Yesterday, the 911 tapes of the Gates incident were released--and they answer a number of questions, while raising others. Like many, I was mystified by how Gates, a middle aged man, could be mistaken for a burglar in the middle of the day with a pile of luggage sitting on his porch--I thought that the circumstances of the call were therefore influenced by the fact that Gates was black, although I also argued that this wasn't an issue of malice.
Now it appears that Lucia Whalen, the woman who made the 9/11 call, not only didn't mention race, she told the dispatcher that she thought this might have been Gates' home. "I don't know what's happening. ... I don't know if they live there and they just had a hard time with their key, but I did notice they had to use their shoulders to try to barge in," Whalen said, according to the Boston Globe.
Simple right? The problem is that the police report written by Sgt. James Crowley states that "[Whalen] observed what appeared to be to black males with backpacks on the porch of Ware Street." Except Whalen said no such thing. Furthermore, the tapes are notable for what they don't contain--any audio that indicates Gates was shouting as Crowley claimed in his police report. The tapes do contain audio of Crowley saying Gates was being uncooperative and asking for more backup, reportedly saying "keep the cars coming."
Here's the thing: This is the second discrepancy from the police report, the first being that Gates claims he showed Crowley his Harvard ID and his driver's license, while the report says that he only showed his Harvard ID. The reason I find this odd is that Crowley seems to have believed it was Gates' residence--but how could he be sure if he hadn't seen Gates' Driver's License as he claims? Now, we also know that the claim that it was Whalen who identified Gates and his driver by their race was completely false. The Cambridge Police's explanation, that the report merely represents "a summary" of what happened seems inadequate--how useful could a factually inaccurate summary really be? And what--if anything else--is inaccurate but is asserted as fact in the police report?
Police reports should never be taken as pure gospel. If they were, we wouldn't need trials. But it seems to me that there are a number of issues here that have yet to be addressed, and while race seems to be a diminishing factor in the arrest (if not in the interpretation or response to these events) the arrest itself looks more and more inappropriate.
-- A. Serwer
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