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Racial Profiling or Rightful Investigation?

QuidQuid Definitely not a bananaRegistered User regular
edited July 2009 in Debate and/or Discourse
Link to article.
BOSTON — Supporters of a prominent Harvard University black scholar who was arrested at his own home by police responding to a report of a break-in say he is the victim of racial profiling.
Henry Louis Gates Jr. had forced his way through the front door of his home because it was jammed, his lawyer said Monday.
Cambridge police say they responded to the well-maintained two-story home near campus after a woman reported seeing "two black males with backpacks on the porch," with one "wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry."
The woman, Lucia Whalen, is the circulation and fundraising manager at Harvard Magazine, a news and alumni magazine affiliated with the school. The magazine's offices are down the street from Gates' home.
By the time police arrived, Gates was already inside. Police say he refused to come outside to speak with an officer, who told him he was investigating a report of a break-in.
"Why, because I'm a black man in America?" Gates said, according to a police report written by Sgt. James Crowley. The Cambridge police refused to comment on the arrest Monday.
Gates — the director of Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research — initially refused to show the officer his identification, but then gave him a Harvard University ID card, according to police.
"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," the officer wrote.
Gates said he turned over his driver's license and Harvard ID — both with his photos — and repeatedly asked for the name and badge number of the officer, who refused. He said he then followed the officer as he left his house onto his front porch, where he was handcuffed in front of other officers, Gates said in a statement released by his attorney, fellow Harvard scholar Charles Ogletree, on a Web site Gates oversees, TheRoot.com
He was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge after police said he "exhibited loud and tumultuous behavior." He was released later that day on his own recognizance. An arraignment was scheduled for Aug. 26.
Gates, 58, also refused to speak publicly Monday, referring calls to Ogletree.
"He was shocked to find himself being questioned and shocked that the conversation continued after he showed his identification," Ogletree said.
Ogletree declined to say whether he believed the incident was racially motivated, saying "I think the incident speaks for itself."
Some of Gates' African-American colleagues say the arrest is part of a pattern of racial profiling in Cambridge.
Allen Counter, who has taught neuroscience at Harvard for 25 years, said he was stopped on campus by two Harvard police officers in 2004 after being mistaken for a robbery suspect. They threatened to arrest him when he could not produce identification.
"We do not believe that this arrest would have happened if professor Gates was white," Counter said. "It really has been very unsettling for African-Americans throughout Harvard and throughout Cambridge that this happened."
The Rev. Al Sharpton said he will attend Gates' arraignment.
"This arrest is indicative of at best police abuse of power or at worst the highest example of racial profiling I have seen," Sharpton said. "I have heard of driving while black and even shopping while black but now even going to your own home while black is a new low in police community affairs."
Ogletree said Gates had returned from a trip to China on Thursday with a driver, when he found his front door jammed. He went through the back door into the home — which he leases from Harvard — shut off an alarm and worked with the driver to get the door open. The driver left, and Gates was on the phone with the property's management company when police first arrived.
Ogletree also disputed the claim that Gates, who was wearing slacks and a polo shirt and carrying a cane, was yelling at the officer.
"He has an infection that has impacted his breathing since he came back from China, so he's been in a very delicate physical state," Ogletree said.
Lawrence D. Bobo, the W.E.B Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard, said he met with Gates at the police station and described his colleague as feeling humiliated and "emotionally devastated."
"It's just deeply disappointing but also a pointed reminder that there are serious problems that we have to wrestle with," he said.
Bobo said he hoped Cambridge police would drop the charges and called on the department to use the incident to review training and screening procedures it has in place.
The Middlesex district attorney's office said it could not do so until after Gates' arraignment. Whalen, the woman who reported the apparent break-in, did not return a message Tuesday.
Gates joined the Harvard faculty in 1991 and holds one of 20 prestigious "university professors" positions at the school. He also was host of "African American Lives," a PBS show about the family histories of prominent U.S. blacks, and was named by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential Americans in 1997.
"I was obviously very concerned when I learned on Thursday about the incident," Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust said in a statement. "He and I spoke directly and I have asked him to keep me apprised."

TLDR: A black scholar and a friend forced their way into his house when he locked himself out. The police came to investigate when a neighbor reported a possible break in and, after some arguing, he eventually came out and showed them his ID. Afterwards he follows them to the porch where the police claim he was still arguing and was eventually arrested by them for disruptive behavior.

Now, overall I don't think the police had any right to arrest the guy. I think the guy was certainly being a dick, but he was doing so on his own property and only to two people who, at that point, could quite easily leave. What I'm more interested in is the claim of racial profiling being made by the scholar about the investigation which, in all honesty, I don't see unless they investigated it differently from the way they do others. Which isn't to say the department doesn't have issues with racial profiling. Apparently another guy was stopped on campus for resembling a robbery suspect and threatened with arrest if he didn't show his ID in 2004.

So yeah, the police are in the wrong in my opinion, but the investigation doesn't really seem racially motivated.

Quid on
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    TofystedethTofystedeth Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    I heard this story on NPR on the way to work. At this point it's pretty much his word against theirs. I know that as a white guy, I've broken into my own house after dark in much the same fashion and never been called on it.

    Tofystedeth on
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    QuidQuid Definitely not a banana Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Yes but that really depends on someone seeing you do it and reporting a break in.

    Quid on
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    urahonkyurahonky Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Yeah I'm not seeing much "racial profiling" here. I think that if someone saw a white guy pounding his way into a house... Then, when questioned, he responds with a "why? is it because I'm a white guy in America?" the same situation would have occurred.

    urahonky on
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    KalTorakKalTorak One way or another, they all end up in the Undercity.Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    The article I read said the officer had followed Gates into the house (which seems like illegal entry, but it's all in the details) and was refusing to believe that it was his house even after being shown the license which had the address on.

    I dunno, I don't doubt that Gates was confrontational and that he didn't help the situation. I don't see why the police wouldn't say "Oh, sorry for the misunderstanding" when he showed his ID though.

    KalTorak on
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    deadonthestreetdeadonthestreet Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    It was a different guy that got stopped on campus, and that was by Harvard campus police, not Cambridge police.

    In this case, the guy probably shouldn't have been arrested, and the police overreacted. But the guy also overreacted to a seemingly routine investigation. I know I'd like the police to be thorough when someone reports a break in at my house.

    deadonthestreet on
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    kaliyamakaliyama Left to find less-moderated fora Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    I'm pretty sure the reason whatever neighbor called the cops is because he's black. The reason the cops arrested him is that cops are assholes and enjoy unbridled discretion in their enforcement powers - this is a problem that affects every american.

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    Robos A Go GoRobos A Go Go Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Yeah, I can't think of any reasonable explanation for why the cops didn't leave after Gates produced proper identification.

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    AegisAegis Fear My Dance Overshot Toronto, Landed in OttawaRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    If the article is representative at all of what happened, his behaviour when the police came to ask him questions probably contributed more to the arrest than anything else. Even if it is your own home, one has to figure that having to break into one's home there is the chance that if the police show up...they're probably going to be asking about what you just did to doublecheck you are the owner of the house. As such, flipping out at them during their questions is probably going to be counterproductive.

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    kildykildy Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    It really does depend a lot on the realities of the situation. Someone calls cops because someone's breaking into a house? Totally okay (heck, I used to break into the neighbor's house because they had a spare key for my place and always left the windows unlocked)

    If they followed him there or otherwise wouldn't leave after seeing ID? Not cool.

    kildy on
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    FeralFeral MEMETICHARIZARD interior crocodile alligator ⇔ ǝɹʇɐǝɥʇ ǝᴉʌoɯ ʇǝloɹʌǝɥɔ ɐ ǝʌᴉɹp ᴉRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Disorderly conduct? Really?

    Whether the cops were racist or not, they were certainly assholes.

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    deadonthestreetdeadonthestreet Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Feral wrote: »
    Disorderly conduct? Really?

    Whether the cops were racist or not, they were certainly assholes.
    I don't know, I don't think there are many police officers that aren't going to arrest you after you scream at them and accuse them of racism, and then when they leave you follow them outside to yell at them some more.

    deadonthestreet on
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    SelnerSelner Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    I've broken into my own house after dark in much the same fashion and never been called on it.

    That just means that the woman who called the police was possibly racially profiling.
    As in: "Two black guys, trying to break down a door! Police police!"
    Or: "Two white guys, fiddling with the door. I wonder if I could help them?"

    I would like to think that if one of my neighbors saw someone shoulder ramming my front door, that they would call the police. Or, walk up and from a distance ask what is going on (with phone in hand).

    If the police are correct, the prof was a little out of line in the way he treated the police. Maybe he was tired after his overseas trip, and not thinking.

    If he'd been polite, showed his ID and said good night to the officers we wouldn't be having this discussion.

    But it sounds like the police were rather out of line in actually arresting the guy and handcuffing him.

    Selner on
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    ChanusChanus Harbinger of the Spicy Rooster Apocalypse The Flames of a Thousand Collapsed StarsRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Looks to me like it's just whoever called being overly cautious (and possibly skeered to see a black guy breaking into a house)... but you can't blame the police for responding to the call.

    The guy acted out of line, but I don't agree he should have been arrested for being accused of a crime on his own property.

    Seems the proper thing to do would have been a "Sorry, sir, we were just responding to a call". Maybe a punch in the taint for good measure.

    Of course, on his end, instead of being all incensed and douchenozzlish about it, he could have just shown them his license in the first place.

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    SentrySentry Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Feral wrote: »
    Disorderly conduct? Really?

    Whether the cops were racist or not, they were certainly assholes.
    I don't know, I don't think there are many police officers that aren't going to arrest you after you scream at them and accuse them of racism, and then when they leave you follow them outside to yell at them some more.

    Why? getting yelled at is kind of part of a cops job. It's not pleasant, but it happens enough that they should be used to it. The cop should have just left, problem solved.

    I don't doubt that the guy was being a prick, but honestly, being a prick, even to a cop, is not against the law.

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    Grid SystemGrid System Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    I don't see how there's any question of racial profiling when the report was of "two black males with backpacks on the porch". The fact that the lady calling in felt that skin colour merited mention, and the fact that the police considered it relevant as well means that there was racial profiling. I have a hard time believing that merely someone "wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry" is sufficiently suspicious to deserve police attention.

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    iTunesIsEviliTunesIsEvil Cornfield? Cornfield.Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    The police report (warning, that's a direct link to a PDF) on this adds a bunch of detail that I didn't see in the articles.

    Gates probably would not have been arrested had he not followed the officers outside. The "its stuffy in here, lets talk outside" line by police is about the easiest way for them to get you in a position where they can much more easily find something to pin on you. Yelling? Oop, disorderly conduct.

    I think Im with Feral, if this is an accurate description of what happened Im not sure the police were being racist, but they were definitely being asses.

    I do wonder if Gates was worried about this whole thing happening. As he's trying to get into his own home he wonders "oh god, is one of my asshole neighbors going to call this in?" Got riled up thinking "Im not doing anything wrong" and then just let the cops have it when they got there.

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    iTunesIsEviliTunesIsEvil Cornfield? Cornfield.Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    I don't see how there's any question of racial profiling when the report was of "two black males with backpacks on the porch". The fact that the lady calling in felt that skin colour merited mention, and the fact that the police considered it relevant as well means that there was racial profiling. I have a hard time believing that merely someone "wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry" is sufficiently suspicious to deserve police attention.
    Trying to force a door, i.e. what the two guys on the porch were doing, looks an awful lot like trying to break in. I'd say the woman felt their skin color mattered, but the police have to check it either way. I doubt they would have just said "oh well" if the woman had called about two white guys with backpacks trying to wedge a door open.

    iTunesIsEvil on
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    lazegamerlazegamer The magnanimous cyberspaceRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    I don't really care for laws as ambiguous as "disruptive behavior" in the first place, so if I were King, he wouldn't have been arrested.

    However, tt does sound like he was being verbally combative (what a weasel phrase) and loud, and it isn't all that surprising that the charge against him was leveled.

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    deadonthestreetdeadonthestreet Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    I have a hard time believing that merely someone "wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry" is sufficiently suspicious to deserve police attention.
    Really? You don't think police should respond to reports of forced entry?

    deadonthestreet on
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    gigEsmallsgigEsmalls __BANNED USERS regular
    edited July 2009
    This whole attitude thing towards the police reminds me of that recent episode where a girl called 911 and cursed out the operator while her father was having a heart attack. Why are people giving such grief to police these days?

    gigEsmalls on
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    ChanusChanus Harbinger of the Spicy Rooster Apocalypse The Flames of a Thousand Collapsed StarsRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Sentry wrote: »
    I don't doubt that the guy was being a prick, but honestly, being a prick, even to a cop, is not against the law.

    Not against the law, but generally a bad idea. Want to play douche? They'll play douche right back at you.

    See: What happened.

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    Grid SystemGrid System Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    I don't see how there's any question of racial profiling when the report was of "two black males with backpacks on the porch". The fact that the lady calling in felt that skin colour merited mention, and the fact that the police considered it relevant as well means that there was racial profiling. I have a hard time believing that merely someone "wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry" is sufficiently suspicious to deserve police attention.
    Trying to force a door, i.e. what the two guys on the porch were doing, looks an awful lot like trying to break in. I'd say the woman felt their skin color mattered, but the police have to check it either way. I doubt they would have just said "oh well" if the woman had called about two white guys with backpacks trying to wedge a door open.
    If there's one thing my sociology classes taught me, it's that they very well might have just said "oh well". Or, if not that, the response would have been less intrusive, like sending a squad car down the street to observe but not interact.

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    Grid SystemGrid System Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    I have a hard time believing that merely someone "wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry" is sufficiently suspicious to deserve police attention.
    Really? You don't think police should respond to reports of forced entry?
    Not of that kind. If the guys were climbing through a window, sure, or if they were trying to kick in the door, but the activity as described is not consistent with breaking and entering so much as trying to get a stuck door open. Unless you're built like Brock Lesnar, wedging your shoulder into the door and pushing isn't going to defeat a deadbolt.

    Grid System on
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    iTunesIsEviliTunesIsEvil Cornfield? Cornfield.Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    If there's one thing my sociology classes taught me, it's that they very well might have just said "oh well". Or, if not that, the response would have been less intrusive, like sending a squad car down the street to observe but not interact.
    Your sociology class taught you that police don't follow up on attempted break-ins? Well, that's all I needed to hear!

    iTunesIsEvil on
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    Hockey JohnstonHockey Johnston Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Feral wrote: »
    Disorderly conduct? Really?

    Whether the cops were racist or not, they were certainly assholes.
    I don't know, I don't think there are many police officers that aren't going to arrest you after you scream at them and accuse them of racism, and then when they leave you follow them outside to yell at them some more.

    That seems like a flat-out acknowledgment that police culture has some big problems, then. I had no idea you weren't allowed to say intemperate words to an officer.

    Hockey Johnston on
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    HeartlashHeartlash Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    FYI, all charges have been dropped and everyone's agreed to pretend it didn't happen, Gates included:

    http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2009/07/charges_to_be_d.html

    Personally, I'm betting the woman who called was probably racially profiling subconsciously. I don't know if the police were being racist, but they were probably overreacting, as was Gates (though police overreacting is by far a worse offense).

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    iTunesIsEviliTunesIsEvil Cornfield? Cornfield.Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Feral wrote: »
    Disorderly conduct? Really?

    Whether the cops were racist or not, they were certainly assholes.
    I don't know, I don't think there are many police officers that aren't going to arrest you after you scream at them and accuse them of racism, and then when they leave you follow them outside to yell at them some more.

    That seems like a flat-out acknowledgment that police culture has some big problems, then. I had no idea you weren't allowed to say intemperate words to an officer.
    Well, everything seemed ok until they stepped outside and Gates continued to yell. The police report at that point mentions that people were stopping and coming outside to gawk. So apparently it was "disruptive" in some manner.

    Also, good news: charges against Gates have been dropped!

    [ed] Damn you, Heartlash!

    iTunesIsEvil on
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    TachTach Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    I heard the NPR story as well. The guy had just got back from a trip to China, literally, and found that his front door was stuck. When he and his driver try to force it, the alarm goes off. He has to go around to the back door, get in and shut it off. He then comes back around to help open the front door.

    Then, cops show up, saying they're following up on a call, ask him for ID, call for campus police when he complies (because, golly, you can't just take a guy's ID for proof can you?).

    By that time, I'm sure he was completely and utterly pissed off. I'd've shouted at them too.

    Tach on
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    OptimusZedOptimusZed Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    I have a hard time believing that merely someone "wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry" is sufficiently suspicious to deserve police attention.
    Go try it sometime.

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    TexiKenTexiKen Dammit! That fish really got me!Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    He produced his Campus ID card. Or that was what was in the police report, which now isn't available from Boston.com. Unless Harvard IDs are different from other colleges and show your home address, I'm sure cops wouldn't accept it either.

    TexiKen on
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    SelnerSelner Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    I'm betting the woman who called was probably racially profiling subconsciously.

    While probably a little true, if you read the police report Gates indicates that his front door is broken because of a previous break-in attempt.

    It's entirely possible the woman was familiar with the previous break-in at that house, and would have reported anyone who was trying to force their way in.

    Selner on
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    Grid SystemGrid System Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    OptimusZed wrote: »
    I have a hard time believing that merely someone "wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry" is sufficiently suspicious to deserve police attention.
    Go try it sometime.
    Maybe it's just where I live, but people have to unstick doors all the time. If I'd had the cops called on me every time I had to use a little more force than usual to get a door open, by now I'd have spent well over my current zero hours at a station.

    So. Tried, tested, never been arrested.

    Grid System on
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    KalTorakKalTorak One way or another, they all end up in the Undercity.Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Heartlash wrote: »
    FYI, all charges have been dropped and everyone's agreed to pretend it didn't happen, Gates included:

    http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2009/07/charges_to_be_d.html

    Personally, I'm betting the woman who called was probably racially profiling subconsciously. I don't know if the police were being racist, but they were probably overreacting, as was Gates (though police overreacting is by far a worse offense).

    How long has this neighbor been living there and not realizing that she's living next to a black man?

    KalTorak on
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    HeartlashHeartlash Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Selner wrote: »
    I'm betting the woman who called was probably racially profiling subconsciously.

    While probably a little true, if you read the police report Gates indicates that his front door is broken because of a previous break-in attempt.

    It's entirely possible the woman was familiar with the previous break-in at that house, and would have reported anyone who was trying to force their way in.

    Seems a bit unlikely that she'd be familiar with that without being familiar with Gates himself.

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    TexiKenTexiKen Dammit! That fish really got me!Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Selner wrote: »
    I'm betting the woman who called was probably racially profiling subconsciously.

    While probably a little true, if you read the police report Gates indicates that his front door is broken because of a previous break-in attempt.

    It's entirely possible the woman was familiar with the previous break-in at that house, and would have reported anyone who was trying to force their way in.

    I think this. Especially if he's been gone, and neighbors do what they always do, which is look out for one another's homes when someone is gone.

    Heartlash wrote: »
    Selner wrote: »
    I'm betting the woman who called was probably racially profiling subconsciously.

    While probably a little true, if you read the police report Gates indicates that his front door is broken because of a previous break-in attempt.

    It's entirely possible the woman was familiar with the previous break-in at that house, and would have reported anyone who was trying to force their way in.

    Seems a bit unlikely that she'd be familiar with that without being familiar with Gates himself.

    Maybe it was the other person who he was traveling with who was trying to get in through the front, and Gates was going around to the back of the house.

    TexiKen on
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    lazegamerlazegamer The magnanimous cyberspaceRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    KalTorak wrote: »
    Heartlash wrote: »
    FYI, all charges have been dropped and everyone's agreed to pretend it didn't happen, Gates included:

    http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2009/07/charges_to_be_d.html

    Personally, I'm betting the woman who called was probably racially profiling subconsciously. I don't know if the police were being racist, but they were probably overreacting, as was Gates (though police overreacting is by far a worse offense).

    How long has this neighbor been living there and not realizing that she's living next to a black man?

    "The woman, Lucia Whalen, is the circulation and fundraising manager at Harvard Magazine, a news and alumni magazine affiliated with the school. The magazine's offices are down the street from Gates' home."

    It's not her home, and she wasn't "next door" as it were.

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    OptimusZedOptimusZed Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    OptimusZed wrote: »
    I have a hard time believing that merely someone "wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry" is sufficiently suspicious to deserve police attention.
    Go try it sometime.
    Maybe it's just where I live, but people have to unstick doors all the time. If I'd had the cops called on me every time I had to use a little more force than usual to get a door open, by now I'd have spent well over my current zero hours at a station.

    So. Tried, tested, never been arrested.
    Where do you live?

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    Grid SystemGrid System Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    OptimusZed wrote: »
    Where do you live?

    Winnipeg.

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    JihadJesusJihadJesus Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Chanus wrote: »
    Sentry wrote: »
    I don't doubt that the guy was being a prick, but honestly, being a prick, even to a cop, is not against the law.

    Not against the law, but generally a bad idea. Want to play douche? They'll play douche right back at you.

    See: What happened.

    Seriously. If I have to break into my own house and someone calls the cops, it's a perfectly reasonable request to ask to see my ID. If I then refuse and start to go on a tirade at the cops for some insane reason, I'd expect to get arrested and have them sort it out later.

    Essentially:

    Lady is probably paranoid.
    Professor sounds like he's got a persecution complex.
    Cops cherish their authority and don't like to be fucked with (what else is new).

    JihadJesus on
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    HeartlashHeartlash Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    TexiKen wrote: »
    Selner wrote: »
    I'm betting the woman who called was probably racially profiling subconsciously.

    While probably a little true, if you read the police report Gates indicates that his front door is broken because of a previous break-in attempt.

    It's entirely possible the woman was familiar with the previous break-in at that house, and would have reported anyone who was trying to force their way in.

    I think this. Especially if he's been gone, and neighbors do what they always do, which is look out for one another's homes when someone is gone.

    Heartlash wrote: »
    Selner wrote: »
    I'm betting the woman who called was probably racially profiling subconsciously.

    While probably a little true, if you read the police report Gates indicates that his front door is broken because of a previous break-in attempt.

    It's entirely possible the woman was familiar with the previous break-in at that house, and would have reported anyone who was trying to force their way in.

    Seems a bit unlikely that she'd be familiar with that without being familiar with Gates himself.

    Maybe it was the other person who he was traveling with who was trying to get in through the front, and Gates was going around to the back of the house.

    But the police report stated "Two men".

    Heartlash on
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