Study on Henry Gates arrest says Cambridge police don't use racial profiling

By Krissah Thompson
Thursday, June 17, 2010; 2:51 PM

The first of several studies looking into the arrest last summer of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., which attracted the interest of President Obama and became a national controversy, essentially clears the Cambridge, Mass., police department of the charge of racial profiling.

The report by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, which was published Thursday in the Boston Globe, bases its findings on a review of the department's handling of disorderly conduct cases from 2004 to 2009.

Of the 392 adults arrested for disorderly conduct, 57 percent were white and 34 percent were black. That racial breakdown almost exactly mirrored the racial composition of the population that Cambridge police investigated for disorderly conduct, the center's analysis shows.

The prominent scholar's arrest by a white police officer spurred a debate about race relations in America, and at a press conference Obama embroiled himself in one of the earliest racial controversies of his presidency by saying police acted "stupidly" in arresting Gates and suggesting the arrest was a case of racial profiling.

Gates was charged with disorderly conduct and arrested at his home by Sgt. James Crowley. According to a police report, Gates became angry when Crowley entered his home in response to a 911 call. Gates said he believed the incident was a modern lesson in racism and the criminal justice system.

The charges against him were quickly dropped, but the controversy cooled only when Obama invited both Gates and Crowley to the White House for beers. Both sides have agreed to disagree.

Crowley told the New England Center for Investigative Reporting in a written statement that: "I have never and will never use race to affect how I do my job." Gates, referred calls to his attorney Charles Ogletree, who has written a book on the subject entitled "The Presumption of Guilt: The Arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Race, Class and Crime in America."

A committee of law enforcement experts appointed by city officials has also conducted an in-depth review of the incident. Its report is pending.

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