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Old 07-29-2009, 02:48 AM
Re: the Gates case

The Discrepancy

"She went on to tell me that she observed what appeared to be two black males with backpacks on the porch of [blank] Ware Street," - James Crowley, in his police report.
“She didn’t speak to Sergeant Crowley at the scene except to say, ‘I’m the one who called,’ ” said the lawyer, Wendy J. Murphy. “And he said, ‘Wait right there,’ and walked into the house. She never used the word black and never said the word backpacks to anyone.” - from the NYT.
Here's the transcript of the 911 phone call:

So where did the idea of two black men with backpacks come from? Instead of two men with suitcases who the caller said might well be in their own home? I think we know.

As jackson pointed out, the woman who called never said the word "black" and never said anything about backpacks, in fact on the phone she seems very unsure whether the people she saw were breaking in or just lived there. She says that she didn't speak to the Officer when he showed up except to say "I'm the one who called" and he told her to "Wait right here" and approached the house. This is in direct contradiction of his police report. So we know for a fact that, at least on this issue, he was lying or wrong about what occured.

From Obsidian Wings:

Confirmation bias probably plays a role here, but: now that we have the actual transcript, it seems clearer than ever that Officer Sergeant Crowley was out of line in arresting Professor Gates. As Andrew Sullivan notes, you can't reconcile Crowley's report with either the tape or the witnesses. Crowley seems to have arrested Gates for being annoying rather than for any actual crime. Whether race played a role in the arrest is kinda secondary at this point: The fundamental point is that cops shouldn't arrest a person who hasn't committed a crime. Otherwise the guy in a police uniform is a vigilante or a bully -- not a cop.

Which brings up another point. I value our public servants, including cops who put their lives on the line day in and day out. Police work is a tough job, with a dozen ways to fail for every one way to stand out as brilliant. And I'm a believer that singing the praises of our public servants should go further than just idle words on the internet. (That's one reason why I'm looking at a certificate from the local FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) lodge, thanking me for a donation that I just made to support one of their programs.)

Now, if you read the above paragraph out of the context of my posts on the Crowley-Gates affair, I guarantee that you'd peg me as someone who presumes that the police are telling the truth. A guy whom every prosecutor wants on his jury and every defense lawyer wants to strike. Indeed, didn't I admit in a prior post that one of (great) uncles is a retired police chief? The prosecutor thinks that she'll put a cop on the stand, and von will bring the rope for the hanging. Surely.

You'd be wrong. I presume almost the exact opposite about cops being truthful. Cops do a difficult job. I respect them a ton. But cops are human. And the very difficulties of the job make it inevitable that corners get cut. And it seems that corners definitely got cut in the Gates case. (That's about as polite as I can say it.) If you were to press me, I'd say that my best guess is that many cops lie about a lot of the small things and some cops lie about the big things as well -- because it makes their job easier, and it's easy for them to get away with a lie.
(Q: As I said, in all of my experiences with the cops that have involved a police report, this has been the case. Sometimes the inaccuracies were minor things that simply made the cop's job easier or their story avoid inconsistencies, other times there were vital facts misreported or completely made up) Unless there's a tape [/i](Q: More evidence of police arresting citizens on false charges when their own gross misconduct is the only crime), who's going to call them on it? (Which is an argument for taping almost every interaction between cop and civilian, incidentally.)

Is that fair of me? To the individual cop who deserves to be judged on his or her own merits, no. So if you call me for jury duty, I'll try to put my bias aside. But there's also a lesson here about the limits of experience. You might be 90% right when you judge a book by its cover. When you take one look at me, for instance, and say: that dude likes cops. But that 10% -- that unexpected quirk, incident, or bias -- will almost always get you in the end.

But, y'know what? We've talked an awful lot about Crowley and Gates. Probably too much.

I agree with all of that, including the last line, but thought it important to note that there is now proof that Crowley's report is not an accurate accounting of what happened.
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