But he was neither cat nor burglar.One detail in the “famous Harvard professor whom even non-academics may have seen on that TV special with Oprah looked like scary intruder to neighbor” story that did not make sense was that part where the neighbor — the lady who called the cops was a neighbor — did not recognize the famous Harvard professor trying to get into his own house. Well, now we have our answer: sounds like the scary intruder she spotted may have been his cab driver.

Professor Gates, who has taught at Harvard for nearly two decades, arrived home on Thursday from a trip to China to find his front door jammed, said Charles J. Ogletree, a law professor at Harvard who is representing him.

He forced the door open with the help of his cab driver, Professor Ogletree said, and had been inside for a few minutes when Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge Police Department appeared at his door and asked him to step outside.

So, maybe the “good Samaritan” who put in the call to the police just thought, “Professor Gates is out of the country and there is some strange man trying to open his door!” Which is plausible, although you’d think the presence of the TAXI CAB might have given her a clue that the strange man was legit? Unless it wasn’t a cab at all, and was some sort of an unmarked car service? Who knows. The point is, you have to feel pretty bad for this woman who probably feels pretty bad herself about setting off this whole awful incident. Because really, you do not want to be the person who dropped a dime on the charming and treasured Harvard professor who rides his adorable red tricycle around Martha’s Vineyard and hangs out with Oprah.

(For that matter, you do not want to be the person in the Cambridge Police Department who decided, “yes, let’s book this famous black academic instead of just letting him go, so that way we have a mug shot that’s public record, and we can release this humiliating photograph to the press. This will win us many fans!”)

Anyway, of course, accounts between Professor Gates and the arresting officer differ regarding what actually happened when the police came to Gates’ house.

Harvard Professor Jailed; Officer Is Accused of Bias [New York Times]

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  1. Expect a newly-radicalized Gates to show up for his next news conference like Clarence Williams III in I’m Gonna Get You Sucka. The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
    blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary!

  2. Booking people on some BS charge even when they know they have nothing is reflexive with cops. They do it to have something to bargain with later. “Listen we drop the resisting arrest charge and you don’t sue”. It works far more often than not.

  3. I just hope the police were able to locate and confiscate the Aqua Teen Hunger Force Lite-Brite device hidden inside Professor Gates’ home.

  4. If Skip were a good NRA member none of this would have happened. He would have used his always handy firearm to defend his property from illegal intrusion by men claiming to be police officers.

  5. [re=366712]One Yield Regular[/re]:
    If only Gates’ neighbor was Carl Brutananadilewski.

    “Don’t like dem cops. Fricking cops.”

  6. I’m betting against the police. ” At first, Gates didn’t show ID”? well, he showed it and then it was clear the police officer should have said this is a mistake and left. I think some police are just bullies- trying to use their badge and weapons to show they are better than those of us who just got an education and don’t carry guns and tasers.

  7. Ah, yes, that whole “Edmund Pettus Bridge” thing in Selma was based on a slight misunderstanding.

    Could there be a possibility that both Gates AND the police are assholes?

  8. If Prof. Gates were permitted his consitutional rights to have a concealed handgun, that cop wouldn’t have gotten as far as the front porch. We need guns to guard against a tyranical government.

  9. [re=366731]Sara K. Smith[/re]: Some Turkish, I believe. I took a lot of cabs around Boston/Cambridge at one point, and there was exactly *one* white cabby who *didn’t* listen to Rush Limbaugh (he always seemed to have on Christopher Lydon). Also a really great Ethiopian guy (independent) always had classical. The Turkish guy I couldn’t understand because he spent the entire time screaming into his cell phone.

  10. [re=366738]Uncle Glenny[/re]: My Cambridge-area cabbies have generally been Russkies who spent most of the ride trying to sell me hookers.

  11. I’d say you have to be a complete idiot to start an argument with the police, but I’d also say you would have to be a complete idiot to be an adult and be seen riding a tricycle.

  12. Why do you think people are so drawn to you?

    They’re drawn to my sexy red tricycle. And the secret is my bell. Anyone who passes me on the bike path gets the bell treatment, especially beautiful women, and that bell is just irresistible.


  13. Didn’t some famous, angry young man once say “Fuck tha police!”? That kind of attitude appears to be what the large, agile and intimidating Mr. Gates brought to this encounter. Loud and tumultuous indeed.

  14. [re=366740]Johnny Zhivago[/re]: I resemble that remark. I have never argued with police-my one “run-in” was an officer(in a not very good area of DC) who told me I did not come to a complete stop at the stop sign(because the murders happening in that part of Dc might have been caused by an older woman driving a MD tagged station wagon). I said yes, sir, took my ticket and left. However, I have frequently considered a three wheeler after seeing them at the beach.

  15. [re=366733]A Better American Than YOU[/re]: It kind of sounds it to me. I mean, there are limits to how ballistic you should let yourself go, and one report I came across made it sound like they were drawing a crowd.

    I had an incident (in Bedford, NW of Cambridge) where a friend had just moved in and a cop showed up with some other non-cop guy looking for someone I never heard of (which I said). Wouldn’t say who non-cop was. Wouldn’t tell me why they were looking for Joe Random. My friend was … kind of dark. I said that wasn’t him and I’d known him for years (he’d *just* showed up to stay for a while). They wanted his ID. I asked for a description: “black hair brown eyes.” Obvious implication, since they didn’t ask for my ID, and I’m white, brown eyes, gray formerly brown hair. I was pissed drunk and went all ACLU. My friend was kind of freaking out and couldn’t find it.

    I don’t even remember if my friend eventually found ID (I think he found some business cards or something). But it stayed in the house, and I didn’t threaten (or comment on motherhood) or wave my arms around, and they went away.

    My later suspicion was that the non-cop was a bail bondsman.

  16. [re=366745]finallyhappy[/re]: I know, same here… In my speeding days, I was stopped a half dozen times and never received a ticket – being apologetic, calm and friendly.

    There are a few psychotic cops out there, but you’re not going to find them in Cambridge. I know Gates is a smart guy, but it appears as if he was acting like a first class jackass in this incident. I suspect the real blame lies with United Airlines (or whoever he was flying from China with), because I know a long plane flight can affect your judgement.

  17. Prof. Gates knows his African-American history. I’m guessing he had good reasons to not want a cop in his home. Anything can happen & then it’s one man’s word against another.

  18. Better yet, why didn’t the passerby simply ASK Gates or the man she saw what was going on? This wasn’t at night in a deserted area, it was in the middle of the day on Ware Street, a dense residential area right near Harvard with lots of people around. No — she impulsively calls the cops. This reveals a paranoid mindset, but not necessarily a racist one.

    And for Gates — yes, losing your temper at the cops is never good. Even when they are in the wrong. Remember the guy who got tasered. Don’t give them any excuses. It almost sounds like Gates was TRYING to get them to react in some way.

  19. From experience, my blue-eyed, white — and law-abiding, church-going, student-council member — son learned the lesson that cops are always right and he is always wrong.

    When he was 14, a cop told him to quit sitting on a low wall at a high school football game. Since he wasn’t in a dangerous place and wasn’t blocking anyone’s view, out of curiosity, he asked “Why?” Because of his question, I had to come pick him up from police custody.

    There’s an old African-American expression everyone of us needs to use in every dealing with the police: “yassuh.” There is no winning with any other response.

  20. I read the police report. If true, it sure sounds like Gates was being a royal a*hole, never a great idea when the policeman is trying to figure out what’s happening. I’m not a great fan of the Bible, but “a soft answer turneth away wrath” is a doggone good piece of advice.

  21. [re=366720]norbizness[/re]: Um…thanks, I think!

    The response to that episode here in San Francisco was SO the opposite of Boston. Most of the people who found one of the things (they were distributed around SF too) got on-line together, and brought their devices to a party at a North Beach bar.

  22. Cops are not very smart people. They don’t so much solve crimes. They show up afterwards, string yellow tape all over and tell passersby to move along. When they show up and see two black men together, they assume there’s a crime in progress. It could be any two black guys.
    Most cops would arrest Obama if they saw him talking to another black guy. Because cops are so dumb, once they decide a crime has occurred, it’s really hard to convince them you’re innocent.
    Somewhere in Cambridge there is an assistant DA about to lose her shoe is some cops ass.

  23. [re=366769]A Better American Than YOU[/re]: yeah, this is exactly the attitude that bothers me, and it’s easy for a situation like that to escalate if, say, your son was taken more by surprise and had no idea what it was about. A lot of the stupid cop interactions I hear about (and I don’t go searching them out) are of that nature.

  24. [re=366771]ZombieRichardFeynman[/re]:

    The thing about police reports, they’re written by the police. They tend not to represent the entire story most of the time. Besides, being abrasive is not against the law. If it was, Sean Hannity would be on the most wanted list.

  25. Maybe he should have should have taken a line from Eddie Murphy as the cops nailed him to the ground and pulled their guns:
    “Is there a problem, officers?” and smile.

  26. I’m a milky-white American who currently lives a few blocks away from The Square, and I can tell you a few things that I hope will put this in context. Many people here barely know their neighbors – but they are all up in each other’s business with a typical “’cause I know better” attitude. It’s not surprising to me that someone in Cambridge would call the po-po immediately upon seeing something that looked a little bit like a house break-in. I’ve had Cambridge’s finest come over to my place more than a few times to convey “concerns” or issues from overly-sensitive or snooping neighbors. As ticked as I’ve been at the accusations, I know enough to treat the exchanges with humility and humor, and offer the cops a can of coke or bottle of water for their trouble. Any sensible adult knows this. Heck, one of those cops is now someone I chat with when I see him on the street. What’s lost in so much press coverage and the commenting (which tends to express outrage!! that the police investigated whether Gates’s house was being broken into) was that Gates didn’t react sensibly at any point in the exchange – and it was his reactions and anger that got him rung up, nothing else. Had he said, “sorry for the confusion, I just flew back from China, and boy are my arms tired!” it would have been the end of it.

    Also, the “Boston is racist” stuff is so 1970s. Seriously. Things are no worse or better here than anywhere else, but it’s definitely different — the racists aren’t white dudes from the neighborhoods named Sully and Murph any more. The only real “racists” I know here (the kind that talk in hushed tones about “The Blacks”) are recent European immigrants with PhDs and Asian-Americans. Sully and Murph? They’re busy listening to hip-hop in their oversized tees and flat-brimmed baseball caps, and rooting for the all-black Celtics.

  27. The complainant wasn’t a neighbor.

    She was calling from the offices of Harvard Magazine, which is down the street from Gates’s house.

    She lives in infamously lily-white, all-rich Hingham.

  28. Sara, that’s nowhere near as satisfying as jumping to conclusions and seeing the world in fucking black and white, where you can be a fucking idiot on a computer and decry RACISM based on an initial news report, without thinking that there might be more to the story or something.

    Anyone who got all sarcastro in that previous thread is a fucking idiot.

    Fucking. Idiot.

  29. Meh. Both sides acted badly.

    This, from Philly, makes you wonder how much the police get away with:

    The headline is misleading – the copy isn’t bullying the woman he’s freaking GRABBING HER BY THE NECK. The cop’s son rear-ended the woman (not teh buttsecks, with his car, sickos), fled the scene and returned with daddy in tow to…make things infinitely worse.

    Later, the cops stopped by twice trying to convince the store to erase the tapes of the incident.

  30. The actual charges are “bad attitude, lack of respect, failure to obey authority”.

    A lot of cops these days are bullet heads, jacked up and armored who think they are Robocop. Getting stopped, or having any interaction, can be a life threatening experience.

    The best way to deal with them is non-threatening but firm.

    Fault on both sides.

  31. I’m sure it’s the typical MO for a daytime home burglar to take a taxi to the scene of the crime.

    The driver is then paid with a pillowcase stuffed with objects d’art – a handsome tip, indeed…

  32. [re=366763]Roger27[/re]:No — she impulsively calls the cops. This reveals a paranoid mindset, but not necessarily a racist one.

    No, actually, I’d go with racist. If you read the report, she was *still* standing outside, with her cell phone, when the cops arrived. So she didn’t just see someone hitting the door, and run inside to phone the cops. She saw the whole sequence of events.

    You are walking along the street, you see a guy whacking the front door with his shoulder. Reason to be concerned and maybe even get your mobile out. Then you observe that one of them is a little old guy with a cane, you watch the luggage being brought inside, you watch the younger guy get in the cab/town car and drive away. Anyone who has a functioning brain will have figured out that in fact, the door was stuck and the old guy belongs in the house. It’s pretty clear that BLACK BLACK BLACKITY BLACK overwhelmed all high brain functions in this case.

    Also, for those saying Gates was a dick — he got pissed when the cop came *into the house uninvited*. Which is in fact illegal and probably why he was demanding the cop’s name and number.

  33. The Cambridge police ought to be better trained in all sorts of things than the average podunk cop but they don’t seem to be. Frankly, if I was in the presence of a senior citizen who was getting all “loud and tumultuous” on me I’d assume the odds were pretty good he was having a stroke because I’ve seen that happen. But “medical situation” always seems to be way down on the possibilities list. Evidently cops are still trained to be paranoid.

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