July 28th, 2009

Talking back to cops

Gatesgate has reminded us that one of the things that “everybody” knows is not to give cops a lot of lip.

This is information that most people learn by their late teens or early twenties, be they black or white, male or female, strong or weak, feisty or timid. A few “yessirs” and “nosirrs” (or the proper gender-adjusted terms of respect for a female police officer) sprinkled into the conversation doesn’t hurt at all, either.

Somehow, Professor Gates failed to learn this particular life lesson. And it’s not just all about cops wanting respect because of macho swaggering, either. A belligerent verbal attitude on the part of a civilian can be a warning sign of other belligerence to come, including the physical (and including the use of weapons), and the police can be the targets of the latter. That’s why they need to be alert to the possibilities of danger in every encounter they have with the public.

One of my early experiences with the police was during a cross-country drive with my then boyfriend (later to be husband). We were motoring along on a single-lane highway in Arizona, minding our own business and obeying the law, when we were pulled over by a cop. My boyfriend did the usual cautious thing—hands on the wheel, no sudden movements—as the trooper came over and explained that he’d seen him weaving, going back and forth erratically over the yellow line. Had he been drinking?

My boyfriend pointed to a large open bag of potato chips that was sitting on the console between our bucket seats. He’d been happily dipping into it and munching on them as we drove along.

“Officer, I was eating these,” he said.

The trooper frowned, and intoned in a serious voice, “You shouldn’t drive and eat potato chips like that. Next time, pull over if you want to eat potato chips.”

This struck me at the time as exceedingly funny. So very very funny that the laughter just bubbled up in me and spilled out. The trooper and my boyfriend both looked at me sternly and in unison, and I don’t know which one had the more annoyed expression (actually, I do; it was my boyfriend). The trooper was quite calm as he told me that this was no laughing matter.

And if you know anything about laughter, you probably know that it took every ounce of self-control I had to stop; after all, forbidden laughter is the most difficult to resist of all. But I did manage to stem my mirth and convince the trooper of the fact that I took the issue of driving while eating gobs of potato chips very seriously indeed.

He walked off after issuing a warning, and my boyfriend took a moment to impress on me the fact that you don’t mess with a trooper, and that includes joking. You just don’t.

And I never forgot it.

119 Responses to “Talking back to cops”

  1. strcpy Says:

    In many ways it is like wearing a suit into a court hearing – it is respect for the office/position.

    A litigant or witness should *never* go to court in anything less than a suit (jurors are OK IMO, at least where I am if your not chosen you go back to your real job so you kinda have to wear your work clothes) is asking to loose. Or at the very least is making the hill you need to climb to win a bit higher.

    As said, it’s not *just* that isolated bit. You are asking someone to believe you are a rational individual that is the right – you do not do that by screaming at the police or wearing a tank-top and cut off blue jeans into a court room.

    Further there is different level of belligerent – unless the tapes are released we do not know how bad Gates was. It could have been fairly mild and a policeman over-reacted, could be borderline, and it could be such that most rational observers would be shocked the policeman didn’t just beat the fool out of him.

    Frankly I hope Crowley brings along those two black people interviewed by CNN – that would be a meeting I would love to witness. Maybe we can push to do that and, given that this is a learning experience, have it televised live :)

  2. Mel Williams Says:

    Much of this seems like our inability to understand the job of being a police officer. Probably there is no way to understand without being one, although some people put themselves in anothers’ shoes better than others.

    Unfortunately, some simply refuse to try.

  3. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    My son, as a teenager, nearly got himself in big trouble with a local police officer because the officer, having pulled him over for speeding, saw him laughing with his passenger while the officer was running his license. The officer, naturally enough, got angry at the boys for being disrespectful. Fortunately, they were able to explain themselves politely enough to satisfy him. It turned out that while they were waiting for the officer to return to their car, the passenger, an exchange student from South America, had remarked that it was a good thing they weren’t in his country, where encounters with police were likely to end in far worse things than speeding tickets. The boys had laughed about this in nervous acknowledgment, not out of disrespect — but I doubt that either of them will ever do it again, in any country!

  4. stumbley Says:

    While in college, I worked at a large movie theater. We premiered “The Godfather,” and had a “midnight” show that actually started at 1 a.m. and concluded at 4. As assistant manager, I remained at the theater until everyone was out, concession cleanup was over, and the janitors arrived to do the auditorium, which meant I was usually leaving the scene at about 5. One evening (morning) I was walking to my car which was normally parked in a spot close to an alley behind the theater, when a police cruiser pulled up, showed a spotlight in my eyes, and the officer demanded to know what I was doing there at such an hour.

    Not being “Skippy” Gates, I answered calmly that I was the assistant manager of the theater, just leaving after everything was over, and to prove it, I displayed the huge ring of keys that opened all the doors of the house. The officer apologized for stopping me.

    I replied, “No, don’t apologize; thank YOU for doing your job and looking out for the theater. I’m glad you stopped me.”

    We never had a problem with police or troublemakers, for that matter after that…in fact, we were very well protected. I have the utmost respect for anyone who puts themselves in harm’s way for my benefit, from police officers to firefighters to anyone in the military. None of them get the kudos they deserve.

  5. CV Says:

    In one of the articles I read last week in the aftermath of this incident, a cop commented that every time they pull someone over (or for that matter, answer a call about a disturbance or suspected crime) they have to be on guard and assume the worst.

    The cop in the article said something along the lines of, “you’re always unsure whether this traffic stop will be a simple soccer-mom-late-to-practice situation, or something more ominous.”

    In my own hometown, a few months ago, three cops responded to a complaint about a domestic argument involving a mother and son. Turned out that the son was armed, and highly agitated, and killed all three of the policemen.

    Anything can happen, and no one knows that better than a cop.

    Last year I was in my minivan, and in a hurry, to take my daughter to a basketball game. I made a left turn on a yellow arrow, which turned red while I was in the intersection. Next thing I know, flashing red lights followed me (he must have been hiding behind the Jiffy Lube!) I was stopped. I was deferential and polite. I was hoping he would take pity on a basketball mom in a minivan with three kids in the car who had never had a moving violation in 30 years and let me off with a warning.

    No dice. He wrote me a ticket. Inside I was steaming, and hurling all manner of expletives in his direction. Outside I kept my cool, because I knew that if I lost it and started saying what I was thinking, he could make it a stiffer fine, add points to my license, arrest me in front of my kids, whatever. The fact that I am white and the cop happened to be black was irrelevant.

    This is basic common sense stuff. Only a highly arrogant Harvard professor with a personal driver, who has spent his life building a career on racial injustice, would think otherwise.

  6. Artfldgr Says:

    Seems that Colin Powell agrees with you Neo.

    but its not that Gates hasn’t learned this life lesson, Gates has learned another life lesson. that when your a jet your a jet all the way from your first cigarette to your last dying day… the point being that he became a member of a club that wishes its upfront and public members to appear to have magically sucessful and interesting lives and also be on the side of international communism (web duboia?)

    so he knows that the minute that he is in a situation in which any evidence may be lacking (he believes), or the odds are in his favor (he believes), he will take advantage of how the system actually isnt to create a situation that he can present in a way in which they are not.

    like the famous authors who went to russia and were duped, he knows that his fame and the cadre of knee jerk support the cause people are going to come out in force. he certainly knows that he isnt going to get a club up the head or anything becuase of exactly how he does this (however, recent events have shown, he may soon find himself on the wrong side of a taser).

    same is true of the people who cry racism, then put a noose or a swastika on their door and are caught by new technology too.

    i listened to the tape as was given out, and the long version has all the dialogue blanked out.

    i have yet to hear a tape where you can hear whats going on with the open mic. (i am guessing that they released it with blank spots and just enough to remind gates of what they have).

    Gates knew that everyone from jesse jackson to Sharpton, and a host of others will start cranking out divisive stuff that like qwerty on your keyboard will be nigh impossible to correct. (and again, the population is split between a false quickly constructed narrative that arrives first and the real narrative of what happened that comes later after they are not noticing it. in this way the left has controlled every topic… just say it fast and have it always ring the same old way like a sad story that never seems to improve. before long, thats the type that will resonate as always truthful, just as the story of american war attrocities ring true now.

    remember, any cell of the body as a single cell is expendible, so even if gates loses his cache over all this and ends up like obamas mentor, the damage was done, as the longer this goes the more the lie sticks.

    they are playing a game of political chicken

    both sides know it. if not, then the lefts machine would have dug in deep on crowley and that hasnt happened.

    the gates side is daring them to besmirtch the office of the president and believes they wont. the other side hasnt been attacked so believes that potentially they can get what they ask for. nope. they will have to besmirtch that office to get gates, and gates is going to hide there betting they wont.

    the beer in the whitehouse is to get a feel for the player they dont know. one can calculate the known, one cant calculate the unknown, and crowly is an unknown power that they kicked (part of that power is that the police unions and police have been used for 40 years as a way to besmirtch every administration till “techno ubiquitous” arrived as a situation).

    Most of us would never have means to make a living entrapping police (and or inflating or conflating) in return for street cred, remuneration, advertising, power, and a bit more..

  7. Gray Says:

    Well, now that we’ve gotten past the Baby-Boomer reminiscing about the nice Mayberry PD. We live in a different world now.

    I’m not so sanguine about these things–I don’t like the militarization of my hometown cops.

    While troops are arresting terrorists and reading them their rights in Iraq, my local cops are practicing “dynamic entries” into citizens homes practicing “double-tap” headshots at the National Guard urban training centers here (ask me how I know….)

    I want the cops back who protect my rights and serve the local community–not wannabe ninjas in blackout gear and gasmasks who Close With, and Kill “The Enemy” (us US citizens) by Ground Combat.

    The shibboleth of “Officer Safety” is now used to deny every citizen of their 4th ammendment rights.

    Having said all that (and said it well), Louie-Louie Gates is a race-pimp whoring out long-ago proxy black suffering into tenure.

  8. colagirl Says:

    I’ve never had a problem with cops when I’ve been stopped. Of course, I’ve always been polite and courteous, and somehow managed to restrain myself from hurling abuse at them.

  9. Occam's Beard Says:

    Question: would Gates mouth off going through airport security? If not, why not?

  10. Jamie Says:

    Gray, I’m torn on this point… On the one hand, I have great respect for what cops do, am amazed by what they sometimes have to put up with, and am impressed by the level of professionalism with which they typically deal with their jobs. But on the other, I don’t want “Respect my authoritah!” to be the tacit law of the land.

    In this situation, as far as we know it, ISTM that the man whose house was being protected by the police ought more properly to have stayed calm, even if inwardly annoyed by being mistaken for a prowler. I’ve had to break a window in my house (long ago) to let myself in; if a cop had accosted me doing so, I can’t imagine that I wouldn’t have understood how the misunderstanding arose. Even if I was just appearing furtive while having trouble letting myself in and was questioned by a cop, better that they assume I’m the bad guy (and in doing so protect my property) than that they get over-sensitive to the feelings of the furtive person.

    Similarly, when salespeople ask for my ID when I use a credit card, I thank ‘em even though I hate my driver’s license picture.

  11. Gray Says:

    Similarly, when salespeople ask for my ID when I use a credit card, I thank ‘em even though I hate my driver’s license picture.

    Excellent point!

    I’ll bet Babalouie Gates would have screamed: “Is this ‘cuz I’m a Black Man in America!?” if some poor cashier asked him for ID.

    In fact, I’ll bet he has.

  12. JohnC Says:

    I agree with Gray. I’m old enough to witness a change in cop behavior toward a faux military approach and, of course, I understand the reasons why they have to be that way. Maybe I’m fooling myself, but there was time when violence (or the potential for it) was not so pervasive in our society as it is today and, at least from my experience, cops were not so tense / ‘professional’ when approaching people and giving tickets. They are very tense and wary today for good reasons. I’m sick of the violence in our society. What is it going to take to change it?

  13. JohnC Says:

    But I also have my own little story. Men will understand. A buddy of mine and I were coming back from Galveston (the beach) to Dallas one long summer afternoon. We were high school seniors and that was before there was an interstate connecting the two places. He drove erratically for a half of mile or so and, of course a cop spotted us and pulled us over. We were very courteous and explained that we were being silly on an empty highway. He warned us to cool it and let us go our way without giving my buddy a ticket. The hard part for me was in pretending that the soda bottle I was holding actually contained soda. My buddy decided earlier that he could empty his bladder in the bottle while driving – no need to stop! – and then handed it to me quickly after he spotted the cop behind us. I couldn’t throw it out without being seen … so I pretended.

  14. Scottie Says:

    Let me first say I do understand that cops have a very difficult job sometimes.

    The cop pulling you over may have just dealt with an incident shortly before that was very stressful, violent or frustrating and may still be fuming over it.

    Under those circumstances having to deal with a loud mouthed malcontent pi$$ed off at getting a ticket for that red light they just blew is probably not helping their attitude any.

    That being the case, it’s always a good idea to be polite when dealing with authority figures – it’s only good judgement and such politeness is no less than every citizen should provide as well as expect in return.

    On the other hand, I likewise have a serious problem with this whole notion that you must show the proper “respect” and deference to these public servants.

    When the police become a force within society that is feared if the proper obeyance is not observed, it is a symptom to me that there is a huge problem in that society.

  15. Baklava Says:

    Why Scottie? It’s common decency.

    Why do you have a ‘serious’ problem with this whole notion that you must show the proper “respect” and deference to these public servants?

  16. Baklava Says:

    I see.

    You changed the word respect to fear.

    I don’t fear them.

    I respect them.

  17. jon baker Says:

    Scottie Said: “When the police become a force within society that is feared if the proper obeyance is not observed, it is a symptom to me that there is a huge problem in that society.”

    I Agree completely!

  18. kcom Says:

    I’ll bet Babalouie Gates would have screamed: “Is this ‘cuz I’m a Black Man in America!?” if some poor cashier asked him for ID.

    Either that or “Do you know who I am?”

    As to police officers, like everything else I believe there has to be a balance. I think they should generally get the benefit of the doubt when it’s clear they are just trying to do their job. Even if it’s inconvenient to you. They are risking life and limb for your benefit. I’d rather be asked by a cop who’s not sure if a crime is going down than have him ignore it and come back to find my house burglarized.*

    But having said that, I agree with some of the other commenters that there is such a thing as being too deferential. Or, to put it another way, in society it’s possible for the power relationship to drift too far to one side. The police can’t become a force unto themselves. They are public servants. So, the political authorities and society in general has to work to maintain the balance. It’s important. I’m reminded of an episode of one of the forensics shows I’ve seen (“Forensic Files”) where a young woman was killed by a sheriff’s deputy who abused his authority to lure her to an out-of-the-way place. I don’t think his plan was to kill her but things went bad and she wound up dead. Obviously he was an aberration but one of the lessons to be learned (but that might be hard to apply) is that even authority figures are human beings and are capable of doing wrong. No one warrants absolute deference.

    * I was parked on the grass in my front yard late one night with my lights on a few feet from my front door. I was packing for a long trip starting early the next day. I especially wanted to vaccuum out my car and have it nice and clean before I loaded it up. I don’t have a portable vac so I brought it close enough to the house where I could use my home vac with an extension cord (I don’t have a garage or outside outlets, it’s an old house). At some point, I became aware of a sheriff’s deputy standing next to me. He had a few questions, like what the hell I was doing. He probably thought it might have been a(n unusual) burglary in progress. I explained the situation to him to his satisfaction and he left. Frankly, I was surprised he didn’t tell me to get the car off the grass. I figured it probably violated some ordinance. But he just went on his way and I finished my trip prep and got some sleep.

  19. jon baker Says:

    Obout 15 years ago I went thru and passed a Police Academy. I took the state test and passed to be a reserve police officer.
    But I decided not to do it. One of the reasons was I felt that police are called upon these days to enforce Un-Constitutional Laws and use un-constitutional means.
    Through Case Law, our Constitutional right against Warrantless Search and Seizure has been eroded away.
    Through gun laws our 2nd amendment rights have been compromised.
    One of the reasons I got out of the Texas National Guard was I increasingly feared the guard would be used on the wrong side of things against the People….

  20. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    In law school I had a professor who, one day, focused a whole class on the idea that respect can be based on either of two things: honor, or fear. He made the point that when respect is based on fear, you’ll keep it only as long as you can make people fear you. When it’s based on honor, on the other hand, you don’t have to make people fear you — you’ll keep their respect as long as you continue to behave honorably. The class was “Equity” and he was talking about the idea that the power of the courts is grounded in respect for the law, for better or worse — but his point about respect applies just as well to the police. Maybe the fear/honor dichotomy has something to do with the change Gray has noticed in police behavior.

  21. nyomythus Says:

    I just had a revolting thought …..

    …..

    .. we’re going to be hearing from Cynthia McKinney on this issue too.

    :P

  22. nyomythus Says:

    Actually maybe not…

    FOXNews.com
    Thursday, July 02, 2009

    Former U.S. lawmaker and Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney and several other activists remained in an Israeli prison Thursday after refusing to sign a deportation form that they claim is self-incriminating. — http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/07/02/cynthia-mckinney-remains-imprisoned-israel-gaza-bound-boat-seized

  23. Terrye Says:

    Gray:

    I am sure a lot of cops miss those days too. But back in the days of Mayberry, cops were rarely shot in the head when they made routine traffic strops.

    The world has changed. I don’t much like it either.

    In this case it seems that Gates went off on the cop when it was not necessary and the cop responded by taking him downtown for a little cool down session.

  24. nyomythus Says:

    http://www.cagle.com/news/CynthiaMcKinney/images/cagle00.gif

  25. Gray Says:

    Maybe the fear/honor dichotomy has something to do with the change Gray has noticed in police behavior.

    I believe it does. That sounds like an excellent class you were in. Here in New Mexico, I grew up in an atavistic “shame and honor” society….

    Y’know, come to think of it, it’s not a good point: Respect is earned by fear or honor and honor is, ultimately based on fear. Behaving honorably is a virtue only when you could command fear, but choose not to.

    Whom is not feared is not honored–which brings us back to the whole “officer safety” thing–as a disarmed citizen, I command no respect for my rights from an officer.

    Yes, I am very polite to the local police. I’ve never had a bad experience; but, to use the therapy-lingo of our culture, I am clear about my “boundaries”.

  26. nyomythus Says:

    http://www.cagle.com/news/GatesArrest/images/darkow.gif

  27. davidt Says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uj0mtxXEGE8

    Strong language.

  28. Gray Says:

    I am sure a lot of cops miss those days too. But back in the days of Mayberry, cops were rarely shot in the head when they made routine traffic stops.

    “Routine traffic stops” were much more rare as well. Are you going to argue in favor of racial profiling?

  29. Gray Says:

    In this case it seems that Gates went off on the cop when it was not necessary and the cop responded by taking him downtown for a little cool down session.

    I don’t think that is what happened at all–what you just described is thug-like police behavior.

    I think Gates harangued the cop with racial insults in front of bystanders and other cops, “the public” and rightly fell under a Disorderly in Public statute. The cop, Crowley, was simply enforcing the existing law, not “cooling him off” or reacting to Gates “going off”.

  30. Richard Aubrey Says:

    I recall when I got a speeding ticket. Never saw the cop. He was behind and to my left, looking over my shouilder. All I saw of him was his belt buckle in my outside mirror.
    As an ex-soldier, I was impressed that he was thorough, careful, and that somebody had devised a tactic that would keep him safe and, by doing so, reduce the necessity he would feel to react rapidly. It would have taken quite a contortion to turn and shoot or whatever, which is to say that any movement that looked suspicious could be allowed to play itself out, or stopped, without him having to “shoot first”.
    Totaled a car when another guy spun out in front of me in a blizzard way “up north”. Took about three hours for the cops to arrive, since we reported nobody hurt. By the time we got everything sorted out, they were apologizing to the other guy–”Adding insult to injury” for giving him the ticket. Personally, we should have both been ticketed for leaving home on such a night.
    Never had a bad experience with a cop, although I haven’t had many at all. Small sample.

  31. Artfldgr Says:

    I like this guys take on it:
    iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2009/07/cambridge-police-profiling-still-a-grim-reality-for-harvard-faculty-assholes.html

    I and a group of colleagues had assembled for our weekly lunch; I opted for their competently-prepared Ahi Tuna Tartare and an amusing glass of ’05 Hospices de Beaune Premier Cru Cuvee Cyrot-Chaudron. I had noticed that the Frantz Fanon Memorial Booth — Skip’s long-reserved lunch spot — was uncharacteristically empty, and asked our waiter Sergio for an explanation.

    “Professor Skeep, he no is come today,” said Sergio. “I tink he is in the jail.”

  32. JohnC Says:

    Gray’s deconstruction of Whatsit’s honor – fear dichotomy makes sense. Another problem is that her dichotomy doesn’t speak to context. Who is it that’s bringing the para military culture to cops? Is it us through our politicians? Is it liberal dominated local governments? Republicans? To state a cliche – for every action there is a reaction. That reaction from cops today is obviously to the violence we suffer from in many context – from nasty public argumentation to deadly violence. Where did that come from? It wasn’t in my Mayberry youth not so long ago and I’d like to get back to that. Whose doing this to us?

  33. Scottie Says:

    kcom, I see we agree and you make some excellent additional points.

    Generally speaking, I have no problem with an officer seeing something unusual that could be a crime in progress and investigating it further.

    It keeps us all a little safer.

    What I do have a problem with is an officer who feels he must be obeyed, and sees every interaction as a confrontation he must win.

    He’s creating the very circumstances that engender antagonism between the civilian – who is generally just as worthy of respect until proven guilty of some crime – and the officer.

    It’s entirely the wrong mindset, and unfortunately there are too many officers running around who have that mindset. I think they are in the minority, but they are still out there.

  34. JohnC Says:

    *who’s

  35. Jim G. Says:

    I have become friends with a retired policeman. He and I have similar political philosophies and we like to read the same books. Over the last few years he has told me a lot of stories from his days on the force.

    What I learned from his tales was that police deal with the underbelly of society a lot. They do become very wary because, on first contact, they are never sure what they going to be up against. With traffic stops it’s usually a citizen in a hurry who blew through a stop sign or made an illegal turn. But it can be something much worse. My friend was shot twice in the line of duty. Both times in seemingly innocuous encounters. I came to understand how he wanted to stay alive and healthy. He was ready to defend himself if he even suspected someone might make a move on him. Several times he had to use physical force to arrest a perp. He told me that when he needed to use force he was always going to err on the safe side. Which meant some people got roughed up pretty badly; probably more than necessary. But he was not taking chances. I got the feeling he was like a coiled spring, always tight, alert, and ready to uncoil.

    Now that I understand how he approached the job, I can understand and empathize with no nonsense cops who seem abrupt and cold. They’re doing a dirty, dangerous job and just want to stay alive and healthy. Unless we walk some miles in their shoes we cannot understand. A bit of deference and respectful attitude never hurts during an encounter with the police.

  36. Scottie Says:

    Gray,

    I have to disagree with this statement:

    “Respect is earned by fear or honor and honor is, ultimately based on fear. Behaving honorably is a virtue only when you could command fear, but choose not to.”

    There are many individuals worthy of respect, past and present, who are/were worthy of respect and honor being freely given by a free people.

    The vast majority of these individuals did not achieve this respect and honor because people were afraid of them.

  37. Gray Says:

    JohnC: Who is it that’s bringing the para military culture to cops? Is it us through our politicians? Is it liberal dominated local governments? Republicans?

    Yes to all of the above:

    Liberals give them license to stop me for seatbelts, childseats, cellphones, insurance, emissions, firearms….

    Republicans give them license to stop me for drugs and alcohol.

    The list for the Republicans is a little smaller, that’s why I vote for them I guess…..

    I really bridle (but I’m polite and deferential) when I get stopped at a roadblock on holidays so they can sniff my breath, nose around in my truck and check my documents–but that’s not the cops’ fault–the local politicians and their enablers of both parties demand that.

  38. Gray Says:

    There are many individuals worthy of respect, past and present, who are/were worthy of respect and honor being freely given by a free people.

    The vast majority of these individuals did not achieve this respect and honor because people were afraid of them.

    Really? Name one.

  39. Scottie Says:

    Regarding the militarization of police:

    I am not against the military (far from it!), but their job is to break things and kill people.

    The job of the police is to apprehend the criminal after the crime has been committed.

    There’s a huge difference which some people don’t really seem to grasp. You can’t simply take military tactics and apply them to a civilian environment.

    So called “no knock” warrants are one of the worst travesties of the past few decades and I would be happy to see them become a thing of the past – and they are straight ouf of a military play book.

    Those no knock warrants in turn were a response to the drug war.

    I’m not in favor of coddling drug dealers, but in this case we are losing that relationship between the civilian population and the police because of this class of criminal and the police response to that class of criminal.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have a clue how to fix that particular problem….

  40. Scottie Says:

    Gray,

    Mother Teresa.

  41. Gray Says:

    Mother Teresa.

    Not a figure that commands respect, but admiration, and perhaps love.

    I’d be nice to her, but I wouldn’t fork over my license, insurance and registration if she asked. I’d tell her to get lost.

  42. Gray Says:

    There’s a huge difference which some people don’t really seem to grasp. You can’t simply take military tactics and apply them to a civilian environment.

    That was my whole point. We are on the same page….

  43. Scottie Says:

    Gray,

    You have no respect for what she accomplished with her life? Do you not think she was worthy of honor?

    The point I have successfully made was that there were people who were worthy of honor and respect who achieved it without engendering fear in those offering that honor and respect.

    You asked for one example, I gave you one.

  44. Scottie Says:

    Gray,

    “That was my whole point. We are on the same page….”

    For the most part, yes!

  45. JKB Says:

    The reason you should be deferential in the initial contact with an officer is that while you know you’re a good person, to him or her, you might look just like the person who kidnapped and mutilated that little girl.

    And while you can assert your rights during the interaction, being aggressive plays into their hands. Be polite, but firm. You should realize that the issue isn’t going to be solved with yelling on the street, just as talking louder doesn’t help with a non-English speaking person or the ticket agent at the airport. You can stand firm for your rights on the street but you fight for them in court.

    Your rights may be, or you will think they are, violated; the police may try to indirectly intimidate you for asserting them; they may view your asserting rights as vindication of their suspicions, standing on your rights will inconvenience you, they may laugh at you, you will be alone, a neophyte surrounded by highly trained, experienced hostiles being manipulated. Suck it up, be polite, take the ride and try to protect all the arguments you can for your lawyer to use.

  46. Gray Says:

    Put more simply: Power commands respect.

    Power is honorable when it is exercised without resorting to terror.

    In our Republic, the people (still!) have the power and deserve respect from our officials and enforcers, but respect, and deference, to the citizen’s power shouldn’t be a death-sentence for officers. It’s a balance…..

    In this case, Gates overstepped his side of the equation and officer Crowly simply enforced the law as written by the politicians empowered by the people.

  47. Gray Says:

    You have no respect for what she accomplished with her life? Do you not think she was worthy of honor?

    I admire it. I love the people who do such good works…. Respect? Love is better than respect–respect is commanded by power: Love is given freely.

    Nice work with the lepers, and all, but, no, you can’t see my license and registration.

  48. Scottie Says:

    Gray,

    I can agree with that, and I think Gates did create a volatile situation without need.

    The only thing that is unseemly here is the public perception that police entered the home where no crime had been committed and carted off the homeowner after the fact.

    Sometimes it’s better for the police to decide – “is it really worth it” – regardless of what the letter of the law says.

  49. Scottie Says:

    According to Webster:

    respect – the special esteem or consideration in which one holds another person or thing.

    No mention of fear in that definition at all.

  50. Gringo Says:

    Like Gates, I had an experience when I lost it with cops, and like Gates, it had to do with returning from a foreign country. I had been working in Latin America for several years, with a number of exits and entrances to and from the US before this occurred. I got sent to Colombia on an emergency basis for two weeks. When I returned from Colombia to Miami, the customs agent asked me if I had a business card. I did not- you just show up at the plane or copter to the rig site- though I didn’t inform him of that. I had several work visas in my passport, but did not bother to inform the customs agent of that; I assumed he had seen them in leafing through my passport.

    Upon leaving the customs agent, three agents surrounded me and directed me to a room- obviously signaled to do so by the agent that processed me. “What is this for?” I asked them. “You are going to get yours,” came the reply. They patted me down- apparently there was a bulge in my sweater from having had my camera draped from my neck during the flight from Bogotá. They found nothing. After they told me I was free to go, I lost it, and started screaming at them. They told me to skedaddle, and I did so.

    I could understand the need to agents to be vigilant on passengers returning from Colombia. This was the first and only time coming back to the States that I got “special treatment.” What upset me was not the search, but rather the remark from the agent: “You are going to get yours.” I was working as an engineer in Latin America, I was a professional, and did not appreciate the “You are going to get yours” remark. Had he simply said, “ we are going to investigate if you are carrying drugs,” I would not have been upset. The remark he made implied he knew I was guilty, and I resented that.

    Had I been cooler, I would have calmly written down what the customs agent said, obtained his name, and written a letter of complaint. Not that it would have done anything, but at least it would have been a more appropriate manner to channel my anger.

    Part is the dynamic is that there is something very disconcerting about returning to your homeland, and to get unfriendly/untrusting treatment from cops. It is the opposite of “welcome home.”

    Gates kept at it. That was his mistake. By contrast, when the agents told me to skedaddle, I got out.

  51. Gray Says:

    According to Webster:

    respect – the special esteem or consideration in which one holds another person or thing.

    I don’t have any respect for Webster’s dictionary. I don’t have to have any respect for webster’s dictionary thing. F them.

    How many armored divisions does Webster’s have?

    As I said: I grew up in an atavistic Shame & Honor culture–one of the last.

    See what I’m saying?

    Following the law ‘cuz you should and respecting police officers, and good people, ‘cuz you should doesn’t happen in the rest of the world.

    When you talk about Respect, Shame and Honor, you cannot think like a good law-abiding American, the rest of the world doesn’t.

    Only Power commands Respect. Power exercised without terror is Honorable.

  52. Scottie Says:

    Wrong Gray.

    Honor commands respect.

    When you say you have no respect for language and the plain meaning of words, then you lose any point you are trying to make as you attempt to make words mean something other than they plainly do.

    This is something liberals/leftists are more likely to do, and it generally leads to a lot of bloodshed in time as raw force becomes the sole measure of power.

    America is better than that – I hope.

  53. Gray Says:

    Wrong Gray.

    I’m not wrong, you just don’t like it.

    Honor commands respect.

    Power commands respect. Honor commands nothing–see “High Noon” for a contemplation of this.

    When you say you have no respect for language and the plain meaning of words…..

    I certainly never said that. Words and language have power. Sometimes more power than the sword.

    This is something liberals/leftists are more likely to do, and it generally leads to a lot of bloodshed in time as raw force becomes the sole measure of power.

    Raw force is the sole measure of power. That’s why officers have guns. That’s why universities have ceremonial maces. That’s why The American Eagle is also clutching arrows.

    That’s why if the American People have the power to vote, they must also have firearms.

    America is better than that – I hope.

    America is better than that because our Founders recognized that and built in a balance of powers and gave the citizens ultimate power.

    Note that in the time of the Founders, matters of honor were settled by force.

    I don’t know why this is a distasteful idea–it’s a simply fact, like gravity. I don’t like the power of the sun to burn my skin, but I respect it, so I wear a hat….

  54. expat Says:

    A few questions prompted by Mrs Whatsit: Are we transitioning from a guilt society to a shame society? (See Dr Sanity’s archives for descriptions.)

    Is it more important to be seen to be good than to deal with the moral uncertaiinty of trying to know what is good and then living up to that standard?

    Yesterday at PJM, Wretchard had a wonderful post in which he talked about Chariots of Fire, a movie I loved. Are the themes of that movie able to resonate in today’s world of spin doctors?

  55. br549 Says:

    The police are law enforcement. FDR gave a wonderful speech about the Pearl Harbor attack going down in infamy, but was never in physical danger on a ship or in a foxhole, enforcing the declaration made on the hill.

    Perhaps things were going down hill fast at Skippy’s house, so the best thing to do was move the stage.

    By the way….. Skippy? I doubt there is a self respecting black man living south of the Mason – Dixon who would be caught dead with “Skippy” as a nick-name. As I said earlier, I think Gates has a bigger problem with the fact he is black, or perceived as black, than anyone else does. I believe that he wishes he were not. And that’s just from what I have learned about someone I’ve never heard of before this little problem in Cambridge popped up. One has to admit he has taken full advantage of the exposure. Perhaps he’s bucking for a pay raise. He’s definitely trying to prove a point, even if he had to create the point he’s trying to prove. Thanking Crowley and the good citizen who thought perhaps she was helping protect her neighbor’s property would be what I would have done. But my job doesn’t depend on what Skippy’s job depends on.

  56. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    In reading Gray and Scottie’s comments and thinking over my fear/honor post last night, I should not have used the word dichotomy. I should have said balance. I agree with Gray that in most situations our respect for authority includes elements of both fear and honor. Respect for the police is a perfect example: of course there’s a strong element of fear there, but there is also — or should be — a strong element of honor. We honor them because they place their lives on the line every day to protect us and our property. But we’ll stop honoring them in that way if, too often, they abuse their power by beating up the people they arrest without cause, invade people’s houses without warrants, and such. It sounds as if Gray’s experiences with police have put him farther over that line than some of us.

    My professor’s point about the courts was that respect-based-on-honor has to be a larger part of the equation for the judiciary than respect-based-on-fear, though both are there. A court has no weapons or armies to enforce its judgments. Though people certainly do fear the courts, if the courts or the law are not honorable (or, in expat’s point, perceived as honorable) in the end, the courts will lose their power. This is a country of laws and that will endure only as long as the laws and those who enforce them (both courts and police) are honorable.

    But I firmly disagree with Gray that there can be never be a situation where respect is based exclusively on honor, with no element of fear. Maybe it would only happen with respected individuals, as with Scottie’s Mother Teresa example, as opposed to respected entities such as the police. I am not talking about love, though such respect may certainly accompany love and probably often does. For instance, I’ll bet many adults both love and respect their mothers without fearing them. But I can think of individuals whom I certainly do not love and have no reason to fear, but do respect: people who have done brave things or accomplished great things, wise people, good people. In thinking it over, though, I realize that for the most part, these people have no power over me, other than perhaps, the power to inspire, which is always a matter of choice. Power must, as Gray and Scottie have said, command respect, and that respect must be grounded in BOTH fear and honor. If not (in a free society, at least, which I hope to goodness we still are), respect and ultimately power will both be lost.

  57. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    expat said: Is it more important to be seen to be good than to deal with the moral uncertainty of trying to know what is good and then living up to that standard?

    I’m afraid we might be getting there.

  58. Scottie Says:

    Gray @ 12:32AM
    “I don’t have any respect for Webster’s dictionary. I don’t have to have any respect for webster’s dictionary thing. F them.”

    Scottie @ 1:02AM
    “When you say you have no respect for language and the plain meaning of words, then you lose any point you are trying to make as you attempt to make words mean something other than they plainly do.”

    Gray @ 1:33AM
    “I certainly never said that. Words and language have power. Sometimes more power than the sword.”

    and yet earlier:

    Gray @ 12:32AM
    “How many armored divisions does Webster’s have?”

    WTF?????

    While we both can agree on many things probably – especially the efficacy of the armed citizen – in this discussion you have started contradicting yourself and talking in circles.

    You have conflated the word “power” with the words “respect” and “honor”.

    Power can engendear both respect and honor, but power is not a prerequisite to attaining respect and honor – as I noted in the Mother Teresa example.

    Spin it all you want, ignore accepted definitions in order to superimpose your own definitions (as noted, redefining the language is generally a tactic of the left), but that’s the truth.

    Sometimes, Gray, it’s best to stop, take a look at the viewpoint you are arguing from and determine if you really should be arguing that particular point, or perhaps realize that you have staked out an unsupportable position.

  59. Jamie Says:

    A piece from Harvey Silvergate in Forbes about how this is a First Amendment issue, not a racial one – obvious point but one worth making. And it was Gates’s immediate assumption that there WAS a racist undertone (or overtone?) that set my teeth on edge and aligned my sympathies with the coppers, though philosophically the free speech argument resonates better with me.

    Gray, I deeply respect my husband (the gentlest of men), my priest (who stands 5’2″ in her priest shoes), and my high school government teacher (who taught, always, through humor and interest, not through intimidation). My ex-husband declared to me early in our courtship that “the only person [he had] ever respected” was Bruce Springsteen. (Should have been a sign unto me…) In short, I think perhaps your definition of “respect” is not the same as mine or Scotty’s, and that while it’s possible for me to feel respect without fear, perhaps the two are inextricably intertwined for you, either through something innate in each of us or through our experiences and judgments.

  60. Scottie Says:

    Good Morning Mrs. Whatsit – bet ya didn’t think the discussion was gonna go there, did ya…lol…?!?

    I agree with your professor, the system only works when it’s rulings are accepted by the general population based on something other than fear.

    Fear is how dictators rule.

    Fear can eventually give way to revolution when things become bad enough, which is when dictators and their enablers lose their heads.

    I have no reason to think we are anywhere near that kind of situation in this country, and I’d really rather this nation not go that route in the long run….

    Government has power, and that power is partly based upon fear of what can happen if one violates society’s laws.

    But one has to remember that those very laws that govern society are put into place by elected representatives with the general consent of the majority of the population in the first place, and hence are respected as legitimate acts of the government by that very citizenry.

    You can divert into a discussion regarding actual powers ceded to the government, states rights, individual rights, etc., but that is the general gist of why laws are respected in the first place in this country.

    So, it goes back to the original point your professor touched on – whether deliberately or not – that the general population willingly accepts these laws based upon something other than fear.

    The population, hopefully in most cases, sees these laws as being needful.

    For instance, driving 105mph through a 35mph school zone is just not a good idea – and hence the law is respected in this case by the majority – EVEN IF there is no law enforcement around – as deep down most know the consequences of such a violation go far beyond merely one’s personal fate if that law is violated.

    So, it still goes back to respecting the rule of law for reasons other than simple fear.

  61. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    I see the police change going the other way. In my city, cops didn’t hesitate to beat up punks who mouthed off to them when I was a kid. As for enjoying their authority, I think that was more common in the old days, too.

    I see what Gray is referring to, however. But those changes seem to be more driven from above in police departments, rather than individual attitudes of cops. There may be two separate things going on here.

  62. huxley Says:

    A few years ago someone stole the back license plate off my car and replaced it with the plate of a stolen car.

    The police noticed my car parked outside my evening yoga class, staked it out, and pulled me over as soon as I started to drive away.

    I was quite relaxed after yoga and figured the police would clear things up right away. After all I, like Gates, was really in my own property.

    But no, even though I clearly matched the guy on my driver’s license and on my car registration and my VIN number and my front license plate, and I gave them no disrespect whatsoever, they ran me through a whole intimidation routine of cuffing me, standing me up, bending me over, spreading my legs, standing me up, bending me over, then threw me into the back of the cruiser for fifteen minutes while they stood around and verified my paperwork over the radio. Then they hassled me for a while longer about just when my license plate might have been stolen.

    After it was finally over, I asked them why they had been so rough with me. These two big beefy young cops just smirked at me, said nothing, and drove away.

    I’m a white, middle-aged guy with graying hair, medium size and build. I have no idea why they treated me that way. Although I will always treat the police respectfully and I think Gates was a complete, self-aggrandizing idiot, I do believe there is a problem with “contempt of cop” in this country.

    And you sure don’t have to be black to experience it.

  63. JohnC Says:

    Thank you Gray, Ms Whatsit, Scottie, Expat and others for an interesting and precise philosophical discussion. It was like being deja vu all over again in a graduate seminar. I loved my grad seminars. But I say so what! Despite the nuanced thinking it doesn’t tell me much about the policies and people that got us here – the loss of Mayberry and the increased para militarization of our police forces and the ugly reemergence of racism and crime and so forth. I miss my Maybery. Nor does it tell me anything that can be done about these things. Is the operational tactic that responsible citizens should confront their politicians and demand a better, more calibrated balance between honor and fear? Try that in a public forum and see how far it goes. Like I said – a nice narrative but with little or no consequence to most people. On the other hand, as Gray has pointed out despite arguments about endogeny, a narrative of raw power as in ‘We’re angry and we will vote you out of office unless. . ..’ is more likely to work than a cool dialogue of balancing fear and honor.

  64. Artfldgr Says:

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

    Middlebury College professor Gary Margolis showed his support for Henry Louis Gates Jr. with this poem:

    Ajar

    Who hasn’t lost the keys to his
    own house, searched for a window
    to crawl through, kicked a back door

    open, to see if it was left open?
    Frost did at his Ripton farm house.
    I’m telling you I climb through

  65. Scottie Says:

    JohnC,

    Interesting view – and quite accurate in many cases, but I’ll give you an example to chew on regarding the ‘We’re angry and we will vote you out of office unless. . ..’ approach.

    In DC vs Heller, you have an individual who sought to exercise his rights and was denied the lawful exercise of those rights by the governing body – that body being DC.

    He regained his rights not by threatening council members, but rather by taking his case to court and winning through passionate but reasoned argument.

    DC (quite unenthusiastically) abided by the court ruling not because of fear of the court, but rather the ruling had been handed down and they had to abide by it out of respect for the law – even when it turned against them.

    The case itself, if you read the transcript, could be heated at times but there was always the undertone of respect from all parties.

    This respect extended even to Heller, even though of all of the parties he had the least overt power.

    So yes, you can achieve some measure of constructive response from elected officials when you go after their re-election, but you also have alternative avenues to pursue when all else fails.

    So far the system is working, although it does seem shaky at times….

  66. JohnC Says:

    Thanks Scottie – I’ll think about things and might respond later. Work calls for me at the moment.

  67. kcom Says:

    I do believe there is a problem with “contempt of cop” in this country.

    And you sure don’t have to be black to experience it.

    I believe this is the only real, legitimate issue that came from this incident, despite the good professor’s vigorous attempts to insist that it can teach some “larger meaning” about race. It wasn’t about race until he tried to make it about race.

    The only real question, I think, was whether the officer was right to arrest Gates. I’m not saying I have the answer since I wasn’t there and I don’t have the facts (and I don’t know the law). But that would be a legitimate question, based on the real facts of the case, and one that might provide a genuinely useful ‘teaching moment’ for the country. What was the right thing to do in that situation? Most of us, I would guess, don’t have a lot of direct experience with the police. I certainly don’t. I don’t know what standard procedure is and obviously it varies from place to place. Clarifying that for the public would be useful and informative. Knowing your rights is the first step in protecting them.

    I did see an article that quoted a number of different police officers from around the country. Some said they would have arrested Gates under those circumstances and some said they wouldn’t, so there is obviously some judgment involved along with the law. No surprise. Life is messy.

  68. Chilisize Says:

    Authoritarian bootlicks on the kiss-up side of the kiss-up/kick-down continuum seem a tad upset that it’s actually legal to bruise sergeant Crowley’s frail ego!

    Crowley’s incident report smelled to high heaven in it’s self-serving, convenient improbabilities and misleading narrative; instead of going on about what Professor Gates should have done or not done according to what “everybody knows” should be done or not done, we would do better to consider what a police officer is required to do by law, and in Cambridge a police officer is required to provide full name and badge number. Note that Crowley failed to do this and then tried to fudge that fact on the incident report; he also, in a most weaselly manner, implied that the 911 caller had identified “black men” breaking into Gates’s house, when the caller did no such thing.

    Given Crowley’s obvious attempt to finesse the report — every vagary seems to support him rather than cast him in a bad light, some other statements are simply untrue and those untrue parts of the narrative happen to paint the sergeant’s actions in the best light — it is more than fair to say that in every instance where Gate’s narrative differs from Crowley’s, Gates’s version is more credible. It really is that simple.

    On top of that, even if Crowley’s CYA bullshit incident report were to believed 110%, it was still a stupid arrest; all the sergeant had to do was go get a donut, and any “public disturbance” would have immediately ceased — viola, effective policing

  69. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Chili,

    Separate questions. The more important one is that Gates discredited the race card–with massive help from zero.

  70. Chilisize Says:

    Well fiddle deedee: V-O-I-L-A

  71. Chilisize Says:

    Hardly, Aubrey; I am willing to buy that Crowley wasn’t driven by race to arrest Gates for no good reason; but Gates does indeed have very good reason to believe that race is behind a police officers seeming refusal to accept that a law abiding citizen is just that, even after he’s been shown as much. And really, the title of this thread leads me to believe that we were talking about talking back to cops, not “the race card.”

    If it’s illegal to express your displeasure, to whatever degree rightly or wrongly, to sergeant Crowley, it sure as hell shouldn’t be.

  72. kcom Says:

    If it’s illegal to express your displeasure, to whatever degree rightly or wrongly, to sergeant Crowley, it sure as hell shouldn’t be.

    Exactly on that point, here is an article from Harvey Silverglate, the co-founder of FIRE.

    Link

    He comes down very firmly on your side.

  73. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Chili.
    Keep pumping smoke. This kind of arrest happens a zillion times a year. It’s only news because it follows Gates’ stupid reaction to the cops showing up in the first place. His stupid, predictable reaction demonstrating why racism is so very, very precious to certain folks. They wouldn’t have a job without it.
    Neither you nor I have the full details on what was said outside the house, the tone of what was said, the cops’ perception of the state of the onlookers, and the nuances of MA law on disturbing the peace.
    Until we do, the idea that Gates was arrested solely for being a butthead is not settled.
    In the meantime, we get to watch race-hustling with the mask off.
    We get to watch, as I said earlier, the usual dance not happening.
    The cops didn’t apologize. They released the tapes to shore up Crowley’s side. One union asked zero to apologize. There is no city self-flagellating, no calls for sensitivity training, no more funding for midnight basketball.
    That’s NOT HOW IT’S SUPPOSED TO WORK.
    It’s a new dance and Gates didn’t get the memo. Indeed, it’s his fault that people are no longer nearly as afraid of being called out by a bogus race-pimp.
    It’s now okay to comment on the emperor’s lack of attire.
    In the meantime, Gates is one more of those folks arrested for mouthing off in a way that may or may not be disturbing the peace in a legal sense.
    You worry about that, I’ll be chuckling at the idea of the entire racial grievance industry asking itself what went wrong.

    And, as somebody said, COPS is on the cable channels ten times a day–I presume, we dumped cable a year and a half ago–and many, many folks see cops getting abuse from all races. The automatic presumption liberals depend on that others will automatically think of cops as pigs DOESN’T WORK.
    Damn’ memo machine missed that one, too.

  74. armchair pessimist Says:

    I think there’s an unwritten law here that enjoins common sense and a sense of humor on both police and public.

    In an earlier post I told how the cops cuffed some poor guy and hauled him off for “being a ninny.” His girlfriend was breaking up with him over the pay phone and he was raising one hell of a fuss. You could hear his cussin’ across town. Free speech or a public disturbance? I think the cops struck a perfect balance here between his rights and the public’s. “Ninnies” most likely get a ride around the block in the squad car to calm them down and teach them to maintain their decorum better next time.

    Another time I was carrying a large rolled up rug out to my car to take to the cleaners when the cops pulled into the driveway. Looking at the rug and the open trunk, they said they were responding to a 911. It was the cliche husband with wife’s dead body scene. I’m afraid I also got the giggles. They were respectful but firm: Anyone live here beside you, sir? …and where is your wife, sir?….can we see her?….. My wife popped her head out the door (she loves the tv cop dramas and was thrilled), and they apologized and left. As for the 911, they said sometimes they get false alarms, whatever that meant. So here’s another gray area. The cops were in the right to check this out; I would have been in the right too, had I told them to get the hell out off my property.

    Fear? Respect? Both, I suppose, with a good measure of give-and-take on the part of everybody.

  75. expat Says:

    kcom,

    I don’t see the real issue as being whether Gates should have been arrested. The real issue is whether Gates should have exploded well before the arrest and whether someone with such a short fuse and inability to get beyond his own grievances is really such an admirable character. There is a difference betweeen standing up for your rights and getting in someone’s face. The latter mode is all too popular these days, and I fear it is becoming a substitute for true heroism. People say, “I have a right to act like an a**.” What kind of standard of behaviour is that? We need to be tougher on ourselves than the law is. Our failure to do so only encourages further encroachment of the law into our daily lives.

    I agree with JohnC that the paramiltarism of police is troubling, but I can’t forget that there are some very bad players out there that I couldn’t deal with on my own.

    A final remark on respect and fear: The people I most respect are those I fear would be disappointed in me because I didn’t act right.

  76. Scottie Says:

    armchair pessimist,

    Ok, that’s a funny story – they didn’t ask if you had a girlfriend rolled up in the carpet????? Maybe check for bloodstains?

    :)

    But more constructively, it shows what can be accomplished when a general measure of mutual courtesy is exercised by both parties.

    There are cops that conduct themselves in this manner, and there are cops that don’t. I’ve seen both and have to say the former seem so far to outnumber the latter in my experience.

    I don’t think subservience is necessary when dealing with a cop, but being aggressive and a general a$$hole doesn’t work either.

    A lot of people who complain about cops may just be bringing it on themselves with how they act during the interaction.

    Try to give the cop a hard time, he will generally return the favor.

    Exercise courtesy, you will probably get that in return unless you’ve really pulled a boneheaded move.

    I’m tending to think Crowley conducted himself appropriately based on the info that has been made public – as well as how desperately the Big O and his buddy are backing off the entire matter and trying to play it down.

  77. Baklava Says:

    Let me help. There are 2 kinds of people.

    1) The people who realize they can only control their own words and actions and treating EVERYBODY with respect including law enforcement is the right thing to do.

    2) The people who let their environment control them and blame THEIR OWN ACTIONS on what other people are doing TO them.

    For those of you above who don’t AUTOMATICALLY treat law enforcement with respect – even if there was a past incident in the past. You are doing the wrong thing and blaming others or the past incident does nothing to make you look good. It makes you look bad.

    Each officer you come in contact with and each person you come in contact with you should always treat with respect and you should work with them in their quest.

    THERE ARE AVENUES if you find that an officer is not behaving. Your best avenue is not screeching and hollering at the moment usually and causing a disturbance.

    Anybody who disagrees with this sentiment – well…. I feel sorry for you. You will not convince me that I don’t control my own actions and that if I do go on the wrong track I shouldn’t apologize. Gates should apologize.

  78. adagny Says:

    I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch that Gates and Obama collaborated on “a teachable moment” for the whole countries benefit.

    Did anyone notice how Obama came to life after the boring Obama-care news conference when asked about the incident as the last question?

    Given Barry and Michelle’s past associations, and their demonstrated interest in apologizing for U.S. history, is it so far beyond the pale that the prez and his bud would use a contrived situation that would demonstrate once and for all what minorities have forever been dealing with when confronting police authority?

    Could Crowley have been set up and sucker punched?

    I’ve never been so conspiratorial, but with the current bunch in power I have to wonder.

  79. Baklava Says:

    kcom wrote, “I did see an article that quoted a number of different police officers from around the country. Some said they would have arrested Gates under those circumstances and some said they wouldn’t, so there is obviously some judgment involved along with the law. No surprise. Life is messy.

    Yes – there are officers who would’ve done either or.

    Yes – one quarterback would’ve left the pocket and the other would’ve stayed and found that receiver.

    Monday morning quarterbacking.

    There is absolutely no way you can crucify or even mildly criticize Crowley for doing something that was at his discretion and was in his right to do for a situation that was either almost over the line or slightly over the line or way over the line due to Gate’s actions.

    Crowley didn’t give Gates a beating, he didn’t do anything wrong.

    And…
    TO focus on that AS the issue is….

    … without perspective.

  80. I R A Darth Aggie Says:

    Yes, I am very polite to the local police. I’ve never had a bad experience; but, to use the therapy-lingo of our culture, I am clear about my “boundaries”.

    Yes, exactly. Otherwise, we don’t really need a 4th amendment prohibiting unreasonable search and seizure. None of y’all have anything to hide, right?

  81. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    Chilisize – a great deal of your accusation is speculation. That others speculate in the opposite direction does not make you automatically credible. In particular, the accusation the Sgt Crowley filled out his report in a self-serving way is speculative. We know neither whether to believe it or disbelieve it. The inconsistencies between different witnesses is very common in all events, and should not be taken as evidence that anyone is lying or finessing.

    Professor Gates initiated the conflict. Whether Sgt Crowley responded appropriately or unnecessarily escalated the conflict is the issue. Gates broke into his own house, which is legal, but suspicious. He should expect at that point that the police might have questions. He immediately injected race into the discussion and refused to show identification.

    There is some bending of word meanings to say that Gates “has a right” to verbally abuse a police officer, just because it is not an arrestable offense. You can’t be arrested for skipping work, either, but that doesn’t mean you have a right to do it, other than in the sense that you have the right to do that without having the law get involved. The phrase “has a right to” should not be considered the same as “is right to,” but to “has the right not to be officially interfered with over it.” The distinction is important in the spinning of the event, as the two meanings of “right” get conveniently exchanged. We have the right to be jerks, but it is not right to be jerks, and most certainly, we are not immune from the consequences of jerkitude.

    It is indeed a fair question to ask whether this rose to the level of requiring arrest. That is always a fair question. Because of the nature of my work, I have seen many more examples of police over-reaction than most of you. But for the same reason, I know how seldom such accusations are justified.

    If you would be persuasive, it would be best to include more than the facts that are in your favor. Gates did show his ID eventually; he did not originally. The police were investigating whether a crime against Mr. Gates’s property had occurred. Gates was indeed innocent of any crime, because no crime had in fact occurred. He was on his own property. But there was reasonable suspicion that a crime had occurred, and it is the “right” – actually the obligation – of the police to determine this. That Gates knew he was the property owner is not enough. As an analogy, a person holding up a bank with an unloaded gun could say with complete honesty that no one was in actual danger. That does not mean that everyone involved is obligated to assume that the gun is not loaded.

    Gates continued to act suspiciously by throwing out a bad excuse for the police to leave, which is something criminals frequently do, verbally abusing the officer, and by refusing to show his ID. These are not criminal in themselves, but can fairly be considered suspicious.

    The one possible place that Crowley can be questioned is for the arrest itself. Disturbance has to rise to a certain level before it can be considered criminal. We don’t know if that level was reached. We are unlikely to ever have sufficient information to make that determination, either. On that score, reasonable people might differ.

    Which is why Obama shouldn’t have shot his mouth off.

  82. Scottie Says:

    One thing I would like to note:

    There have been several references to Gates’ rights and Crowley’s rights.

    The only one exercising any rights was Gates – he was after all on his own property.

    (Before anyone jumps to conclusions, please reference back to my previous statements on the matter)

    Other things he did were not so much his “right” as simply his actions that appear to have been rationalized after the fact.

    Crowley, on the other hand, did not exercise *his* rights in arresting Gates.

    Instead, Crowley was I believe exercising rights on behalf of the authority of the state.

    He was simply an instrument of the will of the state, IOW. He was exercising no inherent rights that he, Crowley, possessed.

  83. Occam's Beard Says:

    Are you going to argue in favor of racial profiling?

    Gray, I already did that, on a previous thread. Racial profiling, just like age and gender profiling, is just good police work. Cops should focus attention on where the problems tend to arise. I trust you’re not going to argue that blue-haired grannies and members of the Crips should be viewed with equal suspicion?

  84. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Occam.
    Yeah, I think he is.
    If he can’t dodge the question.
    To argue otherwise would invalidate his position.

    Problem is, disputing such profiling includes the unstated–thus “planted” axiom–that crime rates are the same in all ethnic groups. Thus, any disparity in stops, arrests, prosecutions, or convictions is a matter of racism.
    There are some venues in which quoting, say, FBI or DOJ stats will get you called racist.

  85. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    expat said, “A final remark on respect and fear: The people I most respect are those I fear would be disappointed in me because I didn’t act right.”

    Now that, I like. That’s a goal to live by: to become one of those people whom others hope not to disappoint.

  86. Occam's Beard Says:

    As long as we’re trading anecdotes…

    Decades ago when I was in college I was stopped by four police cars suddenly converging on all sides of me in an intersection. A number of very hinky officers approached me, hands on pistol butts, made me get out of the car, and asked if they could search it. Scared to death, I agreed. Standing on the sidewalk, I was asked to unlock the passenger side door, which I did, and then unthinkingly punched the button of the glove compartment to make sure it was unlocked. It dropped open, so I backed out and turned around to look into the muzzle of a .38.

    Now thoroughly terrified, I stood on the sidewalk (without moving!) until asked to open the trunk, which I did (slowly, and without doing anything else, of course) and slowly backed away onto the sidewalk. Searching the trunk, an officer patted a blanket there, then froze and yanked it away to see several flares roll out (I kept them wrapped in the blanket to prevent their rolling). The cops laughed nervously, and the guy doing the search said he’d thought a flare had been a gun muzzle. After half an hour or so they let me go.

    Long story short, it turned out that someone had pulled a gun from a glove compartment and killed a cop about an hour earlier. The guy was my height, weight, and age, drove the same year, make, and color of car, and was coming from the same direction I was. The only difference was that he had an out of state plate (how hard is that to switch?).

    To this day I’m amazed the cops let me go (I wouldn’t have – an awful lot of coincidences!), but I guess they read my reaction as that of an innocent man. They were thoroughly professional and courteous – but of course business-like – throughout.

    Coda to the story: they nabbed the guy involved. He was murdered by his cell mate the next day. Sure glad they didn’t take me in …

  87. armchair pessimist Says:

    Interesting discussion, and it reminds me of another story which touches on that zone of behavior between government and governed that isn’t always easy to mark out.

    When they were first married, my parents were vacationing somewhere in New England. A huge forest fire had broken out and was approaching the small town where they were staying. The town authorities “drafted” –there’s no other word for it–all able bodied men, residents and guests alike, to the fire fighting teams. Some were given shovels, some pick axes, and off they went. I can’t help thinking of world war 2 footage of civilians ordered to dig trenches and tank traps.

    To say the least, this was high handed on the part of a government in America, even a little one, and compelling citizens to remain in danger was probably even more dubious than forcing them to flee it. Were there any barracks lawyers in the ranks and did anybody refuse? Who knows? From what my father said it sounded like everybody was on the same page.

    This is obviously not the case in America 2009, where not only are we not all on the same page, we’re not even reading the same book.

  88. Richard Aubrey Says:

    arm.
    I would imagine that in your father’s case, “drafting” meant only saying–here are the shovels and axes, take your pick.
    Today, some would take up the tools and others, no doubt smiling at their superior intelligence, would run.

  89. Julia NYC Says:

    Harvard is definitely looking pretty bad. If I were really smart I’d try and go to MIT.

  90. Don Says:

    I also had an incident with an AZ state trooper.

    My wife and I were on a two lane road in the desert, with no cars in sight. I was driving well above the limit.

    A trooper stopped us, gave me a warning, and let us go. He was quite polite and friendly. He welcomed us CA residents to AZ.

  91. Baklava Says:

    I have my anecdotes but what do they matter??

    I even have one with an African American woman police officer (I am lily white) who gave me two tickets in 1988.

    I even have one recently where the neighbor thought I was a burglar in my own house (how relevant) and one of the responding officers was African American, and since I had the music very loud in the bathroom I was working in was very surprised as the police officer came into my own bathroom (my front door was unlocked).

    But what does it matter.

    we can sit here in judgment of police or sit in judgment of the neighbor for calling the police in the first place.

    But each individual incident stands on it’s own and it is up to us to be respectful of the police and the job they are tasked to do.

    Yes, I was resentful that the carpet I had just cleaned was walked on by boots. Yes, I was resentful that the Filipino neighbor seems not to have liked me. But what can I do? Make that resentment worse by being a problem citizen?

    No.

  92. Adrian Says:

    Barney Frank weighs in:

    I think the right to yell at people in authority is a very important American democracy. Of course if you’re disruptive, if you’re threatening, that’s a problem. But the right to yell at authority figures is I think a very important right that ought to be protected.

    Hmm. Where is that in the Bill of Rights- The right to yell at people in authority?

  93. Thomass Says:

    Scottie Says:

    “On the other hand, I likewise have a serious problem with this whole notion that you must show the proper “respect” and deference to these public servants.”

    I don’t, if it goes both ways. They ‘officer..’ me ‘sir’.
    Thats sort of the social contract with mandatory respect. If I’m treated like pond scum, well, the deal is off.

  94. ninjafetus Says:

    It’s probably for the best that the fear/respect conversation died down. I had a joke forming about my calculus students refusing to differentiate with ‘respect’ to x, only to capitulate under ‘fear’ of a bad grade, but I don’t think I could have made a successful delivery.

    Oh, well. No cop stories here, sorry!

  95. Thomass Says:

    Adrian Says:

    “Hmm. Where is that in the Bill of Rights- The right to yell at people in authority?”

    Time and place… fire in theatre, not the time or place. Ranting when an officer is asking you questions about a possible crime… not the time or place.

  96. Scottie Says:

    Thomass,

    Context is everything. Here is a fuller quote that clearly shows what I was referring to:

    “…..it’s always a good idea to be polite when dealing with authority figures – it’s only good judgement and such politeness is no less than every citizen should provide as well as expect in return.

    On the other hand, I likewise have a serious problem with this whole notion that you must show the proper “respect” and deference to these public servants.

    When the police become a force within society that is feared if the proper obeyance is not observed, it is a symptom to me that there is a huge problem in that society”

    Now, exactly where were you disagreeing with me?

  97. Gray Says:

    expat said, “A final remark on respect and fear: The people I most respect are those I fear would be disappointed in me because I didn’t act right.”

    Now that, I like. That’s a goal to live by: to become one of those people whom others hope not to disappoint.

    It’s sweet, but it’s not how the rest of the world works, or has ever worked.

    Outside of middle-class, white, babyboomer suburban America: Power commands respect. Power is based on fear.

    Do you wonder why we are having so much trouble in Afghanistan? Do you wonder why Iran keeps rolling us? It’s because of a mealy-mouthed belief that respect is not based on power and power is not based on fear.

    We’ll never learn, and even when we do learn, we’ll lose ‘cuz we don’t want to give up our sweet, but hopeless ideas….

    Scottie–I’m not arguing in circles ‘cuz I don’t mistake “webster’s dictionary” for “words and language”. One is a commercial entity, the other is, y’know, “words and language”.

    Furthermore, I’m sorry you don’t have the historical background to understand my reference to “how many armored divisions does webster’s have?”

    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Joseph_Stalin

    Just because your made-up rules are sweet doesn’t mean the rest of the world works that way or gives a shit about your sweet rules.

    You will get rolled–just like the US gets rolled by every single tin-horn dictator whom we expect to respect us ‘cuz we are sweet.

  98. Scottie Says:

    Gray,

    Oh, I got the reference all right – but it didn’t change the fact you have been caught arguing in circles.

    After observing your responses and attempting to have a reasoned discussion with you, I have an idea now as to why you view interactions with cops so negatively….

    Me getting “rolled”? You grossly underestimate me. I’m certainly not a peacenik hippie by any stretch. I quite understand how powerplays work on the world stage – but that wasn’t the point being made no matter how much you continue to conflate “power” with ” respect” and “honor”.

    As with hard core leftists, I leave you to your own little world with your own made up definitions. You have a specific reality you think works for you – and you won’t have your head swayed with any other viewpoint on any matter.

  99. expat Says:

    Gray,

    I have great respect for people who stand up for what they believe in and are willing to defend themselves and their beliefs. Raw power may earn you deference, but respect is earned when that power is associated with principle.

  100. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    Gray said, “Do you wonder why we are having so much trouble in Afghanistan? Do you wonder why Iran keeps rolling us? It’s because of a mealy-mouthed belief that respect is not based on power and power is not based on fear.”

    Well, I certainly agree with that. Iran’s not getting any respect based on honor from ME, and our president is not doing anybody any favors by suggesting that it should. (Others have pointed out how much more willing he was to criticize the Cambridge police department for arresting somebody and promptly letting him go again than than he was to criticize the Iranian government for killing people.) I am right there with you on the importance of the big stick in international relations, especially when we’re dealing with countries that don’t think about concepts like authority and respect and honor in anything like the way we do.

    However, up to now we have been discussing our own domestic institutions, not foreign policy. I do not believe the day has come — though it may be coming — when I can’t include a strong element of honor along with fear in my respect for the police, the military, and most of the other governmental institutions that have power over me. (You’ll notice I didn’t mention Congress.) I fail to see why acknowledging that fear is generally part of respect for domestic authority requires the corollary that fear is all there is. I say that respect is solely based on fear, the authority demanding respect is illegitimate. I don’t want to live in a country built on exclusively fear-based respect, and I don’t live there yet. Further, denying even the possibility that our authorities can behave honorably in exercising power or, as expat suggested, adjust their behavior in order to deserve honor along with fear, won’t help keep us from getting there.

    If my world view is too “sweet” for you — though I doubt you really think that either expat or I had anything like Iran or Afghanistan in mind when we discussed the fear of disappointing those we respect — yours is way too bleak for me. That way, I fear, lies self-fulfilling prophecy.

  101. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    oops. should read “I say that WHEN respect is based solely on fear . . . “

  102. SAB Says:

    Lessons learned: Don’t mess with the Po Po and the Po Po won’t mess with you. Damn Skippy!

  103. Thomass Says:

    Gray @ 12:32AM

    “You have conflated the word “power” with the words “respect” and “honor”.”

    Or maybe you are confusing Webster’s with language. Maybe it is just a vote of no confidence in a particular dictionary.

  104. Thomass Says:

    Chilisize Says:

    “we would do better to consider what a police officer is required to do by law, and in Cambridge a police officer is required to provide full name and badge number.”

    No, we don’t know as the time and place for it to be given didn’t come up. If Gates followed some simple directions and answered a few questions himself and then didn’t get the badge number (or arrested)…. you’d have a point. Once he was already in the tank, the badge number is irrelevant as it’s all over the police report of which he was going to get a copy.

    Its like complaining you didn’t get it in the middle of riot…. of course not!

  105. JohnC Says:

    Just Like Skippy Gates Blues

    When you’re lost in the rain in Cambridge
    And it’s summer time too
    And your gravity fails
    And negativity doesn’t pull you through
    Don’t put on any airs
    When you’re down on Cambridge Avenue
    They got some hungry 911 callers there
    And they really make a mess outa you

    Now if you see Lucia Whalen
    Please tell her thanks a lot
    I cannot move
    My fingers are all in a knot
    I don’t have the strength
    To get up and give another racist shot
    And my best friend, my doctor
    Won’t even say what it is I’ve got

    Up on Harvard University Hill
    It’s either fortune or fame
    You must pick up one or the other
    Though neither of them are to be what they claim
    And if you’re looking to claim racial profiling
    You better go back to from where you came
    Because the cops don’t need you
    And man now they expect the same

    You know that all white cops
    They just stand around and boast
    How they helped the sergeant of arms
    Into using his post
    And picking up Skippy Angel who
    Just arrived here from the coast
    Who looked so fine at first
    But left looking just like a ghost

    Obama started out on a bore
    Smiled and soon hit the harder stuff
    And the Obamanuts said they’d stand behind him
    When the game got rough
    But the joke was on him
    There were plenty there to call his bluff
    And Cowley’s going back to Cambridge
    I do believe he’s had enough

    *sing to the tune of “Just Like Tom Thomb’s Blues by Bob Dylan

  106. Gray Says:

    I don’t think anyone actually read my posts on this thread.

    I think most of you just constructed strawmen around certain words I used and then beat the shit out of the strawman you built without addressing my points.

    OK. I’ll try again:

    I was making an instructive point. I contended that based on my experiences growing up in an honor/shame based culture that Respect is based on Power (not fear). Power is based on Fear (I didn’t say “wholly”). (Goddamnit, we are supposed to be the smart ones, not the knee-jerk ones….)

    When Scottie (incomprehensibly) quoted Webster’s dictionary definition of “Respect”, I used it as a launching point to demonstrate my point (lemme try again):

    “Webster? Who is this Webster? He is nothing to me. I don’t fear him! He has no Power! I don’t have to believe any Webster definition!”

    See, that’s my point. You can’t get me (or anyone) to respect something that I do not fear (has no power over me).

    In human relations, governmental, foreign, micro or macro, Respect is based on Power. Power is based on Fear.

    Babalouie Gates tried gain power over the officer in his home by making the officer fearful of him “don’t you know who I am?!”. But Babalouie miscalculated the level of fear he could create in an armed officer whose grades don’t depend on bowing to a race-pimp.

    I am not a leftist. I seem to be defending myself from that charge here a lot lately. I don’t share any characteristics of thought with them and I reject adopting their techniques to fight them. Although, I do think that the lefties understand fear, power and respect better than my stupid, stupid Republican brethren.

    That’s why they are in charge, and probably will be forever at this rate–they have power over what I drink, smoke, say and do. I fear them and therefore I have great respect for the dirty leftists abilities to destroy my life and my livelihood.

  107. Gray Says:

    Raw power may earn you deference, but respect is earned when that power is associated with principle.

    And “power associated with principle” and 5 bucks will get you a cold latte dumped in your lap.

    See if you can use that Power associated with principle to defeat Obamacare.

  108. br549 Says:

    As our buddy Alinsky knows well, it is impossible to defend oneself against one who mocks, unless you do it with a fistburger. I think of Franken vs. O’Reilly for instance. Or Franken every time something comes out of his mouth. Or Bill Maher, or however you spell it. It is definitely a trait often used by the left. I hate to see it in here. It happens some times.

    I do mock myself when I screw up or say something stupid. Thank God that’s a rarity. Urp! Gleep!

  109. Chilisize Says:

    I say that Crowley’s report is suspicious because it varies with known facts and because it very clearly fudges the issue of Crowley providing his ID as he is required to do.

    Again: the 911 caller didn’t identify “black men” in her call, but Crowley wrote “She went on to tell me she observed what appeared to be two black males with backpacks on the porch of …Ware street.” “Appeared” to be “two black males” to whom exactly? To Lucia Whalen, the caller, or to sergeant Crowley? Whalen, the caller, in fact denies having talked to Crowley at all, much less identifing any “black males.”

    Also — Crowley tries to get around his failure to provide his ID, and his excuse, that Gates asked his name, and that his name is “sergeant Crowley,” is just embarrassingly silly.

    The report is classic CYA.

    Finally and again: even if the crap report is taken at face value, the arrest was stupid. All Crowley had to do, once it was determined that no burglary was taking place or had taken place, was go away. No “public distrubance,” neighborhood protected and served.

  110. Gray Says:

    All Crowley had to do, once it was determined that no burglary was taking place or had taken place, was go away.

    He was determining that no burglary was taking place when Louie-Louie Gates went off on him.

    Crowley didn’t know there weren’t burglars in the house in addition to the loud-mouthed race-pimp.

    Didn’t think of that, didja?

    I trust the average cop in Cambridge way more than some dopey Harvard professor. In fact, I hope a black-studies professor shows up next time someone calls the cops.

  111. Chilisize Says:

    Crowley knew that Gates was no burglar, he said so himself.

    Gray — what is driving your viewpoint here is clear who the involved people are, not what they are actually known to have done.

    I haven’t felt like discussing whether Crowley was or was not racist in his decision to make that stupid, stupid, stupid, arrest — whether Gates was wrong or right to suggest a racial motive. Because it is utterly immaterial.

    Gates (who’s not a “black studies professor” btw) has a right to think, correctly or incorrectly, that this was an incident of racially motivated policing. He has a right to assertively tell sergeant Crowley as much.

    Crowley, OTOH, has a legal duty to provide his ID when it is requested of him. He failed to do that. I assume he has a duty to write accurate incident reports. I think he pretty much failed to do that as well.

    Instead of letting it go, which would have brought peace and quiet to the neighborhood he was policing, he called in a bunch of squad cars and got into it with a guy who he knew had committed no crime and then arrested that guy, because that guy hurt his little feelings.

    All he had to do was go get a donut, then the neighborhood is spared the “disturbance.”

  112. Chilisize Says:

    Ok, looking at it, I guess that Gates is or has been a “professor of African American studies.”

  113. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Chili.
    Gates has a right to insist he was racially profiled.
    We have a right to think about what that means. He’s an example of the race-hustling, race-pimping grievance industry caught at it.
    The arrest is probably important to him–although in his position it’s worth more than being allowed to howl at the cop’s back while the neighbors watched–but it’s not the primary issue.
    The primary issue is the exposure of the race-pimping industry and zero’s relationship to it.

  114. Baklava Says:

    Chili wrote, “All he had to do was go get a donut, then the neighborhood is spared the “disturbance.”

    And all we have to do is have tea with bin Laden.

    Why even pay police?

    There is no bad people that police have to contend with. There are no Gates of the world.

    :)

  115. Occam's Beard Says:

    “All he had to do was go get a donut, then the neighborhood is spared the “disturbance.”

    Don’t worry – I’m sure that that’s exactly what will happen the next time Gates needs the police.

    Bottom line: Gates would not mouth off to members of the KKK, the Aryan Nation, Hell’s Angels, the Bloods, the Crips, the Chicago Vice Lords, the Nation of Islam, or probably even TSA officials in the airport. He mouthed off to a cop…because he could.

  116. Chilisize Says:

    “because he could…”

    Yep, that danged ol’ first amendment…

  117. Baklava Says:

    let’s go incite some riots chili !

    it’ll be fun !

    We’re allowed !

  118. Chilisize Says:

    Talk back to a squirrely cop=incite a riot.

    Got it, Baklava — the reasoning employed by right-wingo authoritarian bootlicks on the kiss-up side of the kiss-up/kick-down continuum is always big laffs!

  119. douglas Says:

    There’s a very important element missing in this discussion- the recognition that police are representatives of the people- not only servants- and as such, the uniform and position (even if perhaps not the individual) deserve respect as they represent the authority granted by the people themselves. The loss of this recognition in broader society is probably the main reason why cops aren’t like the good old Mayberry days- people respected them back then, so they could afford to be more friendly- now, not so much.

    Also, it helps in this specific instance to understand that Sergeant Crowley was obligated, by proper police procedure, to verify that the situation was secure, and to do so, he had to be certain that the homeowner (once he made the determination that Mr. Gates was in fact that person) was alone, and that there was no other threat within the premises. To do so, he needed to get Mr. Gates to withdraw to at least the porch so he could speak with him to explain and search the house. Imagine if Mr. Gates had come home two minutes after a break in, and didn’t realize that there were intruders still in the house- a potentially dangerous situation not only for himself, but for responding police as well. Also, consider the possibility that while Mr. Gates I.D. had this address on it, he still might not be permitted to be there legally- imagine for instance an ex-husband court ordered to stay away from his former residence- and Sergeant Crowley was obligated to verify Mr. Gates identity and right to be present at that address.

    I could go on, but there are many reasons why Mr. Gates was wrong, and Sergeant Crowley correct in this situation, but I think these examples might be helpful in understanding that it’s a mistake to think you understand all the elements that are affecting a police officers decision making process. Defer to their authority first, debate whether or not it’s proper procedure later.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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