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by Peter Moskos

August 11, 2009

Really the last word on Gates. Really

In comments, Jack left a great link to this piece by Ruth Wisse, another Harvard professor. It is her "letter" to Skip Gates. Bold and very well written.
Dear Skip,

My first thought on hearing of your arrest was for your welfare, so I was relieved to learn that the case against you had been dropped and you were off to join your family on Martha's Vineyard.
...
It seems it wasn't the policeman doing the profiling, it was you. You played him for a racist cop and treated him disrespectfully.
...
Rather than taking offense at being racially profiled, weren't you instead insulted that someone as prominent as you was being subjected to a regular police routine? A Harvard professor and public figure—should you have to be treated like an ordinary citizen? But that's the greatness of this country: Enforcers of the law are expected to treat all alike, to protect the house of a black man no less carefully than that of white neighbors.
...
Since, inadvertently I assume, you have made the work of our police force more difficult than it already is, I wish that you would help set the record straight. You are the man to do it.
It's worth reading the whole piece in the Harvard Crimson.

34 comments:

Slamdunk said...

Wow, powerful article--thanks for linking.

Horatio Parker said...

It assumes Crowley's version of events. So at most it could only potentially be illuminating.

What might a similar article from Gates' perspective read like?

ckirksey said...

Peter:
I have been researching case law in Mass. and a couple of things to consider. Assuming for the moment that Officer Crowley did not have the conversation with Whalen, the 911 caller, that he put into his police report. Mass law clearly states an uncollaborated 911 call does not rise to probable cause.

Given this Officer Crowley had essentially no reliable info when he approaches Gates in Gates house. Crowley had the opportunity to verify the 911 call and apparently chose not to. Why?

Also a person is not required to show ID in Mass unless performing some authorized function like driving hunting etc. Failure to do so may increase suspicion but it is definitely does not rise to PC.

Crowley had absolutely no legal right to be in Gates' house unless explicitly invited.

PCM said...

Chirskey,

Let's get serious.

So I break into a home in Massachusetts. A scared neighbor sees me, and calls 911 anonymously to report a burglary in progress.

The police show up, see a broken front door, and me, all sweaty, standing on the inside.

The police officer asked for my ID. In response I say, "To hell with your desire to search my home illegally. I ain't showing you nothing, pig!"

You're saying they police then say have to say, "Sorry to bother you, Sir. Have a nice day." And then they have to walk away because they have no right to demand ID or enter the home?!

That's absolute crazy talk.

Frequent Poster said...

I am with PCM on this one. An unequivocal and sustained refusal to show id would be pc. Of course neither the visibly broken door nor the pre-entry refusal to show id ended up in Crowley's police report, and they probably won't show up when we hear Gates's side in his complaint either.

Horatio Parker points out one problem with Ms. Wisse's rhetoric. Another problem is that Mr. Gates might just believe that the police shouldn't treat anybody how he got treated, not even if they are jobless, unfamous and white. If Gates believes that, the this article puts him one step closer to court.

But, really, c'mon. This article wasn't written to convince Gates of anything. It is just red meat for the choirboys.

leonardhatred said...

whether it was for playing the race or the class card, she feels that Gates deserved to be arrested? I agree that Gates more than likely profiled Crowley, but I reject the notion that there is no such thing as racial bias in post-racial Cambridge.

Motorcop said...

Gates admitted in public statements he broke the door to get in. Visibly broken door + 911 call of possible B&E in progress = PC. A probable cause affidavit/statement is usually completed by an officer whenever an arrest involves PC. This is separate from the arrest report. A PCA has never been released to the public in the Gates arrest. The PCA will include facts and statements about PC that are not in the arrest report. That's why you can't just rely on the arrest report to decide PC in this case. You don't know what other documentation is in the arrest jacket.

There's a group of villagers mingling at the bottom of the hill with torches and pitchforks. They've come to drive a stake into the heart of this no-PC debate to make sure it's really really dead.

PCM said...

leonardhatred,

I'm sure there is racial bias in Cambridge like all other places. But I do believe that Cambridge cops are better trained and more aware than many other departments to check their racial bias at the (squad car) door.

Frequent Poster said...

Gates admitted in public statements he broke the door to get in. Visibly broken door + 911 call of possible B&E in progress = PC. A probable cause affidavit/statement is usually completed by an officer whenever an arrest involves PC. This is separate from the arrest report. A PCA has never been released to the public in the Gates arrest. The PCA will include facts and statements about PC that are not in the arrest report. That's why you can't just rely on the arrest report to decide PC in this case. You don't know what other documentation is in the arrest jacket.

1. No Gates hasn't admitted that he caused any visible damage to the door. Don't lie. It makes police look bad.

2. I don't know what after-the-fact embellishments the police are making to the file. They could be heaping self-serving lies into that jacket even now as we converse here at the Cop In The Hood blog. Noble cause corruption. Blue wall. *puke*

Motorcop said...

You might want to check your attitude at the front desk before you start calling folks liars. In 3 minutes on Google News I found articles about how Gates said that he told police he and his driver shouldered in a door and broke it. He also said he was on the phone with the Harvard leasing office about the broken door when the cops arrived at the scene.

I haven't seen the Gates arrest jacket so I have no idea what the PCA says. The sergeant may have other observations that contributed to his determination of PC if he went there. The PCA is an officer's sworn statement and there are criminal penalties if it's falsified. In my state the affirmation on every PCA says "being duly sworn, upon my oath state that I have good reason to believe and do believe before the making of this statement". My word and my oath are critically important to me. I take them to heart. I also know if my documentation isn't 100% accurate there will be consequences down the road so I have zero incentive to embellish. I'm not going to jeopardize my pension and my family's well being over some minor arrest. If I see visible damage on a door I write that in my statement. I also take pictures with my duty camera that I carry at all times in my saddlebag. If Crowley executed a PCA he could have submitted pictures of the scene, including any damage to the door. Most cops carry digital cameras these days in their duty ride.

If you presume cops lie and embellish affidavits then I'm very sorry for you. It must be a terrible thing to have so little faith in the people who put their lives on the line to protect you. I don't see how you think you can contribute to a constructive discussion about law enforcement when you've already concluded cops are dishonest.

Frequent Poster said...

You might want to check your attitude at the front desk before you start calling folks liars. In 3 minutes on Google News I found articles about how Gates said that he told police he and his driver shouldered in a door and broke it.

First, I said that Gates has not admitted that he caused visible damage to the door. Admitting that a door is broken is not the same thing as causing visible damage to the door. I repeat, Gates has not admitted causing visible damage to the door. This is consistent with the fact that no visible damage is noted in the police report (where it would be noted if he had, in fact observed it).

Second, police lie all the time. they lie whenever they feel that they can get away with it. All your sacred honor talk is a bunch of hokum and most people who aren't police know this. Usually policemen lie skillfully and are not caught lying. Of course, it is a big help to the police that their word is automatically believed in any he-said / she-said against a non-police. Even though police are practiced liars who are aided and abetted in their lying, they do occasionally get caught in these routine lies:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXzRczBk06M

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ry1D8kdlaMw

In other words, spare us the pious c**p!

PCM said...

Frequent Poster,

I've said it before and I'll say again: the average police officer has higher integrity than the average college student and even the average college professor (though maybe that's not setting the bar high enough).

If you really think these bad cops accurately reflect the entire professor, you just have no clue.

Now police do lie as a strategic tactic in the course of investigations. But that's something else entirely and I don't think that's what you're talking about.

Yes, some police are dirty and usually they end up getting caught (police love it, by the way, when dirty cops get fired).

You're free to hate and be prejudiced, but you should really get to know police better. Most are good people who support their families. Police do not perjure themselves whenever they feel they can get away with it.

I did not perjure myself both because I wanted to do the right thing and also because I didn't want to risk losing my job.

You think I really cared that much if a 15-year-old crack dealer went to jail today or next week? My job was much more important than one more stat. And I got paid the same whether an S.O.B was convicted or nol prossed.

10-8 said...

Here's a great article about a PD near me for people who believe the world is shaped by what they see on Youtube:

http://preview.tinyurl.com/obtxef

In a nutshell: perp accused the fuzz of trying to choke him, lying to cover it up, the whole ball of wax. Careful frame by frame of the cruiser vid showed the perp was lying and the fuzz were in the right. The whole thing ended up being a gigantic Charlie Foxtrot with the poor taxpayer holding the short straw to the tune of nearly $1 million and counting.

Frequent Poster said...

I did not perjure myself both because I wanted to do the right thing and also because I didn't want to risk losing my job.

It is only perjury if you get caught. Police lie all the time, and they are in total denial of this fact.

The particular type of police lying that Motor Cop is suggesting goes by the name of "articulation." You see it all the time on the police boards -- some dicey search or beating or shooting will happen, and, predictably as clockwork, some police officer will chime with, "I could articulate my way out of that." It is a game.

Lets look at how it is being played here in these threads at Cop In The Hood blog.

First, I suggest that probable cause is required for exigent circumstances search. After much discussion, that now seems to be accepted by the popo-crowd here.

So, now Motor Cop and PCM are going to go the next step. He is going to help Crowley "articulate" up some probable cause. Of course, the problem is that these are "articulations" are not in the police report. Ahh, but Motor Cop has the solutions -- they can just make additional reports and put them in the file. These new reports can "articulate" whatever they need to "articulate" in 20-20 hindsight. Whoopee! Motor Cop hasn't actually said that the reports should be backdated, but, if they were backdated, how would Gates go about proving that? LOL! He can't!

Now you may wonder how Motor Cop can suggest the course of action he is suggesting and, not only fail to see it as an engraved invitation to dishonesty, but actually work himself up into a lather about the superior honesty of the policeman. The answer is easy. He is used to dealing with the exclusionary rule and suppression hearings, like all policeman. The policeman "articulates" because that means that the probative evidence comes in and the b.g. goes to jail. Nobody calls it a lie. Nobody cares if it is a lie. Because the dishonesty is a small price to pay to get the b.g. into jail.

And (brace yourself for a surprise here), you know what? I get that. I want to see the b.g. go to jail, too. Just like the rest of America. I mean, I am honest enough to call the lie what it is, and not hide behind the euphemism of "articulation," but, ultimately, I want the lie to happen and to do its job.

The problem happens when we get outside the familiar exclusionary rule / suppression hearing setting, like we are with Gates v. Crowley. Everyone (popos and not) are so conditioned to the process of "articulation" that they fail to see the lying for what it is.

Of course, ending the drug war would help, but ending the exclusionary rule would help more. The exclusionary rule has rotted out the sould of every policemen (and crim justice professor) and rendered him incapable of perceiving that same fact.

leonardhatred said...

"Do you really think anyone in this country has reached adulthood without having undergone the humiliation of self-justification to police?"

PCM, that quote is where Ms. Wiise overshoots and begins to mock the very real problem of racial bias in policing. no one is saying that everyone doesn't have to justify themselves to police, but studies tell us that minorities have to do it a lot more often.

PCM said...

I for one have never gone through the "humiliation of self-justification to the police."

But talk to my students, those that are minorities from poor minority neighborhoods, and everything changes.

10-8 said...

>they can just make
>additional reports and
>put them in the file.

You're arguing about how a system fails when you don't even understand how the system works. A statement of probable cause is prepared at the same time as an arrest report and attested by two counter-signatures then it's machine date & time stamped. Some states require them to be notarized.

You have an awful lot of conspiracy going on for a misdemeanor. I guess you think we have the Illuminati giving us a hand too.

Frequent Poster said...

Umm, Motor Cop isn't exhorting a new police report for the purposes of getting a conviction on some misdemeanor. That misdemeanor has already been nolle prossed. Rather, he wants Cambridge PD to do that here bcs of a possible civil suit. And that is exactly where we slide. as popo-luvers, from white lying into, errrr, not-white lying.

PCM said...

First, I suggest that probable cause is required for exigent circumstances search. After much discussion, that now seems to be accepted by the popo-crowd here.

No.

"I could articulate my way out of that." It is a game.

Yes. Our justice system is a game. Anybody who works with it knows that. Don't blame police for that. It's a game with rules and police like to win. So do lawyers. So do criminals.

It is possible to articulately creatively without lying. That indeed is the game.

if they were backdated

Sure nothing is impossible, but that is very very likely. That is exactly what red tape and supervision is for. Somebody has to sign off on that report. That person needs to be willing to go to jail to cover Crowley's ass? Not likely.

And dishonesty is a huge price to pay to put somebody in jail. Cops vary tremendously on how personally they feel the need to lock up the bad guys. But really. The bad guys are there every day. They get out of jail every day. If you don't get them today, you get them tomorrow. You know where they hang out and what they do. There's no shortage of bad guys! Why lie to get one bad guy when you can tell the truth and get two more?

You just don't get the police world and culture of policing. That, more than anything, is what police here are objecting to. You think you've got it all figured out but it doesn't jive with the reality of those who know (you really should read my book... and I'm not just saying that... but I talk a lot about the culture of policing).

All that said, I'm shocked you would advocate ending the exclusionary rule! I think the exclusionary rule works pretty well. But the exclusionary rule isn't exactly on the mind of police officer during the day. If you play by the rules, as most police do, you don't really think about it.

Frequent Poster said...

Sure nothing is impossible, but that is very very likely. That is exactly what red tape and supervision is for. Somebody has to sign off on that report. That person needs to be willing to go to jail to cover Crowley's ass? Not likely.

Let's be clear: if there was a backdated report in Cambridge's Gates file then there would be no jail because no one would know about the back dating or be able to prove it.

There's no shortage of bad guys! Why lie to get one bad guy when you can tell the truth and get two more?

Let me answer this two ways.

1. The short answer is raises and promotions.

2. The long answer is that the "articulation" form of lying happens because the LEO has decided to spend her time and energy arresting this particular drug user. If there had been a little angel on her shoulder who told her, AHEAD OF TIME, that she would need to violate the Fourth Amendment in order to arrest this particular drug user, then sure, she would have chosen another one. However, when it is time to write the report, and the dounble pay clock is ticking, the LEO doesn't have the option of putting the drug user she has arrested back and exchanging her for a different drug user. Because that is not an option, she gets creative. And while I think that creativity is a good thing in general, it is a terrible thing when it comes to report writing and testimony. I mean, duh.

leonardhatred said...

"But talk to my students, those that are minorities from poor minority neighborhoods, and everything changes."

PCM, I'm not sure that I get what you're saying.

PCM said...

I'm saying that pretty much every male black and hispanic student of mine living in the city--including police officers--has been frisked and had some other demeaning interaction with police.

A lot of the unpleasantness, according to my students, is the result not of police action but of police attitude. I find strangely promising (though others may find it depressing) because it means it could be so easy to make things much better.

Frequent Poster said...

You just don't get the police world and culture of policing.

I know all about it. here is the headline story in my local paper today:

http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2009/08/mom_in_minivan_tasered_in_traf.html

(with vid, worth watching). This story is the culture of policing in a nutshell, complete with: (i) incorrect accusation (the cel phone); (ii) lying (the speeding charge); (iii) false arrest for disorderly conduct that was not disorderly; (iv) brutality (the electroshocking); and (v) the coverup (my property taxes are still keeping this creep in a job and benies). This story has anything anybody needs to know about the cuture of the police.You are the one who does not understand PCM, but I hold out hope that someday one of these news stories will break through your defenses and you will see the light.

PCM said...

It is worth watching, because I see a well-trained officer behaving properly. I would have also charged with failure to obey [a lawful order]. I see no police misconduct in that video [and luckily race wasn't an issue].

When a police officer tells you to do something, and this is something the more privileged in society--those who aren't used to be told what to to--often forget: you must obey police. You do not have an option to refuse or debate, as this woman mistakenly though. Those are the rules. That is the law.

I do not believe she was pulled over for no reason. We can't be sure, but just grant me that one.

Getting out of the car is a no-no. That is step one to attacking officer.

This police officer issued lawful orders. She did not obey. She was placed under arrest.

She resisted arrest by not getting out of the car and then refusing to allow herself to be cuffed.

I think we'll just have to agree to disagree. Our perspectives are very far apart.

That cop was playing by the rules. As I've said before, if you don't like those rules, change the laws. I'd be all that.

But in the meantime, it's not fair to blame police for doing their job.

Frequent Poster said...

Even assuming for the sake of argument that the officer acted lawfully, I brought up the link because it shows what the culture of police is. It is a culture of jerks who play fast and loose with the truth. What, you can prove you weren't on the cel phone? Okay, the charge will be speeding, then. Want to see evidence? There is evidence over here in my car. Oh, now lady, I didn't say "Simon Says." I am afraid I will have to place you under arrest because you got confused and didn't instantly figure out that I was jerking you around. Now it is too late for you to get back in the car. You must pay for your lack of respect.

Even when what police do is legal it is still a disgusting culture, as anybody (other than an LEO) who watches the video at the link can see. The fact that you support the officer in the video proves my point.

PCM said...

Happy to help!

But seriously, if you don't like police culture, calling cops disgusting isn't going to change anything (if anything, it will make it worse). Why don't you try and change the laws under which police operate?

I don't like massive ownership. I don't like the war on drugs. I don't like California's three-strikes and you're out. But I don't go attacking gun owners or law enforcement (well, at least not personally).

I advocate repeal of drug laws. I write about the need to limit the political power of the C.O. unions. What I'm saying is be constructive. Try and change things you don't like. But don't confuse your own disgust for police officers with what is legally right.

Frequent Poster said...

I do work for change. I work to make teachers who teach police see the light. What the officer did on that stop here in Syracuse was both typical of the police and disgusting.

Since you seem hung up on the law:

It was quite possible that he "obstruction" was sufficiently fleeting that it would not amount to obstruction under New York State Law. The delay she added was measurable in seconds, not minutes, and it seems to be an open issue under NYS law if that could possibly be good enough for an obstruction law (it would certainly be good enough in a Southern state, but thankfully new York is not that). According to the article she was never charged with obstruction, and the most likely reason for that apparent omission is that the charge was not deemed to apply under applicable law. she was being arrested for disorderly conduct, and is likely to argue that there was no probable cause for that, in which case the arrest was false and bogus.

I so much hope the police don't settle this case. It will be much better for us if this case is settled in court and the lady gets her jackpot there. This case is truly a teaching moment.

Amanda said...

"it is still a disgusting culture, as anybody (other than an LEO) who watches the video at the link can see"

Please speak for yourself. I've never been a LEO, don't know any personally, and I'm not disgusted.

I was cited in May for not obeying a sign that was clearly illegal and placed by a private party, not the city. I calmly explained to the officer why he was wrong, that the sign was not legal, and he politely told me I was wrong. I knew the matter could not be resolved on the spot because he wasn't going to change his mind, so I signed for the citation and went to traffic court.

Both of us showed up. The officer presented his case first. I presented mine and demonstrated with photographs, graphics, and the vehicle code that the sign was not lawful or placed by the city.

The judge ruled for me without hesitation. He and the officer expressed surprise I was both so prepared and calm about the matter. I said that I didn't blame the officer, that he was human and made mistakes. I was trained as an artist and have a strong visual memory, so I could easily tell by looking at the sign that it was bogus.

The officer shook my hand in the elevator, thanked me for my courtesy, and we went our separate ways. I could have screamed at him when he cited me, but that would have been pointless. By remaining civil and demonstrating how he was wrong, he learned a lesson that day. Had I acted like an entitled idiot, he would have learned nothing, and I would not have changed anything. I was going to get cited no matter how I reacted, so acting like a jerk would have achieved nothing.

Police will make mistakes. They're human. If you're cited and you think you're right, there are avenues to resolve that. Throwing a tantrum and treating the officer like a bagboy who crushed your eggs is idiotic. I have yet to read a news story about the police tasering someone for being civil and complying with their orders.

leonardhatred said...

PCM, that's why I stop short of praising this letter to Gates. the author speaks as if she doesn't quite believe that it could happen in Cambridge...despite evidence to the contrary.

PCM said...

frequent poster,
I am a teacher of police (I don't mean that to sound lofty... it's just that I do teach police). And you are not making me see the light.

If I just stumbled across that video on my own, there's a good chance I would have used it as yet another example of abuse of taser and would have had cops criticizing me.

But instead, your style makes me reflexively defend such police action. And I teach police. Just something to consider.

Frequent Poster said...

But instead, your style makes me reflexively defend such police action. And I teach police. Just something to consider.

In the short run maybe. I have faith that in the long run my framing will make you see things about the story you didn't see before like:

- bogus cel phone charge (not looking at the woman's phone when offerred was incompetent)

- bogus speeding charge (dishonest)

- a 15 second "delay" (at most) is not necessarily obstruction, and, even if it is, it is an abuse of discretion to arrest somebody for such de minimus obstruction, especially when: (i) the "15 second obstructor" is innocent of other crimes; and (ii) the LEO has been messing around with the "15 second obstructor" in a not nice way prior to the "obstruction." Same analysis applies to the actual disorderly charge that was actually made here.

The taser is just the icing on a very yucky case of Officer Sean Edward's faulty training and corrupting experience. Just because the tasering is the most dramatic injustice there does not mean that it was the only injustice, or even the most important one from the perspective of using that vid as a training vid to make future police officers be better than the current crop.

Frequent Poster said...

Both of us showed up. The officer presented his case first. I presented mine and demonstrated with photographs, graphics, and the vehicle code that the sign was not lawful or placed by the city.

That is nice. I myself have only tried to talk my way out of a ticket once, and I was successful in talking the LEO on the scene out of giving me a ticket. Mine also involved some improperly placed signage, and the LEO knew that I would fight, by showing up at court with pictures and video, and probably win. Good for us!!!

However, the cel phone thing is a little different. Let's say that Audra Harmon showed up at Court with the cel phone and the phone records. Then Sean Edwards just has to say: "that must be a different telephone because I definitely observed Ms. Harmon talking on the phone and I am a trained observer, and here are all my fancy certifications in advanced observing to prove it." Police win. How would you feel about the police now if you were the defendant in that case, Amanda.

Frequent Poster said...

From my local paper today:

Dennis Kenney, a criminal justice professor at John Jay College, reviewed a videotape of the Jan. 31 stop by Deputy Sean Andrews. The deputy is shown pulling Audra Harmon from her minivan then firing his Taser for the second time and knocking her to her knees.

Police agencies have different policies for when officers should use their Tasers, Kenney said. But the general standard is that they should only use them when confronting actual physical resistance, he said.

"Where the police get themselves in trouble is when they either use it as a compliance tool or on an individual they should've otherwise been able to control," said Kenney, who has reviewed Taser use for years. Taser International hired him to monitor a discussion among police agencies at the company headquarters.

Police are taught to apply force in graduated levels depending on resistance, Kenney said. The video shows Harmon standing by her car talking with Andrews and not making any threatening movements. Andrews wrote in his report that Harmon did not obey his commands before he used his Taser.

"It doesn't appear she resisted arrest other than verbally, and the general rule with Tasers is verbal resistance is not considered appropriate grounds," said Kenney, a former police officer in Central Florida who has been the principal investigator on national studies on police use of force.

The arrest appears to not be legitimate, Kenney said. Andrews accused Harmon of disorderly conduct for getting out of her car and obstructing traffic.

"That's just nonsense," Kenney said. "She got out of the car and posed a question, which you're allowed to do without going to jail."

Frequent Poster said...

and don't miss the Today show footage:

http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26184891#32414706