acanuck's picture

    Gates 'break-in suspects' weren't black

    I've been discounting all racial-profiling allegations in the Gates incident, and that's in part because I accepted as true reports, based on police statements, that a witness who called 911 had volunteered the two "suspects" were black. So the suspicion that fell on the Harvard professor was at least reasonable in the investigating officer's mind.

    But the Cambridge police have now released audio recordings of that 911 call and the dispatch to officers heading to the scene. There is no mention of the "suspects" being black. The dispatcher in fact says "race unknown." So somebody has fudged the facts in the police summary.

    Not only that, but the 911 audio has been edited to remove the question the police operator asks the witness as to race. We hear just the ending: "...spanic?" To which the witness replies that "one of them might be Hispanic." The other one, she didn't clearly see. I would suggest the police operator asked something along the lines of, "Are they black, white or Hispanic?"

    As it turns out, both of them were black, and one was professor Gates. But the police officers did not, as initially reported, have reason to believe that going in. In fact, the witness had explicitly avoided any suggestion that they were black. So at least in this minor aspect, the police summary has been cooked -- and that calls into doubt all other parts of it.


    I recommended this blog and take your point that the cop's report was apparently tweaked to make them look better. Even if my following speculative scenario is completely correct, it does not change the significance of your point.

    First, I am assuming that the neighborhood was a predominately white one. That would mean that the cop would probably, even if not consciously, expect that the house he was approaching was the home of a white person. The fact that a single officer responded to the call and upon arriving at the scene saw a nice car or limousine [I'm guessing here again] parked in the driveway and then walked up to the door and rang the bell would indicate to me that , despite his training and his long history of police experience, or maybe because of it, he was not expecting a criminal to answer the door. If he was consciously or unconsciously expecting a white person to answer the door and a black person did instead, he might have reacted with some surprise and shown by as little as a subtle change in body language that he wondered why he was looking at a black man. This could [possibly] be what first offended Gates.
    If the dispatcher had, in fact, stated that a black person was seen entering the house Crowley may have reacted differently when Gates answered the door. Who knows?

    I just listened to a clearer version of the audio:
    The police operator's question as to the suspects' race is still hard to make out, but it does not appear to have been edited. So I fully retract that suggestion. But it's still important that nowhere does the witness say they are black.

    The dispatcher's call to Crowley states "unknown on race, one may be Hispanic. I'm not sure." Dispatcher also says, "They have suitcases."

    The police report states the Crowley talked to Lucia Whalen on the sidewalk in front of the house. "told me that it was she who called. She went on to tell me that she observed what appeared to be two black men with backpacks on the porch of -- Ware street. She told me her suspicions were aroused when she observed one of the men wedging his shoulder into the door as if he were trying to force entry."

    Wendy Murphy, attorney for Lucia Whalen, has a different version

    But Murphy, speaking on Whalen's behalf, says the only interaction between Whalen and Crowley occurred at the scene when she gestured to him and told him she was the 911 caller and he told her to stay where she was.

    Another officer asked for her identification, but no officer interviewed her at the scene, Murphy says. Whalen stayed about five minutes and then left, Murphy says.

    Murphy says Whalen does not want to reopen a debate or stir up controversy with the Cambridge police or with Gates. She says Whalen only wants to set the record straight

    If we are to believe Whalen no discussion occurred at the scene. No talk of black men, backpacks, no discussion of observation of one wedging his shoulder into the door. If so it would appear that Crowley made up a whole conversation. I could understand a discrepancy between two versions and chalk it up to completely understandable bad memory. But I don't see how bad memory can create a conversation, albeit short, that didn't occur. Either Crowley or Whalen is lying. Considering that Whalen's version matches the 911 audio and the dispatchers call I tend to believe that is the correct version.

    Why wouldn't you take the witnesses version as given by her attorney, Wendy Murphy. The witness has no reason to be lying. Her wishes to have news reports corrected as to her participation is understandable. As is any wish she may have for not getting publicly involved.

    I don't think anyone here is suggesting that Ms. Whalen is lying. It's just a question of how more accurate and reliable the details become in a firsthand as opposed to a secondhand statement.
    I appreciate her wish not to be involved, but the unpleasant reality is that she is already involved.

    Bad memory can "create facts", and it is well documented. But it can impeach a witness.

    The arrest was based on rather subtle distinctions. Was Prof. Gates yelling (report version) or wheezing (as he claims)? Were the onlookers startled by Gates, by the police, or not at all? How universal was the startlement (100 years ago, perhaps the report would mention seven onlookers, including two ladies of quality and sensitive disposition, three maids on the verge of panic and two gentlemen who were quite jolly about the incident).

    By the way, Gates's residence is across the street from Harvard, and a Harvard maintenance person came to the scene, and was left taking care of the house. It seems that at that point there was no shred of suspicion of a crime in progress.

    One can imagine a gentleman burglar arriving in a three piece suit, with a suitcase and in a taxi (if I were a burglar, this is what I would do). So definitely, some check was in order, but that being completed, hm.

    Wendy Murphy is a reputable atty and has served as spokesperson on many occasions for various causes and clients. I cannot believe she would accidently misrepresent her clients words. A portion of the witness' statements are corroborated by the dispatch tapes.

    Wendy Murphy is frequent guest on MSNBC, FOX, FOXNEWS, and CBS. She is an adjunct law professor at the New England School of Law.

    I appreciate her wish not to be involved, but the unpleasant reality is that she is already involved.

    If her wish is to not be involved she made a mistake. She is now involved more than ever with this statement by her lawyer.

    With no court action I don't see why she would be involved. She was merely correcting the public record.

    Was she? Either there was a conversation on the sidewalk as Crowley claims in his police report or there was no conversation as Whalen's attorney claims. The press will stay on it. If she maintains that she didn't say anything to Crowley except that she was the one who made the 911 call she becomes the main if not the only person without apparent motive to cast doubt on the veracity of Crowley's police report.

    Whalen is now a major player.

    If there is further action, I've always felt that in the end, Professor Gates would be making a large donation to a worthy charity (settled out of court).

    Exactly, oceankat. Her statement (through her lawyer) that she had no conversation with Crowley calls the entirety of his arrest report into question.
    I have no reason to doubt her or her lawyer, but her lawyer was not present at the scene of the non-crime.
    I accept, jonnie, that Ms. Whalen has no legal obligation to say more -- but she's already come this far in putting the official police summary in doubt, she might as well go all the way.

    Figueroa walks in to Gates' house, and finds an uncooperative man yelling at Crowley. Figueroa is so concerned about the situation that Carlos Figueroa he walks out to get information from Ms Whaley.

    Ms Whaley says that she never talked to Crowley. why would Ms Whaley not tell the truth?

    If Crowley is not telling the truth about talking to a witness, can we trust hi version of what the exchange was between the Sgt and Prof Gates?

    Is it possible Crowley "dry-labbed" his interview with Whaley? Did he and Figueroa combine information to make a script work better?

    I think a simple "That's BULLSHIT" is all she owes anyone. If someone needs to clarify it's "Let's just get a beer and forget everything" Crowley. Let's call on Superfuzz to explain this apparent discrepancy - WE'RE buying him a fucking beer for chrissake, least he can do is clarify how this is possible.

    If HE wants to call her a liar, let him do it. Until then, the ball is in Crowley's court.

    Why would Ms Whaley speaking with a different officer have any bearing on what appears in Crowley's report? Certainly you aren't implying that Crowley mistook Figueroa for Ms Whaley?

    We're not talking about elapsed days here, or even hours. This conversation was written in an incident report. The statement is either dishonest or based on disorientation of the memory. In neither case can Crowley be given the benefit of the doubt any longer on the remainder of the report without plausible explanation both of the mistake and why it should not impact the view of the rest of his narrative.

    First blame the victim, then we blame the concerned citizen. How many scapegoats are we going to sacrifice? Ms. Whaley is not the one who needs to answer more questions here.

    Excellent analysis.

    1. From the beginning of this whole thing, I've said the officer approached the situation much more carefully than normal procedures dictate (probably because the caller was unsure whether it was a break-in or the person lost their keys or whatever). But that info did not make it's way to Crowley via the dispatcher.
    You probably want to rephrase or -think this one.

    ...But "that info did not make it's way to Crowley"? Your itemised point does not make any sense, as written.

    As I pointed out earlier, actually asking Gates whether he had gotten locked out off the bat (when the old guy did not take off running at the sight of a cop) would probably have changed the entire dynamic of the situation, but I do not really feel like rehashing whether it is appropriate to arrest people for not being sufficiently deferential to the police.

    Let me clarify one thing further on a hunch: even if Crowley and you think that his conduct was sufficient to indicate that he did not think Gates was a criminal, you are wrong. I do not buy that explanation to begin with, but granting the premise, most civilians in a similar surprising or angering situation will not understand such subtle clues.

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