Look: I am eager to learn stuff I don't know--which requires actively courting and posting smart disagreement.

But as you will understand, I don't like to post things that mischaracterize and are aimed to mislead.

-- Brad Delong

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Stranger at the Gates, Part 2

Back at Crooked Timber, they have a guest post on the Gates matter by Brandon del Pozo, "a captain in the NYPD (now working for Internal Affairs on internal police corruption cases, but with plenty of experience as a beat cop in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and as a police instructor too). He is also a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy at CUNY."

I found this post to be, at first, reasonable, then unsettling, and finally disturbing.

I can't remember ever using the word sophistry in a sentence before; but as I read del Pozo's post, the word was echoing in my brain. The first few commenters at CT do a pretty thorough job of dismantling his argument.

First, he speaks of abstractions, as if they apply in this case. Then, he misstates the time line. Then he channels both Prof. Gates' and Sergeant Crowley's thoughts, in ways that are unfavorable to the one, but favorable to the other. Then he constructs an invalid set of responsibilities for each of the participants, all the while cleverly building a deceitful house of cards, with a particularly disturbing sidetrack into police control.

Prof. Gates' responsibility consisted of showing the Sergeant 1) his identification, and 2) his right to be in his residence. No one disputes that he did those things. Sergeant Crowley's first responsibility was to determine if a crime was in progress. Having determined that there was not, his responsibility was to 1) defuse any heated situation, and/or 2) leave.

At the very least, Sergeant Crowley failed to do his job properly. At worst, he lured Prof. Gates out of his house, so he could perpetrate a false arrest. Unfortunately, both appear to be true.

It is worth emphasizing that, aside from the Sergeant's successful determination that there had been no crime, whatever else happened between the two men inside the house (since there is no allegation of assault) is of absolutely no relevance. Anything that Prof. Gates said, in any tone of voice or choice of vocabulary that you can think of, is of no legal consequence.

In short, President Obama had it right. The Police handled this stupidly.

Update: Here FWIW, is the police report.

I reads like an ex-post contrived piece of fiction.

Update 2: (7/26, 4:15 p.m.) A deconstruction of a portion if the police report.


BadTux said...

Yeah, the fascism reeks. "Ve must haff ORDER!" as an excuse for police officers exceeding their charge to maintain public safety is fail yet that is all that the cops seem to be capable of repeating, while clicking their heels and saluting the flag.

Gates is just lucky that this cop didn't taser him or worse yet, shoot and kill him then sprinkle crack on him (a'la Dave Chappelle). Gates's only real crime was "pissing off a cop", which ain't nowhere on the lawbooks and any cop who allows it to happen ain't professional by a long shot. "Stupid" is the least I'd call it.

- Badtux the Un-jackbooted Penguin

Jazzbumpa said...

As I said in my earlier post, there's a lot of wrong to be shared here. But - and this is critical - Prof Gates didn't break any laws.

In my fevered imagination, variations on this scenario play out dozens of times a day - but the innocent participant is young, unknown, uneducated, and unsophisticated, and has literally no defense.

I'm not in the camp who automatically thinks all cops are jackbooted thugs. And it's entirely possible that Sgt. Crowley acted outside of his normal behavior pattern.

But wrong is wrong - always and everywhere. Prof Gates was wronged, and Sgt. Crowley seems to have done it in a very purposeful manner.