Unwise but true

August 19, 2009 

Any assessment of the police conduct in the Cambridge incident should begin with what we understand to be undisputed:

1. A call was placed to the police alleging that a break-in might be in progress.

2. The Cambridge police responded.

3. Professor Henry Louis Gates produced documentation showing that the house was his residence.

4. Gates was charged with disorderly conduct.

5. The charge of disorderly conduct was dismissed.

Every discussion by professionals (lawyers and chiefs of police) I have heard indicates that once Gates produced documentation showing that the house was indeed his residence, the power relationship in this incident changed. In his house, Gates was free to use whatever language and insults he wanted as long as whatever he said did not disturb the peace beyond the walls of his house. He may have been unwise, immature, vulgar and even stupid. However, he was not breaking the law.

The charge of disorderly conduct does not apply in this situation. This is policing 101. The officers involved all had to know this. This is just another case of a gross abuse of power. President Obama might have been politically unwise when he said the police had acted stupidly. But he spoke the truth.

Randolph Rodgers

Raleigh

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