Friday, July 24, 2009

When the Police Tell You To Do Something

The Channel 9 web site has a pretty good piece about what you should do if a cop violates your rights or demands that you do something you shouldn't have to do. This is in response to the incident in Cambridge last week where the black Harvard professor was arrested trying to get into his own house.

I play in a little rock and roll band, and we do that perennial song, "I Fought the Law (and the Law Won)". You might as well face the fact that there is no song called "I Fought the Law (And I Won)," the cops have handcuffs and guns and back-up and the judge almost always takes their side. Channel 9 suggests that maybe when they tell you to do something, the smart thing is to do it, even if you shouldn't have to.
WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- The controversy surrounding the arrest in Cambridge, Massachusetts of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates has raised the question of what rights a homeowner has to refuse the orders of a law enforcement officer who has entered that home in the course of his duties and what limits there are - if any - on what a homeowner can say to the officer without risking arrest for disorderly conduct.

"You generally have a right to call a police officer names as long as you don't rise to the level of a public nuisance, a public disturbance. And in your own home you generally have freedom to use language that might be offensive out on the street, and you have a right to be louder in your own home that you would out on the street," said George Washington University Law Professor Stephen Saltzburger.

The issues are complicated and case law depends on the specific facts of a given confrontation. In addition, laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction so what may be allowed in one state could be outlawed in another.

"Generally speaking, what I advise everybody is that if you know your rights and you know that an officer is wrong, that the officer is ordering you to do something upon pain of penalty, you should do it and sort it out later.

Choosing to raise the level of confrontation with a police officer is almost always a bad idea. If they are violating your rights, you've got remedies, but if you raise the level of confrontation there really a chance that there will be a physical encounter and, usually, the citizen is the one who is worse off in that," Saltzburger told 9News Now.

Police offer similar advice on following their instructions, even if you believe your rights are being violated. "My suggestion is go along with the officer's commands. Sort it out on the back end. You may not know that you look like the bank robber. You may not know that a call went out that the bank robber had a gun.

And it would be in your interests in that case not to do anything provocative," said Ted Deeds, Chief Operating Officer of the Law Enforcement Alliance of America. Do You Have To Follow A Cop's Orders?

The problem of course is that we have a monolithic tradition of freedom of speech, and that includes provocative speech. The reality is that we have freedom of speech "in theory," but when it comes right down to it, you better zip your lip when the cops are around.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still can't figure out why Gates refused to show the police his license. Instead, he shows them his Harvard ID, which doesn't have his address on it!

I, for one, would be thankful if the police demanded to see my license. Without proof that Gates lived there....or all the police knew, Gates could have broken in, tied up the family in the basement -- and then answered the door calmly when the police arrived.

Can you imagine the public outcry if a family had been killed and it had turned out that the police had talked to the killer and let him go without the basic requirement of showing proof that he lived there? The policeman would go to jail for negligence!

July 24, 2009 2:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there's actually some dispute between Gates and the officer about what actually happened so that needs to be sorted out

the First Troublemaker, however, feels no obligation to get the facts before blurting out what's on his mind:

"(July 24) -- As President Obama tries to keep the focus on health care reform, coverage of the issue is being drowned out by the uproar over his remark about the Cambridge, Mass. police.

Obama stands by his statement that police "acted stupidly" in arresting Henry Louis Gates in the black Harvard scholar's own home.

But he's tempering his criticism, telling ABC that the white sergeant who arrested Gates seems to be an "outstanding police officer."

Police Commissioner Robert Haas says he "deeply regrets" the incident, but he insists Sgt. James Crowley acted properly and was not motivated by race.

The Cambridge police union president isn't as diplomatic.

He accuses Obama of smearing the reputation of the police.

"I am disgraced that he is our commander-in-chief," says Stephen Killion.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is peppering the Massachusetts media with statements "portraying the president as a cop-bashing liberal.""

Sir B.O., he's not too bright.

July 24, 2009 2:33 PM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

One fact that is not in dispute is that the Cambridge Police department dropped their charges against Dr. Gates.

ABC News reports

Massachusetts authorities today dropped disorderly conduct charges against prominent Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., calling his arrest last week "regrettable and unfortunate."

"This incident should not be viewed as one that demeans the character and reputation of Professor Gates or the character of the Cambridge Police Department," said Cambridge Police Department Spokeswoman Kelly Downes in a prepared joint statement by the City of Cambridge, the Cambridge Police Department and Mr. Gates.

"All parties agree that this is a just resolution to an unfortunate set of circumstances," said Downes.

At a press conference this afternoon Downes went on to say that she still believed there was "probable cause" for Gates' arrest.

"I think what went wrong personally is that you had two human beings that were reacting to a set of circumstances, and unfortunately at the time cooler heads did not prevail," said Downes.

"I think both parties were wrong," said Downes. "I think that's fair to say. It wasn't Professor Gates' best moment. and it was not the Cambridge Police Department's best moment."

Gates, 58, was charged with disorderly conduct after when on July 16 police responded to a call about someone apparently trying to break into his Cambridge, Mass., home.

Gates, who according to his lawyer had been trying to force open a jammed door, was inside the house when the Cambridge police officer got there.

Asked about allegations that Gates' arrest was racially fueled, Downes said, "Our position is very firmly that race did not play any factor at all in the arrest of Mr. Gates."

At the time of his arrest, Gates allegedly responded to the officer's request for identification by shouting, "Why, because I am a black man in America?" and calling him a racist.

Though Gates eventually identified himself, he was arrested after he allegedly came out of the house and continued yelling at police, even after he was warned that he "was becoming disorderly," according to the police report.

Downes said that she hoped Gates' arrest will be a learning experience for the Cambridge Police Department...

July 24, 2009 3:17 PM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

Breaking news, July 24, 2009

UPDATE 2:45PM ET: President Obama made a surprise appearance at Friday afternoon's White House news briefing to try to calm the furor over his criticism of Henry Louis Gates' arrest. The president said he called Sgt. James Crowley to explain he didn't intend to criticize the arresting officer personally. Obama said he believes police and the Harvard professor both "overreacted." Crowley suggested that he, Gates and Obama get together at the White House to share a beer and talk things over -- and the president said he wants to do that.

July 24, 2009 3:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your point has no real relevance, Anon-B, but even if it did, one sentence would have sufficed.

Your compulsive cut-and-paste tendencies are a waste of everyone's time.

Please strive for brevity.

Thank you very much!

July 24, 2009 3:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Crowley suggested that he, Gates and Obama get together at the White House to share a beer and talk things over -- and the president said he wants to do that."

Is that going to be paid for with bail-out funds?

If so, I want to go too.

July 24, 2009 3:31 PM  
Anonymous PasserBy said...

Please strive for brevity.

Aunt Bea's research has made this blog an important and reliable place to go for thorough background information on many topics. Her writing is lively and to the point, and she gets her facts straight -- with links. Aunt Bea pulls together sources from all over and shows what the emerging theme is, oftentimes well before the A-list bloggers have figured it out, never mind the MSM.

July 24, 2009 3:42 PM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

Please strive for brevity.

Oh sure, honey. I'll strive exactly as hard to be brief as you strive to be identifiable.

Here's some news that might cheer some hearts. Remember those inner city kids from Philly who were invited to swim at a private club in Huntington Valley PA, but then were disinvited when they showed up to swim?

Tyler Perry Sends Rejected Kids to Disney

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Tyler Perry, the star, writer and producer of films such as "Madea Goes to Jail" and the television show "House of Payne," could be adding philanthropist to his growing list of credits.

According to his publicist, Perry is sponsoring a Disney World trip for 65 Pennsylvania children at a largely minority day-care center after a swim club canceled pool privileges for the children.

"He wanted to do something nice for them and let them know that for every negative experience, there are people out there who want them to succeed regardless of the color of their skin," said Keleigh Thomas, Perry's publicist. She added the entertainer would be footing the bill for all transportation, hotel, admissions and food costs at the Florida theme park...

Oh golly, thanks PB!

July 24, 2009 3:45 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

My guess (or hope) is that anonymous was ironically referencing his own tendency to cut-and-paste endless non-mainstream 'news' reports without providing credit, reference or links, when he enjoined Aunt Bea to be brief.

We love you Aunt Bea!

Anonymous, I find I even have a grudging affection for you, much as I feel about Sean Hannity.

I am just full of liking today.

July 24, 2009 5:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bea, you call yourself "Aunt Bea." That is not identifiable.

July 24, 2009 6:44 PM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

We love you too, Robert! Thank you for being a teacher for all our kids!


Oh, Sybil.

<eye roll>

I have never once had to say "That was as different Aunt Bea."

July 24, 2009 7:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know sometimes Anon-B gives some content that could be debated but often, probably usually, it's just a huge cut-and-paste when a few sentences would do.

A delusion common to crazy old bats is that they think if they really load up the crap their point will seem more credible.

Doesn't work that way, AB.

I think Barry O has now invited the whole Cambridge Police Department up for a game of political beer pong.

They're coming over and spending the night (we wouldn't want any embarassing drunk driving arrests) and then, in the morning, they're all going out for doughnuts and they're going to sit in police cruisers and eat them.

Then, for laughs, they're going to go find some white guy who lost his car keys and arrest him for trying to steal his own car.

That Barry O.

What a clown!

July 25, 2009 10:00 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

I think Barry O has now invited the whole Cambridge Police Department up for a game of political beer pong.

Why report facts when a line of spin will do?

Here's a transcript of the president's full statement as released by the White House is below, as is video of his remarks [scroll down to video here].

I wanted to address you guys directly because over the last day and a half obviously there's been all sorts of controversy around the incident that happened in Cambridge with Professor Gates and the police department there.

I actually just had a conversation with Sergeant Jim Crowley, the officer involved. And I have to tell you that as I said yesterday, my impression of him was that he was a outstanding police officer and a good man, and that was confirmed in the phone conversation -- and I told him that.

And because this has been ratcheting up -- and I obviously helped to contribute ratcheting it up -- I want to make clear that in my choice of words I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sergeant Crowley specifically -- and I could have calibrated those words differently. And I told this to Sergeant Crowley.

I continue to believe, based on what I have heard, that there was an overreaction in pulling Professor Gates out of his home to the station. I also continue to believe, based on what I heard, that Professor Gates probably overreacted as well. My sense is you've got two good people in a circumstance in which neither of them were able to resolve the incident in the way that it should have been resolved and the way they would have liked it to be resolved.

The fact that it has garnered so much attention I think is a testimony to the fact that these are issues that are still very sensitive here in America. So to the extent that my choice of words didn't illuminate, but rather contributed to more media frenzy, I think that was unfortunate.

What I'd like to do then I make sure that everybody steps back for a moment, recognizes that these are two decent people, not extrapolate too much from the facts -- but as I said at the press conference, be mindful of the fact that because of our history, because of the difficulties of the past, you know, African Americans are sensitive to these issues. And even when you've got a police officer who has a fine track record on racial sensitivity, interactions between police officers and the African American community can sometimes be fraught with misunderstanding.

July 25, 2009 11:03 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

My hope is, is that as a consequence of this event this ends up being what's called a "teachable moment," where all of us instead of pumping up the volume spend a little more time listening to each other and try to focus on how we can generally improve relations between police officers and minority communities, and that instead of flinging accusations we can all be a little more reflective in terms of what we can do to contribute to more unity. Lord knows we need it right now -- because over the last two days as we've discussed this issue, I don't know if you've noticed, but nobody has been paying much attention to health care. (Laughter.)

I will not use this time to spend more words on health care, although I can't guarantee that that will be true next week. I just wanted to emphasize that -- one last point I guess I would make. There are some who say that as President I shouldn't have stepped into this at all because it's a local issue. I have to tell you that that part of it I disagree with. The fact that this has become such a big issue I think is indicative of the fact that race is still a troubling aspect of our society. Whether I were black or white, I think that me commenting on this and hopefully contributing to constructive -- as opposed to negative -- understandings about the issue, is part of my portfolio.

So at the end of the conversation there was a discussion about -- my conversation with Sergeant Crowley, there was discussion about he and I and Professor Gates having a beer here in the White House. We don't know if that's scheduled yet -- (laughter) -- but we may put that together.

He also did say he wanted to find out if there was a way of getting the press off his lawn. (Laughter.) I informed him that I can't get the press off my lawn. (Laughter.) He pointed out that my lawn is bigger than his lawn. (Laughter.) But if anybody has any connections to the Boston press, as well as national press, Sergeant Crowley would be happy for you to stop trampling his grass.

July 25, 2009 11:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's just say Barry O acted stupidly when he unfairly attacked the police without any facts.

But, what the heck, let's invite him over for a beer!

His knee-jerk reaction should trouble all Americans despite the fact that a police officer is dazzled by a call from the President.

Obama sets a bad example.

July 25, 2009 10:26 PM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

Obama sets a bad example.

I disagree. IMHO Obama set a great example here: when you make a mistake, admit it, apologize for it, and make amends for it. When you are the President of the free world, you can even turn it into a teachable moment by bringing both sides together to talk about how race relations can be improved, on both sides.

The WSJ's Washington Wire reports Professor Gates has accepted President Obama's invitation to meet Officer Crowley at the White House. I'm hopeful that Officer Crowley, who teaches about racial profiling, will come to see the importance of this teachable moment and accept the President's invitation as well.

a police officer is dazzled by a call from the President.

FOX NEWS reports:

"A joint statement by three Massachusetts police unions said they appreciated the president's "sincere interest" and added that Crowley had a friendly and meaningful conversation with Obama."

I doubt Officer Crowley was "dazzled by a call from the President." It was reported he found the call to be "friendly and meaningful." Officer Crowley is a professional policeman and Harvard has hosted plenty of **dazzling** visitors over the years, from movie stars, to authors, to world leaders and dignitaries. He deals with VIPs on a regular basis.

July 26, 2009 10:50 AM  
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