Who Is Owed an Apology?

by Jack Dunphy

As one might have expected, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates will not face criminal charges after being arrested for disorderly conduct in Cambridge, Mass., last Thursday.  (Jonah discussed the incident in previous posts here and here.) Distilling the affair to its barest details, police were called to Gates’s residence when a passerby saw two black men, whom they later learned were Gates himself and a limousine driver, appear to be breaking into the home. According to the police account, Gates accused the officers of mistreating him because of his race, and he became belligerent to the point that he ran afoul of the Massachusetts law against disorderly conduct.

Gates denied the allegation and now suggests that the involved officer apologize to him. “If he apologizes sincerely,” Gates told a Boston Globe reporter, “I am willing to forgive him. And if he admits his error, I am willing to educate him about the history of racism in America and the issue of racial profiling.”

I suspect the officer won’t be taking Mr. Gates up on the offer. The claim that Gates had been “profiled” is ludicrous. Police responded to a 911 call from a witness who described two black men she believed to be breaking into a home. If contacting a black man then found inside that very home is deemed to be “profiling” then the term itself has been stripped of its meaning. 

And though arresting Gates may in retrospect be seen as imprudent, to suggest he was hauled in on some trumped-up charge is to accept the following as true: Gates did not in fact behave as the officer described in the report but was instead as meek as a lamb, and despite the lack of legal cause the officer fabricated a case against him even after becoming aware of his exalted status as a Harvard professor. Straining Gates’s credibility even further, the arresting officer would have had to believe his fabrication would be supported not only by all the other officers who had gathered at Gates’s home, but also by the woman who had placed the original call to the police and the “at least seven other unidentified passers-by” referred to in the police report.

Preposterous. If there’s an apology that’s owed, it’s not from the police.

— Jack Dunphy is an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. “Jack Dunphy” is the author’s nom de cyber. The opinions expressed are his own and almost certainly do not reflect those of the LAPD management.

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