Naomi [userpic]

What police work can look like

July 23rd, 2009 (10:11 pm)

I've been following the Gates story with interest since it broke. There are a lot of things about the commentary I've found depressing -- first, the number of white people in utter denial that Gates' race could have made any significant difference in the interaction, but also, the number of people who have the attitude, "hey, if you yell at a police officer, of COURSE you're going to get arrested." When did we decide that this was a reasonable expectation, as a society? When did we decide that we were going to expect police officers -- people we hand guns to, and pay out of the public purse! -- to be a bunch of power-tripping, violent loose cannons that can't be trusted to act with even the most marginal common sense?

I'm not saying that this is not a realistic assessment, unfortunately, but why do so many people seem to consider it OK?

I had the cops walk in on me investigating a possible-burglary-in-progress call, years ago. I was fifteen, and babysitting for the son of one of my father's colleagues. Graham and Gina were going out of town the next day; they'd told the neighbors, and one of them had the dates slightly wrong. She saw the back door open and a light on, and called the police, who entered without knocking, scaring the crap out of me when they suddenly appeared in the doorway of the family room, where I was sitting on the couch watching TV.

"Oh," the officer said. "You must be Gina."

"Nooooo," I said, wondering if something awful had happened to the parents. "I'm the babysitter."

There were two police officers; they were extremely polite, with a general attitude of, "we're so glad everything turned out to be okay!" They did ask for my ID, I think, but did so in a deferential way; they took a quick look at my high school ID and left immediately. I didn't get mad at them, but they did nothing to make me mad; moreover, I was a scruffy teenager in a house that really was NOT hers. The kid was in bed. Most burglars do not kick back and watch TV mid-burglary, but some do.

When Graham and Gina came home and heard the story, their immediate concern was whether the police had mistreated me. I reassured them that it had been no big deal, and I think they resolved to be clearer about dates with their neighbors in the future.

I'm white, in case you didn't know. Also female. Oh, and this was in Madison, Wisconsin.



Madison's police department in the late 1980s was run by a guy named David Couper. He was a big fan of community-based policing; he also held a black belt in Judo, and applied a lot of the Judo philosophy to police work. In my later high school years I was a rebellious teenager with a chip on her shoulder and lots of troublemaking friends; I definitely did not appreciate our police force. (And of my high school friends reading this, some may still hold grudges, for good reason even. No police force will ever be 100% asshole-free, even with good leadership. But the philosophy of the leadership really does matter.)

During my senior year of high school, the students at the school got seriously disgruntled about police harrassment of students. Madison was expanding community-based policing, which in the Regent neighborhood meant they were responding to the concerns of the neighborhood about the behavior of the students, and the students were feeling persecuted. There was more to it than that, but my explanation was boring so I deleted it. It doesn't matter all that much.

Anyway, some of my friends decided to plan a protest -- a walk-out. This was probably in early October of 1990.

I will note a couple of things.

1. Everyone involved had been to protests before (when you're a teenager in Madison, protests are a major social outlet) (or at least this was true in the 1980s) but no one had ever organized one before.

2. So they forgot about some stuff. Like, in order to talk to a crowd of people and be heard, you need some sort of amplification. Yelling isn't going to cut it.

3. Publicity, though. They were AWESOME at that part.

There was a radio show on the classic rock station called "Sly in the Morning." Sly was a Madisonian shock-jock -- sort of a much (much) tamer (and more liberal) Howard Stern. He'd always have a topic for his morning show, and run calls in between songs. If he liked what you had to say, he'd let you talk; if he didn't, he'd insult you. Teenagers loved it because he talked much like a teenager with poor impulse control, only he had a much wider audience than your average 14-year-old. He started his shift by taking suggestions for topics, so one of the kids involved got up very, very early and called in to suggest the topic of, "the police are harrassing West High students. What should be done?" The plan was that someone ELSE would call in later -- right around the time everyone at West was getting up and listening to the radio while getting ready for school -- and talk about the walk-out. It worked.

It worked really really really well.

EVERYONE knew.

(Oh, and another one of my friends -- who can identify himself if he wants ::waves enthusiastically at fellow miscreant:: -- who I think was not in on this plan, put in a call that resulted in Sly calling up one of our vice principals and calling him an asshole on the air! Which I still think is kind of awesome, because while I've really come to appreciate the Madison police force of the 1980s after living in Minneapolis for 14 years, I still hate the West High vice principals.)

Everyone knew, and EVERYONE CAME. West was a BIG high school; we had about 1800 students, and the front lawn was FILLED when everyone walked out. It was incredibly exciting. Then someone tried to make a speech and no one could hear a word of it. And no one really knew what they were supposed to do, or where they were supposed to go; there was no central communication, so no one could really direct things. It was a genuinely volatile situation, where an idea would sweep through the crowd and people would start moving, but the people in the back wouldn't necessarily know where we were going.

The Madison police, of course, knew about the planned protest. They knew what people were protesting; they knew that a police presence would be not an incentive to stay peaceful, but a focus of anger. So they didn't provide one. They were a block away, just out of sight.

People started moving, and I followed along; someone had had the idea to block Regent Street, the major street that ran past the high school. We surged out into the street, blocked it, and sat down.

At which point the police appeared -- but well out of our way, a block back on either side -- and routed traffic around us. They made absolutely no effort whatsoever to get us to move. We could sit there all day, if we wanted, was the message their actions sent; it would be a minor inconvenience but, you know, whatever. If you want to sit, sit.

After a while, people got bored, and left Regent Street and moved back to the high school's lawn. Milled around on the lawn for a while, and then the bell rang....and everyone went back to class. Protest over.

Even at the time, even as a snotty teenager, I had to respect the way the police handled this. This is what I'm talking about when I say Couper used Judo principles. This approach will not work in every situation, but running in and cracking heads rarely defuses things either. In Minneapolis, years ago, PETA ran a protest where they sent attractive young women to strip naked and lock themselves to public signs while chanting "I'd rather go naked than wear fur!" In January. Minneapolis dealt with this by sending about two dozen officers to cut the locks, rough up the protestors, and arrest them. I thought, "It's January in the upper midwest. Isn't this likely to be self-limiting behavior?" It would have worked just as well to send a couple of cops to direct traffic and wait until they got bored. And cold. Nudity is not a major public menace, you know? (They may have done just that in Madison. I can't remember for sure.)

One of the times the Madison cops DID really screw up, that I remember, involved an arrest for "disorderly conduct" of a couple of women who were sunbathing topless. This created a major scandal, and there was a big shirtless protest (in February, IIRC, brrrrrr) and everyone was breathlessly planning lots MORE big shirtless protests for spring when, to the disappointment of many, the Police Chief issued an official statement in so many words that his officers had better things to do than chase around a bunch of bare-breasted women and no tickets would be issued for topless sunbathing. Which completely took all the fun out of it and I don't recall seeing any topless women roaming the Madison parks that summer.

One more story.

For years, the Madison police dealt with the Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival in part by ignoring all pot-smoking that took place during the festival. The year I went, the word had come down that they were to enforce the law, and ticket all pot-smokers, so they did. They put the word out, first of all; they made sure everyone, including the organizers, were warned. (The organizers responded by suggesting to everyone that they get stoned and THEN come.) Not only that, they were very explicit about what would happen if you chose to violate the law and got caught; if you had ID on you, you would immediately be issued a ticket. If you didn't have ID, you would be taken in to be booked. So people going could decide up front -- do I want to protest the law by breaking it? If so, how far do I want to take it?

Second, all the police were in groups of four. They were also all dressed in their regular uniforms, not riot gear. So they were in groups that were large enough that you were probably not going to flee, or mess with them, and groups large enough to deal with a passively resistant arrestee. But they were not wearing gear that sent a message that they were expecting real trouble, or that made it hard to see their faces.

Third, every cop had some chemical that allowed them to test immediately to see if something was actually pot or something else, so as to weed out (heh) the smartasses who were rolling pseudo-joints out of legal substances like oregano.

Fourth, there was an overwhelming show of force. There were cops EVERYwhere. So if you smoked pot at the festival, you were going to be caught. I saw almost no one smoking pot at the festival (though plenty of people who'd taken the advice to arrive stoned, and one guy with roll-your-own cigarettes who joked that by late afternoon he could've rolled a joint and smoked it, because all the cops had stopped him, tested his tobacco, and let him go so many times already they were going to ignore him from that point onward no matter WHAT it looked like he was smoking.)

Here's my point. (I have one.)

This is what police work CAN look like.

Police chiefs CAN apply basic common sense to enforcement.

Police officers CAN be expected to be honest, fair, polite, and tolerant of a certain amount of civilian snottiness.

Police departments CAN plan non-violent ways to deal with protests, even potentially volatile protests.

These are not unreasonable expectations. This is what I grew up with. Madison is a small city, but it's not a small town.

I will say that I do not know how the Madison police were with racial issues. My high school was full of white kids who wanted to express their liberalism by wearing buttons with pictures of olive branches with multi-colored leaves as symbols of racial harmony....but were not terribly interested in talking to actual black people because they were loud and scary, and were definitely not interested in examining (or admitting to the existence of) their privilege. Anyway, I do not know to what extent the Madison police force of the 1980s engaged in racial profiling; I doubt they were any worse than anyone else, but they may not have been any better.

But -- having lived in a city with an unpredictable, unreliable, and occasionally really scary police force (that is still vastly less scary than the cops in some OTHER cities!) for many years now....I really appreciate how David Couper ran that department. It was not perfect, but it was better than what I've got now.

Comments

Posted by: aseop_ (aseop_)
Posted at: July 24th, 2009 04:23 am (UTC)

Great post! Thanks for sharing some hilarious stories of better police enforcement with us.

Posted by: Maevele (maevele)
Posted at: July 24th, 2009 04:51 am (UTC)
lewis

I have different memories of the walkout, but then I realize i left part way through to go drink vodka. because that's how i spent high school.

Posted by: Naomi (naomikritzer)
Posted at: July 24th, 2009 04:54 am (UTC)

Heh. Yeah, well. Hopefully your memories don't involve getting bashed over the head with nightsticks by out-of-control police or you can totally debunk my claims here. (I'm really paranoid that someone is going to show up with a total horror story involving the Madison police in the 1980s and flame me for thinking they were anything other than a bunch of fascist pigs.)

Posted by: Maevele (maevele)
Posted at: July 24th, 2009 05:12 am (UTC)
amanda

I coulda sworn there was shaking of a cop car? Idk, i just remember my friend got grounded for making the cover of the paper.
and we have one acquaintance in common who will totally tell stories of madison cops in the late 80's being fascist pigs, but that was a special situation.

Posted by: Israfel070 (israfel070)
Posted at: July 24th, 2009 05:47 am (UTC)

I've been suggesting this article to people for the actual police department's perspective on the Gates thing (esp. page 2) http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=8153681&page=1

Despite the side of the story that the President may have heard, Gates was apparently breaking open a door with a crowbar at night, and when the cops showed up he turned belligerent, was yelling profanities at the cops and refusing to comply with their requests. They say they have audio recordings of this. The cop who arrested him was selected by a black commissioner to head up an informative class on handling race-situations for fellow cops.

Posted by: Victor Raymond (badger2305)
Posted at: July 24th, 2009 05:55 am (UTC)
Audre Lorde

I'm sure the cops have their own version of events. For a refreshing take on just how *bad* the policing was in this instance, check out this link: http://www.samefacts.com/archives/crime_control_/2009/07/nightmare_on_ware_street.php

Posted by: Israfel070 (israfel070)
Posted at: July 24th, 2009 06:13 am (UTC)

"We all know that race and sex explain the difference in the way Sgt. James Crowley treated Professor Gates"
"Sgt. Crowley's report almost certainly contains intentional falsehoods"
"Spoiling for a fight, Crowley..."

Lol, I think I'll stick with my credible journalism, but thanks anyway

Posted by: Victor Raymond (badger2305)
Posted at: July 24th, 2009 06:16 am (UTC)

You obviously didn't read who wrote the article or their qualifications for making those assessments.

Posted by: Israfel070 (israfel070)
Posted at: July 24th, 2009 06:24 am (UTC)

Correct, the article's lack of objective merit is plain to see, without knowing that.

Posted by: Adrian Turtle (adrian_turtle)
Posted at: July 24th, 2009 08:18 am (UTC)

Your information seems to be mistaken. A scan of the Cambridge police report is shown here.
http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2009/0723092gates1.html
(I've seen it elsewhere, but this is the first one that came to hand this morning.) It shows the incident happening early in the afternoon, not at night. Officer Crowley works the 7am-3pm shift. A neighbor photographed Gates being taken off in handcuffs, during what appears to be daylight.
http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/07/23/birth_of_a_flashpoint_gatess_neighbor_captured_the_moment/
(There are few streetlights in the neighborhood.)
The first page of the police report says the a black man was seen forcing the door open with his shoulder, not with a crowbar.

Being rude to the police inside one's own home is not a crime. If my door is ajar, and somebody comes in saying, "I'm from the Cambridge Police," demanding that I show multiple forms of ID and tell him who else is (or has been) on the premises, I feel entitled to see some police identification. If the so-called police officer refuses to show such ID, raising a ruckus might actually be the safest response available to me (by analogy with what we teach children about stranger danger.) I don't know if it was strategically wise or not, for Gates at that time. His interactions with authority are inherently different from mine, and I don't want to second-guess him.

Posted by: Scott (scott_lynch)
Posted at: July 24th, 2009 10:32 am (UTC)

As is pointed out below, both photographs from the arrest and the police reports themselves clearly indicate that this incident took place in the afternoon.

Posted by: Naomi (naomikritzer)
Posted at: July 24th, 2009 12:32 pm (UTC)

I am shocked -- shocked! -- that the other police officers in Cambridge think that Crowley didn't do anything wrong.

Do you have a source for the crowbar? Not that it matters all that much, since it's legal to break into your house with a crowbar, and the police report (which I read the first day) agrees with Gates that he presented ID.

Posted by: Nyet Ya Koshka (coldtortuga)
Posted at: July 24th, 2009 10:14 am (UTC)

Ugh. Sadly your comments are what I would expect based on the media coverage. Do you assume the police report contains fabrications? On what grounds?

Gates has gotten not only you and media on his side, but also the mayor, the governor and the President of the United States on his side without knowledge of the facts. The mayor is disgusted with her own police force. The disorderly conduct charge, trumped up or not, was dropped without a court appearance before a judge to hear both sides --- it was dropped because the governor, without knowing the facts of the case, "made some phone calls" on behalf of his personal friend Gates. This is a perversion of our justice system on behalf of someone of influence. Pres. Obama said explicitly when commenting on the issue during his recent news conference that he did not know the facts but then he went on assuming that the situation was such that Gates was in the right.

And while police harassment is a serious issue, so is harassing the police. It is not acceptable --- after the cops have gotten your id, given their own name, and are walking off your property --- to continue verbally assaulting them. But Gates is in high society, which means he can get off scot-free for things you and I would blanch to even consider attempting.

Posted by: Naomi (naomikritzer)
Posted at: July 24th, 2009 12:39 pm (UTC)

I assume that the police report at the very least contains the police officer's attempt to make himself look as good as possible and to make Gates look as bad as possible.

For an analysis of the police report that assumes that everything in the police report is accurate, the link Victor posted above is really interesting: http://www.samefacts.com/archives/crime_control_/2009/07/nightmare_on_ware_street.php

And it is entirely acceptable to yell at a police officer who walked into your house, demanded ID, and refused to give you his badge number. If people were "disturbed," the police officer could have ended the disturbance by leaving. He also could have given Gates his badge number. There was no legitimate reason to arrest Gates, based on the police officer's account.

Posted by: Nyet Ya Koshka (coldtortuga)
Posted at: July 24th, 2009 04:02 pm (UTC)

I agree that the report was written by Crowley, and of course he biases it favorably to himself. That is one side of the story. Aside from one- or two-sentence quips in various articles, I think Gates' version (with his bias to favor himself) is probably best represented in his interview with the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/21/AR2009072101771.html The third sides of the story --- you, me, most media coverage, the mayor, the governor, the President --- are reactions to the original incident, filling in all the blank spots with things we already believed. I do not know what happened during this incident. The reason I am so angry about this whole situation is the blatant prejudice, in the literal sense of judging prior to knowing the facts, of the third sides of the story.

The analysis you linked to is an egregious example.

A Harvard University ID is not sufficient. I am looking at my spouse's Harvard University ID, which states her name and that she is faculty. It does not list an address. Should Cambridge police allow a person matching the 911 description to use this ID as proof they're at home? Right now, there are more than 30,000 active valid Harvard IDs --- would the Cambridge police have been acting properly if any "black male" with a Harvard ID was allowed to stay in Gates' home after the 911 call? I think it was reasonable for Cambridge police to contact Harvard University police to verify that Gates was at home. If you think otherwise, then I will start making weekly 911 calls to report break-ins by a tall white female at Gates' Ware St home. When the police response starts to slow down ("crying wolf"), I will have my wife go steal his TV using her Harvard ID to prove she's the homeowner.

The analysis states, "Spoiling for a fight, Crowley refuses to repeat his name and badge number." According to the police report, which the analysis claims to be focusing on, Crowley gave his name and rank immediately upon meeting Gates --- later he gave it again upon demand --- he refused some intervening requests --- as he was leaving, he told Gates that it could be discussed outside. The analysis presumes that Gates can ask as often as he likes, then can ignore the answer as often as he likes, but Crowley is "spoiling for a fight" because he refuses some of the demands.

Crowley is leaving the house and Gates follows. Crowley is going off the porch to leave the premises and Gates follows. The analysis states, "And please do not overlook Crowley's final act of provocation. He tells an angry citizen to calm down while producing handcuffs." This is a clear non-verbal threat from Crowley: back off or the handcuffs get used; calm down or face consequences. I have a visceral negative reaction to threats from the police. But when the police are leaving and their threat is calm down and let them leave or face consequences, then it goes beyond mere prejudice for the analysis to term this "provocation". If your children walk away from a playground bully, stopping only to threaten them not to follow, is it "provocation"? If someone walks behind me as I'm leaving, making verbal threats, is it "provocation" to tell them to back off? When my spouse and I argue, is is "provocation" to stomp away when things get too heated? Gates chose to ignore the warning. Crowley was leaving, Gates did not de-escalate.

I understand Gates being angry: he's just gotten off a very long plane-flight, locked out of his house, and now the police are being a PITA. By his account, this was because he's black. I would suggest Crowley was being a PITA because Gates was being uncooperative, verbally threatening, and refused to de-escalate. I do agree with some points of the analysis: "An arrest under these circumstances shows his true intent: to humiliate Gates." Gates was treated properly during his arrest, on a minor charge that would be dismissed after a court hearing before a judge. (Except, let us not forget, Gates knows he has such good friends: the charge was dismissed extra-legally, a little favor none of us would hope for.)

Posted by: Naomi (naomikritzer)
Posted at: July 24th, 2009 04:21 pm (UTC)

As a 15-year-old babysitter, I also produced an ID with no address on it. I didn't have a driver's license yet, so in fact I did not own an ID with an address; for ID, I could produce my high school photo ID or my city library card, and that was it.

And that was fine. They knew who I was, and therefore if there was a later report of a burglary, they knew who to look for.

Gates says he produced his driver's license as well, but even if ALL he presented was his Harvard ID, he had at that point shown his identity. The police officer could have backed off, gone outside, and called the Harvard University Security office to confirm that Gates lived there (since it was university-owned housing IIRC) or, you know, called the person at the police station who has the "who lives where" database that 911 uses. If it turned out Gates didn't live there, he could have gone back in and arrested him.

Posted by: Scott (scott_lynch)
Posted at: July 24th, 2009 10:56 am (UTC)
Whitley Streiber says hello!

My sister-in-law is a police officer. My father finished a two-year law enforcement degree before his life was interrupted by three bouncing Lynch babies. I myself strongly considered a career in federal law enforcement as a teenager before I realized my creative urges would never allow me to stay focused on it. I did eventually wind up in public safety anyway, working with police officers fairly frequently. So I'm by no means some wilderness-dwelling anti-authority crackpot.

If someone creates a physical disturbance around police officers, at all, then I can readily understand the swift application of physical restraint. What I cannot understand is how eager so many people are to embrace the notion that any attempt to stand up for yourself, at all, even in a purely verbal fashion, justifies anything and everything the police might choose to do in return.

If the police report is accurate, it looks as though both sides in this incident acted pretty foolishly. Once it was established that Gates did in fact live there and there was no break-in, that should have ended it. And if the responding officer was subjected to unnecessary verbal harassment, that officer would have been well within his rights to lecture Gates as sternly as he pleased about not being a jerk, before parting with a "have a nice day, sir" and forbearing to escalate the situation any further. Cuffing Gates and taking him in on the extremely awkward charge of causing a disturbance in a public place reeks of vengeful bullying-- and while it may only reflect one bad decision made in a moment of stress, that sort of bad decision made by police can have an effect on the subject's life that can last hours... or days... or forever.

Cops have extraordinary powers to detain, injure, or even kill others in the course of their duties. It's not at all unreasonable to expect them to show careful judgment and patience in the exercise of those powers. That's the very definition of the job... not, as some people would have it, to smack down anyone who dares to talk back to you.

It's doubly alarming to see all of the bullshit that has spread so rapidly in the wake of this case... "middle of the night," "crowbar," etc.

Posted by: (boing!) Cnoocy Mosque O'Witz (cnoocy)
Posted at: July 24th, 2009 11:52 am (UTC)

that sort of bad decision made by police can have an effect on the subject's life that can last hours... or days... or forever.

It's not just that. It also makes police work harder for every officer in the city, and to a lesser extent the country. Boston has a gang problem, like most large cities, and just a few summers there was a huge push by the police against a general "no snitching" ethos in the poorer areas. When I look at this situation (and others that are more outrageous, like that little girl in Galveston last year) I want to yell "this is why people don't trust the cops!"

Not to mention that this is the only time I've ever seen a police department apologize for bad behavior on the part of its officers.

Posted by: Jim Hetley (jhetley)
Posted at: July 24th, 2009 12:37 pm (UTC)
Broadsword

It *is* possible to argue yourself into an arrest . . .

We had an incident over the July Fourth weekend in Maine, a State Fire Marshal trying to enforce fireworks laws at a group of waterfront "camps" near where I live. One of the perps involved happened to be a state legislator. He got in the marshal's face, tried to pull rank ("I'm in the state legislature. I vote on your paycheck." sort of thing), allegedly even pushed him. Would have been perfectly legal and proper police procedure to take the guy down to the ground, "cuff him and stuff him" as happened to Gates.

The fire marshal just handed out a bunch of summonses and left. Different personalities. But a hand move anywhere toward the officer's weapon, and people could have ended up dead. Over illegal fireworks.

I'm *not* saying Gates was wrong. Our incident was white-on-white, without the added tension that race introduces into any confrontation. But it shows that some people ain't got no sense, and cops live with that every day.

Posted by: Naomi (naomikritzer)
Posted at: July 24th, 2009 12:40 pm (UTC)

If you push a cop, that is an entirely legitimate reason to arrest you.

I am 100% confident that if Gates had pushed the officer, that would have been in the officer's report.

Posted by: Jim Hetley (jhetley)
Posted at: July 24th, 2009 12:53 pm (UTC)

In this case, the legislator denies pushing or otherwise touching the fire marshal. Yes, it is in the officer's report.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: July 24th, 2009 02:29 pm (UTC)

Thanks for sharing your experiences; they were entertaining and enlightening.

I have no idea what actually transpired in the Gates case -- this really seems to be a Rashomon like situation where each person there has his own version of reality.

However, having had some experience as a police officer (many years ago) and also having had experience as a civilian being given a hard time by police, I do want to point out that once Professor Gates established his identity as the legitimate occupant of the house, this was no longer a police matter. There was a report of a break-in, the police responded, the occupant established his identity and right to be there. End of story.

I have hear people describe the high character and intelligence of both parties... but even if Professor Gates were to be in a bad mood (understandable, perhaps, under the circumstances) and if he spoke rudely to the police officer, raised his voice, used profanity, etc. -- all of that, taking place in his own home only his friend and the police in the house, does not amount to "disturbing the peace." If he had been pacing up and down the street, shouting and cursing in public, there might be a case for a charge of disturbing the peace, but yelling at a police officer in you own home does not qualify as disturbing the peace. Cases of disturbing the peace charges such as this are really charges of "pissing off a police officer" and these charges always end up being dismissed (usually within an hour or so), once the civilian has suffered the indignity (and fear) of being handcuffed and arrested and driven to the police station. The charges are dismissed because the only purpose is to get back at the citizen for daring to be rude and impolite. On the rare occasion of one of these charges actually reaching a court, the judge would dismiss the charge because no actual disturbance of the peace had taken place.

By the way, I do not think race played any part in this. (Look at the photographs; there were black officers at the scene.) There might have been an element of class involved if one were to suppose that part of the professor's anger had been because a mere police officer had questioned him, a member of the intellectual elite. Mostly, however, I think this was a simple case of civilian vs. law enforcement where the civilian was rude and angry and disrespectful. That might not be polite (or even safe or sensible) behavior, but it is not a crime and did not justify the arrest.

Posted by: eatsoylentgreen (eatsoylentgreen)
Posted at: July 24th, 2009 03:49 pm (UTC)

I really enjoyed this. And I'm a random friend, and a friend of Abi's.

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