Calls by President Obama to Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and to Sergeant James M. Crowley inviting the men to meet with Obama at the White House were welcomed by both camps today.
Harvard law professor Charles J. Ogletree Jr., one of Gates's lawyers, praised the president, a former student of his, for calling both men.
"I think the president has taken the right approach by trying to make sure we move forward," said Ogletree. "He's always had the ability to negotiate difficult conversations, and his steps today are an important step in the right direction. I think the president has given his assessment, which makes a lot of sense, and, however you feel about it, it has reduced the temperature and allowed everyone to move forward in a constructive way."
Crowley was also pleased by the call, according to a fellow officer who asked not to be identified because he is not authorized to speak publicly about the issue.
"Jimmy said, 'I'd be happy to come to the White House and sit down with you and Gates and have a beer,' " the veteran Cambridge officer said. "The president said he was acceptable to that."
Crowley also asked President Obama if he could use his influence to oust the news media from his front lawn in Natick. "The president said, 'I can't get them off my front lawn,' and Jimmy said, 'Well, your lawn is a lot bigger than my lawn,' " the officer's colleague said.
Crowley's brother, J.P., also a Cambridge officer said that he hadn't spoken to his brother about the Obama call. But he said his brother was looking forward to putting the controversy behind him.
"It's surreal. I think he just wants to get back to a sense of normalcy, back to work. He didn't ask for this," he said.
Steve Killion, president of the Cambridge patrol officers association, praised the president for calling James Crowley only a couple of hours after the news conference where leaders from Cambridge and other area police unions demanded an apology from Obama.
"I'm sure, knowing Sergeant Crowley, it's mended the fence with him,'' said Killion, who had not spoken with Crowley. "It's gone some way toward mending the fence with the patrol officers, even though I haven't spoken with any of them yet.''
Killion said the president has admitted he erred by discussing a case without knowing the details.
"He acknowledges he made a mistake,'' Killion said. "He wasn't there. None of us have the facts. He didn't have the facts. We don't have the facts. We don't know what professor Gates said, what Sergeant Crowley said. I'm absolutely pleased with [Obama's call]. I think it was a good thing for the president to do. He's the commander in chief, he's in charge. Whether or not he should be involved in local politics, he runs the country. We all want to see this behind us.''
Killion said Cambridge has a "great police department'' and never engages in racial profiling.
"If Sergeant Crowley and President Obama and Mr. Gates sit out on the White House lawn and have a beer, I'd certainly like a picture of it -- and be jealous that it wasn't me,'' Killion said.
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