Tag Archives: crowley


The air these days is filled with loud angry statements by those who defend Sgt. Crowley against what is viewed as a slur upon his name. The assumption of these defenders is that President Obama called Sgt. Crowley “stupid.” Actually, he never did, he referred to the arrest as an example of “stupidity.” I am often bemused at the virulent anger displayed by defenders of Crowley. During the initial days of their defense many challenged those attacking the police officer to check his report and tapes. Well, many have checked his report and the tapes. It is now PROVEN that Sgt. Crowley made a “mistake” by saying the eye witness said there were two black men with knapsacks on the porch. Ms. Whalen’s said there were two suitcases and under questioning said one of them might have been “Hispanic.” In other words, the Crowley report is erroneous.

Did Sgt. Crowly lie? Of course not! He was excited, felt stress and heard words never spoken. Anyone reading my words has suffered through many such occurrences in their own lives. In moments of stress we hear what we want to hear. In so doing, WE MAKE A MISTAKE. Wow. Sgt. Crowley is a human. I thought it was regrettable during his meeting with Gates he failed to acknowledge his mistakes in the written report.

The bottom line is that President Obama was perfectly correct in terming the entire incident an example of “stupidity.” Sorry, if this incident happened in a wealthy neighborhood and the man identified himself as the white CEO of a major company, Sgt. Crowley would have said: “sorry for the intrusion. I just wanted to check everything was OK. Have a good one” and gone his merry way.

Every study of police halting people indicates African Americans and Hispanics are halted at least ten times more frequently than white people. Gates belonged to a group who have, historically, been racially profiled and humiliated. He was upset, angry, confused, and ready to strike back at what he thought was another example of racial profiling. Perfectly understandable, and, perhaps, in this case incorrect. No one knows what was going on in the mind of Sgt. Crowley, but certainly when a black elderly man identified himself as the owner of the house, regardless of his tone of voice, the matter should have been dropped.

Those of you who seek to blame Obama as insulting all police might seek to ask Sgt. Crowley whether he unintentionally was insulting all African Americans.

Americans Display Stupidity On Gates Incident

Ah, the great American debate on racism continues with latest poll results indicating 41 percent of the nation disapprove of the president’s handling of the situation while 29 percent approve. Yes, this is an important milestone in race relations in this country. Sgt. Crowley has encountered hundreds of situations in which people raised their voices to him, and no arrest was made, but for some reason he decided a 58 year-old man weighing about 150 pounds who teaches at Harvard represented a “threat” requiring back up support! Give me a break. Sgt. Crowley over-reacted, made a mistake, and refuses to acknowledge his error. Perhaps, from now on Sgt. Crowley will arrest every 150 pound elderly man who raises his voice, but I doubt if that will ever happen.

America, get your head on straight. There are about 700,000 people in jail for drug offenses, and a high percentage of those individuals are of African American and Hispanic backgrounds. This is the face of REAL RACISM, but for some reason it does not register on the typical American’s anger level. Black and Hispanic individuals are halted at a much higher percentage than whites, that is racism. Live like an African American for a week and see if you don’t come away with a new recognition that racism exists in this nation.

Does what I write suggest there has not been dramatic progress on race issues? Of course, there has been a virtual revolution, but the voyage has begun, not concluded.

P.S. I suspect many who are upset at the word “stupid” do not become upset at the rantings of hate expressed every night by Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly. I wonder why.

Let’s Crowley And Birthrite The Black Dude!

The Republican crazies are out in full force to prove Barack Obama is not a “real American” but some foreign import, you know, someone like Alexander Hamilton who came from Jamaica. Our young men and women are risking their lives to fight battles against those who show no respect for human life while here at home, loonies of the right would be willing to destroy any chance for a decent health care system or restoration of the economy because they still can’t get right with the idea some black dude is president of the nation. The Sgt. Crowley episode is a vivid example that right wingers instinctively come to the defense of anyone accused of racism because in their delusions the concept of racism does not exist in America. Of course, to be honest, they really believe white folk are victims of racism and it is necessary to defend the rights of millionaires before those who are poor or unemployed.

I have taught dozens of police in my course on the history of crime. Most policemen are decent, hard working, underpaid and under appreciated, but they do make mistakes because they are human. Anyone working in the public arena MUST make mistakes because there are too many variables simultaneously assaulting one’s senses. Sgt. Crowley’s account of the incident now conflicts with the one who made the original call, Lucia Whalen. Sg. Crowley is not lying, no one involved in the incident is lying. Each person saw and heard what they wanted to hear and see. Reality is that Sgt. Crowley has ignored Hundreds of incidents in which people raised their voices, he walked away without making an arrest. I have no idea why this decent individual lost his cool and made a “stupid arrest.” I have taught 15,000 students in my life and there have been dozens of examples when I simply lost my cool and did something that I later realized was stupid. As President Obama said, let’s move on from this incident.

As for the birth certificate madness, it is clear Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, and the idiot congresswomen from Minnesota are not interested in anything other than destroying the reputation of President Obama. If the nation has to go under, so be it in their view, the important thing is to ensure their voices of ignorance are heard. As Shakespeare put it centuries ago, their comments are “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

So What Did The “Witness” To Gates Incident Say?

The ongoing saga of what actually happened and what was said in the now notorious case of Henry Louis Gates has raised more questions than answers. Lucia Whalen reported the incident and says she told the operator that an elderly woman had stopped her to report two men trying to get into a house. Whalen says she initially saw two men pushing on the door, but later stated one of the men entered the house and she did see two suitcases on the porch. “I don’t know if they live there and they just had a hard time with their key. But, I did notice they used their shoulder to try to barge in and they got in.” She originally did not mention race of the men but was pressed by the operator and said “one looked kind of Hispanic, but I’m not really sure.”

According to the report submitted by Sgt. Crowley he claims Ms. Whalen “went on to tell me that she observed what appeared to be two black males with backpacks on the porch.” Her lawyer says Ms. Whalen never mentioned the race of the men to Crowley.

It is quite clear there are now three versions of what happened– Gates, Crowley, and Whalen. Are we to assume Ms. Whalen will get an invitation to the White House to sit in on the now famous chat?

Sgt.Crowley Made A Stupid Mistake-He’s Human!

I have spent over twenty years teaching courses on “The History of Crime” and have been pleased to have many members of the police force as my students. I have the highest respect for those who risk their lives to serve the public, but, one thing has become clear to me after 53 years of teaching over 15,000 students. We all make mistakes. I am certain Sgt. Crowley is an excellent police officer, but he blew it this time by over-reacting. I begin from the premise that anyone who interacts with the public is prone to making errors of judgment. I assume that among my thousands of interactions with students I allow my emotions, my prejudices and experiences to get in the way of my normal sense of objectivity. I am human. This means I must have made at least two hundred mistakes in my life as a teacher.

Yes, those who work with the public, on occasion, allow emotions to get in the way. For example this past semester on nine occasions I contacted a student after class and apologized for being too curt in class, for making a grading mistake or for not grasping the point they made in class. I have worked with over 2,000 student teachers and the first lesson they learn is whenever there is a disturbance, restore order, don’t make threats, and above all, don’t send anyone to the principal’s office until you have had a chance to deal in a calm manner with the situation. I assure those of you who have never taught, that any normal, honest teacher can recount hundreds of times when it was necessary to bite one’s tongue, to be overly pleasant and to ignore rudeness and insults because acting in anger only created more problems.

I contacted a former student and asked for his opinion on the Gates situation.(I can not reveal his name). He responded by saying his initial focus is to restore calm to a situation., He refused to judge Crowley, but said if he had responded to the burglary call, his first comment to Gates would have been: “Sir, we have a report of a burglary. Are you OK? Is there anything I could do for you?” He said when the door is opened by an elderly man, you assume he will be upset and distraught because he is frightened and confused so get him sitting down, get him water to reduce his anxiety. My former student said words to this effect: “professor, I work in St. Louis which is mainly African American. If I entered a home where a black elderly man said he was a professor from Washington University, the first picture in my mind is to get things calm or I will wind up on the front page of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. I have a family, I attend night school, I don’t have time for filling out papers and getting into a mess.” He said he next would have asked Gates if he wanted him to contact Harvard or get a neighbor or family member over to the house to help him. Then, he would have apologized for any inconvenience, given his name and told Gates if he needed any further assistance to contact him.

Everyone in the public eye has made the Crowley mistake, we allowed our emotions to get the upper hand and lost sight of what we all desire –peace and calm in our lives and no shouting and screaming. I recently received an email from students I taught in 1959 and one said she could never forget how sometimes when the lesson was going poorly, I would stop, apologize to the class for my failure as a teacher and promise to do better the next day.

An article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch quotes a detective from Queens: “If you locked up everybody that was technically disorderly – you’ve got to know which battles to fight.” Wise words. That is my mantra to new teachers, keep it cool, keep it calm, but know when you have to take a stand. An elderly man who is distraught at an incorrect burglary claim is not the place to take any stand. Just say you are sorry and get on with your life if you have a brain in your policeman’s head.

I find fascinating how many have rushed to the defense of Sgt. Crowley. I assume when they are stopped by the police for not coming to a complete stop at a Stop Sign or pulled over for speeding, the first words out of their mouth is to thank the police. I’m normal. I grit my teeth and mutter curses under by breath. As NY State Senator Eric Adams, a retired New York City policeman, commented: “If it’s their house, they’re allowed to call you all sorts of names. A man’s house is his castle.”

You blew it Sgt. Crowley, but don’t worry, at least you are human.

Was Arrest Of Henry Louis Gates An Act Of Stupidity?

The furor surrounding the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates in his own home is still causing ripples after President Barack Obama made clear he regarded the entire episode as an example of stupidity. Sergeant James Crowley, the white policeman who was summoned to the home of Professor Gates after receiving a complaint about a break-in, insists he acted properly and the president had no right to term his actions stupid. He thought it was incorrect for the president to wade “into what should be a local issue.” Supporters of Crowley argue Gates was responsible for his own arrest by overreacting.

The president’s words are very clear concerning the matter. “I think it’s fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry. Number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home. And number three– what I think we know separate and apart from this incident– is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately and that’s just a fact.”

The bottom line is–who believes if Gates was a white man in his sixties and opened the door, showed an ID and explained the situation that he would have been arrested? If he had been white, the police officer would have laughed with Gates and waved goodbye. A few months ago I reported a burglary and a police officer came to my door. I am a white haired man of 78. He never asked for an ID as proof that it was my apartment. I told him someone stole my wallet while I was downstairs working at my computer. He gently had me sit in a chair, rummaged around my paper strewn table and found the wallet. He smiled at me and said goodbye. That’s what happens when one is white skinned and in their seventies.