Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gates Again

Our President playing Skip Gates in 'Show Me The ID.' (Seriously.)

I don't know why I'm so annoyed by this Gates business, but having gone to Duke at the time of the lacrosse mess, I'm a little sensitive to cases where people, on the basis of our shared dark history and little else, jump to often-mistaken conclusions about race and criminal justice. It strikes me that Obama, if he's unlucky, may come to look pretty stupid for saying that the Cambridge police "acted stupidly" without, it would seem, at all being acquainted with the police report (though he did admit that he was "sure there was some exchange of words," but to hear him tell it, the guy essentially got arrested for showing his ID). The last thing we need is talk radio and cable idiots on my side of the aisle going on not so subtly racist rants for weeks about how Obama rushed to judgment in a phantom case of racial profiling. Could get - sorry - ugly. Anyway, in the ensuing hoopla, it would be nice to remember that the arresting officer is human too, and not just some cog in the putatively racist hegemon of American law enforcement. The following story doesn't 'prove' anything, but it's a nice story:

When Sergeant James M. Crowley climbed the front steps of Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s house last week and unexpectedly placed himself in international headlines, it was not the first time he had a memorable encounter in the line of duty with a prominent black man. Nearly 16 years ago, as a Brandeis University police officer, Crowley desperately tried to save the life of Reggie Lewis after the Boston Celtics star collapsed while practicing in the school gym.

“It bothers him terribly that he couldn’t save him,’’ Crowley’s 74-year-old mother, Verina Crowley, said yesterday, speaking of her son and the famous basketball player.

Crowley was a certified emergency medical technician when he performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Lewis, to no avail, after the player’s heart stopped on July 27, 1993. In a Globe interview later that day, Crowley said he rushed to the university’s Shapiro Gymnasium, confirmed that Lewis had no pulse, and frantically tried to revive him.

“I just kept on going,’’ he said. “I just kept thinking, ‘Don’t let him die - just don’t die.’ ’’

Now, 16 years later, he stands accused of racism by Gates, one of the foremost scholars on race in America...

[P]eople who know Crowley were skeptical or outright dismissive of allegations of racism. A prominent defense lawyer, a neighbor of Crowley’s, his union, and fellow officers described him yesterday as a respected, and respectful, officer who performs his job well and has led his colleagues in diversity training.“He’s evenhanded and, in the cases I’ve had with him, he’s been very much in control and very professional,’’ said Joseph W. Monahan III, a criminal defense lawyer in Cambridge and former Middlesex County prosecutor. Monahan has represented several defendants arrested by Crowley for domestic assaults and for drunken driving.
Read the whole thing.

3 comments:

bding7 said...

I missed his answer last night, and just caught up with it a few minutes ago. All Obama said was that what the Cambridge police did was stupid. His point about racial profiling was an entirely separate point, and he made sure to say that. I agree Gates acted stupidly, but I still maintain that his behavior isn't really grounds for arrest. Anyway, there's no need to get agitated by his response. He was simply stating a fact that may be related to this particular case.

tray said...

Well, it's not clear that the police even acted stupidly. It's quite clear that he wasn't racially profiled because he really did break into his house and someone who almost certainly didn't know the house was his really did see it. So where does profiling play a role here?

bding7 said...

I never said it did, neither did Obama. It's becoming more and more clear this situation has nothing to do with racial profiling. Obama was just making a general point that racial profiling is an issue people are concerned about when things like this happen. Also, he was trying to address Lynn Sweet's question about progress in race relations, that's all.

How is it not clear that the officer acted, at best, a bit foolishly in arresting Gates?