The Last Word- Gates, Crowley and Police

copI am going to let this be the last post on the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the Henry L. Gates confrontation with Cambridge Police, by saying Crowley lied in his police report using the inflammatory assertion he was sent to the house to look for two black men carrying back packs, using all the frightful  imagery he could to justify his illegal arrest of Gates.  Police officers are not accustomed to people who assert their rights; they prefer people who are cooperative or acquiesce to the abuse which comes with the power of yielding a badge and a gun.   Someone in the comments sections of another post here at Miscellany101. com asked why didn’t the black officer present for Gates’ arrest “represent”, and the answer quite simply is because that black officer sees himself in much the same way as the white officer, who thinks civilians are always suspect no matter who they are or what they have or have not done.  I would hazard a guess that there are very few if any officers on the Cambridge police who would go out on a limb and say what Crowley did was wrong because it would literally be professional suicide.  Their lives depend on whether they have the support of one another, either during encounters with civilians or procedurally, doing paper work that makes false assertions like being called to a home break-in looking for two black men.  An officer like Crowley can have a very successful career with such sloppy police work because he has had the help or the backing of other officers who covered up his abuse.   Unfortunately, such attitude is more common than we may think.

Have you seen the latest about a Boston Police officer who referred to Gates as a “banana eating jungle monkey”?  Obviously you can have any opinion you want of someone, but doing so without expecting any reaction is the height of chutzpah.  Indeed in his missive regarding Gates,  officer Justin Barrett claims he would pepper spray Gates for a verbal barrage he, Barrett,  himself makes without fear of reprisal.  This is the problem with the police; they demand a deferential attitude from civilians who risk the wrath of the State  by way of brutality or  arrest if such deference is not forthcoming to the satisfaction of police.  So this is what Barrett says,

his (Gates) first priority of effort should be go get off the phone and comply with police, for if I was the officer he verbally assaulted like a banana-eating jungle monkey I would have sprayed him in the face with OC deserving of his belligerent non-compliance.

It’s clear from this quote Barrett doesn’t understand his role as a law officer in relation to the public; instead he places himself the arbiter of the law who exacts punishment as he sees fit.  Barrett was also a member of the National Guard and a veteran and those roles played a part in shaping his attitudes towards members of the public.   While it is not a very intelligent thing to do, writing a media outlet with such overt language, it’s equally not smart to allow yourself to be identified as a member of the police department where you live and the Boston Police department has reacted swiftly, as did Barrett’s National Guard unit, both suspending him pending administrative review.  Good; perhaps Barrett doesn’t need to be in a position where he has to interact with a public he thinks “owes” him and not the law compliance.  However, even if Barrett was not exposed to the public officially he still has issues which make him an anachronism in today’s world.  His letter is directed towards a Boston Globe writer who he calls a “fool” and an “infidel”.  Earlier in the same letter he rhetorically asks if that same writer is still in the 5th grade in Catholic school.  Does that mean Barrett thinks Catholics are infidels or is the “infidel” remark a throwback to the days when he was serving in the military fighting the war on terror and infidels the world over?   Barrett’s world, and I think he has found a home among police officers in the Boston police department, is an encapsulated world where everyone on the inside is good, an “us” and everyone on the outside is bad, evil, against us, and there are no limits to fighting these against us elements who are fools, banana-eating jungle monkeys and infidels.

Our leaders led this charge back so many years ago…….2001 to be precise and they used the same kind of language as Barrett with no consequences for it.  In fact they may still enjoy a public following and there’s no reason to believe a cadre of supporters like Barrett and fellow law enforcement officers who emulate the “attitude” and language of those leaders in the past don’t think they are similarly entitled to do and say the same things AND get away with it!  I was also struck by his xenophobia, towards women, apparent with his remark how the writer should stay home and make him breakfast on Sunday mornings.  While such comments are harmless they show a callous regard to people he doesn’t know, and it is this type of person, an unknown, a stranger who Barrett would most likely would come in contact with as a police officer.  Would he be as callous in discharging his duties towards such a person, like Gates?  Most likely.

Finally Barrett sees nothing wrong with what he wrote; indeed he says that he’s not a racist and most likely believes that.  In an apology he made in response to the aforementioned letter, Barrett again claims he’s no racist and that he treats everyone with respect.  What’s chilling about that is a similar pronouncement was made about Sgt. James Crowley, that  he’s not racist and he teaches others about racial profiling in the police department and this total disconnect from reality, on the one hand one can spew the most specifically targeted racist infective yet claim he/it is not racist is what is surreal about the entire Gates-Crowley-Barrett-police force episode.  Just because you teach racial profiling to a department of like minded people doesn’t make you immune from the affliction, and likewise,  the mere announcement one is not a racist doesn’t mean it’s so, or that you can’t be a bad public servant who shouldn’t be turned loose on the public.