Robert, I suppose Rich and Heather Mac Donald may be right that the Gates brouhaha was a case of “contempt of cop.” But the whole situation reminds me of when the umpire makes a call that Lou Piniella doesn’t like, and he comes storming out of the dugout and yells and hollers at the umpire, who stands there with his arms folded. So Piniella kicks some dirt and throws his cap, and then he kicks some more dirt, and then he picks up third base and chucks it into the outfield, and finally the ump decides, “Oh, all right, if you want to get thrown out, I’ll throw you out.”
Gates obviously wanted to get arrested; otherwise he’d be just an irascible old man who got into a fight with the cops, instead of the successor to Thoreau and King. In theory, I suppose, all the assembled cops could have collectively exhibited the patience of saints, shrugged their shoulders, and taken off, leaving a crazy-sounding man to continue shouting threats and frightening the neighbors. And while you probably know a lot more about policing than I do, it seems to me that when someone is acting that erratic, the police shouldn’t leave the scene until he quiets down, and Gates was not about to quiet down. Like Lou Piniella, Gates got exactly what he wanted, and if he’s lucky, all the excitement will fire up his team. But I don’t blame the police for one instant.