The President said the Cambridge police acted "stupidly" when they arrested Henry Louis "Skip" Gates at his home after they knew it was his home. That is almost what I would call a no brainer. In what world does it make sense to arrest a man that is in his own home and isn't threatening anyone no matter how loud he gets? What the hell ever happened to free speech? And where are all of the conservatives in this who normally grouse about the tyranny of cops who infringe on a person's right at their home?
Well Lawrence O'Donnell gets at what this arrest was about whether race played a role in it or not. It was about power. It was about a cop deciding that he didn't have to take criticism from a citizen and then abused his power by arresting him to "show him whose boss".
There is no crime described in Crowley's official version of the way Gates behaved. Crowley says explicitly that he arrested Gates for yelling. Nothing else, not a single threatening movement, just yelling. On the steps of his own home. Yelling is not a crime. Yelling does not meet the definition of disorderly conduct in Massachusetts. Not a single shouted word or action that Crowley has attributed to Gates amounts to disorderly conduct. That is why the charges had to be dropped.
In classically phony police talk, Crowley refers to "[Gates'] continued tumultuous behavior." When cops write that way, you know they have nothing. What is tumultuous behavior? Here's what it isn't: he brandished a knife in a threatening manner, he punched and kicked, he clenched his fist in a threatening manner, he threw a wrench or, in the Gates house, maybe a book. If the subject does any of those things, cops always write it out with precision. When they've got nothing, they use phrases that mean nothing. Phrases like tumultuous behavior.
Unless you confess to a crime,or threaten to commit a crime, there is nothing you can say to a cop that makes it legal for him to arrest you. You can tell him he is stupid, you can tell him he is ugly, you can call him racist, you can say anything you might feel like saying about his mother. He has taken an oath to listen to all of that and ignore it. That is the real teachable moment here — cops are paid to be professionals, but even the best of them are human and can make stupid mistakes.
The president was right when he called the arrest stupid. It doesn't mean Crowley is stupid. It means that, in that moment, he made a stupid choice. Barack Obama has made some stupid choices on occasion too. We all do. Everyone who is defending Crowley's arrest, including his union, needs to re-read his report. There is a crime described in there. In fact, Sergeant Crowley's report is a written confession of the crime of false arrest.
See when you strip all the other BS out of the way as President Obama himself did during the press conference, it still boils down to a stupid decision by the police officer to arrest Gates for yelling at him. There is no such charge and because Sgt James Crowley is supposed to be the professional in that interaction the onus is actually on him to deescalate the situation. Guess what would have done the most to turn down the volume? Crowley and the rest of the cops leaving that's what. Arresting a man at his own home did the opposite of that, whether it was because of race or just ego tripping. And thats what we call around my way stupid.