Report faults Harvard teacher and cop

‘09 home arrest became issue of race mediated by Obama

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A year after prominent Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested at his Cambridge, Mass., home by Sgt. James Crowley, an independent committee concluded that both men were at fault and missed their chances to avoid the dispute that eventually made national headlines and led to a White House “beer summit.”

Sgt. Crowley and professor Gates missed opportunities to lower the temperature of their encounter and communicate clearly with each other, and the results were unfortunate for everyone concerned,” the 64-page report, which was released Wednesday, concluded. “They share responsibility for the outcome. In essence, both men contributed, perhaps unintentionally, to the escalation of the encounter.”

The sergeant was responding to a 911 call on July 16 about a possible break-in at Mr. Gates‘ home — which turned out to be Mr. Gates himself trying to force his way in after having locked himself out.

Sgt. Crowley did not recognize Mr. Gates and demanded to see identification, which Mr. Gates, who is black, took to be a racial insult. The two exchanged words and Mr. Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct.

The incident report said Mr. Gates was arrested for “loud and tumultuous behavior, in a public place, directed at a uniformed police officer who was present investigating a report of a crime in progress.”

Mr. Gates accused Sgt. Crowley of acting as he did on account of his race.

The incident ignited a debate on race that drew in President Obama, who said the officer “acted stupidly,” a charge the president later admitted he made without knowing all the facts. He invited both Mr. Gates and Sgt. Crowley to meet with him at the White House.

The report also said that while the facts of the incident “seem minor,” they provide a “real opportunity” to be learned about police conduct community involvement.

“We’ve already begun to recommend some of the recommendations,” said Dan Riviello, spokesman for the City of Cambridge Police Department.

The charges against Mr. Gates were dropped mere days after his arrest in order to provide “a just resolution to an unfortunate set of circumstances,” according to the Cambridge Police Department.

The document took the liberty of offering a list of 10 recommendations for police conduct, not just targeted at the Cambridge department but at police departments nationally. Some of the suggestions included implementing community forums for residents to express opinions and guiding officers on exercising discretion.

Jim Pasco, the executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, said that while it was fair to pin the responsibility to act primarily on police, “everyone has responsibility.”

“You can’t just charge the police department with getting along better with the people they protect. The community has as much responsibility as the police to cooperate and try to get along.”

The primary purpose of police officers is to protect those within the community, Mr. Pasco said. He added that the responsibility of making that purpose known lies with various members in the community, such as teachers and parents, as much as it does with the police itself.

“The work of the committee, particularly the discussions about the complexity of these situations and interactions, has been enormously helpful to the department — and thus the City of Cambridge — in strengthening the department’s ability to meet the high expectations of our community,” City Commissioner Robert Haas, who initiated the committee, said in a statement.

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About the Author
Kathryn Watson

Kathryn Watson

Kathryn Watson is an intern on the Continuous News Desk. Katie is a senior journalism major at Biola University just outside of Los Angeles, where she serves as the editor-in-chief of her school’s student newspaper, The Chimes.

 

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