I think that the invitation by President Obama to Dr. Gates could lead to a possible learning moment that could change the perception and ultimately the reality of bad police community relations in this country. As one who has been involved in racial profiling cases since the ‘90s, I can tell you that people tend to take their respective sides rather than understand respective views. Rather than people understanding that we all need good policing and equal protection under the law people tend to get caught up in distractive arguments that undercut the goal of a fair and just society.
Given the visibility of this matter, such a meeting would put the issue front and center and show that people that raise issues on policing, as in this case, Dr. Gates, are not criminals seeking to bash police. And Sgt. Crowley can represent police that feel misunderstood. The president can then in the balance help bring us in an era of federally enforced laws that protect citizens from overly aggressive and or racially biased policing because of ill-defined laws.
I strongly urge Dr. Gates to take the risk to move us forward in history rather than continue the cycle of incident after incident without legally enforceable federal resolutions to the problem of police community relations. We have been successful in various states with laws and training programs. It is time for the federal government to tackle this. This meeting could be a major step toward making that happening.