( David L Ryan/Globe Staff)
CAMBRIDGE -- Police unions today called on President Obama and Governor Deval Patrick to apologize to "all law enforcement personnel," saying they "deeply resent the implication" of their comments about racial profiling and the arrest of an African-American scholar last week at his home near Harvard Square.
Speaking at a press conference at the Hotel Marlowe packed with local and national media, the union officials also said that the disorderly conduct charge should not have been dropped against professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. The move earlier this week to drop the charges, "was a decision made without our input," said Alan J. McDonald, a lawyer for one of the unions.
The harshest words came from Steve Killion, who identified himself as a third generation Cambridge police officer and president of the city's police patrol officers association.
"As far as the president's comments, the governor's comments, and comments that I did not hear that our mayor made, I think when the time is right they should make an apology to us," Killion said. "I think the president should make an apology to all law enforcement personnel throughout the entire country, [they] took offense to this."
Killion continued, "Cambridge police are not stupid. I am proud to represent the officer of the Cambridge Police Department."
During a nationally televised press conference on Tuesday night, Obama said that Cambridge police "acted stupidly." The president defended the remark the next day, telling ABC News, ďI think it was a pretty straightforward commentary that you probably donít need to handcuff a guy, a middle-aged man who uses a cane, who is in his own home."
Governor Patrick described the arrest as "troubling" and drew on his own experiences with law enforcement and racial profiling as black teenager at Milton Academy in the 1970s. ďIn some ways, this is every black manís nightmare and a reality for black men, "Patrick told a crush of reporters on Thursday at the State House.
The firestorm began on July 16, when Cambridge police responded to a report of a break-in at Gates's home on Ware Street near Harvard University. A passerby called police when she spotted Gates and another man pushing on his front door, which was jammed. A confrontation ensued and police led Gates away in handcuffs only to drop the charges four days later.
This afternoon the officer at the center of the storm, Sergeant James M. Crowley, walked into the press conference smiling and dressed in a crisp tan suit with a blue shirt and yellow tie. Crowley stood off to the side and did not speak.
One of the more than 50 journalists asked why the disorderly charge was dropped if Crowley did nothing wrong.
"That was a decision that was made without our input," said McDonald, the lawyer. "We think in retrospect given the publicity that has transpired it would have been better to let the matter go forward to a trial of fact so that the truth could have been disclosed by means other than debates in the media that we've seen over the last few days."
Another police union attorney at the press conference, Thomas Drechsler, acknowledged that the charge Gates faced of disorderly conduct is "one of the most difficult crimes to define."
"You could find hundreds of lawyers who would debate the ups and downs and merits and demerits of any disorderly person arrest," said Drechsler, a lawyer for the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association. He added, however, that in Gates's particular case, "you would find many lawyers who would agree that the evidence presented therein would be sufficient to make an arrest."
Sergeant Dennis O'Connor, president of the Cambridge Police Superior Officers Association, noted that both Obama and Patrick prefaced their remarks by saying they did not know all the facts. It made it that much worse, O'Connor said, when both officials then linked the episode to a past "history of racial abuse by law enforcement."
"Whatever may be the history, the supervisors and the parole officers of the Cambridge Police Department deeply resent the implication and reject any suggestion that in this case or any other case they have allowed a person's race to direct their activities." O'Connor said. "However, we hope that they will reflect upon their past comment and apologize to the Cambridge Police Department."
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