Duck! and Gather

Archive for July 2009

  • In: Uncategorized
  • Comments Off on Wow! Slam Dunk Racial Profiling

Check out Gates Case Shocker. Here’s the money quote:

The 40-year-old woman whose emergency call to Cambridge police sparked the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and a raging national debate on race relations claims she never said “black” men were breaking into his house.

“This woman is 100 percent clear on what she said,” said attorney Wendy J. Murphy, who is representing 911 caller Lucia Whalen. “She never said she saw two black men. She said, ‘It never crossed my mind that there were two black men.’ ”

Whalen said she couldn’t have reported the color of the men’s skin, because she was too far away and viewing them from behind, Murphy said.

Well, put that together with my legal translation of “Would you step onto the porch” (= “I think you are a perp …”), and what we have here is slam dunk case of racial profiling. No “probable cause” to overcome the 4th Amendment’s prohibition against cops entering our home — as Sgt. Crowley did when he entered to follow Gates into the kitchen. Nothing here but an ugly case of “the nigga must have done it”.

Will be interesting to hear how the ring-wing nut jobs spin this new twist in the story.

Still looking forward to the beer on the lawn.

UPDATE; Check out the video that commenter Jason provides on the post called Henry Louis Gates: The System is Racist. That video has the 911 audio which makes out an even clear case of racial profiling than does the quote above.

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  • In: Obama
  • Comments Off on From Jim Crow to Jim Crowley

I can’t wait for the photo of Sergeant Jim Crowley, sharing a beer with President Barack Hussein Obama and Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., on the White House lawn, to be juxtaposed with this eponymous photo of a dark and ugly time in our history.

Check out the video at 0:33. Officer Crowley recounts his version of the incident with Prof. Gates. He says, in a calm, non-threatening, voice: “I asked him if he could step outside and speak with me”. He says this as if the request is an entirely reasonable and straightforward one. Maybe Crowley even believes that himself.

But the lawyers who set up the police operating procedures know that that is no straightforward request. It has huge legal significance. Sorry to quote myself from a couple of blog posts ago, but here is the legal translation:

Cop says: “Would you step outside onto the porch.”

Translation: “I know you might be the owner/resident of this house. But there seems to be something fishy about you (e.g. maybe you’re running a drug lab inside). The 4th Amendment requires that you be outside in order for me to legally search you.”

There’s no reason why Crowley couldn’t speak with Gates across the threshold of Gates’ home. Gates didn’t need to “step outside” simply to speak with Crowley. Asking Gates to step outside just “to speak” is a euphemism for “I see you as a potential perp”.

So when Crowley says this in a completely innocuous way, it makes me wonder. Is he just a simple-minded cop? Does he ask this of every resident of every home that he approaches in Cambridge? If so, then truly there is no racial animus here, systemic or otherwise.

But I’m picturing a little old white lady, in a grand old house, standing inside the house, across the threshold, opening the door to a cop like Crowley. Would the first thing out of Crowley’s mouth be: “Would you step outside onto the porch”? I have a hard time believing that.

I guess we’ll never find out.

  • In: Obama
  • Comments Off on My Interactions With Law Enforcement

I am a 6’4″ (shrunk to 6′ 3 1/2″), middle-aged, mostly bald, white male, of athletic build, and advanced education. Gotta say, that over my 46 years on this Earth — 24 in Canada, 2 in Europe, and 20 in America — my relations with cops have been very, very smooth. Almost like the cops I’ve met are “my guys”.

Here’s my most recent story. A couple of years ago, I got a speeding ticket. It was my first in a decade. And before a couple of speeding tickets I got in the late 1990s around the time of my divorce, it had been 14 years since my previous speeding ticket. Until testosterone started declining in my 40s, I was usually one of the fastest cars on the road.

I used to track the patterns of cops looking for speeders (e.g. end of the month), and recognize the make and model of undercover vehicles (e.g. Caprice Classics). But even with this counter-surveillance, I got the feeling that I just did not fit the kind of profile the cops were looking for. Now I’m content to just follow the speed of traffic.

But a couple of years ago, I was pulled over going 65 in a 50 zone, rushing to a meeting. I was driving my beat-up 1990 Honda Accord. It’s dirty inside and out. I work at home, shave rarely, and dress somewhere between casual and slovenly. At the time I was pulled over, my insurance was paid up, but my tags were 2 or 3 years expired. (DMV hadn’t sent me bills, and I never noticed the tag on my car receding over time.)

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  • In: Obama
  • Comments Off on Sergeant Crowley’s Teachable Moment

I didn’t want “Fuck tha Police” to be my last word on this subject. As I have blogged initially, I think there is a huge opportunity here. So does Obama.

As I explain in my last post, I believe that by asking Henry Louis Gates Jr. to step outside in his initial greeting to the man, Sergeant Crowley was engaging in a deep, personal provocation of Gates.

Cop says: “Would you step outside onto the porch.”

Translation: “I know you might be the owner/resident of this house. But there seems to be something fishy about you (e.g. maybe you’re running a drug lab inside). The 4th Amendment requires that you be outside in order for me to legally search you.”

Why would Crowley think there was something fishy about Gates? My guess is that Crowley has seen the prison statistics about black men and drug crimes, and so he simply has a 20-year habit of asking black folk to step outside of their cars and homes, in order to comply with the 4th Amendment.

I’ll bet this was standard operating procedure for Crowley and most cops in the area, for decades.

But then the suspected perp turns out to be a friend of the POTUS, and suddenly you’ve the national media camped out on your front lawn.

I think, as I have written before, Crowley is a good man at heart. He’s trying to do the right thing. I do think he’s had a bit of a racial bias thing going on, born of experience with the racist U.S. drug laws as applied to black folk.

But I think this incident will serve as an excellent teachable moment for Crowley and all similarly well-meaning cops. I hope he joins Obama and Gates for a beer at the White House. What a great, historic photo op that would be.

……

p.s. I do think Gates is a bit of a pompous jerk and that’s one thing that got him into trouble. But I don’t believe the grand “teachable moment” here is for Gates to learn how to bow his head, say “sir”, and roll-over to a badge and gun. Sure, that lesson might help Gates navigate America’s “justice” system better. But that lesson is not a new one for black folk. Instead, it’s a dark and painful history. The future of America is about cops treating black people as humans with dignity.

  • In: Uncategorized
  • Comments Off on Did Crowley Ask Gates to Step Onto the Porch?

For me, the whole Henry Louis Gates Jr. arrest story comes down to the first 10 seconds of the interaction between himself and Sergeant Crowley. In Gates’ own words, those first ten seconds went like this:

So I went over to the front porch still holding the phone, and I said ‘Officer, can I help you?’ And he said, ‘Would you step outside onto the porch.’ And the way he said it, I knew he wasn’t canvassing for the police benevolent association. All the hairs stood up on the back of my neck, and I realized that I was in danger.

Is that true? Were those the first words out of Crowley’s mouth? I don’t care how he said those words. I care only whether he did say those words. Because if he did, then we all but have our answer about systemic racism. The reasoning boils down to the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The 4th Amendment prohibits cops from entering your house without your permission without a warrant issued by a judge. Obviously, a week ago Thursday, Crowley did not have a warrant to enter Gates’ house.

So what it did it mean for Crowley to ask Gates to step out onto the porch?

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In my last post, I call the Henry Louis Gates arrest a perfect story and a “matchstick”. The reason I call it “perfect” is that:

  1. No reasonable person could confuse Gates, a short, 58-year-old, handicapped, egghead, with a perp.
  2. No reasonable person could confuse Crowley, an intelligent professional, with an honorable track record, with a racist.

Yet, despite these reasonable facts, Crowley did treat Gates as a perp, and Gates did treat Crowley as a racist. How the hell could that have happened?

The simple answer is these two men have huge egos. They’re both arrogant. And what happened last Thursday is really just about two arrogant men butting heads.

The more interesting answer is that the dance that these two men performed last Thursday is the most stark illustration we have of America’s racist legal “justice” system.

It’s a brutally circular dynamic. Congress passes laws mandating sentences for crack cocaine to be 10 times longer than those handed down for the same amount of powdered cocaine. Why? Because black men sell crack; white men sell powder. Racism is at the core of the drug laws.

So then what we have is black men incarcerated at rates many orders of magnitude greater than white men. So now we have our “proof”: black men are all criminals at heart. It’s “in the genes”.

So when a cop sees a black man, he sees a potential criminal. It’s a “rational” assumption given the prison statistics. i.e “I’m profiling because the profile is based on hard, cold statistics.”

And thus the circle is closed. So this is why, I believe, a good cop like Crowley didn’t apologize to Gates for the mixup immediately after Gates produced his ID, and why, I believe, Gates assumed this meant Crowley himself is a racist.

Wouldn’t it be great if this Gates/Crowley story led to revisiting of the drug laws — let alone a repeal?


for the money has gone too far

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