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Check Out the Vanity Plate on This Cambridge Policeman’s SUV

WHY-TEE (photo by Harvard student Seth Bannon, posted on Twitpic)

WHY-TEE (photo by Harvard student Seth Bannon, posted on Twitpic)

Original Tweet

Photo at Twitpic

From Gawker:

At around noon today, the same time Sgt. Dennis O’Connor, president of the Cambridge Police Superior Officers Association, gave his press conference trying to push back against perceptions that the Cambridge cops aren’t exactly racially enlightened, Harvard student Seth Bannon spotted this cop pull up to a deli on Massachussetts Ave. in what appears to be his personal SUV with a hilarious license plate: WHY-TEE.

We asked Bannon, who first Twittered the picture, to tell us more:

I was eating breakfast at the Gourmet Express Market and Deli (1868 Mass Ave, Cambridge), when around NOON the black SUV pictured backed into that space and parked illegally. The police officer pictured exited the SUV, walked into the Deli, ordered a sub, got back into the SUV, and drove off. I took the picture as the officer was getting back into the SUV.

This Cambridge police officer apparently needs to attend a sensitivity class. He’s also parked illegally.


Cambridge Police May Release Tapes of 911 Call and Police Transmissions During Prof. Henry Louis Gates’ Arrest

From The Boston Herald:

Mounting pressure to get to the bottom of the controversial arrest of black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. is centering on recorded police tapes that may offer a dose of reality amid all the media and political noise.

Cambridge police brass and lawyers are weighing making the tapes public, which could include the 911 call reporting a break-in at Gates’ home and radio transmissions by the cop who busted him July 16 for disorderly conduct.

“It’s powerful evidence because the (people involved) have not had a chance to reflect and you are getting their state of mind captured on tape,” said former prosecutor and New York City police officer Eugene O’Donnell, who is now a lecturer at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan.

Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas said last night he has asked City Solicitor Donald Drisdell to review the 911 tape, which has the potential to either bolster or impugn Gates’ stance that he is a blameless victim of racial profiling at his own home.

Further, Sgt. James Crowley noted in his report that he radioed police headquarters to let them know he was with the person who appeared to be the home’s lawful resident, but who was “very uncooperative.”

I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’d love to hear opinions from Myiq2xi and MABlue though. I hate to see this situation continue to escalate, but at the same time I don’t blame the Cambridge police for wanting to defend themselves. It could be helpful to the public discussion if we knew more about what really happened. Would the transmissions have caught the interaction inside Gates’ house though.

I’ll post more information if and when I get it.

UPDATE: From WMCB in comments: quotes from a witness

Witness: Gates ‘Agitated’ When Arrested At Home

Bill Carter, the man who snapped a photograph of Gates being led away in handcuffs, said police officers were calm and that Gates was “slightly out of control” and “agitated” when he was arrested.

“The officers around kind of calmed him down,” Carter said. “I heard him yelling — Mr. Gates yelling. I didn’t hear anything that he was saying so I couldn’t say that he was belligerent.”

UPDATE 2: Statement from President of Harvard University

“I am gratified that the charges against Professor Gates have been dropped and that all parties involved have recognized and reaffirmed his strong reputation and character. I feel privileged to consider Skip not just an esteemed colleague, but a friend. I have been in regular communication with him since Thursday and I was profoundly saddened to hear him describe what he experienced. I continue to be deeply troubled by the incident.

Legacies of racial injustice remain an unfortunate and painful part of the American experience, and inform our views, our actions, and their consequences. As President Obama has remarked, ours is an imperfect union, and while perfect justice may always elude us, we can and must do better.”

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Overnight Open Thread: Professor vs. Policeman

The latest on the Prof. vs. Cop story:

The Police Side
The Boston Globe:

The Cambridge police commissioner, breaking his public silence yesterday amid an increasingly vitriolic debate, strongly defended the actions of the sergeant who arrested Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. At the same time, Commissioner Robert C. Haas announced that an independent panel will review the confrontation between the black professor and the white officer, an incident President Obama criticized for a second straight day.

Haas described Sergeant James M. Crowley as a “stellar member’’ of the department who had “tried to deescalate the situation’’ before he arrested Gates last week on the porch of Gates’s Cambridge house. Haas emphatically said that Gates’s arrest was not racially tinged.

“He [Crowley] tried to move away from the situation, and, when he wasn’t successful, he used arrest as a last resort,’’ Haas said at a packed news conference at police headquarters. “I do not believe his actions were in any way racially motivated.’’

Nonetheless, Haas said he will appoint a panel of law enforcement experts in the next few days to analyze how his department handled the incident and to receive comments from the community.

“I have long held the view that every interaction has the potential to teach us lessons in how we conduct ourselves both professionally and personally,’’ he said. “I certainly feel that way now.’’


CBS News: Responses from Cambridge police commissioner and Sgt. James Crowley

The Professor’s Side

Prof. Henry Louis Gates on the Gayle King Radio Show on the XM Oprah Channel (h/t Huffington Post)

Transcript from Huffpo

GAYLE KING: …did you happen to be watching the news conference when he said that?

HENRY LOUIS GATES, JR: …I was having dinner with a friend on the upper east side in a little private Italian restaurant and all of a sudden I thought my blackberry was going to explode. And the first call…it was from Angela…Angela DeLeon…[saying] Barack Obama just mentioned you in his news conference…

I said oh my goodness what did he say… ‘I have to wait for the facts…?’…and he said no he said ‘the Cambridge Police were stupid and that you were friends’…I went..my god. And then the emails…it was like a slot machine. I got 500 emails last night.

GAYLE KING: I was surprised by his choice of words..that he said the Cambridge Police acted ‘stupidly.’ I agree with him, but I was surprised that the President of the United States would use that particular phrase.

HENRY LOUIS GATES, JR: I think that the circumstances are so egregious…that…it was the adjective that…logically popped into his head. I haven’t listened to a lot of the commentary but the people who want to protect the police and who are afraid of criminals like I’m afraid of criminals…are looking for something that I could have done to justify Sergeant Crowley’s actions. There’s nothing that I could have done to justify Sergeant Crowley’s action.


Some successful blacks find Gates episode all too familiar

A financial adviser at a leading wealth-management firm, Dan Rivers often identifies himself proudly but simply: “I’m a Dartmouth guy.’’ But thinking about the times he was scrutinized by security coming in and out of corporate events, about the less-than-welcoming glances he has received at a venerable men’s clothier, Rivers said he is sometimes seen by others in an entirely different way: as a black guy.

Likewise, Colette A.M. Phillips, chief executive of a Boston marketing firm, recalled the fellow business traveler in the American Airlines Admirals Club at Logan International Airport who presumed she was the help and asked for coffee.

There are legions of others who can share similar stories, affluent, accomplished, and academically distinguished African-Americans in Greater Boston who have suffered indignities that they doubt would befall their similarly successful white peers. It demonstrates, they said, that racism cannot be escaped by climbing the ladder.

Sometimes the slights are stark, other times subtle, and occasionally they fall into a gray area that leaves them wondering whether they are real or perceived. Rarely do they make local headlines, much less global news, or end with them in handcuffs on the doorstep of their homes, as was the case with the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr., the renowned Harvard scholar, in Cambridge last week.

Use this thread to continue discussing the Gates-Crowley battle or talk about other topics.

UPDATE: Here’s a bonus for any late-night readers/commenters. It’s from a right-wing source, but it’s funny, so shoot me.

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Open Thread: “The Cambridge Police Acted Stupidly”

Will Obama regret saying that? Personally, I think he’s right, but how will the Cambridge police react? Will there be pushback from law enforcement generally?

Sgt. James Crowley

Sgt. James Crowley

The arresting officer, Sgt. James Crowley (who lives in Natick) says “I’m not apologizing.”

The Cambridge cop who arrested Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. told the Herald tonight he will never apologize.

“I know I’m not apologizing. It’s not that I’m digging in my heels, I just have nothing to apologize for,” said Sgt. James Crowley.

The 42-year-old officer spoke to the Herald on the porch of his suburban home. He said he feels bad about the fallout from last week’s arrest, but he’s not going to give Gates an apology.

This could get interesting.

UPDATE 1: There is a very good piece at John McWhorter’s blog at The New Republic about the Gates episode. According to McWhorter (a self-described “black conservative,” Gates is no “rabble-rouser,” and has been “assailed as an accomodationist” by more radical black writers.

And meanwhile, the idea that he should have exhibited “deference to the police” ignores the totemic status that black men’s encounters with the police have in the way countless people process being black and what it means. There’s a reason Gates told the Washington Post Tuesday that what happened to him was part of a “racial narrative,” and that awareness surely informed his angry conduct.

The relationship between black men and police forces is, in fact, the main thing keeping America from becoming “post-racial” in any sense.

Here is where many will object with statistics about residential segregation, disparities in car loans and health care, and most recently, the dumping of subprime mortgages in black communities.

These, however, are more news stories than things felt on a visceral level among ordinary people as evidence that racism is still virulent in this country, a defining experience of being black. As Newsweek’s Ellis Cose put it in his widely read The Rage of a Privileged Class, “in the real world such statistics are almost irrelevant, for rage does not flow from dry numerical analyses of discrimination or from professional prospects projected on a statistician’s screen.”

What creates the true rub is unpleasant live social encounters, and none have such potent effect as ones with the cops.

UPDATE 2: The police report on the arrest of Henry Louis Gates has been removed from The Boston Globe’s website. Interesting….

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