Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Henry Louis Gates Case: An Officer’s Point of View



Note by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University

I spoke with another high ranking police official about the Gates case.  He is pretty candid with me about most things, so I believe what he had to say.  Here were his thoughts:

1) Disorderly conduct is an easy trap to fall into.  When dealing with an officer who gets out of line, you should cooperate and then deal with the situation later.  If Gates argued with the officer and yelled at him from the porch, that opened the door for him to be arrested.

2) If there were extra officers at the scene, it's likely that they were called when the officer arrived and realized that there were two men in the house (Gates and the driver) and only one of him.  It's standard procedure to call for additional backup when you are outnumbered.   But then again, I am not sure if the driver had left by then or not.

3) There are usually extraneous variables that have to be checked out in these situations.  For example, even though Gates showed that he owned the home, he could have had a restraining order against him filed by his wife in the middle of a nasty divorce.  Given that Gates had appeared to be breaking into the house (by pushing the door), the officer would be expected to make sure that Gates was not there to hurt his wife or do something illegal.  Of course this sounds absurd in this case, but there are many cases where husbands break into the homes of their estranged wives in order to hurt them.

Just thought I would share these facts.  The conversation was very interesting and insightful.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Dr. Boyce-- I watched the segment with you, Roland Martin, and Rick Sanchez yesterday on CNN. The thing that frustrated me with that piece was Mr. Sanchez. I do agree with you that not all cops are crooked and racist. But I do feel that SOMETIMES there is an abuse of power. This very well may not apply to the Dr. Gates incident. I think in this situation, cooler heads could have prevailed, esp. on Dr. Gates' side. I cannot speculate because I wasn't there, but from what I've heard on the news, it appears that Dr. Gates became angry and frustrated with the officer for questioning him. The piece on CNN with Mr. Sanchez upset me because he kept referring to the police report, and not discussing anything that Dr. Gates said. There are two sides to every story, and a police report cannot always be taken as the Gospel. There are two versions/sides to this story, and I think it is up to the two gentlemen directly involved to sit down and talk to each other. And as far as I'm concerned, both men appear to be upstanding and productive citizens. Personally speaking, I am not one to tear down anyone's character. I think this was just an unfortunate misunderstanding that quickly escalated into a confrontation.