgt. Crowley either wasn’t aware of this or didn’t care.

That the Cambridge Police Department and the mayor of Cambridge have apologized to Prof. Gates is more a sign of political correctness or deference to elites than of the possibility that Sgt. Crowley might have acted inappropriately, for whatever reason, in arresting and charging Prof. Gates.

I couldn’t make this stuff up. It’s here on CT, of all places.

165

magistra 07.23.09 at 8:25 pm

In any case, Prof. Gates should have been prudent enough to know not to be disrespectful to an authority figure who is licensed to kill. Still, it isn’t a big deal to be arrested and released four hours later.

Now that’s the authoritarian personality type at work. It’s your fault because you didn’t behave nicely. And anyhow, you haven’t been punished much this time…What is scary is how many other Americans on this thread take it for granted (even if they don’t approve of it) that if you upset a cop you can expect to be made to suffer for it. Once the police stop respecting the fact that they are servants of the public, you are on a very dangerous slope.

166

Steve LaBonne 07.23.09 at 8:29 pm

Umm, magistra, I think kmack’s last two sentences indicate that the “snark” function was set to “on”.

167

Henri Vieuxtemps 07.23.09 at 8:38 pm

Yeah, kmack is being ironic, magistra. He or she agrees with you.

Although one could argue that if you are acting as an asshole, loudly insulting and upsetting anybody, cop or no cop, you can expect some sort of unpleasantry. Common sense.

168

sg 07.23.09 at 9:32 pm

ajay, the de Menezes cops clearly intended to kill him from the moment he left the house. They never bothered to identify themselves to him, they didn’t warn him of what they were up to, they had followed him for a good period of time and could tell he wasn’t hiding any explosives or weapons. Immediately after the event they had a perfect story ready for their superiors, or their superiors gave them that perfect story, and every level of the police force and the government backed their story, with only the cctv and passing witnesses disagreeing. That’s not just murder – it’s institutionalised murder.

dsquared, the rape conviction rate is a proportion of the reports. It’s not relevant how the reporting rate has been increasing. What’s relevant is that there are 9-fold differences between areas in the UK, and every area’s rate is shite. That is either incompetence or malice.

Police in all the countries I mentioned – the US, France, Australia, the UK – seem to be bad and/or incompetent. The common factor is young men with power. Justifying away this power with ajay’s style of feeble “he deserved it” logic, or trying to pretend your own police are better, is pretty silly. Given the universal nature of this phenomenon, oversight and stiff penalties are the only solution. Inquiries, whitewashes and mealy-mouthed apologies are not.

169

james 07.23.09 at 10:21 pm

Chaplinsky, a Jehovah’s Witness, had purportedly told a New Hampshire town marshal who was attempting to prevent him from preaching “You are a God-damned racketeer” and “a damned fascist” and was arrested. The court upheld the arrest and wrote in its decision that:

There are certain well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which have never been thought to raise any constitutional problem. These include the lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous, and the insulting or “fighting words” those which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace. It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.

– Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 1942

So yes, a certain level of verbal belligerence towards the police is a crime. This is also initial source of the legal leverage for establishing laws for both hate speech and sexual harassment. Now you are seeing the cost.

170

John 07.23.09 at 11:05 pm

I don’t believe anything the police say, because the police have a long history of making things up, falsifying evidence and protecting officers who have lied and broken the law. It’s sad, too, because there are likely times that their story is accurate, but how can I believe a group of people who work so hard to protect the worst people within their ranks?

171

dsquared 07.23.09 at 11:34 pm

The officer’s report presents a detailed and plausible narrative of events.

I once considered writing a science fiction novel, set in a world in which time travel was ubiquitous, so much so that normal concepts of cause and effect had completely broken down because everyone was always going back in time and changing the way things happened. The idea was that in such a society, they would still need some way of handing out praise, blame and punishment, and that they would settle on “narrative unity” as a weaker replacement for “causal responsibility” – ie, you would be considered guilty of a crime and sent to jail if that was the explanation of things which seemed most satisfying to a judge and jury of literary critics. My central character was going to be a hardboiled cop/deconstructionist called Bugsy Derrida.

172

dsquared 07.23.09 at 11:36 pm

ajay, the de Menezes cops clearly intended to kill him from the moment he left the house.

definitely and obviously untrue, as shown by the inquiry report.

dsquared, the rape conviction rate is a proportion of the reports. It’s not relevant how the reporting rate has been increasing

ahh, I see, I’m having a version of my old classic “signal/noise ratio” troll thrown back at me. NTMY, bbye.

173

harry b 07.23.09 at 11:55 pm

kmack,

when police officers cause a great deal of trouble for members of ruling elites, without good cause, they almost always have to back down and apologise with extreme deference. This is true in all democratic countries at all times. The problem is that in the US being black is very good prima facie evidence that you are not a member of the ruling elite, and cops therefore are more liable to make that this mistake with blacks. Political correctness gone mad? No, political normalness, which may always have been mad.

174

kmack 07.24.09 at 4:53 am

harry, see steve @ 166.

But my “snark” function wasn’t set to “on.” I merely summarized certain kinds of claims and attitudes, call them what you will, in this and the related threads.

Since I am personally well aware of the perils of driving, walking, and being on one’s own property while respectably black, I agree with your statement about “political normalness.”

I would only note, in slight disagreement, that police often don’t give a damn that some black person has attained “elite” status. Actually, it can be worse than that: see the joke dsquared references, or the Gates affair.

175

sg 07.24.09 at 7:22 am

Earlier in these threads dsquared you commented in support of oversight of the police; now you are quoting a report which recommended no serious action be taken in respect of 2 cops who killed a man in cold blood. The report finds these police didn’t warn him, that he didn’t move, he didn’t know they were after him and till they emerged in front of him on the train and shot him without warning, and that there was no evidence he was a threat. It finds that every piece of their testimony was false. But you think they didn’t commit murder? Have you forgotten how at the time they claimed he “jumped the barrier”, “wore a bulky jacket” and “ran away”? Why were they telling those lies within minutes of killing him, do you think? For shits and giggles?

ahh, I see, I’m having a version of my old classic “signal/noise ratio” troll thrown back at me.

I don’t think it’s a rule of this blog that I be familiar with all your past arguments, and i’m certainly not familiar with this one. I’d like not to infer anything, but I wonder what proportion of reported rapes you consider to be “noise”? Given that British rates of reported rape are lower than other comparable countries but their conviction rates are also lower, what should we conclude? More of the British crime statistics series are “noise”? This reflects well on the police, does it? And if this data series contains so much noise, how can you be confident that the historical increase in rape reporting rates is not also just random chance? In some parts of the UK the conviction rate is 2 or 3%, in others it is 20%. More noise in the West Dorset data? How?

This is certainly some strong and clear-headed oversight you’re applying to your own police force.

176

Harry 07.24.09 at 5:49 pm

kmack — well, so many people have done to me what I just did to you that I am suitably embarrassed. Or, well done!

177

Mrs Tilton 07.25.09 at 5:59 am

Rural counsel @ 145,

assuming that lawyers are not thick on the ground out in the countryside, one feels sorry for your local bumpkins, who have no other choice when seeking legal advice than to turn to a liar, and an incompetent one at that.

You know, I don’t dislike the police, actually; certainly not in the blanket sense of disliking “the police” in inverted commas. I do dislike, very strongly, authoritarian bullies. I dislike their apologists even more, and your penultimate paragraph exposes you as an apologist par excellence for (let me borrow, for irony’s sake, a phrase popular with the American political faction you doubtless support) jackbooted thuggery.

You’re also a fairly stupid apologist. The responsible prosecutor’s office very prudently elected to drop all charges. But then, the lawyer responsible for that decision is almost certainly at least moderately competent, and knows why it would be for the best not to have Crowley’s report examined too closely. But hey, why don’t you get in touch with our colleague in Cambridge, urging him or her to reconsider and prosecute Gates to the full extent of the law? What could possibly go wrong? You could point out that judges are predisposed to give cops the benefit of the doubt. A successful prosecution (and, as you so compellingly argue, there can be no doubt that the prosecution would succeed on all fronts) will teach John Q. Public the important lesson that he had best remember his place when being questioned by the police.

In fact, when we come right down to it, that’s what’s really important, isn’t it? I mean, even though Gates had adequately identified himself to Crowley as the legitimate occupant of the house, and even though Crowley subsequently arrested Gates after Gates demanded (as was his right) that Crowley identify himself with name and badge number — in other words, even though Gates was right and Crowley was wrong — what matters here is that a civilian got uppity with the state security apparatus, and quite properly felt a bit of boot for it. So go for it, counsellor. I’m sure the prosecutor will give your professional judgement the full consideration it deserves.

178

derrida derider 07.28.09 at 7:20 am

sg, I’ll make the obvious answer for Dsquared. He did NOT say that no action should be taken aagainst the cops, he did NOT say he agreed with the report’s conclusions. Still less did he approve of the police coverup. All he said – correctly – was that the report demonstrated that the police did not have the intentioon to kill Menezes from the time he left the house, as you had asserted.

It really poisons debate when you argue against positons that your opponent simply does not hold.

Now back on topic …

Comments on this entry are closed.