Saturday, August 01, 2009

Professor Gates V Officer Crowley

For over two weeks the media has focused on Professor Gates and Officer Crowley. There are two sides? Which do you side with?

911 OPERATOR: All right, tell me exactly what happened?

FEMALE WITNESS CALLER: Um, I don't know what's happening. I just had an older woman standing here and she had noticed two gentlemen trying to get in a house at that number, 17 Ware Street. And they kind of had to barge in and they broke the screen door and they finally got in. When I had looked, I went further, closer to the house a little bit after the gentlemen were already in the house. I noticed two suitcases. So, I'm not sure if this is two individuals who actually work there, I mean, who live there.

911 OPERATOR: Were they white, black or Hispanic?

FEMALE WITNESS CALLER: Umm, well there were two larger men, one looked kind of Hispanic but I'm not really sure. And the other one entered and I didn't see what he looked like at all. I just saw it from a distance and this older woman was worried thinking someone's breaking in someone's house, they've been barging in. And she interrupted me and that's when I had noticed otherwise I probably wouldn't have noticed it at all, to be honest with you. So, I was just calling 'cause she was a concerned neighbor, I guess.

Officer Crowley: “A (inaudible) gentleman says he resides here, but uncooperative. Uh keep the car’s coming.”

“The arresting officer alleges that Gates shouted at him and threatened to speak to his "mama." He then arrested Gates for disorderly conduct.” The police report identifies there were seven individuals on the seen.

Officer Crowley’s Probable Cause - “When I left the residance, I noted that there were several Cambridge and Harvard Univeristy police officers assembled on the sidewalk in front of the residense. Additionally, the caller, Ms. Walen and at least seven unidentified passer-by were looking in the direction of Gates, who had followed me outside of the residence.”

Was it Gates who was attracting the attention of passerby's or was it the multiple police cars in front of his residence that was attracting attention? Could anyone actually hear Mr. Gates? Did Mr. Gates have a right to verbally respond to Crowley, yes?

Professor Gates presented his Harvard ID as identification. Some like Pat White think this is not enough. The question I wish to raise is what identification do you need to have in the U.S.? Neither my grandmother nor grandfather who lived in Providence ever had a driver’s license and state ID’s were never issued, but they did have library cards. So how would a person truly identify themselves and that they live there? Yet, Crowley took his ID and called Harvard Campus.

A police officer can request your presence outside your home or ask you questions, but he does not have authority to force you to identify yourself or come out of your home without probable cause. All you need to do is ask them to leave. If they do not leave, then ask if you are free to go, if the police say no, then you are now being detained and the officer must acknowledge and abide by your civil rights, (Miranda warnings) if he intends to ask you any questions.

The police violated Mr. Gates constitutional rights. The police tapes verbally identify that Sgt. Crowley after he had identified the person as the home owner told dispatch to keep the cars coming.

The police, under the cover of an invalid law, do not have "unfettered discretion to arrest individuals for words or conduct that annoy or offend them." See City of Houston, Tex., supra at 465. Nor can they ignore or unreasonably apply a valid law in order to arrest someone who annoys or offends them. These are clearly established constitutional principles, and no reasonable police officer could have believed to the contrary. Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982).

If Gates was disturbing the peace, then the charge should have been disturbing the peace, not disorderly conduct.

Crowley should have excused himself from the residence once he identified Mr. Gates. Furthermore, the caller said there were suitcases on the front porch. How many people seeing suitcases on the front porch or inside the house was there without permission during lunch time? How many break and entering occur during lunch in broad daylight with people walking on the side walk? Mr. Crowley should have apologized for the intrusion and left the premise.

The Massachusetts statute on Disorderly conduct excludes political speech from the statute because of the First Amendment. Alleging racial bias, as Gates was doing, and protesting arrest both represent core political speech. Was Gates unwise, rude, yelling and obnoxious, possibly? But did Gates commit a crime? Do you place handcuffs on a person for questioning the police in your home? Gates asked officer Crowley for his name and badge number, but officer Crowley refused according to Professor Gates. Officer Crowley states he told him several times.

Professor Gates then asked officer Crowley for the names and badge numbers of all officers on his property, again it was refused. Gates was arrested for saying something rude towards a police officer on his property. The police sole role in this matter was to determine if a crime had been committed.

I have heard people say the teachable moment was lost when the mother didn’t teach Gates the lesson that every responsible parent teaches their kids and that is if you have an issue with a copy, it is yes sir, no sir and you keep your damn mouth shut.

Police departments across the country support the police department. Lawyers and judges support Professor Gates. Who is right? In this country we have separation of powers; Judicial, executive and legislated branches. In this particular case, courts have routinely ruled against police officers. The district prosecutor dismissed charges shortly after Gates was arrested. Does this indicate the police acted wrongly for if Gates did break the law, why not prosecute him? This case is a good case that highlights the problem people have with police abuse of power? Police have the authority to arrest people, but can only do it if they have probable cause a crime has been committed.

The real question here that needs to be answered is “was a crime committed?”

I listen to the Pat White show often because he presents good topics, but on this topic I take issue. Pat White an Air Force veteran like any other person who served his country took an oath to preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. Did Pat's oath end when he left the military? He like I served our country, we took the same oath as millions of others and I would imagine he was instructed in what is and is not a lawful order. My oath to my country has not ended. I will continue to question the authority of police, politicians and government agencies. I do this because I have a moral obligation to my children to ensure the Constitution and our rights are not trampled and disappear over time.

We say we do not live in a police state, but why then do people feel you do not have the right to question the police? They believe the only correct answer is “yes sir - no sir” and you never ask for their names and badge numbers. In this country we have constitutional protected rights, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to assembly, the right to redress grievances of the government and freedom of religion. This first amendment right gives every one of us the right and constitutional authority to question the state when they extend by implication a statute beyond its plain and literal meaning given it by our elected representatives and signed into law by the executive branch.

Pat White contends law enforcement does not have to identify them. I checked Massachusetts law on this issue. “Yes. Massachusetts law requires police officers to carry identification cards and present them upon request. Officers are also required to wear a "badge, tag, or label" with their name and/or identifying number. The law is aimed at precisely the situation in question-suspects who feel their rights are being violated.

Massachusetts Officer ID law

Officer Crowley’s report


At 2:53 PM, Blogger Bob G. said...

This is one marvelously stated commentary.

And,like you and Pat White, I took the same oath.
I have said several times on my blog that since my "parting of the ways", I was never ONCE...UNSWORN.

So I (also) maintain that level of devotion and dedication.
I represent MY COUNTRY, no matter WHERE I GO...until the day I die.

-You question that which merits questioning.
-You make good decisions based on FACT.
-You go with your GUT, because you were taught (and have learned)that first impressions are often correct ones.
-You teach(and live)by EXAMPLE.
-You show respect to authority.

Seems like a plan.

Brilliant post, Bill!

At 2:31 AM, Blogger William Larsen said...

BG, thanks for your encouraging words. I felt good about what I wrote, even though I have gotten a lot of negative feedback when I have spoken to people. It appears more negativism comes from non veterans than from veterans.

On this issue I feel very strongly. This took a lot of time to write and I am glad I did.

PS Thanks for your service to this great country. We owe it to those over seas that when they come back, the come back to a country in the same condition as when they left to serve. It is for this reason, my oath to preserve, protect and defend the constitution does not end until my last breath. God bless.


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