police report

One of the many disputes that have arisen in task force debates is the complaint of some “community” people that police sometimes lie on their reports and that the prosecutor just assumes the police are telling the truth. Law enforcement folks and prosecutors react with offense: “It is a felony to lie on a police report.” I roll my eyes. Um, it is a felony to deal drugs, too, but that doesn’t mean people don’t do it. And there have been at least some cases in which movement activists have video taped protest policing and caught police lying on reports. To point out that some people break the law, by the way, is not to assert that all or even most police lie. Most often there is no need to lie. But there is the time-honored and safer tactic of putting the most persuasive possible construction on ambiguous events. Not to mention the ubiquitous problem that different people simply see events in different ways and that well-intentioned honest police may still lack a complete view of the situation. So I was very interested to read the police report for the arrest of Henry “Skip” Gates in Cambridge the other day. Here’s a copy of the police report on the arrest of Gates for disorderly conduct which was posted by BigSole whom I got to from Field Negro. Today a Facebook link pointed me to this careful analysis of the report at SameFacts.com. The officer is clearly trying to justify the disorderly conduct arrest, which has to involve other people and a public place and cannot be made inside a person’s own house. Even the officer’s own version of events involve him persuading Gates to walk outside so that he could have an excuse to arrest him. Gates had already provided his identification and the officer makes it clear in his report that while he was still inside Gates’s house he knew he was no longer investigating any kind of crime. Gates’s “crime” in the officer’s own report consists solely of loudly accusing the officer of being a racist and asking for his name and badge number. The report makes it clear that the arrest was meant as a retaliation for being yelled at and called a racist, and he really didn’t care that the charge wasn’t going to stick. Out on the streets, this kind of interaction happens all the time: objecting to police mistreatment when you have, in fact, done nothing wrong gets to you arrested for disorderly conduct or resisting an officer. To me the most frightening thing about this incident are the large number of commenters on some sites who are sure the police have the right to retaliate if you object to their mistreatment.

Author: olderwoman

I'm a sociology professor but not only a sociology professor. I keep my name out of this blog because I don't want my name associated with it in a Google search. Although I never write anything in a public forum like a blog that I'd be ashamed to have associated with my name (and you shouldn't either), it is illegal for me to use my position as a public employee to advance my religious or political views, and the pseudonym helps to preserve the distinction between my public and private identities. The pseudonym also helps to protect the people I may write about in describing public or semi-public events I've been involved with. You can read about my academic work on my academic blog http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/soc/racepoliticsjustice/ --Pam Oliver

2 thoughts on “police report”

  1. i was shocked by the police report and noticed that it was taken down — it was so idiotic as to make me think that it wasn’t actually the real police report. i cannot imagine an officer so clearly lining out his reasons for making a retaliatory arrest. the office is either really dumb or really not aware of the bias implicit in the entire report — his public comments today suggest the latter. amazing.

  2. Dear Staff,
    My name is Raymond Carnation I along with two other Philadelphia Police Officer that opposed racism
    against African Americans and were fired in 1999 for doing so.
    The case set precedent in federal court, Myrna Moore vs. The City of Philadelphia.
    Below are articles on our story and we want to ask President Obama to place police racism on our national agenda. In order for this to happen we need as much support
    as possible. I hope your staff can join this campaign and write on the wide spread problem in our country. Feel free to contact me if you wish. Thank you and God Bless.
    Warmest Regards,
    Raymond Carnation
    Philadelphia Pa. 19135




    http://www.citypaper.net/article s/060399/news.cb.unfortunate. shtml

    Racism in Police Departments Must Be on the National Agenda

    By Keith Rushing
    I hope that the U.S. Department of Justice in the Barack Obama administration on will he do what no ne have done before: take serious measures to end the rampant racism and abuse of power in police departments across America. OF if course, we can’t expect miracles in the span of…
    URL to article: http://www .justdemocracy blog. org/?p=791

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