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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

July 24, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Gates arrest: Was officer wrong to take him in?

Gates incident an example of oversensitivity to race

Sgt. James Crowley seems to have followed proper procedures [“Was arrest of Harvard scholar act of racism?” News, July 21]. Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested for his hostile and verbal actions, which are common to law-enforcement work and security.

I worked security for one of the major casinos in Las Vegas, and we dealt with the general public on a daily basis.

The problem is whenever I would check a black person while I was posted in the hotel elevators to make sure they were guests in the hotel, the black person usually got offended and hostile and would tell me I was checking them because of race.

I am a minority of Asian decent. I had to explain to them what we do and why. They even sometimes threatened me by asking for my name and employee number so they could complain to my superiors.

This is what blacks need to change or else such incidents at Harvard will be not only embarrassing to both parties and the nation but will cause division between blacks and other ethnic groups.

Also, President Obama made a mistake by originally defending Gates in an interview; he should have just said no comment.

— Tom Lasam, Seattle

Harvard professor has chip on his shoulder

Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. has to admit that forcing one’s way into a house looks suspicious no matter what color, age or sex the perpetrator is. My son and I have had to at times break into our house by forcing open a window and climbing through that.

While doing that, I was very aware someone might see me and wonder what was going on, and I don’t think I would have been so surprised to have the police notified by an onlooker.

Gates should spend more time getting to know his neighbors, be appreciative of others looking after his property and spend less time nursing the giant chip on his shoulder.

— Elizabeth Erickson, Seattle

Officer should have just asked for some mail

Having just read the entire arrest report of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. written by arresting officer Sgt. James Crowley, I concur Sergeant Crowley acted “stupidly,” as originally characterized by President Obama.

Crowley’s misconduct was by omission. He wrote that Gates produced his Harvard employee ID. Crowley doesn’t question the authenticity of that ID, but it isn’t clear, from the report, if Gate’s home address was on the ID. My assumption is that it wasn’t.

Be that as it may be, it’s Crowley’s lack of follow-up that put him in the wrong. Nowhere in his report does he state he asked Gates for a piece of mail that showed his name and his residential address on it. If it’s not in his report, it didn’t happen.

It’s both common sense and law enforcement 101 to make such a request in this scenario. I suspect Crowley failed to ask because his temper got the best of him.

Realizing Gates wasn’t going to genuflect or embrace his lower posterior and that Gates wouldn’t shut up, Crowley arrested him.

Absent arrest and transport to jail, Gates and every other American have a First Amendment right to shout and be rude in their home and on their private property.

Crowley’s refusal to apologize and his public criticism of Obama’s remarks are manifestations of his contempt for civilian control and civilian rule, in a democratic republic.

The fact that Crowley didn’t arrest Gates for burglary or trespass and the local prosecutor rejected the disorderly conduct charge shows Crowley’s professional misconduct.

— Steven L. Kendall, Seattle

Comments | More in First Amendment, Public safety, Race


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