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by Peter Moskos

July 31, 2009

Op-ed in the Baltimore Sun

This one I wrote. Careful readers of this blog will have come across many of these points.
Every police/public confrontation ends up in one of three ways: the suspect 1) leaves the scene, 2) defers to police authority, or 3) gets locked up. Mr. Gates couldn't do the first option, he refused to do the second, so he virtually begged for number three. It was certainly wrong, in this situation, to arrest Mr. Gates. But can it ever be right to cuff somebody for "contempt of cop"? The short answer is: yes.
Read the complete story here.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

The police answerbag.

Regcit: what do you do when an incident has been cleared and a rgcit wants your badge number to complain?

Policeman: The law says that I need to give it to her?

Rregcit: Do you?

Policeman: No, of course not.

Regcit: I do not understand.

Policeman: I just order the troublemaker to stop asking for my badge number. If she stops, it means they didn't really want my badge number after all. If she continues asking then she is obstructing and I taser her and then take her to jail.

Regcit: It win-win!

Anonymous said...

Police answerbag.

Regcit: Was it dumb for Sgt. Crowley to arrest Professor Gates.

Policeman: Yes, I think so. there was a good op-ed about that in the paper today.

Regcit: But it seems to me like this whole incident has played out really well for Sgt. Crowley. He got to punish Professor Gates with handcuffs and jail . . .

Policeman: I LOVE it when that happens.

Regcit: . . . Now Professor gates has a criminal record . . .

Policeman: I LOVE it when that happens.

Regcit: . . . his department can't stop saying what an excellent officer he is . . .

Policeman: I LOVE it when that happens.

Regcit: . . . he got free beer . . .

Policeman: I LOVE it when that happens.

Regcit: . . .he got to be hugged by a hottie on CNN . . .

Policeman: I LOVE it when that happens.

Regcit: . . . typical Americans think he is some kind of hero . . .

Policeman: I LOVE it when that happens.

Regcit: His supporters forced the President of The United Stated to take back his criticism of Sgt. Crowley.

Policeman: I KNOW -- the emmerfreaking president! I LOVE it when that happens.

Regcit: So why do you say the arrest was dumb?

Policeman: Well, there was that op-ed in the Baltimore Sun today. That had to sting a bit.

10-8 said...

>But the rules are
>different when dealing
>with upper-class
>intellectuals.

Two words for you: Bernie Madoff. He got away with his shenanigans for years because the watchdogs cut him a break.

Using special standards for special people is where cops get themselves into trouble. People expect it then they game the system against you.

You're advocating some bad policy here.

Horatio Parker said...

#2 is not proven, it rests on the word of Sgt Crowley who has ample motivation to be less than truthful about it.

PCM said...

If the goal of the Sgt was to meet the president, well, he is sly like a fox! I don't think that was his goal.

But I'm sure he's a good man and a good police officer. And he's certainly handled himself well under all this pressure (best I can tell... I've been out of the country for all of it).

But really, simply because of all this hype, it was a dumb disorderly conduct arrest. The goal of the police officer is to lead a boring life. It's rarely possible, but the last thing you want is the president calling your act stupid (even if he did take it back).

Maybe everybody who expresses bad thoughts about police should be locked up, or the president. But that's the country we want to live in.

Now saying that Gates deserves special treatment is a bit of a slippery slope. But I think I can keep my footing. Gates did not commit a crime accept for being disorderly.

But I see your point about Madoff, in that we got the benefit of the doubt because he was rich and powerful, and then he was able to commit some really big crimes. But the job of regulators is to regulate the rich and powerful. And they failed. I don't think the parallel holds.

All I'm asking for the likes of Gates is the same professional courtesy you would give another police officer. I'm not even saying a get out of jail free card. Just don't lock him up unless he hurts somebody or you have to.

"Well," I can hear people saying, "shouldn't everybody get this kind of courtesy?" In the ideal world, yes. But in the real world, like I wrote in the op-ed, discourtesy can be synonymous with a threat. And threats can be dangerous.

And by this logic, as precarious as it may be, I end up in the unfortunate position of arguing that different people deserve different police treatment.

[I first expressed this and then some in the comment section on the first post related to the Gates' arrest]

PCM said...

Horatio: #2 (Gates didn't defer to police authority) isn't proven. But the sergeant did not go into that call wanted or expecting to lockup anybody except a burglar. The sgt would not have wanted to lock Gates up unless number two were true. It just doesn't make sense otherwise.

I'd still like to know just when exactly the sgt called for a wagon. Because if it happened when they were still in the house, that would be pretty damning evidence of the sgt's motives.

Horatio Parker said...

"The sgt would not have wanted to lock Gates up unless number two were true. It just doesn't make sense otherwise."

So then the question is what constitutes deference. I suspect that Crowley would've tolerated more skepticism from a white man.

I'm not suggesting that Crowley had a chip on his shoulder, but I think it's possible that Gates brought out something ugly in him.

I'd like to hear more from the witnesses outside. It's not as important was what happened in the house, since it's not unreasonable for someone to be upset when cuffed on their own front porch, but it might tell us something.

Horatio Parker said...

Here's Sgt Lashley's CNN interview.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxM8cwosjew

He places the arrest in the house and says another officer was in the house, one Figueroa. He also says the arrest was justified because Gates was outside his house. The yelling he heard was apparently after the arrest, since he says Gates was yelling about being arrested. But it came from inside the house.

Not completely coherent.

Jaguar said...

Now saying that Gates deserves special treatment is a bit of a slippery slope.

I end up in the unfortunate position of arguing that different people deserve different police treatment.


That leaves you with a predicament on your hands as you're skittering about on your slippery slope flailing desperately for purchase. Where do you draw the line?

Change one thing about Mr. Gates, make him a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Everything else stays the same about him -- race, behavior, threats, etc. Does he still qualify for special treatment?

Now change one more thing. He's still a CEO but he's Asian. Still up for that special treatment?

PCM said...

If somebody is just a rich windbag, yes, give him the benefit of a doubt. People shouldn't get locked up in their own home for yelling at police... unless that yelling constitutes a present or future physical threat.

Where I policed I think yelling at a cop did constitute a threat. If Gates or a rich CEO were living in the Eastern District (ha!), I would say lock them up, too, if they're challenging the authority of police. But in a nice neighborhood, where police aren't shot at and threatened, where more people are afraid of criminals than are criminals, different rules apply.

Gates was not and will not be a threat to police. That matters. Sometimes words are just words.

It's when words might lead to sticks and stones that you need to come down harder. So I guess what I'm saying is that it's not just the person but also the place (but often those two go together). To use a legal term, it's the totality of the circumstances.

10-8 said...

>Gates was not and
>will not be a
>threat to police.

IMO you've made an invalid assumption by armchairing a situation you did not witness.

Rich people go batshit too. I've witnessed that quite a few times. For example a few weeks ago I pulled over a skinny 60 yr old PhD inventor geek driving a Mercedes in a nice neighborhood after he blew through a stopsign. He went into Gates mode, climbed out of the car in violation of my order and kept escalating until he lunged at me and tried to grab for my weapon. I quieted him down with some Edison medicine. (He was white BTW.)

Gates's irrational and escalating behavior demonstrated:

1) He was a threat to the officers on the scene.

2) He was a threat to himself.

3) He was a threat to other officers in future LE encounters if allowed to think that his behavior would resolve a situation.

Here's a disorderly arrest with interesting parallels to the Gates fiasco:

http://preview.tinyurl.com/l4bzvx

I'm guessing the lovely Miss Kimberly won't be invited for beers at the White House.

AMac said...

I come to this blog via the aforementioned Baltimore Sun Op-Ed. I'm a dead-tree subscriber to the Sun, dissatisfied (among other reasons) because this newspaper generally offers doctrinaire, politically-correct opinions on its Op-Ed page (and always so, in its Editorials). This made PCM's essay a delight to read.

At a guess, PCM and most readers here would find essayist Steve Sailer's political opinions on most issues to be obnoxious at best. Be that as it may, I think he's penned some of the most perceptive commentary on this incident and its aftermath. His latest post (with links to earlier ones) is Blue Solidarity.

FWIW, I think Sgt. Crowley's arrest of Prof. Gates was a case of "contempt of cop." It had no chance of sticking. As the Op-Ed suggests, that wasn't the point. These arrests for "loitering" or "disorderly" are tools that the beat cop uses to maintain control of the situation, and thus enhance both his own safety and public order.

To me, what was different about the particulars of this case--before the race-grievance industry tried to market it as a product--is that Gates was acting like an obnoxious jerk in his own house, and was clearly no danger to the cops by the time that he got cuffed. If he chooses to disrespect a cop in his home in an obnoxious but unthreatening way--I think that's where the line should be drawn, in terms of rights to privacy and freedom from the long arm of the State.

However, it was two other things that made the difference about how this played out in the public eye, both noted in blog posts and in the Op-Ed.

First, that Gates is a member of society's elite, rather than a "prole." He expects and usually gets deference from civil servants in a way that residents of (say) East Baltimore's rough neighborhoods do not.

Second, Gates decided at the outset that Crowley was a Racist and that his actions were motivated by Racism. That's just the way many people like Gates see the world. Had he reined in his prejudices and avoided slandering Crowley, his supporters would have had a clear-cut case (and they would have included me, as noted). Of course, had he done that, the incident would never have gotten beyond the back pages of the Boston Globe.

If Gates sues Crowley for false arrest and I end up on the jury, I'll find in Gates' favor.

An award of $1 in damages would seem about right, to me.

10-8 said...

>If Gates sues Crowley for false arrest

Qualified immunity protects Sgt. Crowley against a suit for false arrest.

Plus Gates has said several times he will not sue.

PCM said...

Was Gates arrested in his house?! Because, at least in Baltimore, you can't arrest somebody for being disorderly in their own home. I'd be damned if that were allowed in Massachusetts.

The arrest report said nothing like that. Has the sergeant said something since that I've missed? I've missed a lot being out of the country.

Regarding being sued. Anybody can sue for anything, but I really don't see what the grounds for any lawsuit here would be.

AMac said...

> Was Gates arrested in his house?!

I recall (without re-checking, so I could be wrong) that the sequence was like this. Sgt. Crowley claimed that Prof. Gates was yelling at him inside the house, and that Crowley then exited the front door, telling Gates that he'd have to follow him out if he wanted further answers to his questions/accusations. Once on the porch, Gates continued shouting, and Crowley then arrested him, saying that Gates was creating a commotion by his actions, alarming passers-by.

PCM said...

AMac, that is my understanding, too.

Anonymous said...

Mr Gates was arrested because probable cause existed to effect an arrest.

Thousands of men are arrested every day for disorderly in America but this incident gathered more press than 12 Blacks shot at a BBQ in Baltimore a week ago.

This is nonsense and racism on the part of liberal media.