What Is True/Slant?
275+ knowledgeable contributors.
Reporting and insight on news of the moment.
Follow them and join the news conversation.
 

Jul. 25 2009 - 2:42 pm | 18 views | 1 recommendation | 7 comments

Forget Race: Gates Debate Should be about Police State

via talkradionews

via talkradionews

Barack Obama was wrong to apologize for his remarks about the Gates arrest. Backing down and calling for a group-hug with the officer is another dangerous example of our surrender to the police state.

In 1644, the great English jurist Sir Edward Coke proclaimed “A man’s house is his castle.” This has been a foundation stone of Anglo-American law ever since.  Once the Cambridge police officer established that Gates did indeed live in the house, he should have turned his back and walked away.  According to the police, Gates said some offensive things like “I’ll speak with your mama outside.” Even if we are to believe that, it doesn’t matter. Sure the officer felt disrespected. (When did cops become so damn sensitive?)  But Gates was in his own house and a man’s house is his castle.

I understand why the incident has been framed by race.  Fresh out of jail, Gates immediately began promoting a new PBS special about racial profiling– hosted by him of course.  But by framing the Gates arrest as only a problem of racial profiling, we risk missing an opportunity to confront a deeper threat to our liberties– the creep toward a police state.

Last month a cop tasered a white 72-year old great-grandmother because she supposedly threatened him.  Watch the video to see how much of a threat the old woman posed.  Like Gates, this woman was the victim of a cop behaving stupidly.  And like Gates, police brass blamed the victim. Where was the national outrage?

A week before that, Oklahoma highway patrol stopped an ambulance carrying a sick old woman because the ambulance driver supposedly gave them the finger.  (Again, when did cops become such shrinking violets??) Watch how the cops rough up the EMT while the old woman screams from inside the ambulance.

I understand being a cop is tough and I’m truly grateful for their service.  But every time an incident of police brutality and stupidity happens, the public seems to look the other way.  We’ve been taught to automatically ‘respect the badge.’ But we must also protest every time the police violate the rights of our fellow citizens, regardless of whether or not racism is involved.

Today’s NYT reports that Dick Cheney wanted to use the military to perform police operations — clearly violating the Fourth Amendment and the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act.  Like the CIA hit squads, Cheney’s plans for domestic military operations probably won’t generate much public outrage.  And that’s a terrible shame.

Every American must understand that the police are both defenders of and threats to our rights.  Does that sound too harsh?  Take a look at the Bill of Rights and count how many of the first ten amendments specifically target the cops and military.  The founders understood the importance of public vigilance against the police state.  I only wish today’s Americans felt as defensive.

Just because to cops or the government do it dosent make it right. And you can exect to see more of the creeping police state unless there is some public outrage.


Comments

7 Total Comments
Post your comment »
 
  1. collapse expand

    Couldn’t agree more. Once the officer established that Gates was the homeowner, he should have left. That would have de-escalated the situation. Instead, a lot of time and money was spent on something that should not have been.

  2. collapse expand

    This is an interesting piece. I do think that the abuse of police power is a major problem. In terms of Gatesgate, I also believe that the intersection of race/ethnicity and class played a role.

    I would probably not be so dismissive of race (“Forget race” is in your title). Doesn’t exactly work for me. And it’s not like anyone is going to let me forget it anyway, believe me. Perhaps you were relativizing, in which case I get your point but still disagree with the word choice.

    Now I’ve got to call you out, because you suggest that Dr. Gates has framed this situation to be about race, as if he needs another PBS show. That’s what I believe Dr. Derald Wing Sue (of Columbia) would call a microaggression. It seems to me that you are invalidating Dr. Gate’s perspective, and questioning his motives, when there is no way at all that you understand the life and perspective of an African-American man born in Piedmont, WV in 1950. (Neither do I, by the way).

    Ultimately, though, your article has added a civil liberties layer to this discussion that has been missing. I thank you for that, because I had been troubled by it myself.

    • collapse expand

      I was absolutely not dismissing the racial component. I just want people to see that the problem is bigger than just race. And I think that focusing on race enables people to ignore the threat of the police state. As for Gates’s motives- I have total respect for the man. In fact I have modeled my career after him . . . with much less success of course.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        I was glad to read your response; I understand what you meant. For what it’s worth, I think you’re right. Race is obscuring everything else about the situation. Part of the reason for this is that Americans are obsessed with race-related stuff; but also people don’t want to deal with the police state. That’s scary stuff. Makes you want to download Tor and start using it!

        In response to another comment. See in context »
  3. collapse expand

    Even the President admitted that he didn’t have all the facts. Why are you so sure that you do?

    This was neither an “incident of police brutality” nor “stupidity.” It was one that called for discretion, and Sgt. Crowley used it when he
    1) Called for backup (thereby bringing police witnesses to the scene), and
    2) After deciding to make the arrest, let the Cambridge P.D. accommodate Skip Gates by removing the handcuffs from behind and then cuffing him in front (since he complained that he needed his cane).

    These were not the actions of a “rogue” cop looking for battle, but rather someone who was careful enough to document both his actions and Prof. Gates’s. (BTW, I am a Black, female law enforcement officer.)

    While I do concur that Prof. Gates did not need to be arrested, his inappropriate colloquy (“your mamma”) and behavior arguably forced Sgt. Crowley’s hand. But even more notable, if the good professor had stayed indoors and not been enticed to step outside, the disorderly conduct charge could not have been made. After all, one cannot create a “public” disturbance when one is inside his own home.

    Could it be that the the cosmopolitan professor was outfoxed by a townie?

  4. collapse expand

    Agree with you David, and over at Elie’s page on T/S, I shared my most recent run in with the police state.

Log in for notification options
Comments RSS

Post Your Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment

Log in with your True/Slant account.

Previously logged in with Facebook?

Create an account to join True/Slant now.

Facebook users:
Create T/S account with Facebook
 

My T/S Activity Feed

 
     

    About Me

    I created and hosted a History Channel special about sex and politics called Beltway Unbuckled. My latest book Kingmakers: How the Media Threatens Our Security and Our Democracy was co-authored with Senator Mike Gravel (Phoenix Books: 2008). I was the Communications Director for Gravel’s 2008 presidential campaign and now I teach media and politics at Columbia University where I earned a PhD in American history in 2006.

    See my profile »
    Followers: 16
    Contributor Since: July 2009
    Location:New York City

    What I'm Up To

    • Check Out My Latest Book

      “Essential reading for all Americans.” – Publishers Weekly

      usekingmakers

      You can buy it here.

       
    • My Latest TV Show

      beltwayunbuckled

      You can buy the DVD here.

       
    • About

      Senator Mike Gravel and David Eisenbach

      I created and hosted a History Channel special about sex and politics called Beltway Unbuckled. My latest book Kingmakers: How the Media Threatens Our Security and Our Democracy was co-authored with Senator Mike Gravel (Phoenix Books: 2008). I was the Communications Director for Gravel’s 2008 presidential campaign and now teach media and politics at Columbia University where I earned a PhD in American history in 2006.

       
    .<
    • +O
    • +O
    • +O
    >.