Gates Chastises Officer After Authorities Agree to Drop Criminal Charge (UPDATED)

Tracy Jan, Boston Globe, July 21, 2009

[Ed. Note: Scroll down for Update]


Gates [Henry Louis Gates Jr.] accused the officer who arrested him at his Cambridge home of having a “broad imagination” when he summarized last Thursday’s confrontation in police reports, and he denied making several inflammatory remarks.

“I believe the police officer should apologize to me for what he knows he did that was wrong,” Gates said in a phone interview from his other home in Martha’s Vineyard. “If he apologizes sincerely, I am willing to forgive him. And if he admits his error, I am willing to educate him about the history of racism in America and the issue of racial profiling . . . That’s what I do for a living.”


Earlier today, the Middlesex district attorney’s office announced plans to drop criminal charges against Gates. The City of Cambridge and the police department recommended today that prosecutors not pursue charges in a joint statement from authorities and Gates that called the confrontation “regrettable and unfortunate.”


Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmons said in a statement that the controversy illustrated “that Cambridge must continue finding ways to address matters of race and class in a frank, honest, and productive manner.”


This afternoon in an interview, Gates said he never yelled at the officer other than to demand his name and badge number, which he said the officer refused to give. The officer, Sergeant James Crowley, said in the police report that he did state his name. He also said Gates unleashed a verbal tirade, calling him racist, telling him that he did not know who he was messing with, and threatening to speak to his “mama” outside.

“The police report is full of this man’s broad imagination,” Gates said in response to a question on whether he had said any of the quotes in the report. “I said, ‘Are you not giving me your name and badge number because I’m a black man in America?’ . . . He treated my request with scorn . . . I was suffering from a bronchial infection. I couldn’t have yelled . . .. I don’t walk around calling white people racist.”

Gates continued, “I’m outraged. I shouldn’t have been treated this way but it makes me so keenly aware of how many people every day experience abuses in the criminal justice system . . . No citizen should tolerate that kind of poor behavior by an officer of the law . . . This is really about justice for the least amongst us.”

Because of his arrest, Gates said he plans to make racial profiling and prison reform central intellectual and political issues he wants to explore. He’s also considering a new documentary on racial profiling.

“Because of the capricious whim of one disturbed person . . . I am now a black man with a prison record,” Gates said. “You can look at my mug shot on the Internet.”


Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s mug shot.

UPDATE: Lawrence Auster at View from the Right has posted a copy of the original Cambridge Police incident report here. A PDF copy of the report may also be downloaded here.

Renowned African-American scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. accused a Cambridge police officer of racism after being questioned by cops investigating a call about a break-in at his home, according to various news reports.

Gates, a 58-year-old Harvard University professor who has worked on numerous acclaimed PBS programs, was arrested outside his house on Ware Street in Cambridge Thursday for disorderly conduct. {snip}

When police arrived, an officer saw Gates trying to get into the house. When the officer asked to speak with him about a report of a possible break-in, Gates exclaimed, “Why, because I’m a black man?” and called the officer a racist, according to the police report.

Gates initially refused to identify himself and when he continued to yell at the officer, he was warned about his “tumultuous” behavior and was later arrested, according to the report.


Gates contends he returned home from a trip to China to find his front door damaged. So he went in through the back door, turned off an alarm and got help from his driver to force open the front door. He claims when police arrived, he identified himself properly but the officer initially didn’t do the same.


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