Wednesday, July 29, 2009

If I were in My Home and. . .

If I were in my home and, having shown I.D. to a policeman or woman proving I lived there and was not wanted on an outstanding charge, I would expect them to leave on the double and issue a public servant-like apology for having wasted my time. I would expect to accept their apology, but, while it might be nice of me to be nice about it, I would be under no legal restraint to keep my mouth shut in any way, shape or form.

Of course the charges were dropped (in Cambridge, against Professor Gates, if you have been skindiving in Tuvalu for the past week)! "The Cambridge Police acted stupidly". Obama got it right the first time (he usually does).

This may be about race as much as anything else, but to me it is more about a citizen's constitutional right to privacy and the limits of police power.

The police were right in investigating the 911 call. As a citizen, I would want them to respond to a possible break-in at my home. That said, the citizen is under no obligation to be polite in his/her own home in order to avoid arrest. This is where the cops got stupid.

Of course Gates was unwise to have been shouting at the police. Of course the police account is at odds with the facts in a manner supporting police rectitude. These are human beings looking out for themselves.

But here we must stand fast against an obvious tramping upon a citizen's right to privacy. A policeman no longer in pursuit of a criminal on private property has no reason to be present upon said private property. Much less should he/she have an expectation that the citizen owes him/her some sort of "respect" or even "politeness". And especially not so as to avoid arrest.

The notion that the Cambridge police felt endangered by Gates in a manner requiring the application of handcuffs, or that there was "tumultuous behavior in a public space" beggars belief. Once the cops had seen his ID as proof of residence, it was time to go--with a handshake or under a hail of invective. The citizen in the case had no responsibility to politeness towards anyone, and that included the police.

Anyone dragged out of their own house in handcuffs having done nothing but perhaps yell at a cop has a right to be awfully annoyed. I am bound to wonder what will come out of Obama's post-racial cocktail party--I hope it includes an admission from the cop that he really ought'n't've arrested the guy.