July 27, 2009

TUNKU VARADARAJAN: The Professor, the Cop, and the President. “This episode, for all its sordidness, confirms the greatness of America. Where else could a humble cop–a Lilliput of a sergeant–stand up so publicly to a president? And not just stand up but invite himself over for a beer with the president? What theater it has been, what entertainment. And yes, a teachable moment–for Professor Gates, and for President Barack Obama. Sgt. Crowley may believe that he had nothing to learn, but I’m certain he has grasped a small truth or two as well.”

UPDATE: Radley Balko: It’s not about race, but about police abuses of power. “The power to forcibly detain a citizen is an extraordinary one. It’s taken far too lightly, and is too often abused. And that abuse certainly occurs against black people, but not only against black people. American cops seem to have increasingly little tolerance for people who talk back, even merely to inquire about their rights. . . . If there’s a teachable moment to extract from Gates’ arrest, it’s that arrest powers should be limited to actual crimes. Instead, the emerging lesson seems to be that you should capitulate to police, all the time, right or wrong. That’s unfortunate, because there are plenty of instances where you shouldn’t. . . . Police officers deserve the same courtesy we afford anyone else we encounter in public life—basic respect and civility. If they’re investigating a crime, they deserve cooperation as required by law, and beyond that only to the extent to which the person with whom they’re speaking is comfortable. Verbally disrespecting a cop may well be rude, but in a free society we can’t allow it to become a crime, any more than we can criminalize criticism of the president, a senator, or the city council.”

More from Tom Maguire.

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