Why Sgt. James Crowley Was Foul

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Handcuffing and arresting a man who posed no threat to anyone, was clearly more about bullying or ego than any imaginable necessity of law enforcement. Sgt. Crowley even admits to waving his handcuffs at Dr. Gates

[Comment: On Policing]

We will all benefit when we instill professional consistency in our police officers – to many bad things happen in its absence. The Dr. Henry Louis Gates matter is another indication we still have a ways to go yet; in some places.

Some officers still act as though being a cop is akin to joining the neighborhood "tree house” clique or a frat. I think the “band of brothers” mentality is a commendable aspect of police camaraderie; however, in the minds of some officers it takes on too much of an "us versus them" ethic. In some cases "us versus them" overshadows the ethic of “protect and serve" and undermines professionalism.

That mentality is not unique to officers of any race or region.

It is common knowledge that cops, not unlike bankers, Wall Street insiders and others, too often stick together, even when wrong. That may have been a contributing factor in  why the other cops stood by, as Sergeant James Crowley did his “I can make you perp walk if you don't shut-up” routine. Why else would Dr. Gates be detained handcuffed for four hours by the Cambridge Police Department?

Handcuffing and arresting a man who posed no threat to anyone, was clearly more about bullying or ego than any imaginable necessity of law enforcement. Sgt. Crowley even admits to waving his handcuffs at Dr. Gates, in effect, as a warning to shut-up. That was an unprofessional act by Officer Crowley to say the least. If you know Dr. Gates-you know such a display by the officer amounted to further provocation. 

When I read that Sgt. Crowley threatened arrest and flashed his handcuffs at Dr. Gates -my mind’s eye flashed back to the self-assured "I know my rights" kindred spirit. I knew from our college days-- and I knew talking to Skip in that manner, while at his home is unacceptable behavior to Dr. Gates—as it would be to many among us.

Only the most disciplined or meek among us would stand for that little handcuff waving “red cape to a bull” maneuver; especially in the midst of a heated exchange.

Adding in the four hour detention of Dr. Gates, we have the appearance of an element of the Cambridge Police wanting to impress upon Dr. Gates that around the Cambridge "tree-house" they rule and rule absolutely.

Should Dr. Gates have consulted his cooler head, and shown the respect he expected; yes in my opinion—and he says he did. Whether Dr. Gates crossed some arbitrary line in Sgt. Crowley's  mind or not, his having done so, in no way pardons the unprofessional police conduct that followed. Sgt. Crowley’s conduct was admittedly propelled by a "do as I say or else" attitude. The kind that 11 year olds in a "tree-house" might display.

It certainly was not conduct I’d expect from a police veteran who is himself a trainer of young recruits. The “tree-house” mentality has no place in the very adult world of law enforcement. 


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Milton@blackstarnews.com for publication

“Speaking Truth To Empower.”

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