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by Peter Moskos

July 21, 2009

You want to step outside, Mr Gates?

Leave it to me to have to read another blog to find out about stuff that I've already written.

See, there's this book I wrote, Cop in the Hood. I hear it's pretty good. It's also, uh, for sale. Anyway, on pp. 117-118 I describe how officers can invite a person outside in order to arrest him for disorderly. I never used this trick, but it certainly was something I could have used. I gave the example of a domestic situation:
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.

Crooked Timber
writes: "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)." True, indeed.

From the arrest report:
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.
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.
Crooken Timber says:
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.


Anonymous said...

HL Gates Jr. is just mad because he thinks that in a hypothetical alternate universe, the woman who called 911 to report him breaking in would not have called if he was white. So he takes it out on the responding cops, who would have come and done the same thing in either case. Real class act.

Jaguar said...

Many times asking someone to step outside is about ensuring officer safety. No nefarious motives are involved.

PCM said...

Many times it is. But not in this case.

Anonymous said...

No, in this case it was, unless the officer was lying. He claimed Gates was yelling so loud (something I fully believe) that he couldn't hear or transmit into his radio given the acoustics of the room he was in. As PCM knows, the radio is the single biggest piece of safety equipment the officer has, and its proper operation is paramount. Hence, he needed to exit the house with the subject in order to continue his investigation.

Also, to assume that Gates, while screaming angry epithets like a banshee, was incapable of an act of violence, is to emasculate him. Aren't we beyond the tired stereotype of the old, wise harmless black man?