It was quite a treat to come home last week and find I’d been offered the chance to write something for this website. It is certainly one I read and admire. As the week went on, I struggled though; most of what I write isn’t all that political. What could I possibly contribute? Then came the encounter between Professor Gates, the Cambridge Police Department, and the subsequent reaction by President Obama.
In short, I see the President’s handling of this as a great positive, a leap forward over what we endured over the past eight years. But first, a little personal revelation so you’ll know where I am coming from.
I’m a cop. I’m starting my 25th year of service at one of the largest police departments in the country. I’ve worked in our local school system; I’ve been a detective. I started our department’s domestic violence unit. I currently work on the street as a sergeant in an inner city neighborhood. I’m also the senior member of our Hostage Negotiation Team. I teach a mental health intervention class. I’ve been busy. The thought of my oncoming retirement makes me smile.
The facts of the encounter between Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Sergeant James Crowley have come out in dribs and drabs. Few, and certainly none of us, know the entire circumstance. There have been no shortage of opinions floated by folks who don’t have any perspective on the situation. Sadly, one of them was the President.
On the one hand, I can’t blame him. He stood behind a person he considers a friend, whose background he knows and respects. If one of my friends ended up in hot water, my first instinct would be to rise to their defense.
On the other, I know that folks in my profession are painted with a broad brush. If Crowley and his department are painted as bumbling and racist, the reality is that that assessment and situation will color how people approach me and the officers I supervise hundreds of miles from Cambridge. Bumbling and racism are things I do not tolerate. So, I was a little frustrated with the President’s reaction. I voted for him, how could he do this to me? Continue reading