Obama ‘Stupidly’ Comment Disappoints Mass. Cop

Bob Salsberg, AP, July 23, 2009

A white police sergeant who arrested renowned black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. said Thursday he’s disappointed President Barack Obama said officers acted “stupidly,” despite acknowledging he didn’t know all the facts.

Sgt. James Crowley responded to Gates’ home near Harvard University last week to investigate a report of a burglary and demanded Gates show him identification. Police say Gates at first refused and accused the officer of racism.

Gates was charged with disorderly conduct. The charge was dropped Tuesday, and Gates has since demanded an apology from Crowley.

Obama was asked about the arrest of Gates, who is his friend, at the end of a nationally televised news conference on health care Wednesday night.

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In radio interviews Thursday morning, Crowley maintained he had done nothing wrong in arresting Gates.

“I support the president of the United States 110 percent. I think he was way off base wading into a local issue without knowing all the facts as he himself stated before he made that comment,” Crowley told WBZ-AM. “I guess a friend of mine would support my position, too.”

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Crowley, 42, said he won’t apologize. And his union has expressed “full and unqualified” support for him.

On Thursday, he told WBZ that Gates verbally assailed him. The police report says Crowley asked Gates to talk outside, to which he responded “Yeah, I’ll speak with your mama outside.”

“There was a lot of yelling, there was references to my mother, something you wouldn’t expect from anybody that should be grateful that you’re there investigating a report of a crime in progress let alone a Harvard University professor,” Crowley said Thursday.

Fellow officers, black and white, say he is well-liked and respected on the force. Crowley was a campus police officer at Brandeis University in July 1993 when he administered CPR trying to save the life of former Boston Celtics player Reggie Lewis. Lewis, who was black, collapsed and died during an off-season workout.

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Police supporters charge that Gates, director of Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, was responsible for his own arrest by overreacting.

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The Cambridge cop prominent Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. claims is a racist gave a dying Reggie Lewis mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in a desperate bid to save the Celtics superstar’s life 16 years ago Monday.

“I wasn’t working on Reggie Lewis the basketball star. I wasn’t working on a black man. I was working on another human being,” Sgt. James Crowley, in an exclusive interview with the Herald, said of the forward’s fatal heart attack July 27, 1993, at age 27 during an off-season practice at Brandeis University, where Crowley was a campus police officer.

It’s a date Crowley still can recite by rote–and he still recalls the pain he suffered when people back then questioned whether he had done enough to save the black athlete.

“Some people were saying ‘There’s the guy who killed Reggie Lewis’ afterward. I was broken-hearted. I cried for many nights,” he said.

Crowley, 42, said he’s not a racist, despite how some have cast his actions in the Gates case. “Those who know me know I’m not,” he said.

Yesterday, Lewis’ widow, Donna Lewis, was floored to learn the embattled father of three on the thin blue line of a national debate on racism in America was the same man so determined to rescue her husband.

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Though he harbors no “ill feelings toward the professor,” a calm, resolute Crowley said no mea culpa will be forthcoming.

“I just have nothing to apologize for,” he said. “It will never happen.”

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Crowley, an 11-year veteran of the force, oversees the evidence room, paid details and records unit. He also coaches youth basketball, baseball and softball.

Joseph McDonald, a former director of public safety at Brandeis, said Crowley was “a real pro,” calling Gates’ racial profiling charge “strange.”

“You just do the job as a cop. You don’t look at the color of skin. You’re just trying to help people,” said McDonald, 57.

In a statement expressing its “full and unqualified support” for Crowley, the Cambridge Police Superior Officers Association called its brother a “highly respected veteran supervisor with a distinguished record.

“His actions at the scene of this matter were consistent with his training, with the informed policies and practices of the department and with applicable legal standards.”

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