Saturday, July 25, 2009


David Seaton's News Links
The "professor Gates gets arrested" case has drawn comments from around the world, with many people criticizing the way the Cambridge Massachusetts police handled the whole affair. Were they that rough?

As world police go American cops are about par for the course... they come a lot worse.

In many countries the policeman would have suggested that professor Gates pay him a bribe to avoid further problems and mentioning the policeman's mother, as Gates apparently did, might have ended up with the professor being "shot while trying to escape".

Except for England in the old days, ("good evening sir, could we please see the license for that gun you are holding in your hand?) cops are rough trade everywhere in the world and even in England in the old days if you resisted they could get tough, but always "excuse me sir, just hold still while I twist your arm behind your back, sir".

One of the things that happens to policemen is that after interviewing thousands of really horrible and dangerous assholes in the line of duty, they come to assume that everybody is guilty of something... and of course, in reality, everybody is guilty of "something" if only stealing another kid's teddy bear back in nursery school. So that is part of why contact with cops is normally so humiliating for honest folk... the cops seem to be looking into your soul with a look that says, "asshole, this time we are going to overlook that teddy bear, but don't let me catch you around here again."

This makes an honest person feel soiled. So making people feel guilty is a professional tool of the police and people resent feeling guilty.

Perversely, if you don't feel guilty about anything and don't seem to be affected by this treatment, they may get the idea that you are psychotic or a hardened criminal.

I'm not sure the President of the United States should have weighed in on this one until a full official inquiry had taken place, because as Chief of State and Commander in Chief, all armed forces and law enforcement in the USA are directly or indirectly under his command and this commenting on the behavior of cops on the beat, coming from the White House, may cause problems of morale among the law enforcement community and a hostile attitude from their unions.

In my opinion, Obama should have called professor Gates and offered his sympathy as a personal friend and promised him that he would ask that a full and fair inquiry take place.

Instead he has made this an "us and them" thing for a lot of people, both black and white, which is a tactical error causing an unfortunate distraction and division of support entering the health care battle, which is priority number one, or should be. DS


stunted said...

This still is an "us and them" thing in America and I find it admirable that Obama offered his opinion, though I doubt he thought it would provoke this risible shitstorm. Michael Jackson is no doubt wearing a little thin. Cops, along with a lot of white folks in general, do have an attitude toward blacks and the feeling is mutual. Stating that plainly rubs Americans the wrong way because they haven't had leaders speak to them as adults in decades. We go in for hedging, cooing and folksy bullshit. And, of course, American exceptionalism. It's Oprah's and Ronnie Reagan's world. The Cambridge police force was "deflated" by Obama's comments? Oh dear; let's break out the smelling salts and lace hankies. In my neck of the woods, local police have used the backs of young black males for target practice and, bizzarely , it never seems to happen to young white males. That a president baldly stating what is as obvious as the sun rising in the east should give rise to this ensuing media frenzy speaks volumes about both the country and the media. An independent study in Obama's state (if he really is a citizen--CNN is looking into that for us) showed that cops were twice as likely to stop blacks in automobiles when whites had twice the amount of illegal substances or objects when they were controlled. Racial profiling is an all-too-common stain on the social tissue and should be waved in peoples' faces when high profile cases arise. That it may be inconvenient for the political agenda is not a strong enough reason to delay using events as they arise to underline injustices, and this regardless of what the investigation ultimately decides about the chain of these events. Regarding this particular moment in Obama's agenda, Prof. Gates' run-in with the cops came long after divisions of support in the health care battle manifested themselves. A public option to compete with the private sector, which is spending $1.4 million/ day to cool any supposed congressional ardor for "reform", was discarded by Obama's own party well before Prof. Gates had the temerity to see what was wrong with his front door. Forcing all Americans to buy health insurance largely on the insurance industry's terms is not a battle; it's a forced march.

Stephanie said...

Obama made a mistake but I liked him the better for it. He said what he thought and what is probably true about the Gates business, God help him.