The Chicago Sun-Times reporter Lynn Sweet asked the president what the recent arrest of Henry Louis Gates said about the state of race relations in the country.
Here is the president's full answer from the transcript:
"Well, I should say at the outset that "Skip" Gates is a friend, so I may be a little biased here. I don't know all the facts. What's been reported, though, is that the guy forgot his keys, jimmied his way to get into the house, there was a report called into the police station that there might be a burglary taking place - so far, so good, right? I mean, if I was trying to jigger into - well, I guess this is my house now so - (laughter) - it probably wouldn't happen. But let's say my old house in Chicago - (laughter) - here I'd get shot. (Laughter.)"But so far, so good. They're reporting - the police are doing what they should. There's a call, they go investigate what happens. My understanding is at that point Professor Gates is already in his house. The police officer comes in, I'm sure there's some exchange of words, but my understanding is, is that Professor Gates then shows his ID to show that this is his house. And at that point, he gets arrested for disorderly conduct - charges which are later dropped."Now, I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that, but I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge Police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there is a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That's just a fact."As you know, Lynn, when I was in the state legislature in Illinois, we worked on a racial profiling bill because there was indisputable evidence that blacks and Hispanics were being stopped disproportionately. And that is a sign, an example of how, you know, race remains a factor in this society. That doesn't lessen the incredible progress that has been made. I am standing here as testimony to the progress that's been made."And yet the fact of the matter is, is that this still haunts us. And even when there are honest misunderstandings, the fact that blacks and Hispanics are picked up more frequently and often time for no cause casts suspicion even when there is good cause. And that's why I think the more that we're working with local law enforcement to improve policing techniques so that we're eliminating potential bias, the safer everybody is going to be."
The Officer's response:
NATICK, Mass. (July 23) -- A white police sergeant who arrested renowned black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. at his home says he followed procedure and is disappointed President Barack Obama said officers acted "stupidly," despite acknowledging he didn't know all the facts.
Gates has demanded an apology from Sgt. James Crowley, who had responded to the home near Harvard University last week to investigate a report of a burglary and demanded the scholar show him identification. Police say Gates at first refused and then accused the officer of racism.
Gates said Crowley walked into his home without his permission and only arrested him as the professor followed him to the porch, repeatedly demanding the sergeant's name and badge number because he was unhappy over his treatment.
Crowley said Wednesday that he won't apologize. The charge of disorderly conduct against Gates was dropped Tuesday.
In radio interviews Thursday morning, Crowley maintained he had done nothing wrong in arresting Gates.
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"I support the president of the United States 110 percent. I think he was way off base wading into a local issue without knowing all the facts as he himself stated before he made that comment," Crowley told WBZ-AM. "I guess a friend of mine would support my position, too."
Obama said federal officials need to continue working with local law enforcement "to improve policing techniques so that we're eliminating potential bias."
Crowley said he's grateful he has the support of his police force. He said he's not worried about any possible disciplinary action.
"There will be no apology," he said outside his home Wednesday.
Crowley was a campus police officer at Brandeis University in July 1993 when he administered CPR trying to save the life of former Boston Celtics player Reggie Lewis. Lewis, who was black, collapsed and died during an off-season workout.
Cambridge police and the police officers' union have declined to comment.
But there was plenty of blame being spread around by the public, through talk shows, blogs, newspaper online forums and watercooler chats. Even the hosts of a sports radio show in Boston spent much of Wednesday morning faulting Gates.
Gov. Deval Patrick, who is black, said he was troubled and upset over the incident. Cambridge Mayor Denise Simmons, who also is black, has said she spoke with Gates and apologized on behalf of the city, and a statement from the city called the July 16 incident "regrettable and unfortunate."
Gates said he was "outraged" by the arrest.
"This isn't about me; this is about the vulnerability of black men in America," Gates said.
He said the incident made him realize how vulnerable poor people and minorities are "to capricious forces like a rogue policeman, and this man clearly was a rogue policeman."
Police supporters charge that Gates, director of Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, was responsible for his own arrest by overreacting.
Gates' supporters cite Boston's history as a city plagued by racism as an underlying reason why this could still happen to an esteemed scholar, at midday, in his own home.
"That stain on this city — as far as persons of color are concerned — is a real one," television and radio commentator Callie Crossley said.
Black students and professors at Harvard have complained for years about racial profiling by Cambridge and campus police. Harvard commissioned an independent committee last year to examine the university's race relations after campus police confronted a young black man who was using tools to remove a bike lock. The man worked at Harvard and owned the bike.
Richard Weinblatt, director of the Institute for Public Safety at Central Ohio Technical College, said the police sergeant was responsible for defusing the situation once he realized Gates was the lawful occupant. It is not against the law to yell at police, especially in a home, as long as that behavior does not affect an investigation, he said."That is part of being a police officer in a democratic society," Weinblatt said. "The point is that the police sergeant needs to be the bigger person, take the higher road, be more professional."
Let us set the stage, shall we?
Officer gets detailed to a burglary in progress call.
Officer arrives to find a black man breaking into a home.
Officer confronts him and instead of immediately arresting him and sorting it out later, takes the time to ask for proof the man lives there.
Man initially refuses and accuses the officer of racism. I must assume the man, at some point, does in fact show identification.
Can you see the scene? Can you put yourself there? Was there yelling, anger, accusations of racism by a man who automatically assumes the mantle of 'victim' upon being confronted by a white officer trying to do his job?
Now let us add in the president. A self professed 'friend' of Mr. Gates. Think old 'Skip' may be cut from the same cloth as BHO maybe? Remember BHO is a child of the reverend Wright and his odious brand of racial identity. Think Mr. Gates might just be of the same stripe? Now BHO is sounding off and talking about 'stupidity' and says this "And even when there are honest misunderstandings, the fact that blacks and Hispanics are picked up more frequently and often time for no cause casts suspicion even when there is good cause."
That's called race baiting folks and it's being done by the president of the United States of America. It is beneath contempt. When the president sounds off like this the officer is damned no matter what actually happened and the only 2 people who know for sure are the officer and Mr. Gates. I don't know, you don't know and damn sure BHO doesn't know. To publicly castigate this officer shows exactly who BHO is and what he wants to do. He is creating a condition where no white police officer will ever arrest a minority where there is even the remotest possibility that he will complain. Not a possibility that he is innocent, because in this case no one can say for a certainty that he did or didn't deserve to be arrested, but simply a complaint of a racially motivated arrest. In one fell swoop BHO has managed to handcuff law enforcement across this country. He has said to every punk, thief, robber, murder and rapist that if you're black or latino just make a race complaint and you'll get off scott free with an apology and probably taxpayer money in your pocket.
This president has set back race relations in this country by 50 years. At a time when most white Americans are pretty damn good at being color blind BHO has said 'Forget that, race is the only thing that matters.' It is absolutely chilling to law enforcement and if you think we didn't get the message you're wrong. Take a look at LA after the King verdict riots. Officers were afraid to arrest an african american. Afraid. Wrong? You bet but very, very human.
It is maddening to hear this man speak and read what he writes. He took a case that might have generated some questions and concerns from white America and turned it on it's ear. White America is much more likely to turn a deaf ear to legitimate complaints of racism. This is akin to the claim of 'verbal rape'. It so dilutes the word rape that genuine victims are forgotten. We're going back to the days of ignoring those legitimate complaints because of the overreaction to things like this. BHO weighed in because this is a friend of his and he saw a chance to further the victimhood status of minorities. BHO is no friend of the African American or Latino peoples.
He is trying to use incidents like this to woo the conservative and libertarian sectors of the minority communities to his camp and co-opt them.
Whatever actually happened one thing is certain. True racial harmony and fair and color blind law enforcement in this country has been dealt a hammer blow. How, when and if they recover remains to be seen.
This entire incident could have been handled so simply and easily. A citizens complaint against the officer, investigated by his department, a review board or a state agency. You know, the way it's supposed to be done. The way it would have been done if Mr. Gates were white. I know that sounds harsh but tell me I'm wrong. The president should have kept his damn mouth shut until all the facts were out and an internal investigation was done. Now, we find ourselves in conversations like this and arguing over race relations in the U.S. I find myself hoping Sgt. Crowley sticks to his guns and refuses to apoligize, even at the cost of his job. Even though he might in fact be wrong. And that, folks, is enough to make even The Six cry.
God, I thought we were past all this crap!