Cambridge police Sergeant James Crowley declined today to criticize President Obama for saying Wednesday night that police "acted stupidly" in the arrest last week of Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., but he did say it was "regrettable" that anyone would speak without knowing the "whole story" of the confrontation at Gates's home near Harvard Square.
Sergeant James Crowley
Speaking at length this morning on the Dennis & Callahan show on WEEI radio in Boston, Crowley maintained that "I know what I did was right." When the hosts asserted, however, that "professor Gates and the president of the United States owe you an apology," Crowley refused to bite.
"The president has a lot of other daunting tasks ahead of him," Crowley said. "I wish for the good of the whole country that he is successful in efforts to do the many things that he has to."
The radio show hosts persisted: "Well, hopefully on those other tasks he actually gets his facts straight, because clearly he didn't know what he was talking about when he addressed your little issue."
Crowley said: "I think it is regrettable that anybody on either side of this issue would make comments -- and you know I saw some of them, but I think it's regrettable that anybody, either somebody who supports me or somebody who thinks I acted inappropriately -- without knowing the whole story, without talking to those who were there who have firsthand knowledge of the events and who saw themselves the way in which professor Gates acted and what led to his arrest."
Obama was asked about the incident in the last question of his hourlong nationally televised press conference Wednesday night. After acknowledging that he was "a little biased" because he is friends with Gates and that he didn't "know all the facts," the president nonetheless said police "acted stupidly" in arresting Gates after he showed identification.
"Now, I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that," Obama went on. "But I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge Police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That's just a fact."
And that fact, Obama added, is an example and a sign that "race remains a factor in this society. That doesn't lessen the incredible progress that has been made. I am standing here as testimony to the progress that's been made.
"And yet the fact of the matter is, is that this still haunts us."
In an interview today with WBZ radio, Crowley said that while he "didn't vote for" Obama, he supports "the president of the United States 110 percent." But that does not mean he agreed with Obama's comment that Cambridge police "acted stupidly."
"I think he is way off base wading into a local issue before knowing all the facts," Crowley said.
This morning on WEEI, Crowley spoke for 22 minutes and offered his most detailed public explanation of why he handcuffed the renowned professor of African-American studies.
"He was arrested after following me outside the house, continuing the tirade, even after being warned multiple times, probably a few more times than the average person would have gotten," Crowley said.
The hosts asked: "How many times?
"He was cautioned in the house, meaning calm down, lower your voice," Crowley said. "Once we got outside in front of the general public and the police officers that were assembled there, two warnings, the second warning with me holding a set of handcuffs in my hand. It was something I really didn't want to do, but the professor at any point in time could have resolved the issue by quieting down and/or going back in his house."
Crowley continued, "There are so many things in this incident that keep me scratching my head wondering. I apologize, I was not aware who professor Gates was. And when I read the name off the card, it wasn't like I said, 'Oh, wow, that's professor Gates.' I'm still just amazed that somebody of his level of intelligence could stoop to such a level and berate me, accuse me of being a racist, of racial profiling, and speaking about my mother. It's just beyond words."
During the interview, the radio hosts made it clear how they felt about the arrest of Gates, telling Crowley that he did not "have to defend your character here because there is no reason to, you didn't do anything wrong."
"God knows the public is supporting you," one of the hosts said. "Maybe not the elites, maybe not the president of the United States, but the reaction on message boards, the reaction on talk shows, and just people on the street -- they are on your side, officer, you can be sure of that."
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