Barack Obama Unpaid Cambridge Tickets: Sgt. Crowley Update, Crowley News Conference

President Barack Obama has said the Cambridge police acted “stupidly” when they arrested Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates. This is not the first time Barack Obama treated the Cambridge police with little respect. Of seventeen parking violations he received in Cambridge, fifteen went upaid until he began his presidential campaign.

Barack Obama reports that as a student in Cambridge (1988-1991) while attending Harvard University, Barack Obama received 17 parking violations and paid only two. I guess a future president can park wherever he pleases. (Thank you to geeeeeZ!).

According to The Somerville News, the tickets included parking in a bus stop, parking without a residential permit and failing to pay meters. My car would have been towed and a lien placed on my house.

When the 2007 presidential campaign ramped up, Obama paid the remaining upaid 15 tickets. That’s the height of arrogance…okay, maybe not the height – that would be presidential cabinet picks who haven’t paid their income taxes, but it is a close second.

Obama campaign spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, apparently said the tickets were not relevent.

The background on the Obama/Gates/Cambridge police story is that Professor Henry Gates, a Black man and a revered African-American scholar and documentarian, returned to Cambridge from a trip to China recently. It was about midnight when he arrived along with his “driver.” Gates had trouble opening his front door and so one of the two men put their shoulder to the door and eventually knocked it open.

Sgt. James Crowley

A neighbor, also Black, called police and reported that two Black men were breaking into the house. The police arrived, and according to police reports, Professor Gates initially refused to provide I.D. to Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge police. Crowley also called the Harvard University police to the scene. He refused to tell Crowley whether or not anyone else was in the home. He immediately, again according to a report by another policeman, began yelling that Crowley was racist and “this is what happens to Black men in America.”

As the police were leaving Gates come out on his front porch and continued the rant, including “You don’t know who you are messing with.” Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct. The charges were later dropped.

Gates’ account is, of course, completely different. He did nothing wrong, did not harrass the police, etc.

I see numerous rants around the internet that support President Obama’s statement, given during a prime time address to the Nation on health care:

Obama called Gates a friend, and said he doesn’t know all the facts of the case. Nonetheless, Obama said, anyone would have been angry if treated the way Gates claims police in Cambridge, Mass., treated him. Gates, a Harvard University professor, claims he was arrested in his home after showing ID to police who responded to a report of a possible burglary.

“Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof he was in own home,” Obama said during a prime-time news conference that otherwise focused on the health care debate.

What I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there’s a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately,” Obama said. “That’s just a fact.”

That disparity is a reminder that “race remains a factor in the society,” Obama said.

Those supporting Professor Gates’ behavior believe that the man was in his own house and should have been left alone, no matter how angry and out-of-control he became.

What about the safety of the police? Do Blacks care that this police officer had to enter a home, verify who was in the house for his safety as well as Gates’, as he would have done in a home belonging to Whites or Hispanics?

The police were called to the scene. They didn’t show up for a pogrom.

Obama doesn’t see what the fuss is, but there is definitely a fuss going on. I think he knew exactly the reaction his words would have. A man in his position doesn’t say the police acted “stupidly” without intending to send a message. Obama has drawn criticism from Blacks lately for not being outspoken enough about racism, and for recently saying that Blacks have to do more in our own lives, our own families and our own communities…”. Rev. Al explained Obama’s surprising upbraiding of the Cambridge police this way:

Have some people wanted him to bring this up sooner?” asked civil rights activist, the Rev. Al Sharpton. “Of course, we have. But the timing had to be right. He had the courage to take a position at a time when he knows some people will disagree.”

And this from another pillar of the Black community:

“No one wants to talk about race,” said Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist and ABC News consultant. “He [Obama] does not inject race into the conversation regularly because it clears the room. There are designated times, like Martin Luther King Jr. Day or when we have a large gathering of black folks, like at the NAACP recently, but that’s about it.”

Sgt. James Crowley made national news once before. As a Bradeis campus police officer, he was on the scene at Brandeis University when Celtic star Reggie Lewis collapsed and died in 1993 during an off-season practice. He gave Lewis mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but failed to save him.

Some people were saying ‘There’s the guy who killed Reggie Lewis’ afterward. I was broken-hearted. I cried for many nights,” he said.
Crowley, 42, said he’s not a racist, despite how some have cast his actions in the Gates case. “Those who know me know I’m not,” he said.

Sgt. Crowley has taught a racial profiling class at the Lowell Police Academy for five years, along with a Black police officer. About 60 students go through that class each year.

He’s a very professional police officer and he’s a good role model,” Fleming [Lowell Police Academy director] said. “Former police commissioner Ronny Watson, who is a person of color, hand-picked Sgt. Crowley. … I presume because he would be the most qualified and most professional. He’s a very good instructor. He gets very high reviews by the students.”

Lawrence Hickman, a black Boston police officer who also teaches at the academy, said he’s worked alongside Crowley for years now and has nothing but the highest respect for him.

“He’s well versed in the subject matter he taught,” Hickman said. “He is the right instructor for the subject material … I’m an African-American police officer, If there were any issues or if I thought he was biased, I would have addressed that. We all do the same job and we all know how things get spun out.

The bottom line is he was there answering a call for help, he responded as a professional police officer.”

Fleming said Crowley gets no extra money for teaching the class, which requires him to drive from Cambridge to Middlesex Community College in Lowell. He said the academy is well respected and it is used by cops from 53 communities across the state, including Lowell, Cambridge and other cities and towns.

Professor Gates is unhappy that Sgt. James Crowley and the Cambridge police will not apologize. Tsk, tsk. Now he thinks he will sue the Sergeant and/or the Cambridge police.

The latest news is that Cambridge police are pondering the release of the 911 call that brought them to the house and other transmissions that may have been recorded.

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.”

Upon receiving Gates’ Harvard ID, Crowley wrote he radioed in to request “the presence of the Harvard University Police.”

PRESS CONFERENCE LIVE BLOGGING: At this moment, the Cambridge police are holding a news conference. Just a few live-blogging snippets: One speaker said that when President Obama said that the police acted “stupidly,” he used the right adjective but directed it to the wrong party.” They reject that racism guided the arrest. On speaker says that the Cambridge police should have an apology, but I am unclear whether that apology is requested from Gates or Obama or both. A later speaker said there are no “demands” for an apology.

A spokesman stated that Obama acknowledged that he didn’t have all of the facts, and so should have said nothing, saying “in our view there was nothing “stupid” done.” Gates controlled the outcome. The spokesman said Obama “implied” a link between what happened and problems with persons of color and law enforcement. That is not true in Cambridge and was not true in this case.

The Cambridge police are now wishing that the charges had not been dropped so that a “trial of fact” could go forward, rather than this playing out in the press.

Read the police reports here.

Photo credit: Senne/AP

Henry Louis Gates: Inkwell, AfricanDNA: Gates in Martha’s Vineyard, Gates on Newt Gingrich

Henry Gates’ Neighbor: White Women Less than Black Men