Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
Sergeant James Crowley, the Cambridge police officer who ignited a national debate on racial profiling when he arrested Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. at his home, can be heard on a recording of radio transmissions to his dispatcher during the incident describing Gates as "uncooperative" and asking her to keep sending backup .
"I'm up with a gentleman says he resides here," Crowley said on the tape. After describing Gates as "uncooperative," he added, "keep the cars coming."
Eventually, police said, four other officers joined Crowley at the scene.
The release by Cambridge officials of recordings of the police radio transmissions and 911 call in the case was yet another twist in a saga that has sparked a national debate on racial profiling. The story of the white police officer arresting a prominent black academic for disorderly conduct in his own home gained such momentum that President Obama weighed in last week. He first said the Cambridge police "acted stupidly" in the incident, then said he regretted his choice of words and invited the two men to the White House, hoping it would become a "teachable moment." Gates's attorney, Charles Ogletree, said the meeting had been slated for Thursday.
The 911 recording showed the mundane beginnings of a media frenzy. The caller who alerted police to two men entering Gates's house on July 16 told a dispatcher that she had seen two suitcases on the porch and said she wasn't sure if it was a break-in.
"I don't know what's happening. ... I don't know if they live there and they just had a hard time with their key, but I did notice they had to use their shoulders to try to barge in," the caller said.
The recording appeared to reflect a relatively routine call, with officers and even the 911 caller mostly calm.
The recordings were released after a noon news conference held by City Manager Robert Healy, Mayor E. Denise Simmons, and Police Commissioner Robert Haas.
Asked what the tapes showed, Haas said, "I think the tapes speak for themselves and I would ask you to form your own opinion."
One thing the tapes didn't show: any clear background sound that indicated Gates was shouting during the incident. Another voice can be heard in the background of at least three transmissions, but what the person is saying is difficult to discern.
Gates had just arrived home from the filming of a PBS documentary in China. His front door was stuck shut, and his taxi driver, who was also a black man, helped him to pry it open.
Crowley said in the report he filed after the incident that Gates became disruptive as the officer investigated the possible break-in. Gates has denied that he was disorderly. The charge of disorderly conduct was dropped last week.
Ogletree, Gates’s lawyer, said this afternoon shortly after speaking with the professor that he would issue a statement on Gates’s behalf during an impromptu press conference at his home on Martha’s Vineyard this evening at 6:15. He said Gates would not be responding to media inquiries today about the recordings.
“I’m glad that [the recordings] reinforce that the person who made the 911 call was very conscientious and only reported what she saw,” Ogletree said. “Somehow the transmission from the caller to the police department has led to a very different set of impressions. Professor Gates is very pleased that more of this information is coming forward.”
It is unclear whether the voice heard in the background belongs to Gates, or another officer, Ogletree said.
Ogletree said Gates is looking forward to the meeting with the president and Crowley. Both the professor and the police sergeant will be able to bring their family members to the private meeting, Ogletree said. The White House will announce the time later, he said.
City officials at the news conference also discussed the formation of a panel of experts that will try to discover if there are lessons to be learned from the incident.
"While this has been a trying time for Cambridge, we are confident that we can ultimately come out stronger and a more unified community," said Mayor E. Denise Simmons.
The woman who made the 911 call said Sunday through a spokeswoman she never mentioned race during the call and was "personally devastated" by media accounts that suggested she placed the call because the men she saw on the porch of Gate's home were black, the Globe reports today.
The caller, 40-year-old Lucia Whalen, did speculate that one of the men in the house was Hispanic. And the female dispatcher told the officers responding to the scene that two people were still in the house. "Unknown on the race. One may be a Hispanic male. Not sure," the dispatcher said.
The dispatcher asked officers to "respond to a possible B and E [breaking and entering] in progress," saying the caller had reported two people had "barged their way into the home. They have suitcases."
Peter Schworm of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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