Fine, I'll add my bit to Gates-gate

My only defense is that my good friend Ryan brought it up in his comments on the Obama press conference. I complete agree with his point:
Obama was actually right on that Gates thing, the cop did act "stupidly." All this apologetic nonsense has been pointless, the cop shouldn't have arrested the guy no matter how much of an a-hole he was acting like.
I have to add that Obama was stupid to say the department acted stupidly. But still, that’s nothing compared to falsely arresting someone. A beer can fix the mis-step.* A false arrest could end up as a lawsuit, although this instance doesn’t support one.

There is a limit to being an a-hole to cops, but even if Henry Louis Gates, Jr. said everything the cops said he did (doubtful), he still didn't cross that line. "Disturbing the peace" - a very nebulous charge - depends on a public nearby to disturb. When Gates and the cop were on the porch and a crowd started to gather, that was the crux of the incident, not race, class, or town/gown. The cop felt his authority was publicly threatened, so he thought that he had to reassert it. I'm sure the intended immediate effect - shut up the suspect and stop the crowd from going on - was achieved. The only thing different here is that the suspect was Gates the Harvard professor, which guaranteed that the trumped-up charge would be dropped and it would make the news.

I didn’t make the personal connection to this story until I decided to address the topic here. My one arrest was also for "disorderly conduct" i.e. mouthing off to a cop. It occurred in the process of a pretty routine party break-up after a noise complaint. I was on the sidewalk in front of the apartment building; there were people milling about. As the cops were telling everybody to disperse, I got into a verbal exchange with a cop and punctuated the “discussion” with a “what are going to do, arrest me?” The answer was yes.

Now, I know my behavior wasn’t right. But I did not deserve to be arrested. My behavior or the arrest itself isn’t a big deal to me now. However, it is one of my biggest regrets that I paid the court costs plus $50 rather than fight the charge. The advice of my public defender was: "You don't want to come back downtown again, just take care of it now." It was pure cowardice that I accepted his advice. It was my biggest chance to fight the power thus far and I caved. Maybe next time. However, it’s not likely that I’ll be falsely accused of something in the future. One can hope, though.

Another point from my arrest is a different form of profiling that floats under the radar: size. (Don’t laugh, it’s not that kind of size) All bullies don’t only target the little guy because they can. Some need to challenge their manhood so much that they pick out the biggest dude they can. As most big guys are just as likely to back down to a bully as a small guy - and the bully can likely tell beforehand which type a particular big guy is. Thus the bully will avoid trading blows and get to feel extra potent from the encounter. Whatever self-selection there is of cops, obviously not all cops are bullies. But male cops are still guys first and likely have some level of this behavior on the job.

* Can you imagine how much these beers cost? Security, camera crews, travel. I'm curious as to who paid for the plane tickets and whether they flew together. Not for the taxpayer money reason, just plain interest.

4 comments:

Michelle Waters said...

Wow, I didn't think Norwegians aired all their deep secrets online!!! But seriously, there are plenty of places to be reserved and watch your step in this world, and dealing with authorities - including police officers - is certainly one of them. I would say both you and Gates might have picked a different time and place to air your opinions about authority figures.

Michelle Waters said...

Oh, I also linked to you in my last post.

See you guys soon!

Norwegian Shooter said...

Thanks for the link. Actually, only Norwegians would consider this a deep secret. And they might open up quite a bit with a pseudonymous blog!

There is some liberal/conservative difference between us. I read about this 2 part test: Would you be willing to slap your father in the face, with his permission, as part of a comedy skit? Does it disgust you to touch the faucet in a public restroom?

#1 Yes, #2 No - Liberal
#1 No, #2 Yes - Conservative

Did it work? But seriously, this is about the law. Professor Gates and I raised our voices, but only said G-rated words that wouldn't count as disrespectful in any other context. That is against the law in only an extremely broad reading of "disturbing the peace." His case was dismissed, I wish I had tried to get mine dismissed as well. I admitted what I did was wrong, but I wanted to make clear that the cops in both situations were wrong as well. And their mistakes were more serious than mine.

Norwegian Shooter said...

"Wrong" is actually too strong. Change that sentence to "I shouldn't have challenged the police officer as I did, but I wanted ..."