By Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff
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 did say it was "regrettable" that anyone would speak without knowing the "whole story" of the confrontation a week ago at Gate's home near Harvard Square
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 of them, but I think its 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 first hand knowledge of the events and who saw themselves the way in which Professor Gates acted and what led to his arrest."
UPDATE: In an interview later today with WBZ radio, Crowley said that while he "didn't vote for" Obama, he supports "the president of the United States 110 percent."
"I think he is way off base wading into a local issue before knowing all the facts," Crowley said.
The lawyer for the police union that represents Crowley today predicted that Obama will regret his remark.
"He conceded that he didn't have all the facts, and indeed he didn't," said Alan J. McDonald, the lawyer for the Cambridge Police Superior Officers Association. "I suspect that when the full picture comes out, he will regret the remarks he made."
McDonald, the lawyer for the 50-member police union, said he and members of the union "were disappointed" in Obama's remarks. "I think perhaps the president might have second thoughts about shooting from the hip."
Obama was asked about the incident in the last question of his hour-long 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 said. "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."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.