Friday, July 24, 2009

Black officer at scholar's home supports arrest

President Barack Obama has strained through his career in national politics to embrace nuance in all things and never more than when the subject is race. But an off-the-cuff remark at the end of a news conference designed to further his health care agenda put him at the center of a familiar public melodrama of white cop and black victim in which big-city mayors — never mind presidents — tread with the greatest of caution.

The White House spent Thursday trying to both defend Obama’s words and soften his position from the night before, when the president departed from his talking points, aides said, to express authentic disgust at the arrest of a black Harvard professor in his own home.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs stood by Obama’s statement that a Cambridge police officer, James Crowley, had acted “stupidly” in arresting Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr. but added some implicit criticism of Gates’s conduct, suggesting “both sides” bear blame for the incident. Obama, who said that he was “surprised by the controversy,” said he wished that “cooler heads” had prevailed and described Crowley as an “outstanding” officer.

An outstanding officer who he has described as behaving stupidly!!!

Hat Tip: Dian

Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley listens to questions from members of the AP – Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley listens to questions from members of the media at his home in Natick, …

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – A black police officer who was at Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s home when the black Harvard scholar was arrested says he fully supports how his white fellow officer handled the situation.

Sgt. Leon Lashley says Gates was probably tired and surprised when Sgt. James Crowley demanded identification from him as officers investigated a report of a burglary. Lashley says Gates' reaction to Crowley was "a little bit stranger than it should have been."

Asked if Gates should have been arrested, Lashley said supported Crowley "100 percent."

Gates has said he was the victim of racial profiling.

President Barack Obama says the officers "acted stupidly." Lashley called Obama's remark "unfortunate" and said he should be allowed to take it back.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — A multiracial group of police officers on Friday stood with the white officer who arrested a prominent black Harvard scholar and asked President Barack Obama and Gov. Deval Patrick to apologize for comments the union leaders called insulting.

Obama said Wednesday that Cambridge police "acted stupidly" during the disorderly conduct arrest of his friend, Henry Louis Gates Jr., in his own home near Harvard University. Gov. Deval Patrick said Gates' arrest was "every black man's nightmare."

Dennis O'Connor, president of the Cambridge Police Superior Officers Association, said Obama's remarks were "misdirected" and the Cambridge police "deeply resent the implication" that race was a factor in the arrest.

"President Obama said the actions of the CPD were stupid and linked the event to the history of racial profiling in America," O'Connor said. "The facts of the case suggested that the president used the right adjective but directed it to the wrong party."

Officers responded to Gates' home on July 16 after a woman called 911 and said she saw two black men with backpacks trying to force open the front door. The woman, Lucia Whalen, has not responded to repeated attempts for comment.


© Janet Crain

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