Harvard Professor arrested – why didn’t the cop just LEAVE?

The media is full of the story about the black Harvard University professor who was arrested for disorderly conduct after a Cambridge, Massachusetts police officer investigated a report of a break-in at the professor’s home. It turns out that the reported burglar was just the professor trying to get his own door open. Police Report is here.

The police argue that the officer was just doing his job, but the professor accused the officer of being racially motivated.

It seems as if Professor Gates ought to have been a bit more understanding (and appreciative) of neighbors and police who were only keeping a watchful eye on the neighborhood, including the professor’s house. But from his viewpoint, he was just minding his own business on his own property. Maybe he had a bad day at the office (leading up to an even worse evening at home).

The bottom line, however, is that at some point the police officer became satisfied that Professor Gates was the homeowner and that there had been no burglary. At that point, the officer’s business was concluded. He did well in walking out of the residence.

I understand that the officer probably felt that the Professor was an ungrateful jerk. What I cannot understand—and perhaps this will become clear at some point—is why the officer did not JUST KEEP ON WALKING and LEAVE.

The homeowner was irate and abusive and making racial accusations, but he was not violent. Once the police knew there was no break-in, they had no right and no authority to remain on his property at all.  I don’t know what they wanted to prove by arresting the professor for: 1)  yelling at them; 2) while on his own property; 3) after their business was finished.  There was no point in it, except to have the last word.

We all like to have the last word.  If you have a gun and a badge, I suspect you get it more often than the rest of us.


HOME INVASION in Missouri: A crime whose time has come

Jefferson City Criminal LawyerI’ve noticed that the phrase “home invasion” seems to turn up more and more in news reports. I did a search of some Missouri newspapers looking for the term “home invasion,” and–sure enough–“home invasion” seems to have arrived in Missouri. Before the year 2000, it was seldom used in Missouri news reports, referring mostly to crimes in other states. But now, Missouri “home invasions” are on the radio, TV and newspapers every day.

The media is in love with the term “home invasion.” It’s hot. It’s scary. The word “invasion” is always terrifying. I’m thinking viruses, or Nazis; or maybe even Martians.

Combining “invasion” with “home” is a natural. Somebody probably has a copyright on it. Law enforcement loves to use the phrase. When I was a prosecutor, I had police tell me that if I wouldn’t file a burglary charge, then “at least I could file it as a home invasion.”

From all the publicity, one might guess that the crime of home invasion was on the rise. Or perhaps the legislature has recently created a crime called “home invasion.” One could not be faulted for thinking that Missouri had a crime called “Home Invasion.” But one would be wrong.

In some states they have one crime called “Breaking and entering,” which refers to non-dwelling structures. Then they’ll have a second crime called “Home invasion,” which refers to breaking into dwellings. In Missouri, both of these crimes are covered by the crime of burglary.

The 2008 legislative session will soon be upon us and maybe we should consider punching up our old criminal code and drag it into the 21st century. “Home invasion” is splashy and sexy. “Burglary” sounds like something your parents would have done (or had done to them). So maybe this is the year Missouri gets home invasion onto the books.

And since I’m making a Christmas list, I’d like to put in a good word for the revival of Representative Jeff Roorda’s 2006 & 2007 legislation that would have made “Motorcycle Stunt Driving” a crime. You can read about it in this post.

Maybe I’m too old, but I think it would be pretty neat to get one on my driving record.


Come back with a warrant