On Behalf of Police

by Diane Dimond on August 3, 2009

Professor Gates Under Arrest

Professor Gates Under Arrest

There is still an intolerable amount of racism in America. There are too many people in the U.S. who are bigoted and downright dismissive of those who don’t look like they do.

That said, let’s all admit something. Some of us see racism behind every act – and that in itself becomes a sort of racism too.

The catalyst for writing this week’s column is, of course, the recent disorderly conduct arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts following a concerned citizen’s report that two men appeared to be trying to break into a home.

There’s no need to rehash all the over-analyzed facts of this case but … suffice it to say Professor Gates interpreted the actions of one of the responding officers, Sergeant James Crowley, as

Sgt. James Crowley

Sgt. James Crowley

racially motivated. Crowley and the other officers (including patrolmen who are both Hispanic and African American) say it was Gates who stepped out of line by being belligerent in his responses as they tried to investigate. After showing his identification to prove he was in his own home Professor Gates balked at the request to step outside. He’s said to have loudly proclaimed that no white man would be put through such a humiliation. He declared he was a victim of racial profiling.

Professor Gates, a top scholar on race relations in America, obviously didn’t stop to wonder why the police would ask him to step outdoors.

The original 911 report had two men attempting to break into the house and police procedure trains officers to immediately account for everyone involved. They needed to know if there was danger lurking inside and their first instinct was to clear the house and check. Sadly, Professor Gates jumped to the conclusion that it was the color of his skin motivating the officers and not his safety.

Here’s what no one has said in all the breathless reporting on this story: When the police tell you to do something they are under no obligation to tell you why they’re asking. When the police make a request you best comply otherwise things could go badly for you.

It’s the advice parents have long given their children as they go out into the world. Do what the police say. If you’ve got a complaint register it later.

This is not a blast at Gates. It’s a reminder of how things work. Police are there to help us and respond to our emergency needs. It defeats our own best interests to automatically treat them as racist.

This is also a pat on the back for all those members of law enforcement who walk into potentially dangerous situations every single day, in every single city in America. It’s a tip of the hat to those who keep the peace and allow the rest of us live in a (relatively) lawful society. Are there some bad apples within law enforcement? Of course and I’ve written about rogue cops in past columns.



It makes me sad that a man as educated as Professor Gates, an accomplished author and one who was voted among the nation’s “Most Influential Americans”, would immediately think of himself as a victim and perceive the police as adversaries. Just as disturbing was the knee-jerk comment from our equally well educated President Obama that the officers acted “stupidly” before he knew the facts.

Among the facts: Sergeant Crowley is a well respected and respectful officer, the brother of three other cops. And far from being a racist Crowley is the man who 16 years ago, as a Brandeis University police officer, got down on a gymnasium floor and tried to breathe life back into Celtics superstar Reggie Lewis after he’d collapsed during practice. Crowley’s mother says it still “bothers him terribly” that he couldn’t save the African American athlete’s life.

I cannot imagine what it would be like to live in another color skin and the immense indignation I would feel if I was unfairly treated because of it. But the truth is we’ve made tremendous strides in this country toward a more just society. Is everything completely equal? No, but compared to a hundred years ago we’re almost downright harmonious!

Maybe we’ve been talking about the wrong thing here. Maybe it’s a generational thing. The 58 year old Gates surely remembers past painful discrimination. But he cannot be blind to the fact that bigotry and intolerance is practiced by all sorts of folks – Whites, Hispanics, Asians and yes, even, African Americans.

It’s a positive thing that we’re talking about this now. As we do let’s remember some of the people who look different from us wear badges. They should automatically get the benefit of the doubt. When we chip away at authority figures – police in particular – we chip away at our own well-being and safety.


{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

DianeDimond August 3, 2009 at 11:44 pm

ABQ Journal Reader Kathryn B. writes:

" At 19 yrs of age, soon to be divorced of a soldier. I at a young age enjoyed reading your
"Time for Tolerance From All Groups" column. I myself want to be a
local police officer for APD, as a security officer in the "War Zone", working till 5am… I see racism, bigotry and intolerance every night at the convenience store I work at. Most these people believe all cops are "Bad Cops" and if the person committing the crime gets caught, it always has something to do with his race. It was nice to see a column FOR the law officers, instead of something about a wrongdoing of a cop. Thank you
very much."


DianeDimond August 3, 2009 at 11:48 pm

ABQ Journal Reader (and Attorney) Ousama R. writes:

"Although we often agree on most topics, I have some disagreement with today's article. You are correct that officers usually "clear" a house to check for potential threats to their safety. But when more than one officer responds, as in this case, one usually asks the people they are dealing with to sit on the couch, for example, while the other
officer(s) check for others. I have never seen people who have already proven they live there be asked to wait outside their home while officers have free unfettered access to the rest of the house.

I do not agree that the primary issue in this matter is racial profiling and it has been shown that Sgt. Crowley is unlikely to engage in that type of behavior. But while I generally agree that it is usually in a person's best interest to follow an officer's directions, there is NM law that says cops are supposed to be able to be a bit more thick skinned than this.

Disorderly conduct, while not exactly the equivalent of a murder, is still a crime that Mr. Gates would be required to disclose as an arrest and even though it was (appropriately) dismissed the following day. He was essentially charged with contempt of cop, a topic covered extensively in the Journal recently. The dismissal most strongly shows that the Cambridge Police Chief thought the arrest was innapropriate, although he did a very good job of emphasizing that Crowley is a good cop and one whose actions he normally supports.

Of course the President should have chosen his words more carefully, but he has tried to make amends as well.

Racial profiling happens regularly in every city and state across the country by law enforcement every day. Crowley even teaches a class on it's ills to recruits, which would not be necessary if it didn't exist. I see it regularly in my practice as do most other defense attorneys. That doesn't mean that it happened in this case though."


DianeDimond August 3, 2009 at 11:51 pm

ABQ Journal Reader Doren F. writes:

"Dear Diane,

Thank you so much for your column that came out in todays paper. Your insight is so valuable in our world. Calm, thought provoking and clear. Please keep up the good work ….. we ALL need you.

A new fan… Dorene F.


DianeDimond August 3, 2009 at 11:53 pm

ABQ Journal Reader Mary writes:

" Thank you for presenting the most lucid evaluation to the Gates/Crowley incident that I have read so far.

Respect for authority has been on a downward spiral for a long time. You see it in the way students treat teachers, for example, and the addition of the Albuquerque Journal in which I read your article carried an absurd column on the front page no less, complete with color photo a man who confronted an attendant at a ballgame for requesting he remove his feet from the barrier separating fans from the field.

The article with titled TOE-AWAY ZONE, and his defense was that the just his big toe was above the barrier. First of all, the barrier is not a foot-rest, and I must assume that he is one of those who also put their feet up on the back of theater seats as well. The fact that he had his child with him does not bode well for the example set for his son and other young people And for a columnist and a newspaper take up his cause that it is right to confront an attendant for doing her job, to the point that she had to call security is shameless.

The Gates affair and those that support him fall should be ashamed too.

Thank you again for your excellent article."


DianeDimond August 3, 2009 at 11:56 pm

DD Web Site Reader (and designer extraordinaire) Tim Hurley writes:

" Our President spoke "stupidly". Gates over-reacted. The police really didn't have to lock him up. More so, I believe that unless you are black and have been "sized up" by the cops differently than a white person would, WE really have no idea what was going through Gates' mind and certainly have no qualifications to judge him. And by the way, the "racism" we've all been talking about the past few weeks has been stirred up by the President's opponents. Not Obama, Not Gates. You can thank the Right for this racial setback. They've been gladly using it like the trusty old saw it is and always has been. Sawing us all in two."


Lyn August 4, 2009 at 2:59 am

Well…I can just say this…what I hate more than anything is the remark : "it;s because I am black" – thats it.


Jackie Chesnutt August 4, 2009 at 3:47 am

Great article, Diane. Police officers have a tough job – a professor, a President, and heck, even a rock icon are given a mulligan or two or three by the public, but cops take the heat even when they do it right. Good job.


DianeDimond August 3, 2009 at 11:52 pm

ABQ Journal Reader Roger F. writes:

" Hi Diane,
I know something of intrigues designed to cover poor actions.

Does it not seem to you, as it does to some of us, that the entire incident with Gates was pre-planned to make Obama a champion of the blacks who's favor he's losing?
I mean, it all had the specter of contrivance.

Hoodlum-type blacks bounce themselves off a front door, turns out there is no problem; Gates too quickly cries race, Obama steps up – also a mite too quickly – to denounce it. Hooray. He's a hero to the South Chicago crowd.

Only it can't be forced; a churl cop did not answer the call as expected, and Obama's obliged to try Plan B – make up with beer and handshakes.
It's all too neat to be believed, and conveniently only for churlish homeboy consumption.

As for tolerance as a civil action – well, I can't go for it. Acceptance is what we should strive toward, which is understanding. All tolerance indicates is putting up with something we dislike. I learned this whilst doubling at a Holocaust Museum."


JimKouri August 4, 2009 at 11:10 am

Racial profiling has become the club used by the leftist agitators to place law enforcement on the defensive. It seems that as part of the political correctness orthodoxy, it depends on whom the cops are profiling.

For example, when I worked as a cop up in the Washington Heights section of NYC, the area to which I was assigned was predominately Latino and black. At the time — the mid-1980s — that section of Manhattan was the retail center for Crack-cocaine. If we saw a bunch of whites — especially young whites — cruising the Heights in an expensive auto with New Jersey plates (the George Washington Bridge connecting NYC with New Jersey was there), we knew that in all probablity they weren't sightseeing — they were looking to score Crack or powdered Coke. We were expected to stop them and investigate. In fact, during a monthly community meeting with cops, blacks and Latinos wanted to know if we were stopping these white "intruders."


Jim Kouri August 4, 2009 at 11:11 am

Also, remember the so-called Beltway Sniper case that held the Washington, DC area in the grip of fear? Every news organization had criminal profilers providing the FBI's profile of a serial killer, which includes race and gender — a white male. Not one so-called civil rights activist cried foul. Not one liberal-left news person called it racist.

By the way, Diane, President Obama may be educated, but he's not very bright. He shot off his mouth without the facts., leaving one to wonder how often he does that. And Professor Gates? His history is that of a loudmouth with a chip — no, a log — on his shoulder.


Stephanie August 4, 2009 at 1:22 pm

I completely agree with this article. A lot of people claim that when they are being mistreated, it is because of their race. That is something they need to get over. Even if the cop was racist, he was following the laws he protects as an officer by requesting he leave his house for a few moments. Black americans need to stop trying to get out of doing things or get out of trouble by simply blame others for their "racism". Ever happen to think that that could be why a lot of Americans ARE racist? Because these people encourage it.

The cop asked you to do something because it was what you were supposed to do, not because you are black. If this is what a Harvard educated man does, what does that say? Or maybe he got his diploma because he's black? Oh wait, no, it doesn't work that way does it?


bharvey August 4, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Interesting perspective from a former New York City cop in Sunday's New York Daily News. Check out this link:



emt10384 August 4, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Thanks for a great article Diane!!! Unfortunately people (young and old) are turning a lack of respect for others into "I'm a victim of …" People only want to think of themselves – my rights, my property, my feelings, etc. and at no point take a second to think that by maybe setting themselves aside for a moment or two, everyone will be better off.


norris hall August 4, 2009 at 6:42 pm

(author) " When the police make a request you best comply otherwise things could go badly for you."

In a police state, I would agree.

But if you believe that a person can get arrested for shouting and yelling uncontrollably at authorities (not being polite and courteous to the officer) on their own property
Then you would have to agree that those Iranian protesters are all guilty of “disorderly conduct” , not showing proper respect to the police….and therefore deserve to be arrested.
They obviously were acting unruly on PUBLIC streets , impeding traffice and shouting threats like “Death to Ahmadjindab”.
Like Gates, these Iranian protesters were uncooperative, acted provocatively, yelled threats,showed disrespect towards the police and thus deserve to be arrested and punished.



DianeDimond August 5, 2009 at 5:23 pm

Facebook Friend Ken F. in Dallas writes:

"I was raised that color of skin had nothing to do at all with the intelligence of one's mind and the conscience of their soul and that is how my wife and I raised our boys. My kids' high school in Fort Worth TX, 2500 kids approximately, is 60% Hispanic."


DianeDimond August 5, 2009 at 5:24 pm

Facebook friend Bill S. writes:

" I am color blind but I dont look for Al Quada at the ATM at 11pm.. I look for Puff Daddy wanta bees"


DianeDimond August 5, 2009 at 5:25 pm

Facebook Friend Dawn G. writes:

"Too bad we live in a world where the color of your skin is still important, and yes, determines whether or not you are arrested, but, unfortunately, that is so many people's reality. I hear it all the time from acquaintances of mine – not everyone makes it a case to the public like Gates."


DianeDimond August 5, 2009 at 5:47 pm

Facebook Friend Mark D. writes:

"Diane, Bravo to your article. I feel very aligned with your point of view. I understand that Crowley also taught sensitivity classes on the issue of race. Seems that does not support one Obama's remark about acting stupidly."


DianeDimond August 5, 2009 at 5:48 pm

Mark Will D. writes:

" One can't talk about racial profiling without racial profiling. That goes for any nutty color we all are or are not."


DianeDimond August 5, 2009 at 5:48 pm

Dennis S. writes:

"For as long as humans have walked the earth, anyone who is DIFFERENT in any way is going to be ostracized in some way, shape or form. In theory, racism is very wrong. But most people sadly do not see beyond the obvious differences and focus on that instead of realizing we're all created by the same God…."


DianeDimond August 5, 2009 at 5:49 pm

Eric W. R. writes:

"I detest racialism, because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man. " ~~Nelson Mandela

Very applicable to this "situation."


Warren August 10, 2009 at 3:15 am

It seems like the white press and white folks in general has over looked the fact that the cop lied on the police report. The cop reported that the caller said that there were two black guys breaking into the house. The 911 tape proved that the caller didn't make the statement. The report also falsely stated that the cop talked to the caller at the sence. The caller said she only told the cop that she was the one who called and the cop told her to wait where she was. Since the cop lied on the police report in my opinion the cop has no credibility. Thus, every thing the cop said could be a lie and the police report is worthless.


creasta August 10, 2009 at 9:58 am

I have just recently read two of your columns and have become a huge fan! These issues need to be discussed. I also share the thoughts that as educated as the professor was (and on the subject at hand) that he should have given that officer the benefit of doubt that he was acting in his best interest. I work in law enforcement and see the need for the double standards to be delt with before someone looses their job or life because of this issue. Also, the president should have never opened his mouth about this incident until he had the cold hard facts. Of course it is not the first time he has done this since taking over office. He has shown no support for the military or police and probably never truthfully will. Bravo, Ms. Diamond for you excelent reporting. 🙂


Matt Kimberly September 1, 2009 at 9:21 pm

I personally thought the whole thing was blown way out of proportion. It was wrong of Obama to get involved in the first place. It seems that I have read about more pressing issues that could better occupy the President’s time, such as the economy and health care reform.

It was wrong for Prof. Gates to assume that the actions of the officers were racially motivated. He has to accept responsibility for the fact that he brought a great deal of this on himself. If he had cooperated with the officers, we probably would never had heard anything about this in the news.

Excellent post, Diane. Keep up the good work writing. 🙂 Thanks and God bless!


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