Thursday, July 23, 2009

On Dealing with the Police

Now, I wasn't going to comment on the issue of Dr. Gates' arrest in Cambridge. But since our President decided it wise to make a biased comment... without knowing the entirety of the story... I've decided to join in, and leap upon the bandwagon.

But unlike our Prez, I'm not going to comment on the case at hand. Personally, I think both sides are at fault here, and I think the idea of racial profiling is a moot point.

What I feel went wrong was: A) The police went into the situation in their typical tough guy manner, and possibly put down Dr. Gates by speaking to him in an especially brusque manner (after all, they were responding to a B&E).

B) Dr. Gates decided to (obnoxiously) return the favor to the police (and play the "it's because I'm black, isn't it?" card).

C) The police (stupidly) arrested Dr. Gates for disorderly conduct.

And there you have it. Two big screwups.

Let me explain. I don't know if you've ever had experience with police, but I have. And most of the time, I am confronted with a situation similar to A. The cops come in with a bunch of bravado. Possibly even put you down personally, or intellectually.

So, A isn't a screwup. A is business as usual. And I've got no problem with business as usual. Cops can't be genially questioning suspected criminals. That'd just make them... journalists.

But what you don't do (and I've learned this from extensive experience) is respond as Dr. Gates did in B. No matter how right you are, trying to turn the situation around on the police isn't going to work out in your favor. Getting cocky and demanding names and badge numbers is only going to piss them off.

The proper response in a similar situation is to take whatever the police give you with a, "Yes, sir," or, "No, ma'am." Smile and nod and be as cooperative as possible. Courtesy in the face of discourtesy. Respect in the face of perceived disrespect. That is all.

Want my ID officer? Yes sir, here's my ID.

Did I know that light was red? No, ma'am.

And so on.

What I'm trying to get at here is there's a time and place to make an argument, and that's in court. The police are just doing their jobs. And if you're not guilty of anything, why act like a dick? Just suck it up and make your case in court.

As for C, the cops definitely fucked up here. And, the court saw fit to drop the charges. So, the court was in agreement. And it'd be ripe time to move on, if it weren't for people like our President referring to the Cambridge cops as "stupid" for arresting Dr. Gates.

No. What's stupid is this sham of a health care reform bill currently getting mauled to shreds by our health industry lobby owned Congress.

I digress. Continuing, I hoped Dr. Gates would rise above this shit and move on. The man's an intellectual. An academic. I've read and seen some of his work, and admire and respect him.

But, I'm frankly quite upset that Dr. Gates has gone all Al Sharpton with this minor arrest, turning it into some kind of popular martyrdom experiment by comparing his couple minutes in lockup to the plights of millions of incarcerated African Americans.

Simply, I thought Dr. Gates was better than that. Higher. On another plane. Now, I know even the best of our academics will turn an unfortunate event into a chance at wider exposure.