Ultimately, I never believed Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates was the victim of racial profiling when police in Cambridge arrested him for becoming outraged as officers investigated a report of a burglary at his address.
But while President Obama backs off from his initial statement in defense of his friend that the police acted "stupidly," I still believe Gates was the victim of bad police work. And the arrest fits the bill of not being the smartest move on their part.
Police don guns and badges and have a responsibility to have the coolest of heads. When investigating reports of crime they should be aware of potential inaccuracies and biases of reporting witnesses. And in many ways, arresting Gates after they had determined there was no burglary seems to be just a rap on the knuckles for his anger toward them.
If everyone involved were to have taken a deep breath, they would have seen this as a huge misunderstanding.
As information trickles out on what happened, we learn that Office Crowley was, in fact, facilitated training for police on how to avoid racial profiling. It isn’t far from fathomable that Crowley might have become just as irate at the remark Gates made about racism as Gates was at being asked for identification in his own home. The guilt of profiling really belongs to the neighbor who sized him up as a robber.
It is probably true that either party might have been able to diffuse the situation, but I feel police has the obligation to do so and make arrests responsibly with an eye on justice not just to stop a man from saying things that hurt their feelings.
Because ultimately what they are saying is that under all circumstances you can not argue with a cop. You can not call him a racist and get away with it.
The thing that remains to be seen, however, is how the event will impact the real issues concerning racial profiling as it has become investigative policy for many police forces.
For instance, in Troy, NY, police are still arresting people of color in higher numbers than whites for traffic violations such as riding a bike without a bell or jaywalking. Not ticketed, not fined: ARRESTED. The idea being that there will be no public outrage for the innocent when drugs are discovered on a handful of the guilty.
That’s not justice, it is lazy police work.
As the nation focus’ its attention on Gates, I just hope the people involved can shine the light on real cases of racism for people who are relegated to the shadows.