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July 23, 2009


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Steven Lubet

Here is a link to the police report. I think that the report makes Prof. Gates look much better than the arresting officer (especially given that the cop had obvious incentives to make himself look good when he wrote it).

Also, Gates has said (in an interview with his daughter, posted on the Daily Beast) that his neighbor did the right thing by calling the police: "I’m glad that this lady called 911. I hope right now if someone is breaking into my house she’s calling 911 and the police will come! I just don’t want to be arrested for being black at home!"

Conclusion: Prof. Gates is an extremely admirable guy.


The witness actually isn't a neighbor, but a lady from nearby Malden who reported two black males that appeared to be attempting to break open the front door by throwing a shoulder into it. The reporting party (her name is easy to find, including through the Smoking Gun link, but I won't repeat it here) was just passing through the neighborhood... I believe she works at Harvard's alumni magazine and was out for a walk at lunchtime. So there was no reason the caller should've recognized Dr. Gates, unless it was in some capacity other than as a neighbors. Don't forget that the incident happened a little before 1:00 p.m. on a Thursday, when most of the residents on that street were likely away from home.

To the commenter above, Mr. Lubet - I would love to hear your explanation as to how the original police report "makes Prof. Gates look much better than the arresting officer." If even half of the comments attributed to Gates in the report were truly things he said to the officer, the professor comes off as a self-important blowhard. Regardless of whether the Dis Con arrest was justified or bogus, I think Dr. Gates at least loses some respect (in most quarters) for his behavior.


Wade, it is pretty simple how the police report makes Gates look "better" than the officer. It is not illegal to be a self-important blowhard. It is illegal to throw a bogus disorderly conduct charge on someone just to show them who is boss. And even taking all the racial context out of this case, it is still a clear instance of a cop abusing his authority to arrest because he was failing to get sufficient "deference".

Jacqueline Lipton

Thanks everyone for posting the additional background information I was missing. By the way, any thoughts on the President's comment that the police "acted stupidly"? Several media outlets (including Jon Stewart last night) noted that a president should not undermine the police like that, particularly when he was not in possession of the full facts. I don't mean to take sides on this one - just interested in whether people think there is a bigger principle about whether the president should comment on this sort of thing - although I think Obama was in a no-win situation on this one. Either he comes off as undermining the police in favor of making a comment about race relations in America, or he loses credibility with minorities (and with his friend, Prof Gates) by saying "no comment".


How about something along the lines of, "Professor Gates is a dear friend of mine, and I can't reasonably comment in an impartial manner on this subject given the closeness of our relationship. Moreover, this is a manner of strictly local concern, such that it would be inappropriate for the President of the United States to offer an opinion, particularly when I am not possessed of all relevant facts." [after distancing yourself from opining on the specifics this particular incident, then feel free to discuss the broader implications of racial profiling and police relations with the black community]

Was that so hard? I typed it out in a stream-of-consciousness fashion in about a minute. Did President Obama and his staff even think about the possibility of such a question coming up? It sure seemed like he was winging it during his answer, which seems like sloppy prep work on behalf of the staffers not having at least some talking points lined up should a "Gatesgate" question arise. Obama is a usually a beautiful orator, but I really think he (or someone) dropped the ball here in assuming that his intellect and experience in race relations would ensure a smooth improvised answer.

Jacqueline Lipton

Seems he picked up the ball again today - even invited Gates and Crowley to the White House for an "informal get-together" according to this report:

Jacqueline Lipton

And here's the CNN version:

- Seems Obama didn't actually "apologize" but said he could have chosen his words more carefully. Also said he was "surprised by the controversy surrounding his comments" -which is interesting to me. If the first black president says something about a situation that is at least alleged to have been racially charged, it's odd that he didn't realize this might be controversial. Kind of like when he made that comment about the special Olympics earlier on in the presidency without realizing it might be offensive to disabled athletes.

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