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07.26.09

Gates' Appalling Entitlement

This controversy shouldn’t be about race. It’s about class, and it’s Henry Louis Gates Jr. who is in the wrong.

Read other takes on Gates' arrest from Daily Beast writers.

Sergeant Crowley works in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It appears his area of patrol includes the residences of a lot of Harvard faculty and employees. I bet that the Cambridge PD spends an awful lot of time making sure Harvard and its workers are treated with the dignity they think they deserve. Let me put it differently—the sense of class entitlement in this case runs entirely the other way. It’s Gates down to Sgt. Crowley and they both know it.

Policemen take abuse and walk away. However, almost none of them will take abuse from someone who follows them into the street in front of others. At this point, everyone on that sidewalk has been interviewed and the consensus, I bet, is that Gates is a loudmouth who behaved badly. Just look at the picture of him yelling when the cops bring him out of the house. By the way, it’s not Crowley who is bringing him out; it’s a bunch of cops. At least one is African American. I promise you that there was someone there with a higher rank than Crowley who made the decision to arrest Gates and hold him for four hours.

Crowley, by the way, looks fit and tough. Gates, who does not, probably resented that as well, because Crowley was not afraid when Gates said, in effect, “I’m a big shot.”

There are a couple of reasons why policemen don't like to be followed:

1) It is wrong; nobody is supposed to be abused. Every place makes it a petty crime to follow other people and yell at them. Otherwise, how would you stop them from doing it? You ask them to stop, they keep doing it, you put handcuffs on them.
2) It creates a lack of respect for the police.
3) It is a bad lesson for children who see it or hear about it.

Gates did a lot more abusing than Crowley. Crowley, by the way, looks fit and tough. Gates, who does not, probably resented that as well, because Crowley was not afraid when Gates said, in effect, “I’m a big shot.”

In any case, cops are supposed to ask why you are in a house when they get a call that you pushed your way in—99 out of a 100 people will say: "Officer, I forgot my keys, thanks for making sure everything was all right." If, heaven forbid, somebody does break into Gates’ house while he is there, he'd be very glad to have Crowley come through the door. Gates should have no beef about anything. He is a very privileged man, knows it, and throws his weight around.

Edward Hates is a trial lawyer in New York City who has represented the chiefs of the New York, Los Angeles, and Miami police departments. He is author of the book Mouthpiece.