Monday, July 27, 2009
Over the weekend, a commenter pointed me to some thoughts by Billy Beck about the Skip Gates arrest in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that is worth taking into account, and which pertains to the one issue that has given me the most pause in my thinking about it. Namely: Was Crowley right to arrest Gates? I leaned strongly in Crowley's favor on that question, but still had some nagging doubts.
Since I can't do better than madmax did to introduce it, I'll let him do the honors:
At first I thought [Beck's comments were] typical libertarian anti-state drivel, but lately I have come to the conclusion that as the welfare-state increases (along with smiley-faced fascism), the police are getting more abusive. Beck thinks that Crowley arrested Gates essentially because he didn't like his attitude; i.e., arbitrarily. To me, Gates is clearly an anti-white racist but it may be the case that Crowley was wrong. I don't know. [minor edits]Gates is clearly a racist, and seems to me to have been baiting Crowley. Having read Crowley's report, his arresting Gates did not strike me as unreasonable, assuming that Gates's actions were indeed interfering with the normal discharge of Crowley's duties. (Whether the charge of disorderly conduct is an appropriate or adequate tool in this case is, itself, an interesting, albeit separate, question.）
But Carlos Miller, to whom Beck links at the end of his post, indicates that the charge of disorderly conduct is frequently abused. Might it have been here? Might Crowley have tried another tack, as another commenter here suggested he should have? For different reasons (to nail down a different factual point and to show that Gates is being less than forthright about another), Ann Althouse suggests (via Glenn Reynolds) making the police recordings of the incident public.
If Crowley had been "acting foolishly," to use President Obama's words in a way he clearly did not intend, then Billy Beck is right on the money when he indicates that Skip Gates blew an opportunity to bring an important issue to the attention of the public.
If Gates finds it necessary, for whatever reasoning, to stake himself to race in a matter like this, then he can have it and be as small and ridiculous as he wants to be.I have to say that I do not share Beck's apparent certainty that Crowley acted inappropriately. In large part, because my father was a cop, I can see a very good man in Crowley's shoes simply trying to do his job. But because my dad also taught me to think about everything carefully -- and made it clear to me that some policemen are little better than criminals -- I can see it Beck's way, too.