Home > Law, Race, Social Issues > Not Looking Good for Gates Crowley

Not Looking Good for Gates Crowley

July 28th, 2009

The Cambridge police released the 911 call and the tapes of the police radio, and things don’t look all that spiffy for the story of Sgt. Crowley. They do not come close to proving Gates was right, but two key elements suggest that Crowley might actually have racially colored the situation and strongly suggest that he was not being accurate in his police report.

The first element is that Crowley strongly mischaracterized the initial report by Gates’ neighbor, Lucia Whalen. Whalen has received a good deal of criticism because everyone accepted Crowley’s report, in which he claims Whalen describes the two men at Gates’ house as “two black males with backpacks.” In fact, in her 9/11 call (mp3, transcript), Whalen did not initially give the race of the two men, and when asked, said that one of them “looked kind of Hispanic but I’m not really sure,” and reported that she did not get a look at the other one at all. Whalen also specifically mentioned seeing luggage.

Now, this was what Whalen said on the 911 tape, and Crowley got his information directly from Whalen on the street, which was not recorded. But to imagine that “two men with suitcases who might live there and one seems Hispanic and I didn’t see the other one at all” would within a minute or so transform into “two black males with backpacks” is not credible. Clearly, either Crowley made up that part or he radically misunderstood what Crowley told him. And that suggests that there actually was racial bias on Crowley’s part, if he contributed both “black” and “backpacks” in place of “unsure” and “suitcases.” Considering Whalen’s 9/11 call, it seems unlikely that she would even mention race at all unless asked by Crowley, in which she would have given the same answer as the 9/11 call. So “black” seems to have been either assumed by Crowley, or else later inserted by him after he saw the men–either way, his police report was false.

The second element comes from Crowley’s transmissions (mp3, transcript), which seem to contradict what he wrote in his police report. In his report, Crowley wrote:

I again told Gates that I would speak with him outside. My reason for wanting to leave the residence was that Gates was yelling very loud and the acoustics of the kitchen and foyer were making it difficult for me to transmit pertinent information to ECC or other responding units.

This is belied by the radio transmission, in which Crowley had no transmissions which were made unclear by Gates’ alleged “yelling.” In the sections of the recordings of the police radio coming from Crowley, you can hear Gates a little in the background, but nothing more than would be expected of a normal conversation. Listen to this file (mp3) with only Crowley’s transmissions:

While Crowley could have been speaking of yelling that happened which prevented him from even trying to make the calls at all, that is certainly not supported; in the transmissions he makes, there is silence for most of the transmissions–not what would be the case if Gates were yelling so loudly and so often that Gates was forced to leave the house. Instead, it now seems far more likely that Crowley actually left the house in an attempt to draw Gates outside so that he could arrest him.

In this case, the media in general has given Crowley the complete benefit of the doubt and Gates almost none on the basis of believing police officers first and arrest subjects last. However, it now seems that this bias was not correct, and Crowley’s report is now seriously in doubt.

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  1. Scott R
    July 28th, 2009 at 21:03 | #1

    FYI, according to the 911 caller’s attorney, she never spoke with Crowley at the scene other than to confirm that she was the one who called 911. So if we are to believe her, he didn’t get the information about “two black men with backpacks” from her at the scene, either.

  2. cgdc
    July 29th, 2009 at 04:59 | #2

    Thank you for pointing this out. It’s funny how the media is not jumping on this obvious fact. I’d like to know how many other reports by Crowley are false.

  3. Luis
    July 29th, 2009 at 08:40 | #3

    Scott: Yes, Murphy indicated that Whalen never said anything about the race of the two men; I did not see a report saying that she indicated nothing else aside from being the caller, but it would not surprise me. If she actually did not indicate anything at all, then the “backpacks” item would be especially telling, as that would be completely invented (Crowley could have gotten race from just meeting Gates) and would contribute to the sense that Crowley was just making stuff up.

    Cgdc: Crowley and his union representatives certainly have done an excellent job of making Crowley out to be a good, decent cop; the more scary question is, if he *is* such a cop and yet he did inject race and/or make stuff up on his report, then is that more of a common practice that is simply taken for granted? If Crowley did take liberties here, was it just because he needed to justify a “Contempt of Cop” charge, and usually he doesn’t do this?

    A lot has been made of (a) his being singled out for training other cops for sensitivity/racial profiling, and (b) that he gave CPR to a black basketball player years ago, suggesting that both of these things prove he’s no racist. And maybe he’s not, or at least not overtly–but you can have racist tendencies and still do these things. You’d have to be pretty strongly, overtly racist not to give medical assistance to a dying man when you are the officer on the scene just because he’s black. And being chosen for training can sometimes be just a random thing–or even something used to make a misbehaving cop be more aware of what he’s doing wrong, under the philosophy that you learn best by teaching.

    Bottom line is, we don’t know who Gates is. All we can really know is, his arrest of Gates, for whatever reason, colored by whatever bias, was more than a little questionable.

  4. Leszek Cyfer
    July 31st, 2009 at 17:08 | #4

    To lighten this up a little:


  5. Susan Solomon
    August 3rd, 2009 at 09:30 | #5

    I realize that many Americans live in towns and cities with a standard of justice already so low that they cannot imagine what was wrong with Crowley’s behavior toward Skip Gates. Let’s say they were both White, or both Black, or reverse their skin colors and go from there. You get home tired from a trip – you are a professor in one of the world’s top universities but live simply in an ordinary neighborhood. Suddenly, a police person enters your house without knocking and without warning and lets you know you are under suspicion for whatever – you don’t really understand because he did not knock and is not telling you. You immediately feel he has done something wrong – he has – he has trespassed because the neighbor’s well meaning ‘neighborhood watch’ call was not at all definitive enough to give him permission to do what he is doing – but while showing your true feelings that he is doing something wrong, you give him your ID and tell him it is indeed your own house. The police person, let’s say a Black man, continues to bear down on you with suspicion, ignores the ID and all other signs that you live there, and asks you again to ‘prove’ who you are. You tell him again and again and get really irritated. You are an older White man using a cane, but still you manage to convey your disapproval of what this Black cop is doing in your own house. By now he is simply behaving criminally in that he is trespassing knowingly, and will not leave, and is blustering, perhaps out of racial feelings or because you are old and he can. You become more irate because as a citizen that is your job. If you lived where I live in CA this scenario would not happen, but if it did the cop would have been sued so quickly that the whole police force would be suspending him, counseling him, and preparing to make any kind of deal possible to keep you, the criminally invaded homeowner happy. Anyway – in this scenario – you, feeling fairly secure in that it is your house and you do know your rights, follow the lout outside, thinking to continue the conversation in front of the other many cops so as to make the point that you are a citizen, you own the house, and you know your rights. This arrogant Black cop then, like a stalking animal, grabs you and violates still more of your rights by arresting you, again falsely and illegally, and takes you in. I write this with the full knowledge that most Americans today will not believe that the homeowner actually ever had a single right, and that cops can do whatever they want, and I am glad I live in the Bay Area of CA where that is not the assumption nor the reality.

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