Cambridge Ethics 101

A man comes home to find his door jammed and breaks in with force. A neighbor witnesses the incident and calls the police. Police arrive. That much is without dispute. From there, two stories diverge. There are slight variations, but basically, these are it: One that a police officer, who also happens to be one of Cambridge PD’s Racial Profiling Experts and a man who performed CPR on Reggie Lewis in 1993, walked into the house and arrested the professor despite the fact that he had identification proving it was his home, in the presence of a fellow black officer.

The second story is that police arrived and questioned the person inside the home. The professor initially refused to show ID and verbally attacked the police officers in performance of their duties. After finally showing his ID, the officers then left the home, and were verbally attacked by the professor, to the point that onlookers and neighbors were shocked and began to move away. At that point, the professor was arrested for disorderly conduct, again, with a black officer present. Crowley’s report, as well as that of another responding officer, describe Gates yelling repeated accusations of racism while asserting that the officer “had no idea who (he) was ‘messing’ with” and that the officer “had not heard the last of it.”

“I’ve heard about five different reports [on the details of the arrest],” Cosby said on Boston’s WZLX. “If I’m the president of the United States, I don’t care how much pressure people want to put on it about race, I’m keeping my mouth shut.”

“I was shocked to hear the president making this kind of statement,” Cosby said referring to the president’s remarks during last night’s press conference.

Racial profiling became a national issue in the 1990s, when highway police on major drug delivery routes were accused of stopping drivers simply for being black. Lawsuits were filed, studies were commissioned, data was analyzed. “It is wrong, and we will end it in America,” President George W. Bush said in 2001.

Yet for every study that concluded police disproportionately stop, search and arrest minorities, another expert came to a different conclusion. “That’s always going to be the case,” Greg Ridgeway, who has a Ph.D in statistics and studies racial profiling for the RAND research group, said on Monday. “You’re never going to be able to (statistically) prove racial profiling. … There’s always a plausible explanation.”

Federal legislation to ban racial profiling has languished since being introduced in 2007 by a dozen Democratic senators, including then-Sen. Barack Obama.

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., said that was partly because “when you look at statistics, and you’re trying to prove the extent, the information comes back that there’s not nearly as much (profiling) as we continue to experience.”

Now, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that skin color is no excuse. You still have to give the police the respect and latitude they are due. It looks like Grant is vying for “most out of touch radical on campus” with Cornell West. And in the heart of liberal America no less…


About Terry Crowley