TNC has a good piece (EDIT: it is actually Mark Kleiman, sitting in for TNC) up about the arrest of Henry Louis Gates last year. It goes to my main thought on the issue, the fact that whether or not race played a role, it’s just plain fucked up to arrest someone in his own home and manipulate appearances to justify it:
Read Crowley’s report and stop on page two when he admits seeing Gates’s Harvard photo ID. I don’t care what Gates had said to him up until then, Crowley was obligated to leave. He had identified Gates….[…..]
No one who is familiar with law enforcement can miss the significance of Crowley’s report. As so often happens with documentary evidence, a person seeking to create a false impression spends lots of time nailing down the elements he thinks will establish his goal, but forgets about the larger picture. Under color of law, Crowley entered a residence to investigate a possible break-in, and after his probable cause had evaporated, he continued to act under color of law, but without any justifiable purpose. And he covered it up with false charges. Figuring that his best defense was a criminal charge, Crowley did what bad cops do. He decided he would look better if Gates looked worse. Perhaps one day cops will figure out that trumped-up charges worsen a case of investigating something that turns out not to have been a crime. It is horribly wrong when police officers falsely accuse an injured arrestee of A&B PO (“assault and battery on a police officer,” a felony) but at least there is some logic to the lie. If a disorderly conduct charge follows an investigation of a non-crime, chances are pretty good that the cop handled himself badly. Pursuit of charges should be strongly disfavored.
The lying matters.
I’m not an anti-cop person. Aside from one bogus traffic ticket, I’ve never had a problem with a cop, and the one police office I know pretty well is a good guy. But Sgt. Crowley should have been severely disciplined, if not fired, for what he did.