Cambridge police have been defending themselves against allegations of racial bias for arresting Gates in his own home for disorderly conduct even after officers realized he was there legally. The charge was dropped five days later.
Unions representing Cambridge officers and surrounding communities planned a news conference Friday to support the officers and respond to criticism from President Barack Obama, who said police “acted stupidly,” and from Gov. Deval Patrick, who said Gates’ arrest was “every black man’s nightmare.”
Officers responded to the home near Harvard University July 16 after a woman called 911 and said she saw two black men with backpacks trying to force open the front door. The woman, Lucia Whalen, has not responded to repeated attempts for comment.
Gates has said he returned from overseas trip and found the door jammed. He maintains he turned over identification when asked to do so by the police.
He said Crowley arrested him as the professor followed him to the porch, repeatedly demanding the sergeant’s name and badge number because he was unhappy over his treatment.
Friends and fellow officers — black and white — say Crowley, who was hand-picked by a black police commissioner to teach recruits about avoiding racial profiling, is a principled police officer and family man.
Obama stood by his assertion that police did not need to arrest a Harvard scholar. Obama said in an interview with ABC that he has “extraordinary respect” for the challenges and hardships that law enforcement officers face every day in their line of work.
“From what I can tell, the sergeant who was involved is an outstanding police officer, but my suspicion is probably that it would have been better if cooler heads had prevailed.”
Patrick, once the top civil rights official in the Clinton administration and now, like Obama, the first black to hold his job, also supported Gates. “You ought to be able to raise your voice in your own house without risk of arrest.”
Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas said Thursday that Crowley was a decorated officer who followed procedure. The department is putting together an independent panel to review the arrest, but Haas said he did not think the whole story had been told.