Henry Louis Gates arrest was avoidable says new report

Henry Louis Gates, the Harvard professor arrested last year by Sgt. James Crowley, could have been avoided, according to a review of the case.

President Obama (R) and Vice President Joe Biden (L) have a beer with Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr., (LC) and Sgt. James Crowley (RC) in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on July 30, 2009.

Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the police sergeant who arrested him last July after a confrontation outside his home both missed opportunities to "ratchet down" the situation and end things more calmly, according to a review of the case released Wednesday.

The independent review said "misunderstandings and failed communications" and a "certain degree of fear" each man had for the other led to the six-minute dispute that ended with the renowned black scholar being arrested by the veteran white Cambridge police sergeant.

Sgt. James Crowley arrested Gates for disorderly conduct at his Cambridge home July 16 while investigating a possible burglary. Gates alleged he was a victim of racial profiling. Charges were later dropped.

The conflict sparked a national debate on race relations, and President Barack Obama invited both men to the White House for a "beer summit," where Obama and Vice President Joe Biden sat down with the two men for a drink at a table on a White House lawn.

The situation at Gates' home quickly escalated when it shouldn't have, according to the review put together by a 12-member panel assembled in September. No one on the panel had direct ties to the Cambridge Police Department.

The report suggests that Crowley could have more clearly explained what he was doing and why he was doing it, especially after being shown Gates' license and university ID. For his part, Gates could have used a more respectful tone to address the officer.

Neither man, in interviews with the panel, said he would have acted differently.

The incident was a "textbook example of how a police officer and a member of the community can clash if they do not share a sense of responsibility," according to the report.

The panel made 10 recommendations for avoiding similar incidents in the future, including better training for police in de-escalating conflicts, as well as more outreach to the public and academic community to teach understanding of the police department's job.

Gates turned down a request to comment on the report when contacted via e-mail, deferring comments to his lawyer and fellow Harvard professor Charles Ogletree. Ogletree did not immediately return a phone call to his office Wednesday morning or respond to an e-mail.

A message left Wednesday for Crowley at the Cambridge Police Department was not immediately returned.


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