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.