Professor Gates Incident Teaches a Deeper Lesson

Initially, I was not going to comment on the Gate’s controversy, but after hearing the comments from both so-called conservatives and liberals, I cannot remain silent on this issue.

As the story goes, police confronted Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates at his home after a woman working in a building next door called the police because she thought she was witnessing a break-in progress. When the police arrived, Gates became irate when questioned by the officer. Gates took the position he was being single out because he was black. An argument ensued and resulted in Professor Gates being arrested for disorderly conduct. The charges were later dropped.

President Obama later responded to the incident by say that police had "acted stupidly" in arresting Gates, who is his friend. Bill Cosby said he was "shocked" to hear President Obama weigh-in on the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. on a Boston radio show this morning. Bill Cosby even stated that “If I'm the president of the United States, I don't care how much pressure people want to put on it about race, I'm keeping my mouth shut.”

President Obama should have not commented on this incident and Gates was behaving badly. With all that said, Officer Sgt. Crowley decided at some point that he was going to have the last word. This was completely about showing his power and authority. Even though Gates felt he was being racially profiled the officer should have recognized this and responded differently.

Gates was completely wrong in his assertion, but reality is that many African Americans and Hispanics have been racially profiled. Many minorities have experienced race-based discrimination, which has created distrust of the police and with good reason. This officer should have realized this especially after the comments made by Professor Gates, and not used his power and authority to make a point.

Some have said that the police deserve respect and that this arrest was justified. I think we need to analyze the roots of this much further. Some want to elevate the police to a higher level of respect. I do not agree that they deserve a higher level of respect. They deserve the same level of respect any honest citizen would receive. Honest law-abiding citizens should not fear the police and, if they do, we are not living in America - we are living in Nazi Germany.

I know that officers put their lives on the line everyday to protect us from criminals, but that does not make them saints. There are good and bad officers just like any other segment of society and they have a dangerous and often difficult job. That does not excuse them from exercising good judgment.

We give these officers the authority to kill human beings when faced with life threatening situations. Therefore, using their power just to make a point is completely out of line and demonstrates a lack of control. Officers who are caught up in the emotion of the moment are a threat to civilized society. Too often, the police have acted irrationally. Tasering an elderly woman comes to mind.

In this country there has been an epidemic that has penetrated every level of government, law enforcement and the courts. Each of these organizations has forgotten who truly employs them. They do not work for some unknown entity called “government,” they work for us the taxpayer.

We deserve the same level of respect in return. In situations, such as Gates, the officer should had recognized why he might have felt that way, right or wrong, and removed himself from the situation. Instead, he had to show his authority and help perpetuate the distrust of the police in this segment of the population.

There is a large segment of our population that cannot relate to what it feels like to be singled out just because of their race. I, myself, do not know what that feels like, but I do have an understanding what that might feel like. I have experienced what it feels like to have the police stop or follow you just because you happen to be out after dark. This has happened to me so often that I felt like I was living in a police state.

As an American, I have every right to go out and drive around anywhere I want to at any time of day. I could understand if I was driving around different neighborhoods late in the evening because that could be considered suspicious, but on a main road or highway is unacceptable. I know some might say if you are out late in the evening, you must be up to no good. Therefore, going to a movie and returning home at 10 pm is up to no good? Being stopped for no other reason than being out is wrong, and rings of Gestapo tactics.

Reality is police have unfairly targeted many minorities and it will take years for these wounds to heal. The distrust is so deep that in many communities they will not even report crimes to the police. As long as this exists, these communities will never succeed in eradicating the criminal element. The police have to recognize these issues and act in such a manner that their actions do not deepen the divide within the communities they are supposed to be serving.

I suspect that the officer’s comments to Professor Gates probably escalated the situation and tempers ended up getting the best of everyone. I can understand why someone could be very upset if they felt they were being targeted unfairly. Many people have experienced or witnessed the “bully” type in school as a child. They often get away with it for a long time until one day they pick on someone who finally reaches a breaking point and retaliates.

Gates felt he was singled out, and was completely wrong in his assertion, yet he unfairly struck back verbally in the heat of moment. What the officer actually said to Gates, might have a lot to do with what how he responded.

I know what is like to have an irate customer calling you names and making a major scene. In every incident, for more than twenty years, I never lost my composure. In almost every situation, I was able to calm the customer down. Police are better trained to deal with these situations and if they cannot maintain composure and control of the situation, they should not be in this line of work. The argument that police have an added element of life and death falls short.

In this day and age, we have all witnessed what some people are capable of doing in the heat of the moment. When I was confronted with an irate customer: calming the situation down was paramount for my safety; unlike the police, I did not have the means to protect myself in the work environment.

There will be those who say that it is good that honest citizens should have a healthy fear of the police. This is absolutely an incorrect belief. Law enforcement has a specific roll. That roll is to act in enforcing the laws; criminals should be the ones living in fear; not honest citizens. The penalty for committing a crime should be the means of keeping those lacking morals honest.

“Protect and Serve” was once the motto of law enforcement, but maybe those were just words they never believed. ©2009

Read: Obama Health Care is an Economic House of Cards


Post a Comment

I reserve the right to delete profane, obscene, or otherwise insulting messages. So please, keep it clean.

While you're at it, visit our message boards!