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Breaking into your own home

Posted by Richard on July 24, 2009

BigFurHat* broke into his own home once and was nabbed by the cops. He was hauled off a bus, handcuffed, and put in the back of a patrol car. But there was no loud confrontation, no crowd of neighbors, and the President didn't render judgment on the incident:

What followed was an Abbott and Costello routine. The police said a neighbor saw me break into the house and run for the bus. They described me as running with a large blue flat box (my portfolio.)

I explained that I lived there. When the police asked for identification I realized that, you guessed it, it was in the tray. We went back to the house to have the neighbor ID me. But the neighbor was afraid to come out. I showed the cops that I had the keys to the house! A HA! That would prove I lived there. But then they asked me why I was crawling through the window if I had the keys. Hmmm. They were good.

I told them to go inside and look at pictures of ME on the wall. They said that the owner of the house would have to give them permission to go inside, I said, “That’s ME!” They said, “prove it.” And round and round this went.

I was desperately trying to identify myself, not like Gates, who was offended when asked for ID. Had I belligerently said “you don’t know who you’re messing with” my story would have ended differently. I finally realized that I could have the cops go into the neighbors house and tell them that I know the names of her grandkids, as proof that I wasn’t a burglar who was going to come back to “get her” for having me arrested. She finally, nervously, came out and said, “oh, that’s the owner, nevermind.”

The story ends with me getting a police ride to the subway so I wouldn’t be late for my appointment downtown. It wasn’t a completely friendly ride, I got a long lecture about being too old to be walking around without ID.

Obama has it completely wrong (oh, what a surprise.) It was Gates who acted stupidly. If he wasn’t such an azzhole, one who is constantly looking for a way to paint himself as a victim of racism, he would see that the police were DOING THEIR JOB! And they were doing it well. When dealing with the police there are ways to get it to go badly. Gates fulfilled those ways. Gates displayed that rare quality – a narcissistic belief of extreme entitlement (”you don’t know who you’re messing with”) coupled with a paranoid belief that whitey, or the police in general, are out to get him. That’s a recipe for disaster. Newsflash: the police do not enjoy that volatile personality trait when they were simply trying to protect your home.

I don't deny that there are cops who are racists (overtly or subconsciously), and who let your skin color influence how they handle such a situation. But I submit that they're far, far outnumbered by the cops who just expect you to be civil and show a modicum of respect for the badge, and who let that influence how they handle such a situation. Yes, there are places where blacks are disproportionately arrested. But belligerent, abusive loudmouths with a chip on their shoulder are disproportionately arrested absolutely everywhere, regardless of their race.

The incident reports of the first two officers on the scene are here (PDF). If the police reports are even remotely accurate, there are only two reasonable explanations for Gates' behavior: either he (not the Cambridge police), was being remarkably stupid or he was deliberately provoking an incident.

Gates' version is quite different, but unlike the officers' reports, his doesn't provide quotes or characterize how things were said and the parties acted. It sounds like a sterile narrative created by his lawyer and, in my opinion, lacks the ring of truth.

So, not having been there, how can we — or the President — decide whether the arresting officer was "racially profiling" Gates or reacting reasonably to the circumstances and to Gates' behavior? Well, we might want to consider this about the man before rushing to condemn him:

Cambridge Sgt. James Crowley has taught a class on racial profiling for five years at the Lowell Police Academy after being hand picked by for the job by former police Commissioner Ronny Watson, who is black, said Academy Director Thomas Fleming.

"I have nothing but the highest respect for him as a police officer. He is very professional and he is a good role model for the young recruits in the police academy," Fleming told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The course, called "Racial Profiling," teaches about different cultures that officers could encounter in their community "and how you don't want to single people out because of their ethnic background or the culture they come from," Fleming said. The academy trains cadets for cities across the region.

I think the Prez may owe Sgt. Crowley an apology. His taking of sides was at least premature.

* While you're visiting, be sure to check out The Obamas. I especially liked #47. A friend sent me #44 the other day — I love that duck!

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4 Responses to “Breaking into your own home”

  1. Hathor said

    It’s unfortunate that you will never have your “n**ger moment” to compare.

  2. rgcombs said

    Sorry, I felt compelled to slightly edit one word of your comment. I don’t want this post to turn up in a search for that word.

    As I suggested in my post, I certainly don’t deny that such moments occur. But I’m convinced that they occur far less frequently than they once did. And they’re becoming less frequent all the time, thanks at least in part to people like Sgt. Crowley and the “Racial Profiling” course he’s been teaching for five years.

    Regardless of your sex, race, national origin, or social class, the first rule of interacting with the police is simply this: Do ”not” “yo mama” a police officer.

  3. Hathor said

    I guess you know how many crazies would show up.

    “Yo Mamma” doesn’t ring true for me. I have not listened to Gates statement, but when our generation says it, you expect a fight or in this case an arrest. That is more than playing the dozens.

  4. Hathor said

    I wouldn’t know the statistics, but I did notice my son got stopped by the police more when we moved into a predominately white section of the neighborhood. We live behind a university, which he attended and wearing the school logo didn’t make them think that he belonged either. This was not 20 years ago but as recent ago 2 years ago until he moved.

    So I don’t think he would think there are fewer incidents.

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