(Washington, DC) Thursday evening at 6:00 PM, three gents will share a beer down at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The host invited two New England residents for a brewski and a “teachable moment.” Let’s hope they have the right lesson plan.
You’ve heard some version of the precipitating incident by now, the outraged assertions of distinguished scholar Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. that a police officer treated him like a criminal suspect in his own house. Or maybe you read the CYA report filed by the Cambridge police officer after the dimensions of his arrest of Dr. Gates became clear. If you heard the recordings of the police radio transmissions, you know they are unhelpful in clearing up the specifics of this particular incident.
The fact that Sergeant Crowley is the “Racial Profiling” training officer on his force does not come into play here, because this is clearly an incident of a “Contempt of Cop” arrest. Anyone who believes “Contempt of Cop” does not have a class and racial component is simply not looking at the facts. Patrol officers tend to exercise more patience with white citizens than darker ones, with whom they are quicker to employ the wide discretionary powers that allow “Disorderly Conduct” and “Obstruction of Justice” arrests which are often dismissed by prosecutors — after booking and a spell in jail.
“Racial Profiling” is much easier to document than “Contempt of Cop,” so it is understandable no one has followed up on the pioneering work of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that illustrates the racial bias of “Contempt of Cop” arrests.
Maybe the Gates arrest can start the dialogue about “Contempt of Cop.” At the very least it may cause patrol officers to think twice about the identity of all citizens they encounter and afford equal patience to each of them.
Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here.Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com
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