The Skip Gates arrest story has an interesting new twist. Apparently, a Boston policeman and member of the Massachusetts National Guard was upset enough about the whole situation that he wrote an email to the editor of the Boston Globe. This is what he had to say about Professor Gates:
If I was the officer [Gates] verbally assaulted like a banana-eating jungle monkey, I would have sprayed him in the face with OC [pepper spray] deserving of his belligerent non-compliance.
He also wasn’t very happy about the Globe’s coverage of the incident:
You are a hot little bird with minimal experiences in a harsh field. You are a fool. An infidel. You have no business writing for a US newspaper nevermind detailing and analyzing half-truths. You should serve me coffee and donuts on Sunday morning.
The officer has apologized for the email, and as for he use of the term “jungle monkey” — which appears repeatedly in the email — he claims “I didn’t mean it in a racist way.”
But as Andrew Sullivan remarked “If this is what they’re putting in emails, imagine what they’re saying in private.”
Meanwhile, the Boston Globe predicts that a movie musical will have to be made about these events.
Despite this twist, I still think this story is not so much about race as it is about police using vague disorderly conduct laws to shut people up — as in this report of someone arrested for disorderly conduct for merely saying “I hate the police”.
See also similar opinions from Chris Hitchens, and Maureen Dowd.
Enlightening statement from Gates, after today’s “Beer Summit” at the White House:
And Sgt. Crowley holds a press conference:
This is so sad. I work with a local group in my neighborhood of Boston trying to improve community-police relations. This is exactly the kind of attitude we live with here in Boston.
I would like to think that this will make the higher ups a little more aware of the attitude of a number of the officers on the force. However, I believe that they are going to see this as a single, rogue officer, rather than as a systemic problem on the police force.
Interesting to note that the Crowley comments have had the most YouTube hits-over Gates and Obama.
Did Obama make a statement after the meeting? I can’t find it.
I did find one comment from Obama “I am confident that has happened here tonight, and I am hopeful that all of us are able to draw this positive lesson from this episode.”
Also some other interesting quotes. Gates took the initiative in greeting Sgt. Crowley at the White House, and later remarked “We hit it off right from the beginning. When he’s not arresting you, Sgt. Crowley is a really likable guy.” For his part, Crowley said that the fact that Gates made the first move by introducing his family “shows a lot of character.” Gates’ daughter said that her father told Sgt. Crowley “You looked bigger the last time I saw you.”
I think Iron Knee is right. No one (including the President) thinks the police behaved stupidly in arresting someone for a possible breaking-and-entering. What would be stupid is for a police officer being yelled at by a man indoors to ask the man if they could instead speak outside, whereupon the officer arrests the man for being loud and disorderly in public where others can be disturbed. I, too, live in Boston. And I’m fortunate enough not to have had in any run-in’s with the police here. But I have a feeling it’s just like this everywhere. I moved here from Baltimore, and people said the same thing down there. The cynic in me thinks we all simply need a healthy expectation of this kind of garbage.
Daniel, I don’t think there is any question that the police can and do abuse their discretion. But that is not what happened in this case.
Gates was asked by Crowley to step outside when he first came to the door and he refused. Crowley followed Gates inside where he ascertained his identity and then called for Harvard Police to take over. Gates was arrested when, as Crowley was outside the house preparing to leave, Gates followed him onto the porch and started making a scene. This sequence of events has been verified by all parties.
This is what I can’t stand about this case: this self-aggrandizing Harvard celebrity academic put the Cambridge PD in a situation where they either let him continue to make people on the street believe he was abused while he was indoors (or worse, make bystanders less comfortable calling the police when there is a possible B&E in progress because there might be black people involved) or to get him off the street until he cools down. Gates decided to make an example out of these officers when the only lesson learned was that people of color also react to cops in a racially informed manner.
All of which will only make it difficult to get the police to pay more attention to and take seriously real abuses of discretion and the systemic racism that pervades many police departments, particularly Boston. I’ve got two real cases of police abuse of power that we’re trying to work through in our neighborhood. Since this whole thing started, I’ve had to reestablish my credibility with the local police because I’m also an academic. And I don’t even work for Harvard.
Regardless of who was right/wrong/stupid/etc. in the Crowley-Gates affair, how can the term (especially if repeated) “jungle monkey” when referencing a Black man be “not meant in a racist way”??
Do you suppose if I called my wife a “dirty C-word” three times, I could then say, “but I don’t mean that in a bad way” and ever hope to have sex again?
Sammy – you should check out the news today. The suspended officer is now suing the city. He’s alleging that the commissioner, the mayor and the police department, conspired “to intentionally inflict emotional distress,” and “to intentionally interfere with [his] property rights, due process rights, and civil rights.”
Can’t wait to see how this ends.
“I would have sprayed him in the face with OC [pepper spray] deserving of his belligerent non-compliance.”
This is a police officer saying that he would violate his code of conduct by pepper-spraying someone because they called him names, and on the basis of this alone (notwithstanding any racism in the beginning of his statement), this officer should be suspended and investigated, and probably fired.