AI: Questions on Racism
The recent arrest of African-American Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. has ignited debate on race and law enforcement in the U.S. President Obama has even commented on the case. And of course racism (and race relations)Â is an extremely importantÂ issue, and one that should indeed be addressed, whether related to law enforcement or otherwise. But I’m wondering about this case.
Quick bullet points from the police report:
- Cambridge, Mass. police were alerted to a possible break-in at Gates’ home.
- Gates answered the door when police arrived, and when informed of the investigation of a possible break-in, initially refused to provide identification, saying to the officer, “Why, because I’m a black man in America?”.
- Gates finally provided a Harvard ID thatÂ showed it was in fact his home, but police were confused by his behavior, and asked him to step outside the residence.
- Upset by the request, GatesÂ yelled at the investigating officer repeatedly, firstÂ inside the residence, andÂ then followed the officer outside, where Gates continued to upbraid him.
- Gates was arrested for “loud and tumultuous behavior in a public space” . (He was subsequently released and the charges were dropped.)
How would you have handled the incident if you were the cops? If you were Gates? Is this really a case of racism or racial profiling, or simply a case of police arresting a guy for being an obnoxiousÂ dick in public? Do you think there is a general tendency among traditionally oppressed minorities to find racism where there is none?
The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.
I think it is a case of a cop harassing someone until they become an obnoxious dick and then arresting them.
When the cop saw two forms of picture ID showing who he was and where he lived, that should have been the end of it.
It is 99.999% the cop’s fault.
And how much do you believe that police report? The police wrote it after all.
There is no need to arrest someone just for being a dick. He did everything they asked him to do (offered up ID). He wasn’t doing anything wrong or illegal, nor was he being threatening (getting aggitated is not being threatening). There was NO sound reason to arrest him. None.
It’s 99.99% Gate’s fault for being a jackass. He could have handled it in a calm demeanor (keeping in mind that there have been more than average amount of breakins in the neighborhood, Gates being a recent victim), but he chose not to, in large part because of who he is, as a professional race-baiter & racist. He chose to turn this into a big issue instead of being mellow.
You can hardly blame Gates. If cops show up at your door and question that your house belongs to you, you’re going to be pissed off. Yes, he should have stayed calm. But, he showed ID and that should have ended it.
I’m linking the arrest report, so that people can at least get the police officer’s version, as he presented it.
Sam’s original post indicates in point #3 that “police were confused by his behavior, and asked him to step outside the residence.”, and in point #4, that “Upset by the request, Gates yelled at the investigating officer repeatedly, first inside the residence, and then followed the officer outside, where Gates continued to upbraid him.”
The police report reads quite differently. According to the officer, “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 of the residence.” So, the officer says that he didn’t ask Mr. Gates to come outside after he had established his identity. Instead, Mr. Gates decided to follow him outside, yelling the whole time. Now, regarding the verbal abuse and yelling – according to the police report, it was almost continuous throughout the entire incident. It seems to me that Mr. Gates came into this with a chip on his shoulder, and a point to prove – and what came about was entirely within his control.
@andyinsdca: Absolutely agree.
Advice, people: When approached by the cops, you should offer your ID immediately, without being asked, and answer all questions with simple, truthful, declarative sentences. It doesn’t hurt to add a “sir” or “ma’am” at the end of each sentence.
Never reveal any emotion to a police officer. Never raise your voice to a police officer. Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to argue with, reason, or even converse with a strange police officer. You do not know what they are capable of or what will make them turn on you.
Remember, a police officer is a dangerous, volatile, heavily armed animal. They cannot be expected to act with restraint if provoked.
would the police have asked a white man answering the door for ID & proof that he lived there? would they have arrested him if he acted as Gates did? if yes then i think Gates brought this on himself. if no, then then the police are not doing their job to protect & serve, as far as checking ID. the arresting thing would depend on how much of a jackass he was being. since I was not there I can’t say if it was warranted
First of all, I encourage everyone to do their own reading from the primary source documents here. A summary is all well and good, but there are two very different sides to this story and I’m not sure a summary can do them justice.
The police report (http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2009/0723092gates1.html)
The account Gates told through his lawyer (Gates acct can be read here: http://www.theroot.com/views/lawyers-statement-arrest-henry-louis-gates-jr).
Second of all, whether or not it’s a racial issue or not, the officer was not within his rights to arrest Gates.
Being a dick is not considered “disorderly conduct,” according to MA case law. Even using the facts in the police report, Gates behavior did not rise to the level of disorderly conduct. (see article http://www.slate.com/id/2223379/ that summarizes MA law, among other things).
Gates also claims in additional discussions on the matter that he had a bad chest cold and was unable to shout or yell. (http://www.theroot.com/views/skip-gates-speaks?page=0,1)
Personally, from reading both sides of the story, I do believe there was a serious violation of civil rights here and I do believe that it was at least somewhat racially motivated.
Repost of Gates’ response through his lawyer. First link was broken.
Without being sure of the facts, it’s hard to assess 99.9% blame to anyone, however, working backwards, Gates must have been doing some abusive yelling in order to be arrested. The only reasons for Gates yelling would be if the cops didn’t believe it was his place or Gates had “a chip on his shoulder” I get the feeling that the cops were leaving and that after seeing proper ID they would no longer be abusive to Gates therefore it seems more likely that Gates wouldn’t let it go. The precise conversation that took place would have to be known to comment but if I had to guess it’s prob. Gates fault.
“Do you think there is a general tendency among traditionally oppressed minorities to find racism where there is none?”
Absolutely not. It’s very easy for others to look at the situation and think they are over-reacting, but minority groups face much more discrimination than we realize, and it’s often very subtle.
“Gates was arrested for â€œloud and tumultuous behavior in a public spaceâ€”
This charge is nearly always used as an excuse for police to arrest anyone they just don’t like. People who actually are “loud and tumultuous” in public are very rarely arrested.
“Gates must have been doing some abusive yelling in order to be arrested.”
Not necessarily. See my above comment. There are plenty of cases where police just use any disagreement as an excuse. It’s tempting to believe that police are always acting in good faith, but that’s just not always the case.
In my opinion this is “simply a case of police arresting a guy for being an obnoxious dick in public.”
My psychic powers have activated and I predict that Al Sharpton and/or Jesse Jackson will weigh in shortly on this incedent.
@mikekoz68: Without being sure of the facts, itâ€™s hard to assess 99.9% blame to anyone, however, working backwards, Gates must have been doing some abusive yelling in order to be arrested.
This is a dangerous misconception about police officers. The truth is, a police officer will arrest someone for pretty much any reason at all, and those reasons may or may not make any sense to anyone else.
I cannot stress this enough: do not assume that a police officer will behave in a rational or predictable fashion. Do nothing that seems remotely threatening to their authority.
@mikekoz68: I agree, except where you say, “…after seeing proper ID they would no longer be abusive to Gates…”
In reading Gates’ account, I don’t see that he’s made any allegation whatsoever that the police were abusive to him, at least prior to the arrest. In fact, his main issue seemed to be that they the officer would not give Gates his name and badge number (however, the officer states in the report that he tried to tell Gates his information, but couldn’t because he was being shouted over). In fact, Gates’ account doesn’t even allege that the officer asked Gates to step outside after the ID had been presented. Gates’ account freely states that he followed the officer outside.
Really the only differences in the versions of the story that I can see are Gates’ allegations that the officer refused to identify himself, and the amount of yelling and screaming and invective that Gates was doing.
FWIW, I don’t buy that just because you have a cold, you can’t yell. Also, I’m not always inclined to take the word of a police officer over another citizen – but Gate’s alleged aggressive, angry behavior seems consistent with his political agenda re: embedded racism in society.
@sethmanapio: Ok – you must have some awesome story where you were just sitting on your porch, reading “The Origin of Species”, and the po-po came and arrested you for no reason. Let’s hear it.
@sowellfan: Really the only differences in the versions of the story that I can see are Gatesâ€™ allegations that the officer refused to identify himself, and the amount of yelling and screaming and invective that Gates was doing.
So, the only differences you can see are the substantive ones that are relevant to the case at hand?
It’s really interesting to see everyones preconcieved notions (including my own) here.
I am tending to put more weight in Gates’ version of the story, because 1. It was the first version I was exposed to and 2. I am admittedly slightly biased against police officers when it comes to issues of civil rights due to some personal experiences.
However, a lot of people who have posted are putting implicit trust that the officer’s report is 100% factual and trustworthy and that Gates is the one who is lying.
However, even if Gates behaved the way described in the police report, there is a very compellng argument that it was not legal to arrest him according to Mass law. To me, that’s the crux of the issue.
Whether or not Gates was yelling up a storm, or if it was the officer in question was being deceitful or holding a grudge, that’s not the point. The point is to try to remove one’s biases, look at the facts, and make a decision.
Although I’d disagree, you can definitely make an argument that gates was exhibiting “disorderly conduct.” and I’d respect it.
But Gates did NOT have to leave his house when the officer asked, and the officer DID have to provide name AND badge # when asked.
Sam, you need to work on finding questions that will get people in more trouble :)
I’ve never been part of a racial minority, so I can’t speak from experience. I think if I had spent a long life dealing with bigotry, it might make me a little sensitive to it.
I’ve caught myself jumping the gun once in awhile when I felt attacked for being an atheist, so I can imagine the tendency is there for other types of perceived oppression.
So — my non-answer is that I think the tendency for minorities to imagine racism is roughly equal to the majority’s tendency to be blind to it.
@sowellfan: Ok â€“ you must have some awesome story where you were just sitting on your porch, reading â€œThe Origin of Speciesâ€, and the po-po came and arrested you for no reason. Letâ€™s hear it.
I have several. Here’s one: As an undergrad I was walking on campus late at night and the police stopped me. They asked me to provide my ID, which I could not, but I gave them my name and student number. They called these in. They officer held me there without asking any questions for 10 minutes. I got tired of this, started to walk away, and 5 other officers pulled up from a block away, held me down (injuring my knee), cuffed me, drove me around the countryside for 45 minutes in a vaguely threateing manner, and took me to jail.
In the report, they denied that I had given them my name and claimed I had attacked and punched them.
You want to hear another one? How about the one where a cop grabbed a girl I know, choked her, slammed her to the ground and arrester her for saying the phrase “Curse of a government job?” They claimed that she had been “abusive” and “resisted arrest” too.
I can do this all day.
I think they are both to blame. The cop probably should have just walked away after confirming that the house belonged to him and Mr Gates shouldn’t have yelled at the cop. You should never yell at cops even when they are being obvious dicks.
I live in a predominately African American area of the city. There is a noticeable difference to the way the cops treat me as opposed to the way they treat my neighbors. I feel like the cops see us as allies in the neighborhood and most of my neighbors as enemies. There was a shooting shortly after we moved in and they treated everyone with suspicion except us.
According to Gates’ account through his lawyer, the officer did ask him to step outside, at the very first.
“When Professor Gates opened the door, the officer immediately asked him to step outside.”
@sowellfan: and the po-po came and arrested you for no reason. Letâ€™s hear it.
Skeptically speaking, if you did any research at all, you would realize that in fact the police do arrest people for little or no reason, do falsify reports, shoot unarmed people by mistake, rape women and assault men.
Not all police, of course, and not all the time. But the advice I’m giving people on avoiding conflict with cops is based on facts, not idealism or bitterness. It is also based on interviews with police officers about how to avoid conflict with them.
And the advice is always the same: don’t challenge a cops authority. Keep your hands in sight. Comply with all requests. Turn on your dome light at a traffic stop.
In other words, make the cop feel like you are not a threat or a challenge. Sort of like how a gamma wolf should deal with an alpha. Because they are heavily armed. They are unpredictable. And they can turn on you in a second.
Thanks @gobleugirl for posting the accounts. I was juggling several different things this morning while trying to comemup with an AI, and just ran out of time for the extra research. Mea culpa.
If Gates’ version of the story is closest to the truth, I think the police should have dropped the matter when he showed his ID. And yeah, they should realize that being asked to show ID in one’s own home might piss someone off and they may yell. I’m tired of the police saying that whenever a situation escalates it’s the citizen’s fault. Protect and serve doesn’t mean dominate and humiliate.
I’ve experienced a situation like Prof. Gates did several times. I’m a professional pet sitter and I’ve accidentally set off alarms at people’s homes. In some cases I need to wait until the police arrive. I’m usually standing either in the kitchen or by the front door. The police have responded differently to me each time. Sometimes just drive up and when I say everything is fine they drive away, other times getting out of the car and asking to see my ID and an explanation of what I’m doing there. They’ve always just looked at it or taken my explanation and said ok, and moved on. I’ve never been arrested or anything. Partly, I think, because I am a small white woman. If I had an african american employee in that same situation, I really do think things would be very, very different.
I happened to be following this story pretty closely, is all. So I had the info handy.
Hey, it’s a great AI, albeit controversial, it really gets the juices flowing and helps people flex their skeptical muscles.
Well, I hope so. Thanks again for the assist.
@sethmanapio: Count me in. Gates was a dick.
It’s mostly Gate’s fault. As a citizen facing a police officer, you never know what the officer is thinking. You don’t know what kind of day he/she had, what kind of prejudice is held, etc. So, if you don’t want to be arrested, don’t yell, don’t make any aggressive moves, don’t make sarcastic comments. As one human being to another – engaged in conversation – these things are provocative, and will tend to escalate emotional reactivity.
It’s mostly the cop’s fault. As an armed officer of the law, empowered with a monopoly on the legal use of force, it’s your responsibility to follow the rules dispassionately, regardless of provocations from irate citizens. Once probable cause has been ruled out, there’s no legal justification for taking Gates in.
As an officer, you should not allow yourself to be manipulated by the belligerent – but legal – behavior of those around you, so long as you have a reasonable expectation that there’s no actual physical threat to you or anyone else. It’s a FAIL to be pushed into a frivolous arrest, and something that you should be ashamed of. Keep in mind: the person you’ve arrested for “being a dick” may well have *wanted* you to do it – for personal or political reasons. And you’ve played into their hands.
Nor should any officer be allowed to abuse the process of law by making arrests with no intention of prosecution. These are “teach the guy a lesson” arrests, like busting someone who mouths off at a party on Friday night, so that they can sit in jail all weekend only to face dropped charges on Monday before the judge. Arrests of this kind are bad on so many levels, not the least of which is the fact that they lead to intense resentment of police by those victimized. They also provide an easy opportunity for police to quietly act out bigotry in a way that’s difficult to track or counter.
It doesn’t look like racism to me, more like two people loosing their cool and over reacting. Seems they both deserve blame.
It’s similar to an incident where my Grandmother ended up being arrested and strip searched for running a stop sign. When you look at the basics it’s easy to blame the cop. A 60+ year old woman runs a stop sign and refuses to sign the ticket and the officer cuffs her and orders her strip searched when he takes her in for booking.
But My Grandmother was batshit crazy and could push anyone over the edge, seems she got right in the policemans face screamed at him, tore the ticket up, pulled the don’t you know who I am, in reguards to my father who was a police officer at the time(not in the same force) so I can see how the officer snapped. No matter how professional and calm you are how much abuse can you take before you just snap?
Does it make it right? No but he was human, but obviously had she just signed the ticket, that as all of us know that have recieved one know is not an admission of guilt, just a promise to appear it would have never happened.
In the Gates case had he just shown his id, which they would have asked anyone no matter what race they were in a burglery report it probably wouldn’t have happened.
This happened very near my own apartment and local authorities do have a bad reputation for race relations. That said, with all the actual injustice being done by the police force in our nation, this should not be headlining. Had Gates’ responded to the policeman with “Oh, I can understand the confusion, our door was stuck and we were struggling with it, but I assure you, I live here, here’s my ID,” and not gone completely batshit, this would not have happened.
Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing if that’s true, because you were polite and cooperative with the police. You didn’t refuse to step out onto the porch (which the officer probably requested for the safety of everyone), you didn’t yell at them, “Why, because I’m a black man in America?” (or whatever a petite blonde woman would say….), you didn’t call the officer racist, you didn’t initially refuse to present identification, etc., etc., etc. I can absolutely accept that police would look at an African-American house-sitter in a different light – but imho, if their behavior matched your behavior, the results would be substantively similar. I mean, police officers interact with African American’s quite often, and they don’t end up hauling them all to jail on trumped up charges.
Heh – this is getting better. Officer Crowley is apparently a profiling expert – has been teaching courses on it at the police academy for 5 years.
Looks to me like a case of interstellar ass holes colliding, resulting in the production of conflicting dark matter. Racism? Perhaps. Men being pompous arrogant self important jerks? More likely.
If it’s the Truth we are after, I’d discount both Gate’s and the officer’s statements since they are both tainted by “conflict of interest”.
Are there no other accounts from other witnesses?
As far as “is this racial”, I expect it did not start out that way. The police were investigating a reported break-in. A person matching the description was found in the house and the police officer asked for identification. Up to that very point, I don’t see a thing that marks this as “racial profiling” on the part of the police.
After that? I don’t have a good source of information on what happened after that…
Knowing how devastating can a racism accusation be for policemen, I don’t think they would have risked that possibility lightly.
Plus, was the situation any different from any actual crime? What if this had been what it seemed, the professor had been no professor, but an armed criminal, and he had started shooting right away, killing a cop with two kids?
Taking into account the kind of scum policemen must be exposed to on a daily basis, I can certainly forgive their manners. Misunderstandings happen and the least you want to do is to mess with it when it happens. Just keep a low profile, swallow all your racial resentment and comply. If you are on a socially higher position, use your skills accordingly with those higher on the force scale. It’s a matter of appropriateness.
Even if you are not a dick, if you behave like one, the officer doesn’t have to be the one to tell the difference.
We don’t know if Gates went crazy or not.
The whole ‘debate’ can be summarize as Gate’s word that he didn’t yell versus the cop’s.
Gate does have a note his physician’s note that most probably was authentic (I believe it was from his hotel in China) but that does not necessarily means he could not yell.
I have one favoured hypothesis (that mostly reflect my own personal biases and experiences) but I guess the sceptical thing to do is to conclude one does not have enough data to decide one way or the other.
Looks like the prof got arrested for pissing off a police officer.
The reasons for this happening are probably very complicated. Factors could include the overall temperament of the individuals, their personal histories, experiences of racism, current health, levels of stress… the list goes on and on.
One thing seems clear to me – if there had been more civil behavior on the part of both parties, this would have been less likely to have escalated.
So we have the following facts, neighbor calls about a possible break in to which the officer in question responds. The home in question has been, by admission of the owner, broken into at least once. Officer arrives alone, encounters resident inside the house and asks for ID. Resident asks for officer’s ID. Officer provides ID and resident provides Harvard University ID (not a state or government ID). Officer contacts Harvard Police. Resident reportedly acts in a belligerent and hostile manner to police officer. Back up officer arrives. Resident asks for officer’s name. Officer provides it several times. Resident follows officer out of house while verbally berating officer. Officer advises resident that he is in danger of being arrested. Resident continues harangue. Officer arrests individual.
So far all of these facts seem well supported by the stories of the police officer and resident. It remains to be seen what witness reports come out of this story.
So, the more I learn about Crowley and his history, the less I believe his actions were racially motivated. I can’t say Gates necessarily needed to be arrested, but it’s looking more and more like Gates simply overreacted, and may be to blame for the escalation.
Where’s the video?
In college, I had to take a class where we had staged debates. One team actually said that college students wouldn’t cheat on a test or assignment because they wouldn’t risk the possibility of being expelled. But students do cheat, and cops do racist things, even when they know the consequences.
It’s not illegal to be a dick, and certainly plenty of people act like dicks without getting arrested. So when someone does get arrested for being a dick, it makes me think that there is an additional reason that they are doing it. Maybe if police arrested anyone acting like a dick, I would give them the benefit of the doubt. However, that’s not the case.
I disagree. First of all, arresting or harassing someone is not just a case of bad manners. However, we shouldn’t let police do whatever they want just because they have tough job. Instead, they need to be held to the highest standards in our society. How can we trust the police to protect us from other people when we need protection from the police themselves?
It’d be nice if there were a video, but I guess that there isn’t, at least, a patrol car video. I am curious what the backup officer has to say (he came into the house while Crowley was being accosted by Gates, iirc). Also, seeing that there was a bit of a crowd gathering outside, I’m surprised that none of them have come forth to give their own accounts of the behavior that they observed.
Knowing nothing of this story but the bullet points I feel perfectly qualified to chime in.
I’ve been hassled by the cops for “being in the wrong place at the wrong time” and “fitting the description”. I’m not a minority and have worked with the police many times and have always had good relationships with them. The worst time I was hassled, I was approached by plainclothes cops who did not identify them selves until I prepared to defend my self. They were wrong, some times they are. Cops can be jerks.
I’ve also been called a racist for telling a subordinate worker (who happened to be black) to stop fucking around an do his job. Ironically he was refusing to do what he was told unless a man did the telling. I set that straight and was called a bigot for my trouble. Black people can be jerks too.
The problem is not with the cop subset or the black subset, but rather with the jerk subset. They are everywhere, they look just like the rest of us and when we decide cases like this one with the info available we become junior members. There are plenty of reasons to pick either side but personally I give them both credit for being rude and tired of dealing with each other. I know I am.
It sucks to be persecuted and it sucks to be called a racist when you are doing a dangerous job. It also sucks to have diabetes, or be poor, unpopular in highschool or have a shitty job for lousy pay. But some of us put that aside and make friends that make some of the sting go away. Then we go on with our lives without ending up in the papers for “answering the door” or “responding to a complaint”.
@Skepthink: No, Gates was foolish. Being a dick or not has nothing to do with his getting arrested. Think of it like dealing with a dog you don’t know. If you get bit, it’s your fault. But the dog is still dangerous. Right/Wrong or Dick/not Dick isn’t relevant.
@sowellfan: Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing if thatâ€™s true, because you were polite and cooperative with the police.
I agree, there is no way to know if that is true. I was speculating based on stories I’ve heard both in the media and from black friends. I used the words ‘I think…’ deliberately. :)
The versions of any story being told by the participants are likely to be biased in their own favor, so I don’t completely believe either party’s account of the incident. I just think that if Gates actually did present ID the way he says he did that should be the end of it.
The new information about the officer being a diversity trainer is very interesting and really should make all of us re-examine our assumptions about the veracity of either account.
Yeah. There should be more information surfacing soon.
It’s an interesting case, no matter how it plays out. I mean, we want to believe that police officers always have the best interest of the people they serve in mind, and we want to believe that Harvard professors are upstanding citizens. But as skeptics and rationalists and people that live in the real world, we know that neither is necessarily true.
@Skepthink: Knowing how devastating can a racism accusation be for policemen, I donâ€™t think they would have risked that possibility lightly.
I don’t think that there’s any accusation of intentional, well considered, carefully thought out racism.
I think you should take from the small roll. If every takes from the big roll they disappear at the same rate and you won’t get any new toilet paper until they both run out. If everyone takes from the smaller roll, it will run out and be replaced making it very unlikely you’ll ever run completely.
I’m sorry. It’s not? What was the question again?
@sowellfan: I mean, police officers interact with African Americanâ€™s quite often, and they donâ€™t end up hauling them all to jail on trumped up charges.
What, never? Are you seriously saying that this never happens? I can’t believe you would be that naive.
So maybe your are excusing it as bad attitude on the black persons part, and not racism, when it does happen?
Just because you should treat cops like nitroglycerin as a matter of practice doesn’t mean that the police don’t do unethical things. And in this case, just because Gates could have avoided being arrested by being submissive doesn’t mean that he deserved to be arrested.
Ever heard the adage “Don’t blame the victim?”
@the Procrastinatrix: The new information about the officer being a diversity trainer is very interesting and really should make all of us re-examine our assumptions about the veracity of either account.
It should? Why? Maybe it should make us reevaluate what constitutes diversity training in this police department. Maybe we should wonder why this department has a bad rep, per @cemeterygates, if they have such a stellar diversity training program…
Know what I mean?
I completely agree! I think they should design holders like that in public restrooms so that you only have access to one roll at a time, and then you just slide a plate or something to access a new one. If you have one huge roll and just a smaller back-up one, eventually the back-up roll will also be used up and you risk having none at all, or you can replace it when it’s low but not completely gone, but that’s a waste. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who thinks about stupid stuff like this.
Also, did you ever notice that an N is just a sideways Z?
I got pulled over because the police were looking for a guy on a motorcycle in the area where I was. Told to sit on the curb and not to move.
Profiling? Hell yes. I said thank you when the officers handed my identification back and told me to have a good evening.
So, here we have a report of at least one black man breaking into a house in a neighborhood with a history of break-ins.
Kind of like complaining of profiling when the police pull over hispanics near the border when looking for illegal hispanic immigrants. Or persons of middle eastern descent when looking for arab terrorists.
No, it’s not right, but some compromises need to be made to enforce the laws of the land.
Really, would you pull over an small oriental woman while looking for a large carjacker in dark clothes , simply to avoid a profiling label?
@cemeterygates: I think your comment is the best, here – it’s basically what I was thinking, reading through this.
I’ve had to break into my house a couple of times, and my car at least once, and I always wondered if I’d be stopped by a cop. And ya know, I hoped that I would – that’s what cops are supposed to do, stop people who are breaking into places. And I figured I’d present my ID and we’d be done.
The truth likely lies somewhere between the two accounts, of course, but reading both of them, the only really big red flags (to me) appeared in Gates’ account. First, he said that the officer refused to identify himself – I call Bullshit on that. Officers *always* identify themselves – heck, their badge number is right on their chest. It doesn’t make sense for an officer not to identify themselves.
Secondly, Gates’ account implies that he acted calmly, politely and rationally the whole time. I doubt it – that makes it sound like the cop arrested him for no reason at all, and I find that unlikely as well.
I suspect that things went down more or less as the cop said they did. However, that doesn’t feel like justification for an arrest. Once the cop had verified that Gates was the resident, he was done, and should have left, regardless of how big a dick Gates was being.
I am sorry, but that is some of the most ignorant crap I have ever read here at Skepchick.
Police officers racially profile and base their decisions on racism ALL THE TIME. I mean god damned.
So the police get this call that two black men are seen breaking in to a home. I am thinking that when they get to the house and find a black man standing there they are going to think that they have there man and they are going to make sure that they are not letting go some one who they feel is guilty. Did they take there time and not just accept the answer of the guy they caught? Yes. I know if I was in that situation I would have been happy that the cops were there and been understanding that they are just doing there job and would hope that if the situation happened that this was a real break in that they would do the same thing and catch the ass hole who broke into my house. Should the cops have arrested Gates? No, but I would have been really pissed if I was a cop and here you are trying to stop a break in and this guy is yelling at me and giving me shit. Cops can be dicks, and they will use there authority to there advantage and you have to watch them like a hawk. You can push cops only so far and when you go over that line you are going to lose and you are going to lose big time.When it comes to a pissing match between you and a cop you are going to lose every time. That is why we have judges. It is them that you argue your case with not cops. Cops have a dangerous and thankless job. I am glad they are there,but you also need Judges there to keep the police force in check.
Officers *always* identify themselves â€“ heck, their badge number is right on their chest. It doesnâ€™t make sense for an officer not to identify themselves.
Absolutely false. Remember that video where the cops were tasering a student and refused to give their badge number to passer-bys? And threatened to taser the students who asked?
It always amazes me when otherwise rational and skeptical people invest any sort of trust in the police department. As our good President said yesterday, (I paraphrase), it is a fact that African-Americans and Hispanics are disproportionately and unreasonably targeted by police officers.
Sure, Gates may have been acting like a dick, but “being a dick” shouldn’t be against the law.
This is sarcasm, right? RIGHT?
@marilove: Sorry but a bunch of so called skeptics using their own prejudices to decide a racism case they only read about in the news is a bigger load IMO.
@muddgirl: And what about the cops that shot that african american kid IN THE BACK? I mean, clearly cops don’t use their power inappropriately, especially against minorities! (That was sarcasm.)
I mean come on.
I live in Maricopa County, where we have Sheriff Joe. His racism is celebrated.
@PrimevilKneivel: I can’t really comment on this case at hand because I don’t know enough, but some of the comments here regarding police officers are hilariously naive.
I’m curious: How many of you commenting saying that police officers are never racist (LOL) are POC?
@Zoltan: First, he said that the officer refused to identify himself â€“ I call Bullshit on that. Officers *always* identify themselves â€“ heck, their badge number is right on their chest. It doesnâ€™t make sense for an officer not to identify themselves.
Another dangerous misconception. Police officers do NOT always identify themselves by name, or on request, and not all departments issue badge numbers.
Depending on the police officer, asking them to identify themselves may be considered an aggressive act or an attempt to undermine their authority. When interacting with a police officer, do not request their name and badge number. It could escalate the situation into places you don’t want to go. Remember, they expect you to comply with them.
@xenu: RESPECT MY AUTHORITIE!
Your avatar made me do it.
Yep. Officers never, ever do fucked up things in the name of racism.
I am just amazed at how naive some of you are.
I haven’t used it in awhile and I thought I would air it out on this topic.
@PrimevilKneivel: Your right, of course. On both sides. None of us know whether the arresting officer is a racist. What we know is that he is a police officer who arrested somebody at their own house without any particularly good reason.
That’s basically the reasoning behind the PATRIOT act. No, we should not “compromise” in the name of safety.
If you were looking for a specific large carjacker, then you probably shouldn’t pull over any small person. However, it is incredibly foolish to assume that criminals can only look a certain way. It’s a tactic of drug dealers to get average-looking people to use as drug mules, because they won’t look as suspicious. The same can apply to any crime. I know a rapist who is a perfectly average white boy. He doesn’t look like a dark, gruff stranger that you might find in a dark alley. Because of this, he got away with his crime. A lot of stalkers get away with their crimes because they look so innocent. It’s a common mistake to believe that sweet little old lady must be innocent, but it’s just not always true.
Yep. Officers never, ever do fucked up things in the name of racism.
I am just amazed at how naive some of you are.
I don’t think any one has written that cops are all saints here. I think some people here have more trust in the police then others and there are different levels of trust for both sides. Hell you don’t have to tell me about crooked cops I live in the Chicago area. I think we perfected the mold here.
And I quote:
I mean that is fucking hilarious.
Seems to me they think cops are saints.
I think xenu makes a good point.
If you are fererring to sowellfan’s comment, why the exaggerated incredulity before you’ve received a response? It seemed to me that there was no belief on sowellfan’s part that all cops are angels in that comment.
The quote . . .
. . .implies that they do haul some to jail on trumped up charges.
Your outrage seems misplaced.
@Sam Ogden: Your outrage seems misplaced.
Not really. Because sowellfan’s clear implication is that when african americans are hauled off to jail on trumped up charges, it’s either their own damn fault, or possibly that a white person would get the same treatment.
These are outrage worthy ideas, first because you should not blame the victim of an injustice for being uppity, and second because it shows a clear lack of regard for the role that racism plays in many power relationships in our society, including the police. This lack of regard is the reason is one reason why we cannot seem to shake this whole black/white problem, and it is worth being outraged about.
“””Being a dick or not has nothing to do with his getting arrested.”””
WTF? Evidently it does. Had he not resisted officers by being a dick (i.e. not complying), nothing would have happened.
“””Think of it like dealing with a dog you donâ€™t know. If you get bit, itâ€™s your fault.”””
First you said that we should not mess with the police because they’re like animals (irrational), and now you say that we should not mess with them because we don’t know them? Man, either we know them or we don’t.
“””But the dog is still dangerous. Right/Wrong or Dick/not Dick isnâ€™t relevant.”””
How is it supposed to be irrelevant that the guy resisted police? Is it trivial? Is there no difference if, given a dangerous animal, one messes with it and some else doesn’t?
I think I am starting to understand cops.
No. You’re way off the trail.
Marilove expressed outrage at this comment:
Her outrage was at her perceived naivete of some of the commenters (swollenfan in particular) for believing cops aren’t corrupt and/or don’t discriminate based on race. Certainly they are, and they do. And yes, that is indeed outrage worthy.
However, I was pointing out that sowellfanâ€™s comment did not imply that he/she believes all cops are clean-cut boy scouts. In fact, it implies that some cops are in fact corrupt and racist, which would belie any measure of naivete.
And given that, her outrage seems misplaced.
@Skepthink: Is there no difference if, given a dangerous animal, one messes with it and some else doesnâ€™t?
I’m pointing out that Gates, like many people on this board, may not have realized that he was dealing with a dangerous animal, or he may not have understood how to do so.
That does not make him a dick.
@Skepthink: Man, either we know them or we donâ€™t.
I may personally know some dogs and not know others. Some dogs may be harmless. Some dogs may be mean. If I don’t know the dog, I should not treat the dog like it is harmless.
I’m not sure why this concept is confusing and angering for you.
@Skepthink: Even if you are not a dick, if you behave like one, the officer doesnâ€™t have to be the one to tell the difference.
While we’re being outraged, I might as well point out that being a dick is not a crime. It isn’t a good reason to arrest you. It’s an excuse to violate you.
Arresting someone for being a dick is inexcusable, cowardly, expensive, dickish, and stupid. It’s the action of a bully.
Being aware that the police do very bad things, and trying to avoid having those things done to you, is not the same as excusing the bad things.
@Sam Ogden: Perhaps. However. sewellfan did make the claim that Gates must have been very out of line to be arrested, which is extremely naive.
@James Fox: COTW!
As far as racial profiling, I think there was. This is just a hypothesis, but, I think Gates saw a white officer, and racially profiled him to assume the officer was going to give him a hard time. This became a self-fulfilling prophesy.
I can’t say whether the arrest was valid, or invalid, as, FWIU, verbal assult is still considered assult. There was a claim of Gates stating “I’ll talk to your momma”. While that in and of itself is not very offensive, it does show intent.
I think that some people have had bad experiences with cops, and have taken that disdain to represent the standard, not the exception. While I understand there are bad cops out there, they are human. That is neither an excuse, nor a defence. It ackowledges that not even they are immune to gaps in logic. I’d like to think the racist ones are vastly outnumbered by those who put the law first, but, alas, I have nothing to back that up.
@sethmanapio & @marilove:
I think if you’d look at my prior comment in it’s full context, you’d be a bit less outraged, and find me a bit less naive. I was responding to Procrastinatrix who said,
If I had an african american employee in that same situation [this is, the same situation that Procrastinatrix found herself in], I really do think things would be very, very different.
My response was that she behaved calmly in her dealings with the police (which she detailed) – and the example that we see in Mr. Gates’ situation isn’t just an issue of black vs. white – it’s an issue of vast differences in behavior, compared to Procrastinatrix. Further, I acknowledged that police would look at an African-American house sitter in a different light, but I thought that the results of calm behavior would be substantively similar to what she experienced. If you read what I actually wrote, you’ll find no support for the notion that police officers are angels, or that they never behave in a racist manner. I’m fully willing to acknowledge that officers sometimes assault people, lie, arrest on false charges, etc. But, the main point of my post remains true, in my opinion. Police officers *do* interact with African-Americans every day – and I believe that the vast majority of the African-Americans end up walking away from the interaction – not being driven away in the back of a patrol car on trumped up charges. That’s the whole point of this video.
What made the difference for Mr. Gates? Almost certainly, it was his behavior. Perhaps his behavior didn’t meet the statutory requirements for “disorderly conduct”, and the officer should have just ignored the screaming and walked away – but even if the arrest wasn’t justified, I don’t see any evidence that it was based on race. I’ve seen plenty of white trash folks get tossed into the back of a cruiser on COPS for the same type of stuff.
Well, I was a cop for 22 years here in Phoenix. If I got a call that someone was trying to break into a home and I got there and someone was inside, I would not leave until that person showed me some ID. No matter what color he was. I mean, if the guy says â€œitâ€™s ok, I live hereâ€ and I just take his work for it and walk away, Iâ€™m going to be in deep trouble for not doing my job if the guy turns out to be a burglar. So that part of the story is just as it should have been. I would not be giving the guy in the house any information until he showed me ID. I would not show him my ID first or give him my badge # until I had seen his ID. A few reasons for that:
1. You would be allowing a possible suspect to dictate how the events unfold. You would be giving him the position of authority which is not how it should be until you have established that he is in fact the home owner.
2. You would be allowing him to distract your attention away from the issue at hand. The issue is not who I am. I arrived in a police car and Iâ€™m in police uniform. The issue is who is the guy in the house. Any attempt at distracting me from finding out his identity is going to cause me to get suspicious. Is he trying to stall while someone walks up behind me with a gun? What is the deal if it is his house?
After he has IDâ€™ed himself, sure, I would write down my name, number and the name of my supervisor, just like I did hundreds of times.
Iâ€™ve read the report. The events outside the house could have gone either way. Hindsight is always 20/20. But you are dealing with an agitated person and you donâ€™t know him. He is in front of the house yelling. Iâ€™m going to assume that the police report is accurate. The report claims that there were witnesses and, at this point, they are bound to be contacted to either back up or refute the officerâ€™s story. But say it is accurate. What are you going to do now? Do you drive away and hope he calms down? Leave an unstable situation behind you and hope that it gets better? What if he run in and grabs a gun and starts shooting people. Who will get the blame for that? All you can do is try to get him to calm down. Warn him of what will happen if he does not calm down and if he does not heed the warnings, then itâ€™s time for jail. I might have done it different. I would have likely told him I was calling my supervisor to the scene and asked him to go back into his home until my supervisor arrived and he could then make his complaint. But that is easy to say here at my keyboard in a calm, quiet environment with no crowd gathering.
From my point of view, this is mostly the fault of Gates. If he had listened to what the officer said and then just said â€œhey, itâ€™s been a bad day, I forgot my keys. I live here and here is some proof. Thanks for checking on me.â€ This would have been a nothing deal. But then, he would not have gotten his name all over the papers and gotten so much attention.
But you are dealing with an agitated person and you donâ€™t know him. He is in front of the house yelling.
You are dealing with an agitated person in front of his own house yelling at you. If you go away, it is reasonable to assume he’ll stop. There is absolutely no reason in the world why he would start shooting at people.
I know that, as a police officer yourself, you are going to tend to justify police behavior. But I think in this case it’s a stretch.
@James Fox: Seconded for COTW.
As far as racial profiling, I think there was. This is just a hypothesis, but, I think Gates saw a white officer, and racially profiled him to assume the officer was going to give him a hard time. This became a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Thank-you. For some reason, it seems like 99.99% of the time that someone brings up racism, it always is “white-on-black” or “white-on-Hispanic.” I’m happy to know that there are other people out there who at least consider the possibility that it can go the other direction.
@sethmanapio (in general): It sounds like you’ve got some deep-seated hatred for the police. To me, it seems like if you treat a police officer like a “dangerous animal” then that’s exactly how he will react.
Personally, I treat bears as dangerous animals, because that’s what they are. I treat police officers as human beings because that’s what they are …
It is especially not illegal to be a dick inside your own house.
Especially in Massachusetts. While it is technically possible for a law-abiding resident of Massichusetts to own a gun, I don’t think there is any way to get a gun from the dealer to one’s home without violating several state or local laws.
@catgirl: “””One team actually said that college students wouldnâ€™t cheat (…) because they wouldnâ€™t risk the possibility of being expelled. But students do cheat, and cops do racist things (…)”””. And because there’re a bunch of idiots who think they’re smarter than teachers, all children who comply do it because they give a damn about authority, right? Let me think, did your team loss that staged debate?
“””Itâ€™s not illegal to be a dick, and certainly plenty of people act like dicks without getting arrested.”””
As you may have failed to understand, “to be a dick” in the present situation means “resist the police”, which IS indeed illegal.
“””when someone does get arrested for being a dick, it makes me think that there is an additional reason that they are doing it.”””
Sure, they are doing it with somebody, the police, who can’t waste time in their teenage problems.
“””Maybe if police arrested anyone acting like a dick, I would give them the benefit of the doubt. However, thatâ€™s not the case.”””
As far as I am concerned, it is.
“””First of all, arresting or harassing someone is not just a case of bad manners.”””
It is true. The policemen were not even impolite. They actually turned out to be pretty sensible, given the circumstances. I don’t know why I doubted their “manners” in the first place, probably I was being judgmental.
“””we shouldnâ€™t let police do whatever they want just because they have tough job.”””
Sure, WE ARE DEALING WITH THE PARTICULAR CASE IN WHICH SOMEBODY RESISTS THEM. Unless you assume that to be the norm, this situation won’t escalate and you’re just using a slippery slope to build a straw-man against the issue at stake.
“””need to be held to the highest standards in our society.”””
Even standards have different magnitudes. Policemen may be high in respect, but need not be high in manners. Being blunt does not mean your disrespectful.
“””when we need protection from the police themselves?”””
What’s that? A conspiracy theory? Lovely.
@TimmyD: Personally, I treat bears as dangerous animals, because thatâ€™s what they are. I treat police officers as human beings because thatâ€™s what they are â€¦
Another dangerous misconception. A police officer out of uniform, relaxing in a social situation, is a human being. A police officer in uniform, policing a community, should be dealt with very, very differently.
@Skepthink: the blockquote tag is your friend.
I’m not saying the officer is blameless here. There were other ways it could have gone outside the house. Different officers have different degrees of skill when it comes to dealing with people who are being jerks. I think it is likley that with more effort and time it could have been dealt with without taking anyone to jail. But I don’t agree that he could have just driven away. You can’t leave an unresolved situation behind you without knowing what will happen. He had no reason to run in and grab a gun. But he had no reason to follow the officer and yell at him either. Not everyone you talk to responds in a reasonable and rational way. Not everyone is sane. Once you respond to a situation, you can’t really leave until it is resolved. He might have calmed down if the officer left. But he might not. He might be unstable, he might be high on drugs, or off his meds. You really need to be there until he either calms down or you resolve it in some other way.
If the responding office had been black, I think things would have gone down different from start to finish. So who is the racist?
@TimmyD: To me, it seems like if you treat a police officer like a â€œdangerous animalâ€ then thatâ€™s exactly how he will react.
In my experience, this is exactly wrong. When I treat police officers like dangerous animals, I don’t have any problems at all. They seem to appreciate the fact that I am being very, very careful not to upset them in any way.
You are mistaking reasonable caution for deep seated hatred. This is really more your problem then mine, I think.
@Skepthink: Sure, WE ARE DEALING WITH THE PARTICULAR CASE IN WHICH SOMEBODY RESISTS THEM.
Not in this case we aren’t. There was no resistance, just attitude.
You are mistaking reasonable caution for deep seated hatred. This is really more your problem then mine, I think.
I acknowledge the point. I misunderstood what you were saying, mostly because I don’t understand how your story of walking away from a cop and then being forcibly arrested constitutes abuse on their part — which triggered a notion in my brain saying “He thinks the Po-Po are out to get him!” — which colored the rest of your statements.
They seem to appreciate the fact that I am being very, very careful not to upset them in any way.
As does just about every single human being I’ve encountered.
@sethmanapio: LOL. And a suicide bomber is not crazy, he just has an attitude problem.
You realize at this point this is no longer an argument, right? :-D
@TimmyD: I donâ€™t understand how your story of walking away from a cop and then being forcibly arrested constitutes abuse on their part
Maybe you missed the six cops on top of me, the injuries, the intimidation, and the false report. Get real, dude. It was an abuse of power. Not police brutality, but I never claimed it.
And, a citizen not under arrest has the right to walk away from a police officer, especially if he has already given said police officer his particulars, which I had.
So again, it is really your inability to see out of your world that is the problem here, not my attitude towards the police.
@Skepthink: Resisting arrest (or even resisting) has a definition, and this guy didn’t do it.
@TimmyD: As does just about every single human being Iâ€™ve encountered.
We don’t do this with people who are not heavily armed and in uniform. So you don’t treat the cops like human beings. Point made.
If I’m a black criminal in that area I’m breaking into that dude’s house. There’s no way the cops will even approach someone, even if clearly breaking the law.
Cameras. If you are stopped by the police get your mobile out and record everything.
@kevinf: Thereâ€™s no way the cops will even approach someone, even if clearly breaking the law.
I doubt any cop is going to miss a chance to make an easy bust.
Keep in mind that this officer was responding to a “burglary in progress” potentially one of the most dangerous/stressful situations an officer can face, especially without back up. Gates is probably lucky the officer didn’t kick in his door with weapon drawn, handcuff him and THEN check his bona fides.
I mean really! If you were a cop arriving at a home and was told that a burglar was inside, possibly armed, would you have calmly knocked on the door first?
I don’t see any racism here but two men who did overreact to the other.
@TimmyD: As does just about every single human being Iâ€™ve encountered.
And this is bullshit anyway. Most human beings appreciate it if you ask them questions about themselves and show an interest. They do not expect you to act subservient and to keep your hands in site at all times, or to be careful not to turn away from them, or to respond promptly and briefly to any and all queries with no attempt to ascertain why they want answers to these questions.
So in fact, if you treat most human beings the way that it is smart to treat a uniformed police officer, they would think you were seriously damaged.
Iâ€™ve worked with many dozens of law enforcement officers and deputies over the past twenty three years. They are indeed human like everyone else except they have a position of authority granted to them by all of us through enacted laws. Clearly an enormous level of responsibility comes along with that authority. Also along for the ride is a constant level of risk no matter what the situation an officer finds himself in. Most officers are reasonable honest people while a few Iâ€™ve known regularly inserted marginal recollections in reports and I’ve occasionally read what I knew to be totally false in a police report. Iâ€™ve also seen persons of color arrested when faced with the same situation the same officer did not arrest a white subject. People have a tendency to act in their own self interests, and all of us have that same tendency as do those in law enforcement. We all also have certain perceptions and internal â€œprofilesâ€ involving persons of other nationalities and racial groups. The more informed and accurate our knowledge base the less we will be led astray by our perceptions because they will be more accurate.
Iâ€™m in agreement with sethmanapoi in that itâ€™s absolutely reasonable to be cautious and circumspect when dealing with law enforcement. The simple reason being is the opportunity for misunderstanding and inaccurate recollection. And we all know how bad human memory really is. I’ve given this same advice to my two law abiding teenage children.
So in fact, if you treat most human beings the way that it is smart to treat a uniformed police officer, they would think you were seriously damaged.
I think our argument is stemming from the fact that we see “how to treat a police officer” in two different ways.
I say “Respect, courtesy, and an understanding that they’re doing their job and what they think is right in that particular instance.”
You say “Act subservient, don’t provoke them, don’t question.”
As a result, we’re arguing back and forth, each interpreting the other person’s comments colored by our own view of the issue, which isn’t getting us anywhere.
I’m open to suggestions on how to proceed from here.
My European History teacher in high school was a big Jewish guy. One summer he got REALLY tan traveling, and for the first two months of the fall semester he was late at least once a week because cops kept pulling him over. Once the tan faded, so did the profiling.
I think there should be a law that if cops stop a black guy and can’t actually demonstrate a good reason for stopping them (other than “this neighborhood is too nice for black people to be in” or “this car MUST be stolen, the dude is black”), they ought to be put in the stocks in the middle of the urban cesspool of the driver’s choice. In blackface. With Oasis t-shirts and Elvis glasses. I imagine that after a few months of that racial profiling would duck down a bit.
@TimmyD: I think our argument is stemming from the fact that we see â€œhow to treat a police officerâ€ in two different ways.
I’m looking at specific behaviors, I guess. Like, “Don’t ask questions. Do not request their name.” That is part of understanding the tough job, etc… but it also just isn’t how you behave around civilians.
I think once we acknowledge that, Gates’ mistake becomes, not resisting (which he did not do), but simply a refusal to be intimidated. With a police officer, that is a mistake, sometimes a fatal one.
Gates was in his OWN HOME. An officer of the law should respect law abiding citizens who have done nothing wrong, not look to cause more trouble.
“I apologize, sir. This was a mistake. Have a good evening.” The end!
I’m a bit late for this (and first time poster, but have been lurking for a while…)
But I would like to chime in some support for Sethmanapio, as I have also had some unpleasant encounters with police (though, nothing as extreme as yours), and I’ve known other people who have suffered from misuse/abuse of police authority.
Also, as a white guy, I can’t directly comment on how minorities experience racism, but at the same time, there is an awful lot of it out there, especially when you get away from your academic communities. I’ve been in numerous situations where I have had other white guys (otherwise perfectly respectable courteous people, etc.) confide in me either racist beliefs, or in some cases even actions. *shrugs* the only sense I could make of it was that they assumed because I was white I would share these beliefs or condone their actions.
Gates was standing on his porch when the cop walked back up the stairs, put handcuffs on him and arrested him.
I think the conflict may have been town vs gown, Cambridge police vs Harvard police. The Cambridge cop was on the verge of losing face in front of Cambridge and Harvard cops, so he had to act tough and not take anything from a Harvard professor.
Sam, you’re being disingenuous. Your post doesn’t read like you’re really “wondering”; it sounds like you think a cranky black man was mean to the cops and paid a price, so what’s the fuss? Your descriptions of Gates behavior includes qualifiers that make him seem oppositional and scary: he refused to show id then he”finally “showed id, he assertively questioned police motives, his behaviour “confused” the police, he “upbraided” the police. Then your questions are phrased in a way that presumes a white audience, or an audience without a direct stake in this discussion. The question formulated as “is it really____ or simply___” and that’s a fairly classic method of discounting or trivializing someone’s experience. Then you go to “Do you think there is a general tendency among traditionally oppressed minorities to find racism where there is none?”. That question makes me assume that you are assuming that you are talking to a wholly white audience which has a reliable method of determining whether or not “minorities” are really skilled in identifying racism. How about these questions: how can you tell the difference between racial profiling and over zealous policing? Have you ever been in a situation where you may have been in an increased degree of danger because of bigotry or stereotyping? What did you do? Have you ever had someone mad at you because they perceived your actions as discriminatory? How did you resolve this?
I hitchhike frequently and in my experience, dealing with the cops in a deferential and respectful manner gets you what you want with the least hassle.
If a cop is on your property and harassing you, you have a right to be upset about it. Maybe he could have been more accommodating, but I feel its understandable to want to chew out a cop who is overstepping their bounds. Its frustrating that cops see themselves as exempt from so many of society’s rules.
I probably would have been accommodating until it was confirmed I lived there, then I would have asked the cop to leave.
I think once we acknowledge that, Gatesâ€™ mistake becomes, not resisting (which he did not do), but simply a refusal to be intimidated. With a police officer, that is a mistake, sometimes a fatal one.
I agree with you on that point. Yay! Common ground! :)
@sethmanapio: Apparently, you are a jackass who has never watched an episode of “Cops”. There certainly *are* police officers who submit to torrents of abuse from people with whom they are interacting. I believe that are are probably some who do not react so well. Show some evidence. Your generalizing statements about the police need some support.
By the way, this comes from someone with strong libertarian leanings. I suspect the power of the state to be used against citizens, but your oh-so-clever posturing against all police officers needs some support to be credible.
@Finn McR: Apparently, you are a jackass who has never watched an episode of â€œCopsâ€.
Really? You’re going to cite “Cops” as a source on police behavior and then call me a jackass?
Wow. Now that’s some prime grade stupid.
@Finn McR: but your oh-so-clever posturing against all police officers
Except I did no such thing. What I did do was give advice about how to treat all police officers, specifically in the context that you don’t know how tolerant the specific cop you are dealing with is. But hey, I can’t blame you for not reading anything I wrote before jumping in and throwing your opinion around. You were probably busy watching cops… er “gathering support.”
I see I’m late to the party, but I must admit I’m surprised that you take this particular stance. I thought this was going to be one of the libertarian ideas that you and I would see eye-to-eye on.
I’m not commenting on Gates’ behavior, but more to your complete deference to the police. I agree with your assertion that a police officer is a ‘dangerous, volatile heavily armed animals’ (kinda made me chuckle a bit!), but they don’t deserve my respect by virtue of their uniform alone. If I called the cops for a break-in at my home, and the first thing they did when they saw me was “prove who you are!”, I’d loose my sh*t too.
The police are the armed, muscular-wing of the government and corporations and they overstep their bounds more times than I care to count. I’m grateful for the work they do, but only when they do their actual jobs, and not take the side of the state/property over the rights of individuals, which is far too often (do a google search for ‘Site 41 +police’ for something that I’m trying to fight right now in my hometown…it’s actually a very sad story and the police are protecting property, arresting peaceful protesters just for going NEAR the protest site).
Forgot to mention, I don’t know how the law works in the United States is in this respect, so I can’t comment.
But in Canada, when a police officer pulls you over, or makes a policey-demand on you, you don’t have to do anything until they tell you why. If they persist without telling you, they can be charged for violating the Constitution, sections 9-10 (protection from unlawful or arbitrary seizure, detention, or arrest). I actually had to pull out some of my politics education on a cop once:
I was driving 3 friends between Ottawa and Peterborough (about a 3 hour drive), and I was pulled over. Pretty standard, really….a car full of young people: that spells drinking and driving to a cop. I’m cool with this.
“License, ownership and insurance, sir?”
Even though I could pretty well guess as to the answer, I excercised my rights “Why was I pulled over?”
“License, ownership and insurance, sir?”
“No, you have to tell me why you pulled me over before I hand over anything.”
“Sir, do you have the documents I am peacefully requesting?”
“Then please produce said documents sir”
“No. Under section 9-10 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, you have to tell me why you are detaining me. If you do not, then you will have to appear before a judge in the morning and show cause. May I have your number please?”
“Have a good night sir, just making sure”
“Have a good night, officer.”
I was like dirty-grinch that day! “And they said that Steve’s balls grew 3-sizes that evening!”
Politics degree: I haz it. Politics knowledge: I uze it.
I got yer back on this one. Up here its how the police treat members of the First Nations communities. Like bloody savages, and it’s always always sad.
The poor communities don’t have it much better.
@sethmanapio: There is a large gap between your refusal to “be intimidated” and yelling at an officer just trying to do his job about being a racist jerk. I’m sorry that you have had bad experiences with police and I have not. I have a ccw (concealed carry weapon) permit in my state. If I’m ever stopped by police while driving (with or without a concealed handgun), I’ll turn off the engine, turn on the car’s interior lights, and put my hands on the wheel. Will it bug me that I have to do this because the police know that I have a ccw permit? Maybe. But I can also understand the officer’s position. He has just done a traffic stop on someone who might have a concealed handgun. He wants to go home to his wife and kids that night. (How many of you anti-police commenters have to face possible death as a part of your job every shift??). So, civil liberties-loving self that I am, I am going to make it as comfortable for both myself and the officer as possible.
The basic job of police, even if they are not obligated to ensure the safety of particular citizens, is to ensure a general level of safety to the people at large. Certainly some will abuse their power, but is that fraction enough to justify having no police force?
@Some Canadian Skeptic:
Sooooo, you don’t feel that it’s necessary to respect a police officer by virtue of their uniform alone? I take that to mean there position, not actually their uniform, but that still intrigues me a bit. I don’t think that fearing police is the right way about it, but showing respect definitely makes sense.
To use your example, if you call the police to your home, depending on the reason, expecting you to explain who you are is a matter of sorting out what is happening at the scene. How are they supposed to know that you are you, and not the person that was just there harassing you? It is in their (the police’s) best interest to determine who you are before proceeding, and it’s in your best interest to comply, so that the situation can be resolved, even if it is on your own property. If you are being disrespectful, it very well could lead them to believe that you are the perpetrator rather than the home owner (or resident).
BUT, to address the original topic – there are of course cases where racism plays a part. I don’t think this was one of them. I am very skeptical about this gentleman being calm and courteous to the police and the police turning around and arresting him. Now, I still think the police were overreacting by arresting him for being an asshole, no matter how colossal an asshole he may have been. The power of relieving someone’s personal freedom should not be used so cavalierly.
@sethmanapio: The point is that you posture about the only way to deal with all police as if they are all power-mad ***holes. I have had only two interactions with the police, one rousing out some parked cars in a park where funny business was going on (and yes, I was involved in some of the funny buisiness), and a second for a tail light out. I also know (as distant, not close friends) some police officers. You paint all cops with the broad brush of being power-mad, super-egotistical jerks who must be treated with kid gloves and never offended. Fine, you have your anecdotes and I have mine. Show some numbers. Let’s see the skeptical interpretation. I have now read your other posts, and they don’t add anything substantive. Get over your personal outrage and imagine a world without police.
@Finn McR: If Iâ€™m ever stopped by police while driving (with or without a concealed handgun), Iâ€™ll turn off the engine, turn on the carâ€™s interior lights, and put my hands on the wheel.
And my point is that you should always, always, always do this. Because the cop approaching you is armed and dangerous and should be put at ease, regardless of whether you have a permit or not.
As I already pointed out, I don’t paint all cops with any brush at all. I actually specifically said, repeatedly, that cops are all different.
But if you are confronted with a cop you don’t know, the smart move is to behave as if they are a power mad jerk who should not be offended. That is the behavior that, based on my own interviews with active police officers and other research, is least likely to end with your arrest or shooting.
That is the skeptical position, by the way. It is a documented fact (your “cops” watching expertise aside) that the police do abuse your power and do shoot unarmed people. My advice is not about my own personal outrage, it’s about behaviors that can help you avoid being the victim of said abuse.
@sethmanapio: …And certainly I reference “Cops” as a source. There is undoubtably editing that goes on with what is played on air. However, if you watch more than one episode, you see police officers doing their job, taking all kinds of verbal abuse (some totally crazy, some well-directed) and acting with professional aplomb.
Is this anecdotal and possibly biased evidence? Absolutely. However, it also shows that some police officers are remarkably resistant to verbal abuse. If you have specific numbers or specific studies showing the response of police to verbal abuse, I would really like to see them. I am curious as to whether serving police officers are better than the average person at resisting verbal abuse, etc. All I can say from a personal perspective is that I see officers responding calmly when I would be inclined the beat the **** out of some folks.
@Some Canadian Skeptic: Try that in an American city. Seriously. And enjoy your trip to jail.
To everyone else: do not, under any circumstances, start talking about your rights when being harassed by the police. Just give them the damn documents. It’s your best hope of not being arrested.
@Finn McR: And certainly I reference â€œCopsâ€ as a source. There is undoubtably editing that goes on with what is played on air.
So, basically, you are using, as a source, a heavily edited show that depends for source material on a good relationship with the police departments of America? And that portrays only police officers picked by their departments who know that they are being filmed?
I’m not sure you understand the meaning of the word “skeptic”.
@Finn McR: However, it also shows that some police officers are remarkably resistant to verbal abuse.
A position I don’t actually agree with. I’m not making any claims about how many police officers are “good” or “bad” or resistant to verbal abuse or not. Read my frackin’ comments again.
My advice is about how a citizen should approach an encounter with a police officer, if that citizen does not wish to be arrested. It’s possible that you could argue and not be arrested, but it is more likely that you will not be arrested if you do not argue. It only takes one slightly annoyed cop to ruin your whole evening, so why be stupid and risk offending them?
@sethmanapio: That is the skeptical position, by the way. It is a documented fact (your â€œcopsâ€ watching expertise aside) that the police do abuse your power and do shoot unarmed people.
I will agree that my personal experiences color my views. If I were Amadou Diallou (Spelling??) I probably should have different expectations, so I take your point to that extent.
@sethmanapio: A position I donâ€™t actually agree with.
Edit: that’s a position I don’t DISagree with.
@sethmanapio: I may have taken away a wrong (or overly-emphasized) basis for you recommendations for how to behave with police. I don’t think that “the police” are our enemies. I agree that it is totally possible to encounter one who is personally, or at that moment, an enemy. I am also a devoted civil libertatian, so if I am not violating any law, I don’t want the government to mess with me. Also, if I am going about my private business, I don’t want the government to think that it has an interest in what I am doing.
I suspect that we are closer in effective opinion than this row suggests. But, I like the police. I like (and believe) that they are willing to work a shift with the overall goal of enforcing the laws of the USA.
When dealing with anyone carrying a loaded firearm, it’s probably best to make them comfortable, so maybe we can just agree on that…
I can’t agree that watching a subset of police officers being harrangued but not getting agitated shows that some police officers are remarkably resistant to verbal abuse. Contend about the percentage if you want/can, but I still find that to be demonsterable evidence that *some* are. I’m happy to be proven wrong on this if there are good measurements, because I think that it is counter-intuitive.
@Some Canadian Skeptic: I see Iâ€™m late to the party, but I must admit Iâ€™m surprised that you take this particular stance. I thought this was going to be one of the libertarian ideas that you and I would see eye-to-eye on.
Well… I’ll tell ya…
I just don’t think it is smart to be hostile to heavily armed gang members, regardless of their colors. American cops will arrest you if you challenge them. It is, as @daedalus2u mentioned, a “town vs. gown” thing… no one, least of all a police officer, wants to lose face or let you disrespect them in some way. So I advise taking the smart, rather than strictly ethical, route when faced with a cop.
In this case, I don’t think there was any racism: I think that Gates’ did not expect that the police officer would dare to arrest him, and I doubt seriously that the officer realized that arresting Gates’ would lead to a reprimand from POTUS. This was just a simple case of “Who has the biggest package” which Gates has clearly and definitively won.
Let’s look at this logically. If you returned home and discovered that you couldn’t get in your house and thus were forced to essentially break down the door, what exactly would you expect? When the police showed up, you would most likely understand that although it were your house, someone watching from across the street might find this suspicious. Would you verbally abusive to the investigating officer? Or would you simply provide identification and apologize for the inconvenience?
Another question, if it weren’t you breaking into your own house but someone up to no good, would you want a neighbor to call the police? I sure as heck would. Therefore I would be more than accommodating to the police when they came to check things out. Gates has lived his entire life with prejudice and racism. The sentiment is understandable. But now he sees everything through that lens. A police officer is never just doing his job when a black man is the subject in his eyes. They lenses see nothing but profiling. It’s actually kind of sad.
The incident could have been diffused at any number of points along the way. The officer could have simply walked to his cruiser and left. Gates could have shown a bit more respect for the job the officer does. But I think at its core the incident was Gates’ fault.
@sethmanapio: “””Except I did no such thing.”””
WTF? Do you write your own comments? The first thing you said was that policemen in general were animals, and then you even used the dog parable. Do you really think you specified anything at all? Just abstract, abstract, abstract: all cops are animals, law is bad, law enforcers suck. Denying it just makes it funny.
“” But hey, I canâ€™t blame you for not reading anything I wrote before jumping in and throwing your opinion around.”””
It was in your own comments, dude. Take it easy. Either somebody is using your Gravatar or you have a consistency disorder.
“””You were probably busy watching copsâ€¦ er â€œgathering support.â€”””
But the worst is that you are dismissing cops’ opinions because of their being cops, whereas all your opinions, based on your own bad personal experience with cops seem to be the holy truth for you.
I guess if it works for you, that’s your particular make of skepticism.
@Finn McR: Contend about the percentage if you want/can, but I still find that to be demonsterable evidence that *some* are.
I agree. Some police officers have very long fuses. My point is really that if you don’t personally know a given police officer, it would be foolish to assume that he or she is one of those officers. Sort of my Cops version of Pascal’s wager, except that cops exist.
@Some Canadian Skeptic: Re: post 111: Awesome. Know your rights and how/when to reference them.
@sethmanapio: My point is really that if you donâ€™t personally know a given police officer, it would be foolish to assume that he or she is one of those officers. Sort of my Cops version of Pascalâ€™s wager, except that cops exist.
Ha ha. That is good… Peace…
@Skepthink: Just abstract, abstract, abstract: all cops are animals, law is bad, law enforcers suck. Denying it just makes it funny.
I never said that law was bad, or that all law enforcers suck, or anything even remotely like that. That’s completely off the mark.
As for cops as animals, let’s check some actual quotes, shall we?
So there’s an explicit statement in my “parable” that all cops are not the same! Did I say this anywhere else?
Yes. Yes I did.
So basically, yes: I do think I specified what my position was, and that you are wrong about the information in my statements. I maintain that the skeptical position is to act as if the police officer you are dealing with is an unreasonable dick unless you know otherwise.
This has nothing to do with my own experience except in so far as I am not utterly naive about what some policemen consider justification to arrest or assault someone. But any actual research into police behavior, or indeed a casual attention to the news, would yield the same conclusions.
@Some Canadian Skeptic: There’s something similar to that in Wyoming if you are pulled over. According to my father, who is currently a city police detective and has been a county sheriff’s department officer and city police officer, is that you do not have to do anything but show proof of identity. If you’re dumb enough to be driving without your license, you still have 24 hours to be able to show proof of it. Otherwise, you don’t have to answer any questions or do anything else they ask.
As one who’s been and lived amongst the poor for his entire life, I’ve got to say this would never happen to a rich white guy, EVER!
Was the guy stupid for stepping out of his house, yes. (Even a four year old in the hood knows that, they couldn’t have arrested him then). Would this have happened to a white real estate mogul, hell no and show me one example of when it did.
Basically, if that had happened to me, once I showed ID it would be over. I have too many friends that could count on the opposite, in front of my own eyes, to be pleased about that.
If this happened on my street, to me (as it has and I look pretty white), I’d be loose in a minute. If it happened to one of my darker skinned friends and neighbors (as it has) I’d be paying the bail for them.
Post racial Amerikkka my @ss,
BTW: For those of you wondering about my previous posts, yes It’s true, I fear the police more than the drug dealers. Drug dealers KEEP order. Around here anyway…
@ddr: He had no reason to run in and grab a gun. But he had no reason to follow the officer and yell at him either.
I’ll quibble here: he had a reason to follow the officer and yell at him… the officer had made him angry.
Look, I agree that policing is a tough job. And I understand that there are times when it just seems easier to arrest the guy and let someone else deal with it. I even agree that this was probably not entirely a racial thing on the cops part.
But I think that there is also a status thing here. Would you agree that some police officers feel a need to defend their status, and do not like being challenged?
By the various transcripts it seems that Gates is being a jerk. If I had to break into my own home, and then the police showed up, should I start yelling about how I am a white man in america??
It is racism to shout at a police officer because you think that he is against you simply because he has “white” skin. The conclusion from reading the two transcripts is that Mr. Gates is the one who brought “race” into it; vociferously. Should the police officer have arrested him on what is, essentially, a trumped-up charge? No. Is Mr. Gates a totally innocent, put-upon victim? Don’t think so.
@sethmanapio: “””I never said that law was bad, or that all law enforcers suck, or anything even remotely like that.”””
No, you simply openly denied that cops were human beings and called them dangerous animals. That’s far worse than saying that law enforcers suck. There you go a salad of literalness. In your own words:
1) Think of it like dealing with a dog you donâ€™t know. If you get bit, itâ€™s your fault. But the dog is still dangerous. [NO SPECIFICATION, TALKING IN THE ABSTRACT, PLUS DOG PARABLE]
2) Just because you should treat cops like nitroglycerin as a matter of practice doesnâ€™t mean that the police donâ€™t do unethical things. [NO SPECIFICATION, AGAIN ABSTRACT, NITROGLYCERIN PARABLE]
3) Gates, like many people on this board, may not have realized that he was dealing with a dangerous animal, or he may not have understood how to do so. [NO SPECIFICATION, ABSTRACT, “DANGEROUS ANIMAL” USED AS A CATEGORY, V.GR. TARANTULAS, BUT ABOUT POLICEMEN INSTEAD. ARE THERE HARMLESS TARANTULAS? CAN YOU EVEN SPECIFY THE CATEGORY “DANGEROUS ANIMAL” TO “NON-DANGEROUS ANIMAL”. SO, ALL POLICEMEN ARE LIKE GATES’. SURE, DUDE.]
4) Being aware that the police do very bad things [NO SPECIFICATION, ABSTRACT]
5) Another dangerous misconception. A police officer out of uniform, relaxing in a social situation, is a human being. [DENYING AN EMPIRICAL FACT -YOU’RE CLOSE TO RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM AS FAR AS YOUR HATRED OF LAW IS CONCERNED]
6) When I treat police officers like dangerous animals, I donâ€™t have any problems at all. [SAME]
7) I doubt any cop is going to miss a chance to make an easy bust. [SAME]
8) a refusal to be intimidated. With a police officer, that is a mistake, sometimes a fatal one. [SAME]
9) What I did do was give advice about how to treat all police officers [DO YOU SEE THE “ALL” IN YOUR OWN CLAIM? THAT MEANS “NO SPECIFICATION, I’M TALKING IN GENERAL”]
And you’ll still deny you were talking in the general. Simply unbeliveable.
Yeah, if it’s been one thing I’ve learned from experience and from the stupid things my dad’s told me about and the dumb stories people have told me is that you do not start shit with a police officer, even if they’re being a complete asshole. If Dr. Gates has an agenda to pursue, then he needs to do it in the forum and in the court room.
@Skepthink: And youâ€™ll still deny you were talking in the general. Simply unbeliveable.
Yes, your level of reading incomprehension is unbelievable. I was particularly startled by your inability to separate advice about how to behave with all police officers from a statement about the nature of all police officers.
I can’t help but wonder if you are being deliberately misleading.
I was also particular bemused by your statement that I “hate” all police officers, given the paucity of evidence to support this extraordinary (and inaccurate) claim. I never said I disliked the police at all, actually.
The strangest thing, though, is that the quotes you selected don’t support you: when I say “It is a bit like dealing with a dog that you don’t know. If you get bit…” it is obvious that the nature of the dog is an open question. Otherwise, it would be when you get bit, not if. And “the police do bad things” is a complete accurate statement. The police do bad things. They do good things. They do things that are not particularly bad or good. Your problem is that you are so convinced that you have me pegged that you have inserted an imaginary “exclusively” in that sentence, and attributed it to me. But if you look closely, you will find it is not there.
Yes. I will continue to claim that I made it excruciatingly clear that there are different kinds of cops in the world. And yes, a good skeptical position is to assume that you are dealing with an unreasonable one.
I’m going to go with deliberately misleading. I can’t come up with a better explanation for your behavior than that. For example, I said
You qoute mined the first sentence, adding the commentary: DENYING AN EMPIRICAL FACT -YOU’RE CLOSE TO RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM AS FAR AS YOUR HATRED OF LAW IS CONCERNED
But if you read the second sentence, I don’t deny an empirical fact at all. I don’t claim that the essential genetic makeup of the officer has changed. I make a claim that you should change your behavior if that police officer is in uniform. And there is no hatred there at all, certainly not fanatical hatred. You are just lying.
@SkepLit: “As far as â€œis this racialâ€, I expect it did not start out that way.”
It probably did, though – this is an assumption, but the (white, female) neighbor called the police because two (black, male) people were having issues with the front door of her neighbor’s house. (In the middle of the afternoon… in broad fucking daylight…)
I’m not sure how long he’d been gone, or how long she lived there, but you’d *think* that she’d be able to recognize her freakin’ neighbor, or at least know that a black man lived there.
I agree that both sides probably acted foolishly, and I’ll contend that the cop might have started off acting completely calm and lost it when met with yelling and defiance. However, I’ve been known to be defensive when something I’m sensitive to comes up – like being “attacked” for being female, atheist, vegetarian, foulmouthed, or skeptical.
I agree that we can’t really tell what happened from the accounts of the two main players – we need the witness accounts, too.
However, for those who think cops can’t keep their cool when being yelled at, have you seen this video? I couldn’t remain calm with this guy going on and on… (which is one of several reasons why I’m not a cop).
@Skepthink: I doubt any cop is going to miss a chance to make an easy bust.
I’ll cop to that one. That is a casual generalization, and I apologize to all police. I would like to amend my statement to the following: I doubt that most police officers would miss a chance to make an easy bust, especially for burglary.
@â€œOtherâ€ Amanda: However, for those who think cops canâ€™t keep their cool when being yelled at, have you seen this video?
I don’t think anyone on this post made any such claim. Some cops can keep their cool. Others can’t. The presence of a camera is likely to affect their behavior as well.
But it is difficult to judge whether a particular cop is reasonable or not, and the smart move is to be polite and cooperative. Why is that a controversial statement?
Having read the links above I would have to say that the Police responded properly. Shouldn’t the police approach a situation as though the worst case senario is playing out.
As for what I would do. Accept the the officer is there to do his job, cooperate with any request made, and finally thank the officers for their time.
Also, I would not forget to thank my neighbor for being aware of a possible situation and calling the police.
Sounds to me like Gates let his own personal prejudice get the better of him.
Oh, I’m well aware that I’d spend the night behind bars.
Here’s a funny story:
A few years ago, some friends from Mass. and NY and Ontario had invited me on a road-trip to Texas. I couldn’t go, but they went without me. Glad I didn’t go because while driving through Mississippi, they got pulled over by state troopers for speeding.
The trooper saw the New York driver’s license and said in the thickest southern drawl, “ain’t no Yankee ever speed through Mississippi like you boys”
To which my (idiot) friend said “Well….Sherman did”
They spent the night in jail.
Does the American constitution not have similar protections as Canada against arbitrary search and seizure? Or did the Patriot Act kind of destroy that too? If the laws are there to protect you, why not use them? I got yelled at by one person in the car with me for pulling that Charter of Rights business on the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) office, because they wanted to go home. I knew my rights, and I knew where the power of the officer ends and mine began. Police officers aren’t experts in the law, and a little knowledge can beat back a lot more power abuse than you might think….but than again, I know my constitution inside-and-out, and I didn’t grow up under the thumb of the American legal system, so I can’t judge.
Just as a point of information, a Canadian citizen CAN be arbitrary searched and seized, but the officer must invoke the Notwithstanding Clause (section 33), and that can only be done at the Supreme Court, and it’s only been attempted like, 5 times or something absurd like that.
I also understand that you’re not speaking of value-judgments of deferring to the police under any circumstance, just that you’re speaking on the sensible, non-arresty level, which I can also respect.
Yes, but belligerency is not enough cause for arrest. If I had called the police to my home for ANY reason (especially since I had told the reason over the phone), and the first thing they said was “show me your ID”…oh man, I’d totally get my ‘Irish up’ as my grandmother used to say. Why not ask “is everything okay?” or “are you injured?”
It’s like that idiotic ‘birthers’ conspiracy theory: this is more than a left-right political discussion….more than democrat/republican. This is about racist white culture (or in this case, authority) seeing a black man in what they see as a white man’s position. They have such utter contempt for minorities that they can’t fathom that that black man got where they are by playing fair…he MUST be an impostor!
In the 60’s, when black civil rights leaders would go to speeches and make appearances and do interviews, they would be dressed in a regular suit-and-tie. Too often, either to their face or behind their back, the call was that they were trying to act like white people. This explicit language may be gone, but the behavior and terrible hatred is still just under the surface.
Also, in case I’m coming off as high-and-mighty-we-Canadians-beat-this-racism-problem-and-you-silly-Americans-have-yet-to-figure-it-out, I assure that is not the case. We treat our minorities just as bad.
@Some Canadian Skeptic: Does the American constitution not have similar protections as Canada against arbitrary search and seizure? Or did the Patriot Act kind of destroy that too?
Nah, those died of a drug law overdose back in 1991.
Must have been who Bill Clinton had assassinated.
@sethmanapio: Okay then, let’s see the whole fragment, for sake of accuracy:
Someone had said “I treat police officers as human beings because thatâ€™s what they areâ€¦”
and you replied:
“Another dangerous misconception. A police officer out of uniform (…) is a human being. A police officer in uniform (…) should be dealt with very, very differently.”
Meaning that 1) according to you, depending on his clothes, a human being stops being so (still a denial of a fact, still extremism) and 2) since the present case concerns a police officer in uniform, the good part of your claim is irrelevant, and the bad part is on my side. Choose either.
It is true though that I should have written the quote with the full context. In fact, there was no need to cut it, because all you said was wrong and disgusting alike no matter what words I happened to take in or leave out.
Your problem with the police is your problem with the police, but don’t try to make your own conspiracy theory a version of reality.
My last comment on this, can’t waste as much time.
When it comes down to it, white people and black people have different reactions to cops based on past experiences. If a cop came to my house and thought I was breaking in, I would show ID and it would be the end. But I’m also white, so I wouldn’t expect the cops to treat me differently.
We don’t know the tone in which Gates was addressed, we don’t know in what ways he may have been discriminated against in the past. These all can lead to a volatile situation and it becomes unclear who was right and who was wrong. But ultimately, I don’t think Gates should have been arrested.
There has been a history of white cops treating blacks like criminals before they have even done anything wrong. That’s a fact, a fact blacks remember very well. I don’t blame them for getting defensive.
@Skepthink: Meaning that 1) according to you, depending on his clothes, a human being stops being so (still a denial of a fact, still extremism)
Huh? I say that you should treat a police officer on active duty differently than a police officer just hanging out with his friends, and you get that? And you think that I’m expressing a conspiracy theory?
Now you’re just making stuff up.
I’m fairly sure that the police acted as they had because of behavior not because of race. I had called a break-in once, and was asked for identification, to prove that I was, well, me. I didn’t proceed to mouth off to the officer, but I have known others to do such and be arrested or detained as well. We’re all white, now while that’s just one example, there are studies done showing that racial profiling does still happen, and that black people are much more likely to be arrested than whites following the same behaviors. Do I think the officer was wrong though, probably not.
For reference, I’m white, grew up in Lawrence, KS from ’74 to ’03 before I moved to another state for work reasons.
So there are some primary things you need to think about before you apply any color to the individuals involved.
First, being a police officer is hard, every time you show up for an incident you could find people grateful to see you, or people ready to kill you. Also, someone saw a person attempting to ingress a home near theirs without their normal means.
I have two slight issues about this.
1) I happen to know my neighbors, all that can see my front door or surround my home. One even has a set of keys to my home in case I get locked out
2) If one of said neighbors saw me trying to break into my own home, they’d not call the cops because we socialize on a regular basis, they’d probably come help.
so what’s wrong here to start is the dude doesn’t know his own neighbors. because that’s who called the cops on him. Why doesn’t he know his own neighbors enough that they’d know not to call the police on him? Did he move in the week before or does he not socialize with the folks that live around him? Why is that?
Now, said police officer shows up in response to a break-in in progress and someone answers the door when he rings hit. He informs him that he’s responding to a reported break in and asks the person who answered the door if he lives here and has some kind of proof.
THe first response, according to reports is the person that answered the door starts the conversation with why, because I’m black? (do that in your Lethal Weapon 2 South African voice, it’s funnier that way)
Now, growing up I kinda learned that you don’t answer a ‘hi we think someone broke in here can you show us something that says we shouldn’t take you down’ isn’t to ask them if they’re asking me that question because I’m a male with white skin, it’s because something I just did might have looked like I broke into my own home and someone is checking up on it.
Instead of questioning if you saw my skin color before knocking on my door I might respond with ‘oh, sorry sir I left my keys inside and had to futz with the door to get back in, here’s my ID thanks for checking on it.
If you become a dick and start foaming at the mouth about it, the cops gonna get annoyed and respond like he can, slap some cuffs on your stupid ass for being a dick and getting you to cool off.
So President Obama made a serious error in saying the ‘police were stupid’ here. This wasn’t a race issue until the guy getting arrested made it one. It was a case of ‘hey look someone I don’t know is breaking into that house’ and a case of indignation and over-reaction by both parties involved in an attempt to defuse the situation quietly.
Screaming at the police is never a good idea. If you are, and following them and pushing it, they have the right to consider you may turn dangerous.
Gates should be thankful he has neighbors and police watching out for his property. Proof he lives there, and thanks were in order. Then it would be over.
I think minorities are sometimes hassled more, but I also know some manufacture trouble where there is none. I remeber being disgusted at work with a black and a hispanic co worker who always talked about how The Man was out to get them.
They said minorities got SS numbers where the middle pair of digit is even, so the government can spy on them.
I just HAD to bust in on that conversation and point out mine is even (I’m white). They were pissed at me for ruining their pity party.
My black office mate, though, would bang her head on the desk at the sheer stupidity of it all, if I told her.
There are good and bad people of all kinds.
@Some Canadian Skeptic:
Really? I mean, you did say for ANY reason. So, if you called the police and said “HELP! There is a homicidal maniac here that is trying to kill me!” you wouldn’t expect the police to prove who you are? I would WANT them to, so they knew that I am person that called, not the homicidal maniac in question. I think it really depends on WHY you called the police that would determine what level of response from you they would need.
Is anyone else at all the least bit as bothered as I am as to the complete deference to police abuse of power that is peppering this thread?
I may be just a naive Canadian here, but surely one cop north of the 49th probably isn’t too different from another cop south of it. At least those of us fortunate enough to live in a liberal democracy: we have rights and freedoms. We have wonderfully articulated positive and negative freedoms, so why are so many people so quick to forget them because cops can occasionally be meatheads who don’t know when they’ve overstepped their bounds?
We have the positive rights to confront our accusers, and to know what we are being charged with. We have the negative rights to not be seized, detained, searched, or arrested without cause. These are our rights! Your grandparents and mine killed and died to defend these rights and there are others doing the same right now!
Obviously not all cops are muscle-bound jocks with a hard-on for their own uniform, and not every person of a minority is unjustly detained. But so what? No goverment of a liberal democracy with a tradition such as that as the American constitution, one of the greatest documents in the history of humanity, has the right to give its law enforcement agents free-reign to enforce which laws they want, and which laws they can break.
I realize I sound as sanctimonious as a sunday revival preacher, but….come on! The idea of just bowing to a police officer and doing everything you can to appease the angry beast or they’ll beat/imprison you, and if you challenged that power with something as trivial as your rights….this is repugnant to me! We have enormous powers at our disposal, far greater than a couple nights stay in prison can muster. We are in charge, not them.
The United States, more than Canada, has a long, glorious tradition of asserting the rights of the individual over the state….so why is this suddenly different? Why defer to the Luca Brazzi’s of the government? What happened?
I say this not to be patronizing, but I really don’t understand this degree of deference from a culture born out of defiance. I truly wish to know why this is different.
To an extent, yes. But the police dropped the ball. The questions they should have asked, and always ask first are :
1) Are you injured?
2) Are you the owner of the house?
3) Is anyone else in the house?
4) Is anything missing?
Having those questions answered in that order, THEN you can start asking about identification.
Gates is also a highly-educated man who knows well the history of police abuses of black-America. It doesn’t matter how belligerent he was. He broke no laws…yelling at police isn’t a crime.
@Some Canadian Skeptic:
I can’t answer your questions for others in this thread, but when I am forced to interact with the police — for whatever reason — I am not subservient, nor do I feign meekness. I am simply respectful and co-operative. But then I’m respectful and co-operative with most people most of the time anyway. That’s just my default position.
And in behaving that way, I have never had the feeling my rights were being forfeited.
However, I’m not a shut-in either. I’ve been out in the world, and I’ve seen how a situation with the police can go bad — for whatever reason. And I think that’s the point from which everyone here has started the discussion. The comments are based on a situation with the police that has gone bad.
And I can tell you, when something like that is going down, your rights are not on the menu. That particular fight is for after the fact.
I don’t want to say you don’t understand because crime in Canada is not as severe as it is in some places in the US, because I just don’t know what crime in Canada is like. But there is a very dark, underside to some crime and criminals in the States. We’re not talking about traffic stops and jay walking. We’re talking about desperate people doing dispicable, violent things. And police officers deal with that with varying skill levels.
Often, having a civilized discussion about personal rights and freedoms simply isn’t an option.
But as I said, there is absolutely an avenue in the US to take up that cause once the smoke clears.
Let’s not forget that just like police officers have a tendency to think they are more powerful than mere mortals becouse of their position, professors have a tendency to look down upon the “less educated” people. Additionally, he “knows well the history of police abuses of black-America”. Is it not a stretch of the imagination that this “knowledge” allowed him to put the cart before the horse?
Once the police can really arrest someone for being an obnoxious dick in public, then we are doomed. In this case, the man was on his own property at the time, so the “in public” part is not really an issue.
It is, in fact, actually legal to yell at the cops.
@Some Canadian Skeptic:
I disagree. Using the same scenario (homicidal maniac), if you were standing outside your home waiting for the police, or came out when they arrived, they could see if there were any injuries immediately. Additionally, the emergency 911 operator usually stays on the phone with you until the police arrive, so the officer would already know whether you were injured (911 operators ask if you/anyone is injured). So the first thing that the police would ask:
1. Are you the homeowner/resident?
2. Can I see some identification?
The rest of the questions would probably pertain to the circumstances surrounding the incident that prompted the call.
It is imperative that the officer determine WHO you are before proceeding, because for all he knows the real home owner is still inside where the homicidal maniac jumped them after getting off the phone with the 911 operator, now the homicidal maniac is outside saying “Yup, I’m the owner, false alarm, everything is fine here *smiles*.” So if this was the case, and the officer didn’t ask to see identification, he would just say “Alright, I don’t want to inconvenience you by asking for your identification, so have a nice day.” and be on his merry way, while the homicidal maniac is having his/her way with you.
Try reading a little closer next time. It wasn’t my team at all because I would never even suggest such a stupid argument. It’s completely idiotic to pretend that students don’t cheat when some clearly do. It’s just as idiotic to pretend that cops won’t be racist when some clearly are. The idea that they won’t act the wrong way because of the possible consequences is just plain stupid.
Congratulations on being duped into thinking that you legally must obey any order a cop gives you. This is simply not true, however. Cops do not have to the right to demand whatever they want from you. If they do demand something unreasonable, it is perfectly legal to disobey them.
Do you genuinely believe that it really is the case that police arrest anyone who is acting like a dick? You’re either lying or unbelievably naive. Police rarely arrest anyone for acting like a dick. So when they do, it’s only used an excuse. Honey, try standing outside a bar on a Saturday. You’ll get plenty of people acting like dicks in public and the police don’t care.
Wrongfully arresting someone is not being “blunt”. Try a little harder next time.
Umm, when did I ever say anything about a conspiracy. It seems like you are ridiculously naive about the real world, but it is actually a fact that police officers often violate the rights of citizens. It’s much more common than you realize. When people excuse this behavior because they police “are just doing their job”, or they “have a lot of stress” or some other reason, they are permitting police to continue to violate the rights of citizens. We need protection from this. If we don’t stop police from breaking our laws and violating rights, then it certainly could get worse. If you don’t believe me, pick up a history book or even look at the police in other places. We can not let police get away with bad behavior. It has nothing to do with a conspiracy; I don’t know want to know where you pulled that stupid idea. When did I say anything about secrets, cover-ups, and wide-spread collaborations between police to violate our rights? I never even said that most police are involved.
You are either lying a lot or extremely naive about the real world. It’s time to grow up and stop pretending that the police always do the right thing.
Crime in Canada is a weird thing. Most of it is pretty tame, but there are horrifying stories of criminals going way-the-crap crazy and cutting people up, killing a bunch of women, or any other horror story. Admittedly, it’s only pockets (Gun-related crimes are on the rise, but they’re a mere fraction-of-a-fraction to what they are in the US). However, there are two particular areas of crime that have some of the highest murder rates per-capita in North America: Jane & Finch (Toronto) and pretty much all of East Vancouver. Some nasty, nasty, murdery-stuff goes down.
I’m sure that if the crime that exists in those areas were a little more widespread in say, Kitchener or RiviÃ¨re-du-Loup, I might feel differently. I honestly don’t know. But I appreciate your thoughts.
I also agree that It’s one thing to be knowledgeable of your rights, and it’s quite another to be uncooperative. I’ve had many run-ins with the Ontario Fuzz, and so long as they don’t abuse their power, I’ll happily cooperate with them, and then thank them for the work they do. We have this thing in Ontario called the “Ride Program”, where the police stop every car going through a particular check-point to check if people are wearing their seat belts and are sober. When the program was introduced, people screamed that it was a violation of their rights, but it absolutely is not, and it’s cut down on drunk-driving-related deaths. When stopped, I always say to the officer an earnest “thank you”
As a disturbing point of information, the Montreal Police had petitioned the Mayor to make calling the police “pigs” an arrestable crime. This is a clear violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, section 2 (b), but the catch is, Quebec never signed the Charter.
Quebec has weird laws, and their police get away with almost fascist-level of abuses…and I don’t use the word ‘fascist’ lightly.
Perhaps I did say ‘any situation’, but…’homicidal maniac’? Is that the game of hypothetical we really want to play? Make up the most outlandish situation even though it way-doesn’t apply to the situation even slightly? We’re only a few steps away from Godwin’s Law here ;)
@catgirl: Have you already given up any attempt to argue logically and make sense?
“””it is actually a fact that police officers often violate the rights of citizens. Itâ€™s much more common than you realize.”””
Probably I’ve never realized that US police is the main threat to global security and social safety in upper-class neighbors because a) I’ve never behaved like a dick publicly, b) I don’t act like an asshole in front of police officers, c) I am no alcoholic, d) I don’t destroy public property, e) I don’t walk naked in the street and, most importantly, f) if making a scene when trying to enter my home after losing my keys, I am mentally aware of the situation and I don’t start insulting the crap out of the first authority that comes by to reasonably check out, just because I can’t take a break of my own racial prejudices.
I just read this little tidbit in a late story on the case:
I couldn’t help but laugh at the thought of that actually taking place. My only question is, where was Lamont while all this was going on?
Oh, and the story also mentioned this:
I hope they do release the tapes. I’m getting more and more curious about exactly what did go down at Gates’ house.
@Some Canadian Skeptic:
No, I just started with that premise, but you could certainly substitute “homicidal maniac” with “crazy ex” which is actually the single most dangerous situation that police (at least in the US) face. Responding to “domestic disturbances” are extremely dangerous, and have often led to officers being assaulted and even killed. Unfortunately, those calls come very often.
Really, my point was that assuming a police officer is there to demean, degrade, or stomp on your civil rights is a bit off the mark. They are there to keep the peace. They do so countless times in a given day without serious incident and you don’t hear much anything about it until something goes wrong for one reason or another.
I go to this site every day but I don’t remember ever reading comments before.I’m so glad I did here because I have enjoyed this discussion so much.
I’m going to have to pay more attention in the future.
This is a great topic with some fascinating comments.
They are there to keep the peace. They do so countless times in a given day without serious incident and you donâ€™t hear much anything about it until something goes wrong for one reason or another.
I’m not sure what you mean by “gone wrong” but if you mean that police officers violate the rights of people of color, then this is an incredibly naive statement. Such violations are on going, routine, constant, and numerous. One does not hear about them for a number of reasons (the press does not cover it, people are not really listening, this entire conversation is happening in white middle class suburbandom where such things don’t happen very often…)
Actually, I meant when things go wrong for one of about a million reasons (hence the use of “for one reason or another”). This particular case happens to be concerning whether or not there was a racial bias on the part of the officer. You also hear about other cases where things have gone wrong that have nothing to do with race. In fact, just recently and locally there has been a case where the officer, a white male, acted inappropriately toward another white male by telling him he was going to shove his taser up his ass.
Am I the only one who feels those who think police are the bad guy are employing confirmation bias?
@gregladen: I’m calling you out. If you feel that civil rights violations are the rule and not the exception, please produce evidence which clearly shows not just the number of probably civil rights violations by whites to “people of color”, but how does that relate to the total number of events in which white police officers respond and minorities are present.
As a matter of fact, this challenge extends to everyone. Either put up or shut up. Present solid, irrefutable evidence in which you can prove racism in the national police force is rampant.
Obama has spoken with Crowley:
That’s fair, and the thought occurred to me too. Then I remembered Rodney King, the Oka Crisis, and theThe Caledonia standoff, just to name a few, and it got to me. A quick history lesson on the history of racism in North America in the 20th and 21st century would do everyone well.
Most of my stats on race and racism are in print, and not being affiliated with the university anymore means I don’t have the super-rad access I used to. But I was able to find this fairly easily.
This video is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Institutionalized racism goes back far, and it’s about a lot more than skin color. The rivers of class discrimination run deep. Tim Wise is a provocative fella, and I don’t always agree with him, but the linked video provides a good historical backdrop to the ties between race/racism/class/capital.
@Infinite Monkey: Calling me out? Very funny.
I did not say that CRV is the rule not the exception. I’m not even sure how one measures this behavior in a way that allows such as statement. But I am saying that civil rights violations are extraordinarily frequent, this is well documented, is not a confirmation bias, and I’ll throw in the assertion that in this day and age with the information we have about the frequency of such things and their impacts, systematic denial of CRV is itself a racist act.
The part about the national police force, in your comment, is strange. We’re primarily talking local police here, as in Cambridge Police. I’m thinking maybe this goof of yours reveals your true identity as an alien or something.
@James Fox: COTW
@sethmanapio: Yeah, yeah, yeah…. this sucks, because I have a bunch of similar stories like that… and it sucks, sucks, sucks….
So I applied for a police officer position out of the blue one day. Never, prior to applying, had I ever considered being a police officer, but I saw the job posting, and applied for kicks, 4 interviews, a physical fitness test, a home visit, a polygraph test, I made it to the final 6 out of over 200 applicants for one position. Didn’t get the job, but I was honest, and one thing this police department was looking for was folks who were calm, educated, rational, didn’t fly off the handle (they called my friends and former bosses, asking if I ever lost my temper) and weren’t jerks. SOME, police depts are TRYING to make a better police dept, but few of those types of people want the job.
I did a ride-along with the dept twice to get a feel for the job, during that time we (he) arrested 6 people, all the scum of society. 2 car thieves, one home break in, 1 drug dealer (caught selling meth to a 15 yr old), 1 shop lifter, and someone who rode around campus with a pickup truck, yanking cheap locks of students bikes and loading up his pickup.
I understand that you think police are out to get you, but they work everyday with the scum of the earth. Unfortunately it seems as though only power hungry assholes want this job, but hey, it pays well, most dept are looking to improve there ranks, why don’t you apply? Seriously, the police dept could use better people, it’s unfortunate that better qualified people don’t apply.
@skepticalhippie: I understand that you think police are out to get you, but they work everyday with the scum of the earth.
I do not think that the police are out to get me. Jesus H. Motherfucking Christ on Crutches, people, it is entirely possible to believe that some police officers are not paragons of patience at all times without being convinced that there is a vast blue conspiracy arrayed against me.
Does it ever cross your mind that perhaps people misunderstand you, or misquote you, or misinterpret you because, try as you might, you may not be expressing yourself as accurately, concisely, and as effectively as you could?
It crosses my mind all the time.
About me, that is, not you.
@SicPreFix: Does it ever cross your mind that perhaps people misunderstand you, or misquote you, or misinterpret you because, try as you might, you may not be expressing yourself as accurately, concisely, and as effectively as you could?
Misquote? Never. Misunderstand and misinterpret? Certainly.
Sometimes, I’m unclear. And all through this thread, I’ve been willing to clarify what I meant. And in fact, if you look at my conversation with Finn MacR, you’ll see that I can in fact manage to communicate with people.
I have, in fact, managed to explain my point of view to you in a different thread.
But as far as this case, where skeptical hippy says that he “understands” that I think the cops are out to get me?
No. I never said anything remotely like that. It isn’t my fault if people follow their assumptions to an absurd conclusion that has absolutely no basis of any kind in what I said.
Jesus Christ never needed crutches; he would just heal himself. Also he never f***ed his mother; she was a virgin her whole life.
Yes, I think you have been quite clear in this thread actually. For myself, I agree with most of what you’ve said in this thread and have not found myself doing my frequent “What the fuck is Seth blathering on about now” riff.
I know I’m gong off 0n a tengent, so anyone who wants to keep on track can just ignore me. Anyway, I often find myself quite baffled with some of the rather extremely hostile and emotional responses some of my posts receive. Sometimes I think it’s just folks not understanding my language; sometimes I think it’s just plain and simple dislike of me and my opnions, and sometimes I think I must somehow have said something other than what I intended, but I cannot always figure out the mistake.
Ah well. Such is life.
Back on track, and away we go….
“Iâ€™m gong off 0n a tengent” should, of course, be going off on a tangent, and “me and my opnions” should be opinions. Sheesh. At least I didn’t say onions or bunions.
/rolls eyes at self
I can’t answer this without being there. I can’t answer this without knowing the sum of the police officer’s experiences. Even without this information, we THINK we can answer this question. But we do NOT know how we would respond unless we really WERE in that man’s place, in that man’s shoes, at THAT time.
You must log in to post a comment.