The Weekend Desk Report
By The Weekend Desk B Team
Editor's Note: Natasha Julius is on assignment deep inside the bowels of the American dream factory. She will return next week with her special report.
Stupid Is As Stupid Does
On the other hand, we don't understand the health care bill either.
1. "President Obama said today that he was 'surprised by the controversy surrounding' his criticism that Cambridge police 'acted stupidly' when they arrested Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr.," the Boston Globe reports.
After all, who would've thought it would be a big deal to call a local police department stupid without knowing the facts in a racially charged case?
2. "I think it was a pretty straight forward commentary that you probably don't need to handcuff a guy, a middle-aged man who uses a cane, who is in his own home."
After all, it's not as if police officers nationwide are required to handcuff every person they arrest regardless of age, health, wealth, or friendship with the president.
3. "Let me be clear, he was not calling the officer stupid," Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said with a straight face.
Though it's sort of true; he was calling the whole department stupid.
4. "I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department and Sgt. Crowley specifically," Obama said on Friday.
Let's go to the videotape: "Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof he was in own home."
5. Gates wasn't arrested for breaking into his own home. He was arrested for disorderly conduct.
According to the police report, which has been online from day one, apparently unbeknownst to most reporters:
"On Thursday July 16, 2009, Henry Gates, Jr. ([redacted], of [redacted] Ware Street, Cambridge, MA) was placed under arrest at [redacted] Ware Street, after being observed exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior, in a public place, directed at a uniformed police officer who was present investigating a report of a crime in progress. These actions on the behalf of Gates served no legitimate purpose and caused citizens passing by this location to stop and take notice while appearing surprised and alarmed."
"As I turned and faced the door, I could see an older male standing in the foyer of [redacted] Ware Street. I made this observation through the glass paned front door. As I stood in plain view of this man, later identified as Gates, I asked if he would step out onto the porch and speak with me. He replied, 'no I will not.' He then demanded to know who I was. I told him that I was 'Sgt. Crowley from the Cambridge Police' and that I was 'investigating a report of a break in progress' at the residence. While I was making this statement, Gates opened the front door and exclaimed, 'why, because I'm a black man in America?'. I then asked Gates if there was anyone else in the residence. While yelling, he told me that it was none of my business and accused me of being a racist police officer."
Gates went on to say "You don't know who you're messing with!"
Again, you can read the whole report for yourself.
6. Do I trust police reports as the authoritative version of an incident? Of course not. But I've read a lot of police reports in my time and it's hard to see that the police officer acted stupidly in any way, shape or form. The police report also rings truer than Gates's account.
7. Did race play a role in this incident? Yes, but in a way I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere: the original call from a witness described two black men who appeared to be breaking into a home. Why did the witness refer to their race? It's possible it was simply to assist officers in identifying suspects. On the other hand, maybe the call doesn't get made if they are white men.
UPDATE July 30: Audio of the 911 call confirms the witness' contention that she never mentioned the race of the apparent "suspects." Crowley says she mentioned race in a subsequent conversation; she denies it.
9. Did Crowley have to arrest Gates? When someone is as uncooperative, belligerent and, well, suspicious as Gates acted, according to Crowley's report, yes. He seemed unusually agitated; who knows what was going on.
10. It turns out that Gates had previously had a break-in at that very home.
* (218): I think I might be in your shoes. Except they are actually my shoes. Either way these shoes are wasted.
* (859): I'm not to broken up about it. Our relationship was worse than a coldplay song.
The Weekend Desk Tip Line: Like a golden chariot.
Posted on July 25, 2009
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