Cambridge police today released the telephone recording and radio
transmissions from the scene in an effort to show they had nothing to hide,
but the tapes raised new questions about how and why the situation escalated.
Gates’ 16 July arrest on a disorderly conduct charge sparked a national debate
about whether the professor was a victim of racial profiling. Gates,
returning from a trip to China, and his driver had forced their way through
the front door because it was jammed, and the charge was later dropped.
In her call to police, Lucia Whalen, who works at the Harvard alumni magazine,
repeatedly tells the operator she is not sure what is happening.
Speaking calmly, she tells the operator that she was stopped by an elderly
woman who told her she noticed two men trying to get into a house. Whalen
initially says she saw two men pushing on the door, but later says one of
the men entered the home and she didn’t get a good look at him. She says she
noticed two suitcases.
“I don’t know if they live there and they just had a hard time with their key.
But I did notice they used their shoulder to try to barge in and they got
in. I don’t know if they had a key or not, ’cause I couldn’t see from my
angle,” Whalen says.
She does not mention the race of the men until pressed by a dispatcher to
“Um, well, there were two larger men,” Whalen says. “One looked kind of
Hispanic, but I’m not really sure. And the other one entered and I didn’t
see what he looked like at all. I just saw it from a distance and this older
woman was worried, thinking, ‘Someone’s been breaking in someone’s house.
They’ve been barging in.'”
The officer who arrested Gates, Sgt. James Crowley, said in his police report
that he talked to Whalen soon after he arrived at Gates’ home. “She went on
to tell me that she observed what appeared to be two black males with
backpacks on the porch,” Crowley wrote in his report.
Whalen’s attorney, Wendy Murphy, said her client never mentioned the men’s
race to Crowley and is upset by news reports she believes have unfairly
depicted her as a racist.
“She doesn’t live in the area. She is by no means the entitled white
neighbour. … That has been the theme in the blogs and the implication in
some of the mainstream news media,” Murphy said in a phone interview
In his written report, Crowley said Gates became angry when he told him he was
investigating a report of a break-in, then yelled at him and called him a
In a radio communication with a dispatcher, also released yesterday, Crowley
said Gates was not cooperating.
“I’m up with a gentleman, says he resides here, but was uncooperative, but
keep the cars coming,” Crowley said.
Another voice can be heard in the background of the transmission, but it is
unintelligible and unclear if it is Gates.
Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas acknowledged that the police report
contains a reference to race, but said the report is merely a summary of
Gates did not immediately return an email message, and his spokesman did not
return email and telephone messages.
Crowley could not be reached for comment. A message left at the police station
was not returned, and no one answered the phone at his Natick home.
The professor’s supporters called his arrest an outrageous act of racial
profiling. Crowley’s supporters say Gates was arrested because he was
belligerent and that race was not a factor.
Interest in the case intensified when President Barack Obama said at a White
House news conference last week that Cambridge police “acted stupidly” in
arresting Gates. He later tried to quell the uproar about his comments and
invited both Gates and Crowley to the White House for a beer, a meeting that
could happen this week, according to the White House.
David Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John
Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said he did not think the
latest revelations related to the call would change many opinions on the
“My guess is that that adds nothing to the conviction of black Americans that
the cops like to lie a lot. It’s just another example of something they
already thoroughly believe, and that if it affects the views of those who
generally trust the police, it would affect it in a very small way at most.”
From The New Zealand Herald
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