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Community Comment

Tue., July 21, 2009, 6:48 a.m.

On being polite…

Attributed to Boston Globe (The Spokesman-Review)
Attributed to Boston Globe (The Spokesman-Review)

Good morning, Netizens...

[Portions Boston Globe and his attorney's statement]

The arrest of a pre-eminent African-American scholar, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., at Cambridge University in broad daylight inside his own home serves as an additional wake-up call to all Americans that we need to teach civility to police. African-Americans are charging the police with racial profiling, but the telling of the tale only increases the anger being heard on both side.

Professor Gates had arrived home and attempted to enter his front door, but the door was damaged. Professor Gates then entered his rear door with his key, turned off his alarm, and again attempted to open the front door. With the help of his driver they were able to force the front door open, and then the driver carried Professor Gates’ luggage into his home. Professor Gates had just arrived from a trip to China where he was filming his new PBS documentary entitled “Faces of America” and probably was suffering from jet lag.

A Cambridge policeman, responding to a complaint of two black men attempting to break into a house reasonably enough asked for identification, which was provided to him, a Cambridge University ID card and a driver's license, both bearing the same address.

Professor Gates had already asked the police officer if he would give him his name and his badge number. He made this request several times. The officer did not produce any identification nor did he respond to Professor Gates’ request for this information. After an additional request by Professor Gates for the officer’s name and badge number, the officer then turned and left the kitchen of Professor Gates’ home without ever acknowledging who he was or if there were charges against Professor Gates. As Professor Gates followed the officer to his own front door, he was astonished to see several more police officers gathered on his front porch. Professor Gates asked the officer’s colleagues for his name and badge number. As Professor Gates stepped onto his front porch, the officer who had been inside and who had examined his identification, said to him, “Thank you for accommodating my earlier request,” and then placed Professor Gates under arrest. He was handcuffed on his own front porch.

He was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge after police said he ''exhibited loud and tumultuous behavior.'' He was released later that day on his own recognizance. An arraignment was scheduled for Aug. 26.

If this were you or I would we be charged with loud and tumultuous behavior, regardless of our racial makeup? Or would we be as loud and tumultuous as the police say Professor Gates had been? Wouldn't you be loud and tumultuous if you were in the professor's shoes? If this incident took place here in Spokane, wouldn't police have applied a Taser to further pacify Gates, perhaps even put a mask on his face to prevent spitting? Is this racial profiling on the part of the police?

If either side had been polite to their counterparts could this entire affair been avoided?


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Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.