Free Markets, Free People


Racism and Crying Wolf

As we discussed on the last podcast, as well as in various posts here at QandO, the biggest missed opportunity in the whole Gates kerfuffle was to draw attention to the civil liberties issues. By immediately crying racial profiling, Prof. Gates clouded an otherwise sympathetic view of his standing as a homeowner. Of course, if he hadn’t behaved the way that he did (calling Sgt. Crowley a racist cop), then he likely would never had been arrested in the first place. Nevertheless, what we should have taken from the l’affair Gates was that scenes such as the following are all too familiar:

Pepin Tuma, 33, was walking with two friends along Washington’s hip U Street corridor around midnight Saturday, complaining about how Gates had been rousted from his home for not showing a proper amount of deference to a cop. “We’d been talking about it all day,” said Tuma. “It seems like police have a tendency to act overly aggressively when they’re being pushed around,” Tuma recalled saying.

Then the group noticed five or six police cruisers surrounding two cars in an apparent traffic stop on the other side of the street. It seemed to Tuma that was more cops than necessary.

“That’s why I hate the police,” Tuma said. He told the Huffington Post that in a loud sing-song voice, he then chanted, “I hate the police, I hate the police.”

One officer reacted strongly to Tuma’s song. “Hey! Hey! Who do you think you’re talking to?” Tuma recalled the officer shouting as he strode across an intersection to where Tuma was standing. “Who do you think you are to think you can talk to a police officer like that?” the police officer said, according to Luke Platzer, 30, one of Tuma’s companions.

Tuma said he responded, “It is not illegal to say I hate the police. It’s not illegal to express my opinion walking down the street.”

According to Tuma and Platzer, the officer pushed Tuma against an electric utility box, continuing to ask who he thought he was and to say he couldn’t talk to police like that.

“I didn’t curse,” Tuma said. “I asked, am I being arrested? Why am I being arrested?”

It should come as no surprise that, in fact, Tuma was arrested on a charge of ‘disorderly conduct”:

D.C.’s disorderly conduct statute bars citizens from breaching the peace by doing anything “in such a manner as to annoy, disturb, interfere with, obstruct, or be offensive to others” or by shouting or making noise “either outside or inside a building during the nighttime to the annoyance or disturbance of any considerable number of persons.”

[...]

Tuma spent a few hours in a holding cell and was released early Sunday morning after forfeiting $35 in collateral to the police, he said. A “post and forfeit” is not an admission of guilt, and Tuma doesn’t have a court date — but the arrest will pop up if an employer does a background check.

So, adding insult to injury, Tuma gets arrested for expressing his opinion on a public street, spends the night in jail, and then is “legally” pickpocketed by the police. This is a problem, just as it was with the Gates mess, and is the real issue that should be discussed.

Forget racial profiling and other obscurants for a moment and contemplate just how much power has been granted to the police here. Is that a wise decision? Surely we want the police to be able to use their judgment in a given situation, but when a law is drafted so broadly as to provide cover when a cop feels insulted then such law flies in the face of constitutional protections.

Furthermore, situations like this really undermine the concept of police being “professionals”. Having the power to arrest someone because they get a little mouthy is not a power any real professional should want or need. Being a professional means being able to negotiate the situation through one’s abilities, not through one’s grant of extraordinary power. I mean, could you imagine if lawyers had the ability to throw people in clink for insulting them? Who would be safe?

The fact of the matter is that there are just too many laws to begin with. Cut down on number if infractions cops are expected to enforce, and you will cut down on the number of incidences where the police overstep their authority. When the only thing in danger is a cop’s feelings, then I think it’s safe to say that incarcerating anyone is a monumental waste of time and resources that could be better spent going after real criminals.

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24 Responses to Racism and Crying Wolf

  • By immediately crying racial profiling, Prof. Gates clouded an otherwise sympathetic view of his standing as a homeowner.

    Perhaps the Tuma incident can help clear the clouds on this regarding his arrest and even the Gates arrest.

    From Gates to Crowley to Obama and all the various authors and pundits, it was frustrating for me from the very beginning to listen to them tackle the incident with race as the prime consideration.
    For me, it was completely unnecessary to highlight, rightly or wrongly, how race relations played into the Gates arrest.  Once Crowley had learned that Gates was the homeowner and that no crime was being committed, his job was over. He had no reason to be there any longer, and should have left the scene.
    Like you stated about police professionalism, Crowley should have been the bigger man, realized that he represented the city of Cambridge and it’s police department and the laws that govern it’s citizens and walked away.  Not only should he have done that, it was his job to do that.
    Okay, Gates was acting like a prick.  Okay, Gates was in the wrong to insult the police, Okay, …. and on and on.  It doesn’t matter.  Acting stupidly in your own home is not a crime.  Having stupid opinions is not a crime.

    Crowley bears the brunt of responsibility over this fiasco simply because it was his responsibility – as a professional police officer representing the city and it’s citizens, as an employee of the city and it’s citizens – to simply walk away.
    Yes it might be difficult to have to take insults from a lesser man.  But we all have to do things in our jobs that are difficult sometimes and we don’t want to do them.

    That’s why it’s called a job.

    Cheers.

    • “Once Crowley learned that Gates was the homeowner…”

      How, pray, was he supposed to determine that when Gates refused to provide identification?

  • I’m torn.
    On the one hand… sure… in a perfect world offending a police officer shouldn’t get you arrested.    I mean… DUH.
    On the other hand, the world isn’t perfect and police officers are often outright attacked.    I’ve made jokes (except it isn’t funny) that a person is safer as a soldier in Iraq than as a police officer in Albuquerque.
    So Tuma is, by his own admission, belligerent and purposefully antagonistic toward police officers who are on the job, but whom Tuma feels aren’t doing it properly… too many of them?    How does Tuma know what just happened, that it’s nothing important?    The most dangerous thing police officers do (I’m told) is traffic stops.    So Tuma takes it on himself to make a scene, distracting from what may, or may not, be a tense or dangerous situation.    He doesn’t know.    He doesn’t care.
    The cops also know that he doesn’t know.    He’s just some passer-by who starts hollering about hating the police.
    I’d arrest him too.    In a heart-beat.   And I’d pick more than $35 from his pocket.
    It’s one thing, really, to argue that police ought to be professional enough not to let the heat of the moment, the adrenaline of a chase and danger, push them into violence and then excuse it.    We don’t even allow that of our soldiers.
    But I think it is something else to expect police to wait until someone throws a rock, or attacks them, or for the deliberate interference and distraction of someone like Tuma to cause a *real* problem, before the police are allowed to act…  just because until that happens it’s just “speech.”
    I’ve said this before about the Gates issue…  if we’re operating on the assumption that police officers are public servants… please tell me at what point we start insisting on our right to treat our servants like shit?
     

  • “Once Crowley had learned that Gates was the homeowner and that no crime was being committed,..”
    He didn’t know that no one else was in the house and while he assumed Gates was the homeowner he didn’t *know* that for certain or that nothing else was necessary.
    OTOH… if he was a PRIVATE security contractor and not a public servant with a “job” that forces him to accept verbal abuse, he’d have told his CLIENT, Gates, to take a long walk off a short pier, left the building and the situation, told his bosses, and they’d have terminated Gate’s protection contract.
    That’s what freedom would have given us in this situation.
    If the police responding to a call to Gate’s home were there voluntarily, Gates would not have acted like he did, because the right and proper and inevitable result would be that Gates would lose his police protection.

    • He didn’t know that no one else was in the house and while he assumed Gates was the homeowner he didn’t *know* that for certain or that nothing else was necessary.

      Are you sure about that?
      In his own police report, Crowley wrote, “I told Gates that I was leaving his residence and that if he had any other questions regarding the matter, I would speak with him outside of the residence.”  My emphasis.
      Not only does that suggest that Crowley believed Gates to be the homeowner, it suggested that he had also determined that nothing else was necessary.

      Besides, Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct, not for B&E.  Even if you assume that Gates had been placed in handcuffs for his own protection while the police checked out the home, he should have been released after determining that everything was safe.
      Instead, he was hauled off to jail.  Where, as you know, all charges were eventually dropped.  If Crowley acted correctly and this was a just arrest, why were the charges dropped?

      Cheers.

  • If you want to talk about those gawd awful abortions call “no knock warrants” I’ll be right with you.

  • Come on, Tuma has some responsibility here too.  He was trying to provoke them.  Personally, as an officer, I would have just told him to f*ck off. Sure, he wasn’t breaking any laws, but the police have a dangerous job and are going to sensitive to hostile behavior.  Would a normal, rational person do what Tuma did?  No.

    • Yeah, I’m gonna side with this here.

      A rational person doesn’t yell that you hate a group of people AT that very same group of people.

      Had Tuma yelled “I hate blacks” at a bunch of black people, or “I hate members of Pipe Fitters Local #419″ at a bunch of pipe-fitting union members, he’d have gotten far worse than a few hours in a cell.

      Seriously. It is more than ok to hate cops. Really, it is. You can even say it out loud…

      But very few people who aren’t looking to cause trouble would yell it at 4 cop-cars worth of LEOs.

  • That’s not the police Gates and Tuma are insulting and calling racists. It’s me, and my family, and every tax paying citizen who pays police to keep the peace in society. Gates and Tuma are criminals. They broke the law and disturbed the good peace of the public. Gates and Obama are racialist and did what they always do: RaceCard. Most of America is sick and tired of being called hate-filled racists by a bunch of race-baiting opportunists like Obama and Gates, who have made their fortunes at the expense of their hyphenated brothers and sisters. Call me a racist and I will hurt you.

  • Are you suggesting that rather than let Crowley leave, Gates followed him out of his house to yell at him and insult him more?
    I’ve heard the most amazing things… such as that Crowley *lured* him outside so he could act like an ass in public and give Crowley an excuse to arrest him.
    In a just world Gates would not have been arrested.
    In a just world Gates would have had a “do not respond” note in the police computers next to his name and address.
     

    • Are you suggesting that rather than let Crowley leave, Gates followed him out of his house to yell at him and insult him more?

      No.  Where do you get that?
      You wrote that Crowley didn’t know for certain if the home belonged to Gates and that he didn’t know if anything else was necessary.
      I merely suggested that from Crowley’s own police report, the “I told him I was leaving his house” bit suggested that Crowley was certain enough in the knowledge that the house did indeed belong to Gates that he was comfortable enough to leave.


      I’ve heard the most amazing things… such as that Crowley *lured* him outside so he could act like an ass in public and give Crowley an excuse to arrest him.

      Why is that so amazing?  We are talking about two big egos and testosterone.  It’s completely in the realm of possibility, and even likely, that Crowley, having the ego of a police officer, and Gates, having the ego of a Harvard professor – and throw in a heavy dose of testosterone – might just do things they wouldn’t normally do.
      I don’t know if it happened or not.  I wasn’t there.
      And with fear of being accused of sexism here, maybe as a woman, synova, you haven’t had the same kind of encounters with police officers that I’ve had.
      IOW, you probably have never been involved in a pissing contest.
      Some guys like to throw their weight around, and give some of them a badge and a gun, well that’s just giving some of them a license to do it.

      Disorderly conduct is just too broad and vague.  It gives police officers too much power to arrest just anyone they don’t like.  If anyone wants to make it a crime to verbally abuse police officers – even in your own home – then put it on a ballot.

      In a just world Gates would have had a “do not respond” note in the police computers next to his name and address.

      Well, for all we know, maybe the CPD have made a mental note about xxx Ware St.  And maybe if they get a 911 call about that address, maybe they’ll finish their coffee before responding.
      And maybe justly so.

      Maybe.

      Cheers.

  • That was a response to Pogue.

  • 33 years old, and he thinks it’s cool or whatever to chant “I hate the police” in a “sing-song” voice, after midnight, in the bar district.
    He’s a tool and a fool.

  • Devil’s advocate:

    The distinctive uniforms and badges are symbols of the authority the police have. Patrol cars are similarly marked so that there is no question that they are police vehicles. The batons and sidearms carried by police officers, even if not used or even drawn, are symbols that they have got the power and life and death in certain situations. In short, we INTENTIONALLY set the police up with symbols of authority. I suggest that this is to aid them in their work: much police work is done by the mere presence of a marked patrol car or uniformed officer because the certain knowledge that the police are nearby, even if they are not actively involved in a given situation, is often enough to prevent a crime from happening in the first place.

    How much will this authority be damaged if it becomes clear that the police can be publicly insulted with impunity?

    I recently watched part of the HBO miniseries “John Adams”, in particular the episode about the Boston Massacre. Would that tragic event have occured had the Bostonians not learned (A) to hold the redcoats in contempt and (B) that the redcoats could usually be taunted and insulted with little of no risk? In other words, it seems to me good for the safety not only of the police but also of the public to penalize TO SOME DEGREE the taunting and insulting of police officers who are engaged in the lawful performance of their duty. I don’t suggest that we make the police “untouchable”, of course, but rather that we give them support and respect until they demonstrate that they’ve abused their trust.

    As for Tuma, we have only his word and the word of one of his pals about what happened. Now, given that he admitted to sing-songing that he hates the police, might we consider that his version of the events is… um… biased?

  • On the plus side, Tuna probably won’t be sing songing comments like that again.

  • “Once Crowley had learned that Gates was the homeowner and that no crime was being committed, his job was over. He had no reason to be there any longer, and should have left the scene.”
    Okay, Pogue, I think I see where I misunderstood you (or vice versa)…  but it seems to me that Crowley was leaving the scene once he was convinced that Gates lived there and nothing untoward was going on (the 911 call said two men, after all).    Gates was badgering him about his badge number and on the phone to the Mayor and what-not and being verbally abusive from the moment Crowley arrived when Crowley did not know for sure that Gates lived there.
    And then when Crowley was moving out… out of the house, and it would seem, on his way to leave… Gates continued to be verbally abusive except out in public drawing a crowd.
    I’m not at all convinced that police should behave meekly when confronted with someone who is abusive, who tries to pull rank and calls the Mayor and the Chief, and who keeps it up when the officer is trying to leave.
    I hear how there are two men involved and *each* has too much testosterone.     Well, I have very little testosterone and *I* would not have allowed myself to be treated that way or thought it best to back down and assume some sort of servile posture before leaving with my tail between my legs.
     

  • I have the right to scream “I hate George Lucas”, but not during the showing of Star Wars.   It is not fair to the people who paid to watch the film and have no interest in my opinion of it or its creator.
    Screaming ‘I hate police’ when coming upon policemen in the middle of an arrest, can become incitement to riot, depending on how many people join in the chant, et cetera.  If you don’t like the police, get a bumper sticker, get a weblog, put a sign in your window.  But Tuma’s actions were not fair to anyone who could have been caught up in an ensuing malee.  The second part of Law and Order is ‘Order’.  And anyone on this site who has raised children, volunteered at a public event, or even taken Bubba to the hospital after he said, ‘Hold my beer and watch this…’ knows that preventing trouble from starting is easier than stopping trouble, once started.

  • Where all of this went awry was right at the beginning when the cop *assumed* he had the right to offer any form of policing on the private property of an individual person.
    He did not.
    If I do not contract with an entity myself for such services that entity has no right to assume it can force me to accept them, regardless of whether it is gov’t or otherwise.
    The cop had no right to be on Gates’ property, period, and everything after that is a result of that primary violation.
    No, I won’t listen to any of the 19 Ninja possibilities either.
    When you routinely violate the natural rights of an individual there are no rights, only thuggery.
    Crowley was wrong and all this racist tripe is just that – distractionary.
     

    • “Where all of this went awry was right at the beginning when the cop *assumed* he had the right to offer any form of policing on the private property of an individual person.”

      Quite right. How very dare that pig show up at a reported burglary. He really should have known better.

  • Could have, might have, quite possibly, etc., etc.
    Yes, you do have the *natural right* to scream about George Lucas and if no one can show proof of harm then no no harm was done.
    Your assumptions are appalling.

     

  • Saturday night, around midnight, in DC, on ‘hip’ U st.?? I am sure no alcohol was involved. “loud, sing-song voice”, with two friends? Sounds like disorderly conduct to me. Or maybe the police should have waited until a crowd formed and things got a bit more violent.

  • You seem to be living in some other country outside the US.  Inside the US, which is a democracy, your police protection, and the right of the police to be on your territory, is a choice that has already been made for you by democratic vote.  You don’t get to pick and choose the nature of it, or contract it privately.
    What are ‘natural rights’ ?

    • It’s a constitutional republic. It is also considered a democratic republic. “Democracy”, however is a process.

      Natural rights are those protected by the Constitution and recognized as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Key point – “protected” – they’re considered apriori rights by our founding fathers and the documents they wrote.

      Lastly, police only have the privileges we grant them by law. They work for us.

  • <that was a reply to Creative86>

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