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Jul 25, 2009


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Seymour Hardy Floyd

During the Civil Rights Movement, it's my understanding that training was sometimes done to prepare potential protesters to face the worst that might be thrown back at them by whites, such as being spat at, pushed, or called the n-word. In the Triad Stage 2005 production "North Star," that strategy of preparing for the worst was graphically and powerfully displayed. The training itself, by an older black man who was acting as if he was a white racist, was enough to set off an explosive, near-ready-to-hurt-or-kill-someone response from a young black boy who quickly became unable to distinguish between mere training and the horrible reality of such treatment by real white people.

I've never been in the military, but I've always had the impression that soldiers-in-training are sometimes exposed to horrible, unacceptable (in any other situation) treatment by superiors as a means of preparing them to follow their leaders and deal with the worst imaginable situations.

Are police officers put through such training? Are they trained to deal with the worst words and tones that might be directed at them by the general public? There's no doubt that police face the worst of many people's human natures. Are they trained to contain what would be any normal human being's reaction to another human being's worst taunts and insults?

If such training doesn't already exist, should it not become a regular part of police training? (Educate me here because I don't know if something like what I describe might already be a part of police training.)

And knowing personally what educators too sometimes face from students, should educators not be similarly trained to resist otherwise natural reactions to some students' worst words, taunts, and insults?

"Stupidly" was a loaded word for the president to use, but it's one that applies to a lot of us who try to analyze situations we don't know enough about.

Jeffrey Sykes

I like your points Ed. I thought about the jet-lag angle for Gates and the added perspective that he just came from this great experience in China and comes back to some mundane frustration and loses his temper.

We can all relate.

But specifically to your final point, I think it is worth pointing out that Gates was arrested outside his home in public view. The officer stated in his report that Gates' actions were causing a disturbance so he hooked him up.

I'm with you in that I give police that extra deference during the discharging of their duties.

I think Gates saying "yes" "no" and "have a good evening" would have sufficed.


I agree, Ed. I've been amazed at comments on this and other blogs saying, essentially, "the cops can do whatever they want because they're the cops". One commenter ( I don't remember if it was here or another sute) said that any citizen is required to present ID any time a policeman asks and that failing to do so gave the officer the right to take you downtown. I found that jaw-dropping.

I was raised to respect law enforcement. My uncle was a policeman and a sheriff during his career. But I was also taught that my rights should receive more respect than anyone wearing a uniform.

The Ma'am thing drove my mother-in-law crazy for the first few years of our acquaintance, even though she's as southern as I. Said it made her feel old. For me, "Ma'am" isn't about age. She's a woman, so she's "Ma'am". I have managed to over-ride many years of home training to not call her such any more. But all other women are still "Ma'am".

Jeffrey Sykes

@Thomas:"... that any citizen is required to present ID any time a policeman asks and that failing to do so gave the officer the right to take you downtown. I found that jaw-dropping."

I'm no lawyer, but when I was a magistrate I charged countless folks under N.C.G.S. 14-223 for issues related to no id or fake id or refusing to comply with requests.

Prior to that I had a campus police man threaten to arrest me for resist, obstruct and delay for asking him a question in a polite manner while he was arresting my friend.

According to his police report, Sgt. James Crowley said the professor was "yelling very loud" and "accusing me of being a racist."

Complaining that the "acoustics of the kitchen" made it difficult to communicate, the officer said he "told Gates that I would speak with him outside."

Once on the front porch, the officer arrested Gates for being loud and abusive in the presence of several neighbors who had gathered on the sidewalk.

JS's statement misses a subtly important point - the officer asked to continue outside - and the legalities are different outside than inside.


Mr. Sykes, thank you for that information. I may be the one Thomas is referring to. I can't understand why anyone would have a problem ID'ing themselves to a cop who is doing a good job at protecting their property. As for Ed's comfortable white self, I have been a similar situation with the race roles reversed. I pulled the same crap on a black cop named AJ Blake, years ago. I called him a nazi because he was arresting a friend and wouldn't state what the warrant was for. He ended up chaining me to a bench downtown until someone brought my ID. I got what I deserved and so did Gates. Hopefully, his experience will be as enlightening as mine.

Ed Cone

"I got what I deserved."

That's where we disagree, Brandon. I don't think that Americans deserve to be chained to benches, or arrested in their own homes, for making obnoxious remarks.

Should you have mouthed off to the officer? Nope. But if that's all you did, then he overreacted. There is a threshold of verbal abuse beyond which action might be warranted, but your account does not make it sound as if you crossed it. Now, if you were interfering with Blake's ability to deal with his job, then that's a different story.

I don't mean to suggest that I feel immune to authority or abuse because of my status as a middle-class white man (see my first paragraph), just that I don't have a deeply suspicious view of cops in the way others might.


I wasn't chained to a bench for making the remark. I was detained because I could not provide identification.


First, that Cambridge cop must not watch PBS, otherwise he would have had a clue about Gates. Doesn't excuse any illegal behavior, if any took place, but it is pertinent to Gates being in his own house.

Second, mouthing off to a cop, especially mouthing off to a cop who is in your house, looking at your ID that establishes your address, does not constitutute disorderly conduct. Cops should not arrest peope just because they are annoyed and and want to teach someone a lesson. Being annoying is not a crime.

From what I've seen, the cop had every reason to believe Gates' account. For whtever reason, he did not, and he shoud have.

Ed Cone

Brandon, there doesn't seem to be any question that Gates provided adequate identification, so I'm not sure how you think his situation equates to yours.

He seems to have been arrested on his own property for copping an attitude.

Speaking in general terms (I was not there that day in Cambridge) about the prospect of arrest on one's own property for talking trash to a cop, I've been surprised by the number of people who have no problem with that sort of exercise of state power.


We're too far removed from any real experience of tyranny, and are growing complacent. "Fascism" is just something we accuse our political opponents of, to score points. We don't have any real idea of what it means.


Retweeting Roland Hedley:

Once arrested by black cop for getting up in his grill. Admitted profiling, singling me out just because I was an asshole.

But our intrepid correspondent probably wasn't in his own house.

Jeffrey Sykes

@JC:"From what I've seen, the cop had every reason to believe Gates' account. For whtever reason, he did not, and he shoud have."

I believe the cop's paperwork states that he believed Gates id was established and was ready to end the interaction, however, Gates continued to demand the officer's name and to berate him. The report states that the officer could not hear his radio and told Gates that if he wished to talk further about the officer's name to come outside. Gates came outside and at that point began to engage in disorderly conduct.

I'm not saying the officer is pure or anything, but let's get the parameters in order.

David Wharton

Accounts differ as to whether Gates' ID had an address on it. The officer said it was a Harvard ID with no address on it.

If the cop was still trying to nail down just who was who, and who was supposed to be in the house and who wasn't, and he was asking questions to get that taken care of, and Gates was still yelling at him and not cooperating, then I think arresting Gates was a reasonable and lawful thing to do. After all, the cop would be in hot water if Gates turned out to be someone who wasn't supposed to be in the house -- and Gates's property would have been endangered, too.

Tough call. Hard to be a cop.


I still can't figure out where race comes into play, other than Gates bringing it up. Maybe he believes if he were white, he could cause a scene and not have to answer for it?


As far as I'm concerned, if you mouth off to an officer, the officer has the right to shut your mouth, either by cuffs, mace, tazer, or a good ol' fashioned right hook. Gates mouthed off, therefore the officer was absolutely right to arrest him, and as far as I'm concerned Gates should still be in jail. Only a person who is racist themselves could claim race had anything to do in this situation. It had to do with a lack of respect. Harvard should immediately and publically dismiss Gates, and the Cambridge PD should arrest him again, this time not dropping the charges.

Steve Harrison

I don't know if you folks have seen this, but here's the professor's version of events. Two parts that stood out to me:

"I was using my regular driver and my regular car service. And went to my home arriving at about 12:30 in the afternoon. My driver and I carried several bags up to the porch"

So there's a limo out front and suitcases on the porch, but neither the white lady (Lucia Whalen) who reported the supposed break-in nor the cop who responded noticed those things.

"I got out my Harvard ID and my Massachusetts driver’s license which includes my address and I handed them to him. And he’s sitting there looking at them."

Unless Gates is lying, that puts to rest the "only had a Harvard ID" thing.


In North Carolina, one is not required to carry an ID. One is not required to produce an ID on demand. Failing to produce an ID is not obstruction of a police officer. Those who bring forth their personal anecdotes as if they are refutations of these facts are merely offering evidence of their own ignorance.


If you consider yourself and your assets to be the property of the state, then your words, thoughts, deeds and personal identification can be punished, demanded to be seen and confiscated arbitrarily by the state or by their sworn agent with limited contention. If, however, you consider yourself and your property to be self-owned, there's a conflict with encroachment. I'm not surpised by the number who acquiesce to these tactics. The War of Turr was symtomatic of the great rollover. Milgram's experiments have already shown that humans make horrible decisions when it comes to compliance with authority. Not only will they surrender themselves, but they will encroach upon and destroy the property of others for giving an incorrect answer to an abstract question.


Race thing... maybe. But I suspect it's more of a money thing as well-to-do persons (ie: Harvard Professors and other professionals) often have little if any experience interacting with police officers while on the job.

Here in my east Greensboro neighborhood where interaction with police is commonplace, my neighbors, black, white and hispanic are generally saying the professor acted poorly. When the cops come to my house it's yes sir, no sir, yes ma'am, no ma'am. One needs to always consider that even though the cops are armed they have every reason to be just as scared and upset as the rest of us.

Being indignant-- even when you're right-- is not the way to deal with any man or woman with a gun strapped to his or her side and for the cop to assume an indignant person is unarmed and not a threat is a good way to get that cop killed.

Personally, I'd rather see a few more pissed-off Harvard professors and fewer dead cops.

And while I voted for and still support President Obama he would have done well not to get involved in this incident.

Jeffrey Sykes

@Roch:"In North Carolina, one is not required to carry an ID. One is not required to produce an ID on demand. Failing to produce an ID is not obstruction of a police officer. Those who bring forth their personal anecdotes as if they are refutations of these facts are merely offering evidence of their own ignorance."

Roch: Can you say which one of us has worked as magistrate of criminal court under the auspices of the NC Court System and had daily interaction with police and arrestees?

I sort of reach my limit of tolerance when people start calling me ignorant.

It's one thing for a person to sit in judgment with theoretical notions of how our legal system works and quite another to actually have experienced the law in motion and seen all its imperfections.

Jeffrey Sykes

I have also found in my many real life interactions with police that when I am the target of their attention as they are performing any aspect of their duty, the best answers, no matter how right or wrong you think the officer to be, are "yes sir" and "no sir" and that if you follow these simple rules you may be lucky enough to quickly end your interaction with a "have a good night, sir" and the liberty to again be about your own business.


Bill: when the smartest negro in the world goes ghetto on the pigs you get the same result as the gangstah rapper who wouldn't comply with my nephew's(GSO's finest) request to "please remove your mask" at Four Season's Mall a few year's back. He was asked to remove the mask at the request of the property owners. He declined their request. Then he was asked to leave the property. He declined that request in turn. Then the misunderstanding occurred. The photos of the fray were exploited by the gangstah to enhance his image. The photos from this misunderstanding won't benefit anyone. Obama may be correct, but he loses regardless of which foot he puts in his mouth. There are probably four or more accurate versions of this story.


Jeffrey: If and when Gates established his identity and the fact he was in his own house, the cop should have left, regardless of what Gates was saying. Gates was right to ask for the cop's name, and the cop should have provided it. The issue is not whether Gates was smart or stupid by not being deferential to the cop. While it is smart to be nice to cops, being rude isn't a crime.

SteveC: Your line of reasoning mystifies and scares me. Do you really want to give cops the authority to arrest and abuse anyone who annoys them? Cops arrest people when there is evidence of a crime, period. When a cop arrests someone for being annyoing, the cop commits a crime.


Justcorbly: it's called obstruction of justice, or in this case disorderly conduct. The charges shouldn't have been dropped, and Gates should still be in jail. If an officer of the law gives you a direct order and you do not follow, that is a crime.


just: you're dangerously close to being an advocator of Natural Law. That would undermine your positivist model. Watch out now. Holding conflicting views can cause nausea, blurred vision and 4 hour erections. SteveC scares the bejeezus out of me too. If his model came to fruition, we would have to relynch, redrown and rechattelize over a million negros. Talk about a mess.

Jim Morrison

"Roch: Can you say which one of us has worked as magistrate of criminal court under the auspices of the NC Court System and had daily interaction with police and arrestees?" -- Jeff

That would be you. I am happy to keep the discussion off of the theoretical, can you point us to a statute that makes it a crime not to carry an ID? Your misreading of statutes aside, is there a statute that actually says it is a crime not to carry an ID? The statute, please, that says it is a crime not to identify one's self on demand without prerequisite. The statute, please, that makes it a crime not to be able to identify one's self with a document.


Jim = me.


"If an officer of the law gives you a direct order and you do not follow, that is a crime. " -- SteveC

Add this to the list of jaw droppers.


the state validates you first with a birth certificate. then the right to work with an SS number. then a driver's license to get to work. they have a monopoly on the process and the institutions. resistance is futile. assume the position. doesn't that feel good?


Why is it such a jaw-dropper? If an officer tells you to show license and registration, you do it. If an officer says "Freeze", you do it. If you don't, you are in violation and such is a crime. If you believe a direct order from an officer is just a suggestion, by all means try it out sometime. I don't think you'll like the results.


I have always been exceedingly polite in dealings with law enforcement. It just makes life easier. I understand they have a dangerous job. I wouldn't want to do it, but I'm sure glad somebody does. I once worked with a former NC State Trooper. He had a gun drawn on him during a routine traffic stop. He wrestled with the man and ended up shooting and killing him. This incident was the reason he became a former tropper. If you get pulled over, keep your hands in view at all times. It makes the officer more at ease.

But, SteveC...really? A crime to not obey any order a policeman gives? Tell me you're kidding.

How about these orders?

-"Give whatever you have in your wallet."
-"I've got your address. Be home at six tonight, leave the door unlocked and your clothes on the floor."
-"I've got nephew who needs a job. If you want me to respond to your convenience store next time there's trouble, you need to hire him."

Ed Cone

There's a difference between an officer procuring ID under appropriate circumstances or ordering someone to freeze in a tense situation, and an officer arresting someone on their own property for mouthing off.

It's the latter that gives me pause, and that I'm surprised more people seem to think to be just fine.

I think we all agree that being cooperative when dealing with law enforcement is prudent, but that's not the question at hand.


Why is it the hard core conservatives are the most appallingly ignorant of the Constitution on this issue? Makes one wonder how seriously the rest of their opinions are to be taken. SteveC, in a free society, you know like America, citizens are not required to obey any command of the police.

You do not nee to obey an "order" to show license and registration if you are walking through the park,

You do not need to obey an "order" to freeze if doing so would mean that you could no longer give life-saving CPR to a heart attack victim.

And then there is Thomas' excellent list. I know some people have the infantile desire to believe in an absolute authority, but you are scary on this one, SteveC -- un-American, unthinking, robot slave to totalitarianism scary.


"Those who bring forth their personal anecdotes as if they are refutations of these facts are merely offering evidence of their own ignorance."

--So Roch, let me get this straight. I was in fact, NOT taken downtown by AJ Blake because I did't have an ID? I WASN'T released upon verification of my ID? He must have done it because I am white. You see how these black cops do us white men in America?

Have you ever been asked, by a cop, to ID yourself? Did you comply? Why or why not? I can't fathom a situation where I would want to refuse ID'ing myself to a curious cop. By the way, Gates says he did provide ID. So, case closed right? He didn't insult the officer for 5-10 minutes before presenting the ID?


By the way, was Gates on his own property? Or Harvard property? Big difference. Also, he was arrested outside for causing a disturbance, not for refusing to ID himself in his own home.


"You do not need to obey an "order" to show license and registration if you are walking through the park,"

--If it is after hours, you do have an obligation to present ID to a curious cop.

"You do not need to obey an "order" to freeze if doing so would mean that you could no longer give life-saving CPR to a heart attack victim."

--These scenarios are great examples of what DID NOT happen to Gates. The cops were investigating a reported break in, a violation of the law. They found a guy in the house and just wanted to ID him. I still don't understand where race comes into play.

"Im investigating a break in, do you live here?"

"I sure do, would you like to see my state issued ID/license"

"Thank you sir, sorry about the inconvenience."

"No problem, I'm happy you responded so quickly."

--What is so difficult about this? From what has been reported, the officer didn't draw a weapon, didn't force the man on the ground, and had a hunch the man lived there, all he needed was proof that he was not a burglar, and the officer would've been on his way. Yes this is what happens to white police in America.


Since we are throwing out scenarios, how about this. 911 receives a hangup call. An officer responds. A man answers the door.

"We got a hangup call, is everything alright?"

"Yes sir, everything is fine"

"can I come in and take a look and make sure?"


"well can I see your ID as proof that you live here?"

"No I don't have to show you a thing, now leave"


An hour later, a young girl runs out of the apt with her throat cut. Her mother is dead. Had the cop bothered to verify the ID of the man at the door, the parole absconder would've been aprehended before he could rape and murder the mother in front of her daughter.

What if the man who did this very thing at Madison Park in Greensboro would've answered the door, then refused ID. Everyone already jumped on the cop for not "checking around the apartment good enoug". What would the blogs have said if the man actually answered the door and refused to show ID, and the cop just left thinking to himself "that darned provision that Roch thinks exists in the constitution has effectively neutered me from protecting my community." There would be outrage: "those cops dont protect black neighborhoods well enough!!"


Brandon, you insist on trying to understand the law through the narrow specifics of a personal anecdote involving an officer who may or may not have acted lawfully. The answer to the question of what the law is lie beyond your anecdote and the conclusions you draw from it.


The only one here providing a reasonable "what if scenario" is brandonB. All the others presented have no basis in reality and therefore are not legitimate. Gates was given a direct order to calm down or he would be arrested. Gates did not follow this order, therefore he was arrested. Case closed, and the charges should not have been dropped since he was guilty of this crime. The only reason this is still being discussed is because Gates played the race card and Obama stuck his nose in where it didn't belong. It's not hard to see where the real racial intolerance is coming from, yet the media and most of the commenters here are choosing to ignore that.

A. Bulluck

The President has no business meddling in the affairs of a local jurisdiction outside the bounds of the federal government. He should have stated that it was none of his business as President of the United States. It was and still is a matter for the Cambridge Police Department and those who are in charge of the department. In the future, President Obama should stop holding so many press conferences. He invited all of this criticism upon himself. Now, the American taxpayers are going to fork up the money to pay for the most expensive beers in this country's history. I'll be royally pissed if Gates or Crowley decline the beer and settle for water. I'll be even more pissed off if they drink American piss water. Might as well do it proper if you're going to do it at all.


Roch101: Your last comment is one of the dumbest things I have ever read. "citizens are not required to obey any command of the police." So "pull over", "freeze," and the like are just opinions now? Sure, you can ignore the officer, but there are direct consequences for disobeying direct orders, as Gates found out. And calling me "un-American, unthinking, robot slave to totalitarianism scary" is a direct insult to which I demand an apology for. Obeying the letter of the law doesn't make me a slave, it makes me a responsible citizen. Please, come join us in reality before you end up getting hurt.


Roch, I can not find a word in the constitution or bill of limits that states citizens do not have to accomodate officers investigating a crime. Help me understand. By the way, "protection from unlawful searches and seizures" is NOT designed to obstruct officers investigating a crime. I addressed your scenarios but you failed to even acknowledge the one I proposed about Madison Park.


Also, I've heard, but not confirmed, that Gates was not in his "castle" but a "castle" he rents on Harvard property. Is this true? If so, are university police allowed into this public property at anytime, just like dorms? If it is university property, Gates can be thrown out of his residence for causing a disturbance and obstructing the police the way he did and maybe even for damaging the front door!


I'm wondering how many advocates for deference to police power in this thread are black?

I'm not, but this morning I spend an hour talking with two black friends who say they are routinely harassed by police, right here in liberal Chapel Hill. One was shaken down in front of his own damn house a few months ago because he stepped out to the street to make a phone call (where the cell coverage was better). All the "yes sirs" and "no sirs" didn't mean jack shit because he didn't have an ID card showing he had permission to live in this white neighborhood. Only the intervention of his (white) housemate kept him from going to jail.

Ya'll can make up all the scenarios you want, but in the real world, this crap happens every day. If I were a black man living in your fantasy world, I'd be shot by now because I'd tell the cops who harassed me and my family to go fuck themselves.


SteveC :)...."calm down" was once believed to be the most efficacious phrase to use on drapetomaniacs. The purfesser must have developed some immunity to it. One of you medical types help me out here. Does a sympathetic challenge occur when a man cannot fight or flee?

Steve Harrison

Brandon, it appears that the house Gates lives in actually is owned by Harvard. But in the context of this incident, that really makes no difference. It wasn't the University administration or police that complained and acted, it was a private citizen and a municipal (Cambridge) police officer. As far as those folks are concerned, it's Gates' home and he has all the same rights as anyone else in the neighborhood.

Whether it's wise to mouth off at an officer or not, the plain facts of this case are: Crowley responded to the report of a possible crime in progress. After he discovered that the original reported crime did not exist and that Gates had every right to be in said home, he maneuvered the distraught and irrational citizen outside of his home so that his behavior could be witnessed by others and a whole new crime could be established.

I don't for one minute believe the "bad acoustics" thing. Crowley wanted others to see and hear Gates' behavior, so a disorderly conduct charge could be justified. That the disorderly conduct was precipitated by a false alarm, and that Gates' behavior was surely "orderly" prior to that, is of no consequence to those who have placed Gates in the "Al Sharpton radical agenda" category.

And something else that seems to be lost on that crowd is the irony of how Gates could experience more fear and loathing in the foyer of his own home than he did traveling in Communist China. That kind of unexpected toppling of our preconceived notions of personal security and self-esteem could push any one of us into acting irrationally, and we would do well to remember that, because we are all bound to those notions of self whether we realize it or not.


Protzman, according to Roch, your scenario is irrelevant. According to you, my scenario is irrelevant. You leave out a lot of detail. Had a crime just occured nearby? Was it a high crime area? Were you there to hear and see the interaction between your friend and the police? What time was it? It's normal for people to walk down Summit ave during the day, but not at 4am, which is why I've been stopped walking home from somewhere. I'm happy the police are patrolling my neighborhood at night. I've been stopped during the day for visiting a girlfriend in a drug infested complex and told I was to white to "just be walking around" there. But, since I was not commiting a crime, just like your friend did not commit a crime, I was let go, just like your friend. Police stop suspicious people of every race. What proof do you have that your friend was stopped because of racial bias on the cops part? hmmmm?


"I'd tell the cops who harassed me and my family to go fuck themselves."

--Is this what you suggest Gates should've done? Tell an officer, who is trying to verify the ID of at the scene of a reported break in, to fuck himself? Again what is so difficult with:

"im investigating a break in here, do you live here"

"yes i do"

"got proof"

"sure, here is an ID"

"thank you, sorry for the inconvenience, im just doing my job by responding to a 911 call."

"i appreciate your diligence. thank you and have anice day"

--What in the world is so difficult, racist, or unconstitutional about this?


don't for one minute believe the "bad acoustics" thing. Crowley wanted others to see and hear Gates' behavior, so a disorderly conduct charge could be justified.

Yes, it would seem to be proper police procedure to obtain witnesses to a person's behavior so that any charges filed would not be a he said/she said. Seems like a smart cop to me. I think Gates grandstanding about this issue does not speak well of the man. A more respectable response from him would be to keep the matter private and between him and the PD.

Yet, if we must keep reviewing this...I'd be more curious about the person who called the police in the first place. Would not this neighbor have recognized Mr. Gates? Is it perhaps she who is racist?

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